Top 10 Carb Cycling Tips For Women To Lose 1 Lb. Per Day

Carb cycling is where you alternate periods of low and higher carbohydrate content in your diet.

This means you might spend three days eating low-carb, then a high-carb day, then another low-carb, then a medium-carb day.

Easy, huh?

A lot easier than a full-fledged keto diet.

The theory behind carb cycling and weight loss is that it optimizes your body’s metabolic needs. 

While in a low carb period, your body sharpens insulin sensitivity, produces glucagon to help you burn fat, and becomes metabolically streamlined.

These are great things. Yet if you persist in being too low carb for too long your thyroid hormone levels will drop, and your insulin sensitivity may actually worsen. 

In short: you gain weight.

So you want to eat low carb most of the time, but still be deliberate about including carbohydrates every so often.

For a lot of women I work with, it is important to consistently eat carbohydrates.

What women benefit from eating carbohydrates?

  • They are essential for women who have delicate hormonal systems
  • who are recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea
  • who may have thyroid issues
  • who are pregnant, nursing, or trying to conceive
  • and who have mood issues

Nevertheless, carb cycling is an effective tool for fitness and weight loss when used correctly. The problem is that it is not always used correctly. Here’s why, and what to do about it.

Carb cycling and weight loss

The #1 mistake I see people making with carb cycling and weight loss is inattention to the specific needs of the female body.

Because it comes from a world of men, it doesn’t pay a whole lot of good attention to women. But there are two important considerations to bear in mind:

A) Thyroid status must be protected.

Thyroid hormone is essential for fat loss. Unfortunately on a low carbohydrate diet thyroid hormone production can slow down. This is crucial to bear in mind for women especially because women’s metabolism and thyroid activity are much more sensitive than men’s. It is important in the “low carb” times of the cycle to still not be very low carb. Stay above 50 grams of carbohydrate a day, at very minimum (and higher if physically active).

B) Female hormones impact insulin sensitivity

Estrogen and progesterone have significant impacts on carbohydrate metabolism.

At different parts in the menstrual cycle, carbohydrates are processed either much more efficiently or with much more fat storage. 

This is the secret to female carbohydrate cycling. I

nstead of sticking to a simple regimen provided by a personal trainer or some internet forum, the best thing you can do to maximize the effectiveness of your carb cycling is sync it up with your menstrual cycle.

Carb cycling and carbs

There are two important facts here: estrogen slightly increases, and progesterone decreases insulin sensitivity. 

Estrogen and progesterone are elevated at different points in the menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels tend to be the most dominant in the first and second weeks of the cycle (especially the second week). Progesterone levels are at their highest in the third and fourth week of the cycle.

The consequences of this are that:

  • The female body is naturally more insulin-sensitive in the follicular phase (the first two weeks of the cycle) when estrogen levels are highest and progesterone levels are at their lowest. This means it tolerates carbohydrates in these two weeks better than the rest of the time.
  • The female body is naturally slightly less insulin sensitive when progesterone levels are higher in the luteal phase (after ovulation, in the last two weeks of the cycle). This means it does not tolerate carbohydrate as well in these weeks.

How does carb cycling work

A carb cycling diet plan works by giving your body the fuel it needs to increase your metabolic capacity and work load via carbohydrates and optimize fat loss via a reduced carbohydrate diet.

It is seen as ‘the best of both worlds’.

There are a number of protocols that have been designed to manipulate the general set up of a carb cycling diet plan, but many will use all three types throughout the week. These are generally rotated daily, or cycled, but the most common set up is based on daily activity levels.

The typical recommendations are:  

  1. On days of high activity, you should consume moderate to high amounts of carbohydrates.
  2. On days of moderate to no activity you should consume moderate to no amounts of carbohydrates.

A typical weekly breakdown would look like this: 

Monday: Heavy weight training day > High carb 
Tuesday: Interval training day > Moderate carbs 
Wednesday: Rest day > Low carbs
Thursday: Heavy weight training day > High carbs 
Friday: Interval training day > Moderate carbs 
Saturday: Heavy weight training day > High Carbs 
Sunday: Rest day > Low carb 

Various carb cycling diet plans show differences in the detail, but overall it is nothing more than eating more carbohydrates on some days and eating fewer carbohydrates on other days. 

The heavy focus is placed on carbohydrates manipulation as it is considered to have the most influential effect on body composition and how you look, feel and perform. 

Various carb cycling diet plans show differences in the detail, but overall it is nothing more than eating more carbohydrates on some days and eating fewer carbohydrates on other days.

The heavy focus is placed on carbohydrates manipulation as it is considered to have the most influential effect on body composition and how you look, feel and perform. 

MODERATE TO HIGH CARB DAYS:

  • Improve insulin sensitivity, making your body respond better to carbohydrates;
  • Promote fat loss by tricking your body into burning fat for fuel; improved fat oxidization via reduced insulin levels; and
  • Improve fat burning by reducing overall daily calories into a calorie deficit.

LOW TO NO CARB DAYS: 

  • Make you feel good and energized;
     
  • Replenish glycogen stores that fuel muscle; and
  • Stimulate an insulin response to create an anabolic environment for muscle retention and growth.

The Key to Carb Cycling

Remember that different things work for everyone.

While some may see major results from carb cycling, others might find that following a consistent diet with a moderate amount of carbs works well for them.

Everyone can benefit, however, from following a few of the central concepts of carb cycling:

Load up on fibrous vegetables every day. They are nutrient dense, low in calories, and should be a main component of everyone’s diet.

Limit or eliminate refined starches, like pastries, cakes, muffins, etc. They contribute very little nutrition-wise besides empty calories and sugar.

Focus on healthy carbohydrate choices. Fruits, tubers, and gluten-free grains are all excellent choices for rounding out a healthy diet.

Include lean proteins and healthy fats with each meal. Integrating these into every meal is just as important as including good sources of carbohydrates.

A simple low carb day diet plan

Meal 1: Breakfast
4 whole eggs scrambled in coconut oil with spinach
Serving protein powder with greens powder

Meal 2: Lunch
Homemade turkey burgers with large side salad
Large handful of roasted mixed nuts

Meal 3: Snack
Small sweet potato topped with tuna and cheese

Meal 4: Evening Meal
Large chicken breast wrapped stuffed with olives wrapped in Parma ham, served with roasted seasonal vegetables topped with olive oil

This would be a non weight-training day

Bottom Line About Carb Cycling

A carb cycling diet plan can be a good protocol for those who want an easy and simple set of guidelines to follow when seeking body composition changes.

Also it can quickly help people understand what their body wants in terms of macronutrient breakdown and what they do best on.

Aside from this, little evidence exists to suggest it will change body composition any quicker than traditional methods.

Lastly, taking everything into consideration, it can become quite a difficult protocol to follow.

Which is why you should follow a proven and science backed program like The 3-Week Carb Cycling Diet to guide you through a carb-cycling diet. 

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