Everything You Need to Know About Carb Cycling

True Protein Blog Avatar Fallback reviewed by our Nutrition Team 15 February 2018

The carb cycling diet proved to be one of the most effective plans for weight loss. However, it comes with many additional benefits you can now learn more about...

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Everything You Need to Know About Carb Cycling

Not so long ago, we presented you with a beginner’s guide to carbohydrates, which highlighted all the benefits of these notorious molecules.

While it is a common fact that many fear of carbs as a phenomenon in general, we tried to explain the differences among several existing types, and both the positive and negative effects they can have on our body.

Not all carbs are created equal is the mantra we live by; and though in the past you may have been tricked to believe that carbs are the reason you struggle with a few extra pounds, today we are here to tell you just how carbs can help you lose weight.

feet on scales

And no - it’s not some new-age diet that a few fitness enthusiasts popularised with a few before and after pics - a group of researchers from the University of South Carolina proved this hypothesis in 2013. Namely, their Energy Balance Study analysed the connection between caloric intake and energy expenditure on changes in body weight.

Results? Just what you were hoping for.

Following this research, nutrition experts took it upon themselves to come up with the most effective dietary plan that will revolve around carbohydrates and help everyone who are looking to sculpt their body.

That’s the history behind a carb cycling meal plan. Now let us explain just how it works.


Carb cycling diet: The basics

This method of dieting revolves around pre-planned increases and decreases in carb intake. Basically, carb cycling diet plan means you alternate between low and high carb days depending on the amount of activity levels on each day.

There are three types of days that are cycled equally:

  • High carb (2 to 2.5g of carbs per pound of body weight)
  • Low carb (0.5g of carbs per pound of body weight)
  • No carb (less than 0.3g of carbs per pound of body weight)


7-day carb cycling plan

We’ll assume that like all the other life-changing decisions, this one will start on a Monday as well:

  • Monday - High
  • Tuesday - Low
  • Wednesday - High
  • Thursday - Low
  • Friday - No
  • Saturday - High
  • Sunday - Low

High carb days are planned around your exercise routine. This means that if you plan on skipping the gym on Monday, make it a low carb day and postpone a high one for another time when you are going to exercise.



Over the years, this nutritional plan showed major results for those who attempted to lose weight and build lean muscle while avoiding metabolic crash.

Maintain healthy weight. When you take less carbs than your body requires, you enter a carb deficit phase. This is when your body starts burning stored fat and using it to fuel all daily activities.

Build and maintain lean muscle mass. Those who take up strength training and resistance exercise need sufficient energy to rebuild muscle tissue, and here carbohydrates showed to be the best source. Not loading up on carbs upon a HIIT training will starve your muscles and prevent them from growing bigger and stronger.

Bonus points to carb cycling meal plan go for the lack of that devastating feeling you get every time you say I can’t, I’m on a diet - there’s additional psychological pressure that is present during every other diet. How come? On a high carb day you actually feel like you’re indulging, rather than restricting yourself. Ultimately, this helps people stick to their healthy nutritional plan in the long run.


Other ingredients to add to the carb stew

While balanced carbohydrate intake is the basis of the carb cycle diet for weight loss, bear in mind that other supplements are an essential part of this nutrition plan.

white meat

Protein is fundamental, and its importance cannot be overstated. If you wish to maintain muscle tissue, you will need about 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of fat free mass.

To satisfy your protein requirements, always opt for lean protein sources:

  • White meat (chicken, turkey)
  • Lean beef
  • Fish, tuna fish, shellfish
  • Cottage cheese (no more than 1% fat)
  • Egg whites
  • Or try supplementing protein with a powder from out protein range

Fats, on the other hand, should be kept on the low side, between 10 and 15g a day:

  • Flax, olive, hemp seed oil
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Mayonnaise

Actually, the majority of your fat intake should come from essential fatty acids, fish oil in particular as it contains omega 3 acids and has the ability to increase leptin sensitivity. Furthermore, always opt for healthy fats instead of industrially processed ones.

healthy fats

Vegetables should be selected carefully. The amount should be kept below 50 calories per cup, and veggies can be included in carb and no-carb meals. Here are the ones that can become a part of the carb cycling meal plan:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams
  • Corn, peas and other starchy vegetables
  • Beans and legumes


Carb cycling diet plan

High carb day

Minimum 3 out of 5 meals should contain carbs and it is up to you to decide which ones.

Aside from following the rules on carb and protein amounts we’ve discussed above, make sure that you include a small piece of fresh fruit (between 50 and 100 calories) with your high carb meals - it can be a banana, avocado, kiwi - whichever you prefer. Thanks to fructose, your glycogen stores will be full and you will postpone the feeling of hunger. You can supplement your high carb meals with True Endurance that will load you with much-needed energy for exercise, or our True Dextrose to replenish post workout glycogen levels and promote muscle building.

man drinking protein

High carb day is everyone’s favorite as you don’t have to worry about eating too much.

Important: This doesn’t mean you can overeat. Listen to your body and pay attention to that subjective feeling of satisfaction.


Low carb day

On this day, 2 out of 5 meals may contain carbs, and the one following your workout should be carb-rich.

A carb meal should contain 1g of carbohydrate per 1 pound of your body weight, while other meals are loaded with protein. Moreover, your low carb meal should be spiced up with a small piece of fruit the same as on the high carb day.


No carb day

Protein and some healthy fats are the main ingredients of all your meals, just make sure you address the list above and stick to the recommended amount.

Low carb day is actually the simplest to follow, and despite what may seem at first - it is not as emotionally challenging either. If you stay true to your carb cycling diet, at this point your body will not crave for carbohydrates as much as you may think. And you know what else keeps you going? The fact that high carb day is just a day away.


Final words

If you’ve ever attempted to stick to a low carb diet, you know that at the end of the day it leaves you feeling exhausted. This is where a carb cycling plan comes into play - alternating between high and low carb days you provide your body with healthy fuel that it needs to maintain its energy levels.

Carb cycling will help you get the most out of your fat loss efforts and will at the same time aid in building lean muscle.

The best part is - at no point will you feel emotionally drained or restricted - you get to eat different types of foods, and on some days - as much as you feel like!

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: all content provided here is of a general nature only and is not a substitute for individualised professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and reliance should not be placed on it. For personalised medical or nutrition advice, please make an appointment with your doctor, dietitian or qualified health careprofessional.