Carb cycling has been popular among bodybuilders, fitness models and many types of extreme athletes for decades and is believed to be one of the best ways to lose weight while gaining muscle, because it stimulates certain digestive and metabolic functions.
What makes carbs so special?
Carbohydrates are the body’s first source of fuel, since they’re easily turned into glucose, which feed your cells and help create ATP (energy).
Read that again, and think about high school science class.
ATP = energy = metabolism = fat-burning.
That means carbs help you BURN FAT!
Your metabolism rises and falls based on the calorie consumption of your macronutrients (carbs, protein and fat).
And many studies have found that adequate carb intake can help improve performance in both prolonged, low-intensity and short, high-intensity exercises.
Perhaps you’ve heard that your metabolism is a lot like a fire: If you fuel “the fire” with the right ingredients, it keeps burning hotter.
However, if you don’t throw enough fuel on the fire, the flame will fizzle out.
Eating enough carbohydrates, at the right time, resets your metabolic thermostat and signals your body to create enough beneficial hormones (like leptin and thyroid hormones) that keep you at a healthy weight.
But, as many of us may know, too many carbs can have the opposite effect and cause weight gain.
So, what’s the key about a carb cycling plan that makes it different from other plans?
Carb cycling increases carbohydrate intake only at the right time and in the right amounts.
While other long-term diet plans might seem overly restrictive, daunting and overwhelming, many find that a carb cycling is easy to follow and fits well into a demanding schedule.
Discover The 3-Week Carb Cycling Diet….A complete 21-day meal plan and guide to get you started with carb cycling
What is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling is a type of diet that involves eating more carbohydrates on certain days of the week but doing the opposite on the other days: cutting carbs very low in order to achieve easier weight loss.
In other words, carb cycling means you eat adequate amounts of carbs (ideally those that are unprocessed and nutrient-dense) about every other day or every few days depending on your specific goals.
Although every carb cycling diet plan is different and needs to be customized based on whether you’re trying to lose weight or gain muscle, most carb cycling diets build in about one to three days per week when you can consume more carb-heavy foods (like potatoes or grains).
Additionally, some carb cycling plans also include a day for indulging on some “forbidden foods” to reward yourself for your hard work, guilt-free.
What types of things do you eat when you’re not boosting your carb intake?
On lower-carb days, foods like non-starchy veggies, grass-fed meats, eggs and healthy fats are the base of your meals.
Why would someone choose to carb cycle instead of just dieting the old-fashioned way?
Here are some advantages of carb cycling:
- Preserving muscle mass and preventing muscle wasting
- Aiding in muscle recovery after workouts
- Boosting weight loss or reducing body fat
- Including more food flexibility
- Preventing extreme hunger or fatigue
- Helping to prevent hormonal imbalances
The primary benefit of carb cycling is it intensifies and often speeds up weight loss while still preserving and even building lean muscle mass.
When it comes to improving body composition, this is a gold standard method because it keeps your metabolism running efficiently and allows you to maintain your weight loss more easily long term.
Keto and Carb Cycling for Women
Most people are walking around in chronic sugar burning mode dependent on high-carb, sugar-laden foods.
This way of eating depletes your energy, causes irritability, and prevents you from thinking clearly. Consuming high-carbohydrate, high-sugar foods causes inflammation, weight gain, accelerates aging, and results in chronic disease.
This is all due to massive fluctuations in blood sugar that occur when consuming this type of diet. To make matters worse, the addictive nature of these foods causes people to crave the very foods that are harming them.
A ketogenic lifestyle with carb cycling can help reverse this damaging cycle.
To put an end to this cycle, more and more people are turning to the ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet transitions your body from chronic sugar burning mode to relying on fat for fuel. For women, implementing a ketogenic diet can pose unique challenges. This is where carb cycling become very important.
Keto for Women
To maximize the effectiveness of the ketogenic diet, women should employ carb cycling in sync with their menstrual cycle. The female hormones estrogen and progesterone have significant impact on carbohydrate metabolism.
To follow a cyclic style of ketogenic diet, you eat a very low-carb meal plan for several days, then increase your carbohydrate intake to restore and replenish glycogen in the body. The amount of carbohydrates you cycle in will depend on the phase of your menstrual cycle.
This article will discuss the carb cycling diet and how the carb cycling benefits women.
I will discuss the importance of carb cycling for women on the ketogenic diet and how to carb cycle around your menstrual cycle. I will also explain how to get started on the carb cycling diet and give tips for success on the carb cycling.
Carb Cycling for Women on the Ketogenic Diet
Carb cycling can be important for many women who want to be successful on the ketogenic diet. This practice is simply alternating periods of lower and higher carbohydrate content in your diet.
For example, you can eat low-carb for 3 days, higher-carb for 1 day, low-carb for 3 days, or low-carb for 5 days and higher-carb for 2 days. For example, on the lower carbohydrate days, you would consume 50 or fewer grams of carbohydrates (perhaps less than 20).
On the higher-carbohydrate days, you would consume 80-120 grams of carbohydrates.
The theory behind carb cycling is that it optimizes your body’s metabolic needs. While eating low carb, your body produces glucagon to help you burn fat, is more sensitive to insulin, and is more metabolically efficient.
The problem comes when you eat a low-carbohydrate diet for too long.
Like going on keto for too long…
Over long periods, your thyroid hormones may drop, you may become less sensitive to insulin, and you may gain weight. This is not the case with everyone, some women thrive in ketosis for months at a time without any of these issues.
However, if you are struggling and noticing hair loss, lower energy, constipation, mental lethargy, coldness and possible weight gain then doing a carb cycling approach may be needed.
It is important to sync carb cycling with your menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle lasts for 28 days.
The female hormones estrogen and progesterone are elevated at different points during the menstrual cycle. These important hormones impact insulin sensitivity and carbohydrate metabolism.
Consequently, it is important to consider your hormone levels when determining the amount of carbohydrates to include in your diet.
The first two weeks of your menstrual cycle are called the follicular phase. Menstruation lasts from days 1-5 of this phase. Estrogen levels tend to be more dominant in these two weeks.
The female body is naturally more insulin-sensitive during the follicular phase. This means it tolerates carbohydrates better during these two weeks. Carb cycling to meet this hormonal change is an excellent strategy.
When cycling carbohydrates during the follicular phase, you may need up to 150 grams of net carbohydrates (total carbs – fiber). Overweight women who struggle with insulin resistance usually do better on lower levels of carbohydrates (50-80 grams net carbs when they carb cycle). Normal or underweight women may need more carbohydrates. Again, it is important to listen to your body.
The ideal foods to use to increase carb levels would be nutrient dense sources such as beets, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, carrots, legumes, berries and other fruit. These have tons of key trace minerals, phytonutrients and anti-oxidants that support the body much better than grains, corn, sugar and white potatoes.
The third and fourth weeks of the menstrual cycle are called the luteal phase which occurs after ovulation. During this phase, progesterone levels are at their highest.
The body is naturally less insulin-sensitive when progesterone levels are higher and does not tolerate carbohydrates as well. It is important to reduce carbohydrate intake during this phase when insulin-sensitivity is at its lowest. When you are carb cycling during the luteal phase, you may do better on 50-80 grams of carbohydrates.
The key to carb cycling during your menstrual cycle is to listen to your body. If your body is signaling that it needs more carbohydrates, you can up your intake to around 150 grams. If you are feeling great on fewer carbohydrates, keep your intake between 50-80 carbs when you cycle in carbohydrates. We are all different and respond to the ketogenic diet in our own unique way. These suggestions are guidelines for determining what may work for you.
How to get started on a Carb Cycling Diet
When getting started on the carb cycling, I recommend that you follow a good plan.
The good news if a carb-cycling diet is much easier to start than a ketogenic diet, since you’re giving up carbs for only 2-3 days at at time, then you eat good carbs occasionally.
For anyone new to a low-carb lifestyle, the best way to start is to remove sugars, refined carbohydrates and industrialized seed oils from your diet.
Eliminate grains and starches like bread, pasta, potatoes, and cereals that are prevalent in the standard American diet. Replace grains and starches with low to moderate carbohydrate fruits and vegetables such as cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, berries, and lemons.
High-Carb Foods vs. Low-Carb/No-Carb, High-Protein Foods:
- The healthiest higher-carb foods to include in your meals are those that are complex carbs and unprocessed, such as: sweet potatoes; sprouted grains like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and brown rice; whole fruits; beans and legumes.
- Because they’re loaded with junk, very high in calories and essentially bankrupt in terms of nutrients, it’s best to avoid processed high-carb foods, including those made with white flour or wheat flour products, added table sugar, conventional dairy, bread and other processed grains like pasta, sweetened snacks like cookies and cakes, most boxed cereals, sweetened drinks, ice cream, and pizza.
- Other healthy sources of carbs, which are lower in carbs than those described above but still provide some carbs, include vegetables like mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, sea veggies, peppers, etc.
- Healthy food choices that are high in protein but low-carb or no-carb include grass-fed meat, pasture-raised poultry, cage-free eggs, wild-caught fish, organ meats and raw dairy products, such as raw goat cheese.
- Healthy fats, which are also low-carb or no-carb, include olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, palm oil, nuts and seeds.
Carb Cycling Precautions
If carb cycling is a very different way of eating than what you’re accustomed to, expect that your cravings, energy, fluid levels, etc…will take some time to adjust.
Additionally, you might experience some of the following effects when you begin carb cycling — but not to worry since most consider these to be “normal” and likely to go away within one to two weeks:
- Feeling more tired than usual
- Craving carbs at times
- Constipation or bloating due to water retention (especially after higher carb days)
- Feeling weaker during workouts
- Having trouble sleeping
- Being moody or irritable
If these side effects last more than one or two weeks, carb cycling might not be a good fit for you. Everyone is different when it comes to the reaction to different eating plans.
Factors like someone’s age, gender, level of activity, bodyweight and genetic disposition all affect how that person feels when following a low-carb diet.
Always listen to your body and use your best judgment instead of just following someone else’s advice.
Carb Cycling is based on SCIENCE.
When you carb cycle, what you are really doing is keeping your body guessing. One day you are having lower amount of carbs and the next your are shocking the body with higher amounts of carbs. And…
One of the biggest factors for why this approach works so well when it comes to eliminating fat is because of INSULIN.
Insulin is a highly anabolic (or lean muscle building) hormone, so when it is present it promotes lean muscle growth and optimal performance.
However, insulin is also very efficient at storing body fat when it stays around for a long period of time (which many of us force it to do when we eat too many carbs at the wrong times!).
This is why carb cycling works so well:
When you carb cycle, what you are really doing is keeping your body guessing. One day you are having lower amount of carbs and the next your are shocking the body with a high carb day.
Essentially, you are telling your body to burn fat on low carb days, then when you follow that up with a high carb day, your body gets shocked which allows for you to burn fat while maintaining your lean muscle. In short, when you carb cycle, you keep your body at optimal fat burning levels.
It’s a very effective and proven process, and it’s the reason it’s the go-to approach for celebrities and fitness pro’s.
And possibly the best part about Carb Cycling…
You NEVER Have To Count Calories, Weigh Your Food, And Worry About Every Carb You Put In Your Body…
Celebrities, elite athletes, and fitness “pros” have some of the best physiques in the world… And they don’t get there by skipping out on carbs and eating only lettuce and carrots.
In fact, they use the “fat diminishing” secret of Carb Cycling where they will intentionally and strategically EAT MORE CARBS in order to achieve their best body. And this secret is what allows them to effortlessly get and stay lean 365 days a year.
And the amazing thing about Carb Cycling, it can be used by anyone of any age, no matter your gender, fitness level, or genetics. And…
As you’ll see below, we’ve had hundreds of people volunteer to use the “Carb Cycle Macro-Balancing” approach… From people in their 30’s who are struggling to lose a few pounds, to women in their 40’s and 50’s who have more than 20+ pounds to lose, to even people in their 70’s who had tried everything to get back in shape.
This proves that carb cycling works for ANYONE of ANY age, gender, fitness level, or those with bad genetics – even if you’ve “tried everything” else.