Many of us are on a journey of losing weight and are even doing great with our current weight loss program. But there comes a point in our journey when we struggle to lose weight after doing so much effort. We come to stand still at some point and stop losing any weight further. This in general is referred to as hitting a weight loss plateau. This weight loss plateau can become a dead end for many. But some people still can able to lose weight because of carb cycling.

They rather treat this dead end as just a small pit stop and continue losing their weight. They know how to take advantage of this strategy during their weight loss program. A good carb cycling diet further helps them amplify their weight loss results. Before directly jumping to the definition of carb cycling, first we take you to the why of carb cycling?

Why do Carb Cycling?

why carb cycling

In order to make you understand on why to do carb cycling, let us introduce to some of the facts here. When you are losing weight, you tend to eat fewer calories than you are required for the day. During this calorie restriction phase, you either decrease or cut down the food intake to reduce the amount of calories you eat. Generally, the reduced intake is done by cutting the carbohydrates from the diet.

Some individual also go on a fasting diet to reduce their calorie intake. They immediately enter into starvation mode thinking they will lose more weight. But what they don`t understand is that an unplanned long term calorie restriction diet can cause serious health concerns. In case you wondering, read our detailed article on the right way of fasting.

Also Read: What happens when you workout on an empty stomach?

By doing carbohydrate cycling, you can also enjoy maximum weight loss benefits without losing your precious muscle mass.  So, a carb cycling is a great way to eliminate the negatives of a calorie restricted diet.

Do you know: A calorie restricted diet helps you lose weight by burning fat from your body. The amount of weight you lose also goes from water, glycogen and muscle [1].

The science behind why carb cycling- Reefed Days

When you are following a low calorie phase or in a starvation mode, your body glycogen stores are close to near empty. You need to have reefed days to fill these glycogen stores to keep your fat burning going on. In order to replenish your lost glycogen stores, you need to feed it with carbohydrates. These reefed days play a smart strategy to help your body recover and maintain its hormone balance.

why carb cycling

This is where the technique of carb cycling plays an important role. The carb cycling helps you plan your reefed days. So, you can be able to plan what to eat and in what amount, without going too crazy. Also, you may think of reefed days being your cheat days where you can just eat anything. But the reefed days are different from cheat days and need proper nutritional strategies. If you failed to employ the right strategy, your fat loss diet can rather make you fat [3].

Do you know: During starvation or calorie restriction, your leptin hormone is reduced [2]. The Leptin hormone is responsible for regulating energy intake and satiety in the body. A short term increase in the carbohydrates during calorie restriction boosts your leptin hormone and increase metabolism.

We are now sharing step by step information on what is carb cycling and how to do an effective carb cycling? You will also learn about the carb cycling macros and the carb cycling meal plan to keep your fat loss going.

What is Carb Cycling?

Carb cycling or carbohydrate cycling is a nutritional strategy of altering the carbohydrate intake in order to burn fat and retain muscle mass. This technique allows you to eat right amounts of carbohydrates at the right times to break weight loss plateaus and improving metabolism.

what is carb cycling

It is an often used technique by renowned nutritionists and coaches to help their client meet their goals. Carb cycling is effective in losing weight and building muscle while improving your overall athletic performance. This planned manipulation of carbohydrates needs precise counting and right timing.

In order to make your carbohydrate cycling effective, you should know the right carb cycling fundamentals. It includes the carbohydrates foods to eat in your carb cycling menu in right amount. So, we are moving towards the section where you will learn on how to do carb cycling. And, will understand the important terminologies like carb cyling macros and carb cycling menu.

How to do Carb Cycling?

We have already mentioned above that carb cycling is a planned manipulation of carbohydrates in your diet. There are various ways you can plan this manipulation. A good carb cycling diet plan allows you to eat right amount of carbohydrates at right time.

high carb or low carb

After all, you just can’t have all the days with high carbohydrates or all days with just low carbohydrates. You need to plan your carbohydrates intake to avail maximum health benefits. Saying that, there are various ways, you can do an effective carb cycling. You will alter the amount of carbohydrate intake in your week with high carb days, medium carb days, low carb days and even no carb days.

Planning a Good Carb Cycling Diet

If you wish to have best carb cycling results, then you need to plan your carbohydrate intake. You should exactly know when to go for a high carb day or a low carb day and so on. The best approach to determine your high carb and low carb days is to examine your weekly exercise regime. The intensity of your workout is the best marker to plan your carb cycling days.

Carb Cycling Type 1

carb cycling

If you are training normally without alternating the intensity of workout, include high carb days when you are lifting heavy. That said; go for high carb days when you are doing dead lifts, squats and bench press. The other days should be alternated with moderate carbs when you are lifting moderate weights.  And low carb days when you are doing light cardio like jogging, cycling etc. The no carb day should be taken on your rest day.

Carb Cycling Type 2

carb cycling

Furthermore, if you are following a push and pull routine, you can two high carb days during a heavy push and heavy pull day. And, moderate carb days during moderate weighted push and pull days. A day for cardio can go well with a low carb day. The remaining two days of rest will be marked as no carb days.

Note: A proper carbohydrate cycling approach is necessary. You can get best carb cycling results only when you evenly space your high carb and low carb days. That said; don`t go crazy by pulling all high carb days in one row and low carb days in another row.

How many carbs to eat when carb cycling?

how many carbs when carb cycling

You need to eat right amounts of carbohydrates during carbohydrate cycling. This phase also requires you to adjust the other macros in your diet. The proteins and fats play a major role in your diet. You can`t just alter the carbohydrates without adjusting the proteins and fats in your diet. So, how to calculate carb cycling macros?

Carb Cycling Macros Calculator

Carbohydrates Proteins Fats
No Carb Days 5% of calorie intake 30% of calorie intake 65% of calorie intake
Low Carb Days 20% of calorie intake 45% of calorie intake 35% of calorie intake
Medium Carb Days 45% of calorie intake 35% of calorie intake 20% of calorie intake
High Carb Days 60% of calorie intake 30% of calorie intake 10% of calorie intake

The amount of calories you will eat in your day will come out by calculating the TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). The TDEE varies for person to person and depends on factors like age, sex, BMR, and physical activities you perform in your day. Let us first give you the formula for calculating BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) [4].

Calculating BMR for Carb Cycling

BMR (For Men) = 66+ (6.2 × weight in pounds) + (12.7 × height in inches) – (6.76 × age in years)

BMR (For Women) = 655.1 + (4.35 × weight in pounds) + (4.7×height in inches) – (4.7 × age in years)

TDEE Calculation for carb cycling

Activity TDEE
Sedentary (Little to no activity) BMR X 1.2
Little active (Strength training for 2-3 days a week or similar) BMR X 1.375
Moderate Activity (Strength Training for 3-5 days a week or similar) BMR X 1.55
Highly active (Strength training for 3 to 5 days and 1 to 2 days of cardio in a week) BMR X 1.725
Extreme Activity(Training for 2 times a day with heavy weight training and cardio in a week) BMR X 1.9

The TDEE Calculation gives you idea about the calories your body needs to maintain its current weight. But if you are doing carb cycling for weight loss, you have to maintain a calorie deficit somewhat below your TDEE. To lose one pound of weight in a week, you have to eat 3500 less calories for that week. That`s roughly counts for 500 calorie deficit per day [5].

Still finding the calculations hard? Do read our article on calculating calories to lose weight.

Got the right calculations? You should now know about the foods in carbohydrate cycling menu. It is important that you include right types of carbohydrate foods to achieve best carb cycling results.  Let us then move towards the carb cycling menu.

Carb Cycling Menu- What carbs to eat in carb cycling?

In order to make up your carb cycling diet plan, you need to first buy the right foods to achieve best carb cycling results. You have to include nutrient dense carbohydrates and should stay away from eating junk foods. If you are thinking of high carb days as a way to stuff junk, then you are in a wrong place. So, see what carbohydrates foods to eat in carb cycling menu?

Carb Cycling Menu- High carb day (GI: 70-55)

carb cycling menu

  1. Boiled White Potato
  2. White Rice
  3. Oat Meal
  4. White Bread
  5. Digestive Biscuits

Carb Cycling Menu- Moderate carb day (GI: 55-40)

carb cycling menu

  1. Brown Rice
  2. Boiled Sweet Potato
  3. White Pasta
  4. Quinoa
  5. Whole grain bread

Carb Cycling Menu- Low carb day (GI: 40 or less)

carb cycling menu

  1. Apple
  2. Orange
  3. Grapefruit
  4. Pineapple
  5. Cherry
  6. Yogurt
  7. Milk
  8. Spaghetti
  9. Soya beans
  10. Chick peas

We hope you have got your grocery list for your carb cycling menu. But an important thing which is still missing here is the timing of foods to get the best results out of carbohydrate cycling.

Carb Cycling Meal Plan

The best results are churned out when you plan most of your carbohydrate intake before and just after your workout. And, split the remaining day with other macros namely proteins and fats. If you are finding it hard to plan your meals, then check our sample carb cycling meal plan.

Tip: You should always consume a fast acting protein and right amount of carbohydrates after your workout.

Read: The list of best Protein Rich Foods

A High Carb Cycling Day

high carb cycling meal plan


3.5 oz Mashed white potato

3 large egg whites

½ cup oatmeal

3 digestive biscuits


2 scoop whey protein

Peanut butter Sandwich (white bread)


4 oz smoked chicken breast

1 cup cooked white rice


3 Medium Size Bananas

2 digestive biscuits


4.4 oz Chicken breast

2 cup mixed salad

3.5 oz Sweet potato


2 scoop casein protein

A Moderate Carb Cycling Day

moderate carb cycling meal plan


1 cup cooked quinoa

3 whole eggs


2 scoop whey protein

1 cup blueberries


3 large egg whites

2 slices whole wheat bread

1 cup cooked brown rice


7 oz fat free greek yogurt

1 Apple


3.5 oz Cottage cheese

2 cup mixed salad


2 scoop casein protein

A Low Carb Cycling Day

low carb cycling meal plan


3.5 oz Spaghetti

3 large egg whites

4.4 oz Chicken breast


2 scoop whey protein

2 oz mixed nuts


3 whole eggs

3.5 oz cooked Chickpeas


1 Avocado

2 tbsp peanut butter


7 oz tuna

You have sure to get the concept of carbohydrate cycling sorted in your mind now. Also, you have the right carbohydrate cycling numbers with you to get started. So, go ahead and take advantage of this strategy for weight loss and improving your overall body composition. And if still you are wondering about how much weight can you lose while carb cycling, so take home this message.

The Bottom Line- Is Carb cycling effective?

is carb cycling effective

Carb cycling is not a new concept and has been successful over years in providing effective results. It has similar results as other fat loss diets in the market. But, the best part of incorporating this strategy is that you achieve the results without depriving your body of any macro nutrient.  Combined with right training, you can aim to lose 9 pounds in 4 months as suggested by a study [6].

It is an excellent nutritional strategy for those who want to shed fat and break weight plateaus. For the ones who don`t wish to compromise with their workout performance. So, give it a shot if you are struck with weight loss plateau or want to lose fat without compromising your energy levels.


[1] M. MATTHEWS, “The Science of Carb Cycling: How It Works and How to Do It Right,” [Online]. Available:
[2] A. M. K. R. F. a. C. G. Raffaella Faggioni, “Reduced Leptin Levels in Starvation Increase Susceptibility to Endotoxic Shock,” [Online]. Available:
[3] L. N. A. S. Lee, “How Your Fat-Loss Diet Could Be Making You Fat,” [Online]. Available:
[4] “Harris–Benedict equation,” [Online]. Available:
[5] M. Jain, “Preparing for bikini competition- Powerful Tips for winning contest,” [Online]. Available:
[6] M. Harvie, “Intermittent, low-carbohydrate diets more successful than standard dieting, study finds,” Genesis Prevention Center at University Hospital in South Manchester, England, [Online]. Available: