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Low Carb Cycling for Weight Loss: A Beginners Guide

Updated on November 9, 2016

Carb cycling is a powerful tool for weight loss. Combining the benefits of a low carb diet plan with periodic days of carb loading is one of the most effective ways to lose weight and keep it off.

To most weight loss beginners, carb cycling seems too complex and confusing. Here is a simple plan that will give you all the weight loss advantages carb cycling can offer.

Why Low Carb?

Low carb is defined as a diet that contains 30% or less of carbohydrates. If you are trying to lose weight, eating a low carb diet will make a calorie restriction much more achievable because you will have more stable blood sugar levels and reduced hunger.

The main drawback of eating low carb on a permanent basis is fatigue, brain fog, loss of training performance and the inevitable carb cravings. The solution to this is the a carb cycling method.

Grilled chicken - a low carb staple.
Grilled chicken - a low carb staple. | Source

Isn't Carb Cycling Just for Hardcore Bodybuilders?

The carb cycling technique is used by bodybuilders who do take the concept to its extremes, but normal folk can utilize the same principals with a more moderate approach and still see the fat melt away while having 2 days of higher calories/carbs per week.

The Carb Cycling Schedule

The easiest way to set up any type of non-linear diet is to link it to a 7 day week. Nutrition and training should be linked together for faster weight loss and to reduce energy slumps.

  • Monday - Low Carb + weights
  • Tuesday - Low Carb + cardio
  • Wednesday - High Carb + weights
  • Thursday - Low Carb + rest
  • Friday - Low Carb + weights
  • Saturday - High Carb + cardio
  • Sunday - Low Carb + rest

The Low Carb Phase [1.2P 0.5F 0.6C]

The low carb phase of the diet can be set up easily with the following method.

(a) multiply your body weight in pounds by (1.2) - this is your protein level in grams
Example - 130lb * 1.2 = 156g protein = 624 calories

(b) multiply your body weight in pounds by (0.5) - this is your fat level in grams
Example - 130lb * 0.5 = 65g fat = 585 calories

(c) multiply your body weight in pounds by (0.6) - this your carbohydrate level in grams
Example - 130lb * 0.6 = 78g carbs = 312 calories

The High Carb Phase [1.4P 0.3F 1.4C]

The high carb phase of the diet can be set up easily with the following method.

(a) multiply your body weight in pounds by (1.4) - this is your protein level in grams
Example - 130lb * 1.4 = 182g protein = 728 calories

(b) multiply your body weight in pounds by (0.3) - this is your fat level in grams
Example - 130lb * 0.3 = 40g fat = 364 calories

(c) multiply your body weight in pounds by (1.4) - this your carbohydrate level in grams
Example - 130lb * 1.4 = 182g carbs = 728 calories

Putting it all Together

Once you have all diet and training set up, you simply have to eat low carb on Sunday through Tuesday and Thursday through Friday. On Wednesday and Saturday you get to enjoy a bit more food and some of your favorite treats.

Eggs - a low carb alternative to meat.
Eggs - a low carb alternative to meat. | Source

Carb Cycling for Everyone

Carb cycling is a fantastic way to have variety in your diet while maximising your fat loss efforts. It is no longer a plan exclusively for muscular women or bodybuilders but can be used by anyone.

If you have ever complained that you like the weight loss you get with low carb eating but can't deal with the tiredness and brain fog, then this is for you. Give it a try to you will be surprised how easy and enjoyable carb cycling can be.

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    • profile image

      David 2 years ago

      Came across this article today. the caption under the picture of eggs says "Eggs - a low carb alternative to meat." I challenge you to present any meat high in carbs.....

    • profile image

      Yesi 3 years ago

      Hello,

      Will this plan work for me if I want to lose body fat? I don't want to lose any weight just body fat so would the low carb and high carb phases included in the article work for me?

    • dobo700 profile image

      dobo700 4 years ago from Australia

      Some very interesting and easy to understand facts in the hub, thanks

    • profile image

      Annie 4 years ago

      Is this a calculation for man? Because the number seem a bit high to me. I am 46, female, 5'3" and 117 lbs. I work out 6 days a week, alternating weight training with martial arts. I have never been overweight and just want to stay fit and strong. When I use your formula, my low carb day would have over 1700 calories on it. Is there a different formula for women?

      Thanks!

    • Jean Rogers profile image

      Jean Rogers 4 years ago

      This concept makes sense. There was a period of time where I was doing intense weight training to lose pregnancy weight and increase my muscle mass. I didn't use this plan exactly, but did follow a diet that varied things up in a similar way. I think your body gets used to plans that call for the same diet everyday and cause a weight loss plateau. Whereas, a plan like this keeps your metabolism going do to the variability. Nice article. I liked the actual examples you presented.

    • profile image

      Jamie 5 years ago

      Carb cycling usually refers to something different then atkins or other keto diets you aren't in a state of ketosis when you carb cycle. The whole point of carb cycling is to keep your carbs low but not to enter ketosis. That's why you need to have 2 high carb days a week spread out evenly... and why you don't go down that low on your low carb days(should be anywhere from 50-100 grams). It has nothing to do with controlling cravings.

    • profile image

      Vito Santana 5 years ago

      I need to go against the grain here. Permanent brain fog, loss of performance and cravings are far from permanent. People basically do no allow their bodies to adjust. Cravings will linger when you keep reintroducing carbs in your system

    • profile image

      Shannon 5 years ago

      Awesome, thanks for this. I have been following the dukan diet and have lost 27kgs on it. I recently had a few slack days then back on the pure protein, and it boosted me off again, so here I am googling to find info behind what my bodies up to! Hopefully this will help get me to my goal!!

    • DietForDiabetics profile image

      DietForDiabetics 5 years ago

      Great hub with lots of useful information. Thank you...

    • profile image

      Mona 5 years ago

      Thank you. You have explained very well.

    • scott33thomas profile image

      Manuel Porras 6 years ago from Germany, Colombia, USA, Panama, Mexico, Spain

      I never understood the nutritional information food that has .... with this and know that I eat

    • profile image

      barefoot running sandals 6 years ago

      I just read a HORRIBLE book about carb cycling. Your page was better than the book (and would have saved me a ton of time).

    • Green Lotus profile image

      Hillary 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I thought I knew every low carb diet out there, but I guess I missed this one! Interesting information here that deserves a try. Thanks.

    • profile image

      LynnD. 6 years ago

      I'm currently doing the Atkins 2 week induction of 20 grams of carbs or less per day. I'm on the end of day 2. After the initial induction, I plan to do do carb cycling by eating lo-carb Mon-Fri and eating high carbs on weekends. This schedule works better for me and my family, who love to eat out on weekends or order pizza, go get icecream, etc.

    • profile image

      nuc63x 6 years ago

      I believe that the best way to weight loss is with proper diet and exercise

    • profile image

      Manuel Mcfadden 6 years ago

      Thanks, this was a really interesting hub!

    • profile image

      ajcare4463 6 years ago

      i have been trying to find someone that can explain exactly how to do carb cycling and you have explained it for people like me who need precise info.I think ur strategy is great i will def try this.I've tried low carb and it just doesn't work for me. I need to have carbs in my diet. Thank you for the information.

    • profile image

      JJ 6 years ago

      joe 5 months ago

      Sorry but this does not work. Give us some proof before making claims. You failed to mention the importance of diet. If you simply eat 30 grams in fiber each day, your body will have no problems so if your someone who craves carbs then simply eat more fiber & you will lose weight. You also failed to mention the importance of vitamins. What you are suggesting is a form of starvation, this is never a good idea if you truly care about another health. Eating less carbs is not a good idea. You decide, do you want to lose weight 24 hours a day then you are surly obese but if you want to lose weight due to activity then you are obese. The difference here is simple. If your trying to lose 24 hours a day, your forcing the body to function as you wish & this will only damage your goals.

      I am totally against carb cycling, it's nothing more then a scam & if someone does lose weight from it then it's from belief

      I am sorry Joe but this does work, but you have to know how the human body works before you can just plain make assumptions. I could talk for days about this and how it will get your thyroid to make sure it is producing t-3 naturally and up-regulating your pancreas to increase insulin sensitivity. This is a good option for someone that has hit a plateau. Talk to a dietician or someone knowledgeable before you start though.

    • profile image

      turbo jam reviews lover 6 years ago

      Really nice info, i was looking for info on carb cycling and found your hub today.

    • profile image

      Andrew 6 years ago

      I was curious if anyone knows about starting your days out with Fiber, like Raisin Bran, is that against the rules on these Low Carb days?

    • profile image

      sylvia hackb 6 years ago

      I have the recipe to the low carb muffing in a minute from atkins on my blog

      http://mydaytolive.blogspot.com/2011/01/atkins-muf...

    • Glemoh101 profile image

      Glemoh101 6 years ago

      Great information thank you

    • profile image

      Billy 6 years ago

      This is very useful!

      I myself lost a considerable amount of weight eating low carb meals. I did a lot of research on it actually and put it on my site 101lowcarbmeals.com. Please do check it out.

    • profile image

      Rick markoulatos 6 years ago

      Great information. Will try it!

    • saroj23 profile image

      saroj23 6 years ago

      Very informative! Its a great hub!

    • profile image

      janesmooch 6 years ago

      certainly enjoyed your hub and it has supplied some good suggestions with exactly what to do with my website

    • InfinityVal profile image

      InfinityVal 6 years ago from NNY

      Thanks for explaining this. I'm not very familiar with it.

    • profile image

      joe 6 years ago

      Sorry but this does not work. Give us some proof before making claims. You failed to mention the importance of diet. If you simply eat 30 grams in fiber each day, your body will have no problems so if your someone who craves carbs then simply eat more fiber & you will lose weight. You also failed to mention the importance of vitamins. What you are suggesting is a form of starvation, this is never a good idea if you truly care about another health. Eating less carbs is not a good idea. You decide, do you want to lose weight 24 hours a day then you are surly obese but if you want to lose weight due to activity then you are obese. The difference here is simple. If your trying to lose 24 hours a day, your forcing the body to function as you wish & this will only damage your goals.

      I am totally against carb cycling, it's nothing more then a scam & if someone does lose weight from it then it's from belief.

    • gidtset profile image

      gidtset 7 years ago

      Very since and informative post. I will definitely try this method.

    • st lucia for sale profile image

      st lucia for sale 7 years ago from St Lucia

      Nice hub, I can absolutely vouch for carb cycling. I have 3 or 4 low carb days (100 grams or under) followed by a cheat day (as many as I like). I'm not ridiculously strict or scientific about it, but it has helped me to lower my bodyfat (I have some endomorphic properties, so I was struggling with the last few pounds!).

    • NorwinGalle profile image

      NorwinGalle 7 years ago from USA

      when weight loss comes,low carb diet follows.You need to focus on foods which can help you in weight loss.

    • profile image

      sandy77 7 years ago

      Wow I truly enjoy the weight loss but now I understand why I have the tiredness and the brain Fog somrtimes . Will try what you proposed Thanks

    • profile image

      PorkyPine 7 years ago

      Lyle McDonald, a big advocate of carb cycling and ketogenic diets recommends using your current weight or a goal weight of no more than 20% below current weight.

    • profile image

      Amendo80 7 years ago

      Quick question - if your goal is weightloss do you use the weight you are currently for the calculation or your desired weight?

    • dietingforidiots profile image

      dietingforidiots 7 years ago

      Fabulous Work! Yes I certainly agree that low carb lifestyles are definitely a lot healthier for you. You only have to look at the current obesity problem not only in America but across the world to see what low fat and high carb diets have done to many people. Take Care.

      Regards

      Dana

    • beccas90 profile image

      beccas90 7 years ago from New York

      Right on Katie - we've been fooled into thinking lots of protein is bad for you and carbs are good. But the reality is this is bunkum - I think that's a word. Eat protein at every meal - and stick to low carb diet. And of course exercise to your ability consistently.

    • GojiJuiceGoodness profile image

      GojiJuiceGoodness 7 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

      We began eating low-carb a number of years ago to encourage family members to loose weight. Now I realize it's just plain healthy to eat that way so we do 100% of the time. And, of course we don't eat white breads, pastas, etc, but whole wheat only.

    • VegetarianLikeMe profile image

      VegetarianLikeMe 7 years ago

      This hub is so informative. Thanks for providing such honest information. Sometimes the truth hurts, but I am glad that this is available to people who are looking to change their eating and lifestyle habits.

    • profile image

      Sandesh Deshkar 7 years ago

      I am trying to gain weight and concentrating on high carb plus high protein diet. I guess weight loss requires both to be less.

    • Runway profile image

      Runway 7 years ago from New York

      Thanks for breaking this down. I try low carb, but never fully understood it.

    • rdelp profile image

      rdelp 7 years ago

      This is an interesting concept that I haven't read about before. I might give it a shot if I really stick with my lifting program.

    • HubbaHubber profile image

      HubbaHubber 7 years ago

      Hi I like your HUB... :-)

    • healthwriter profile image

      healthwriter 7 years ago from USA

      Informative Hub, keep gr8 work.

    • zeehman profile image

      zeehman 7 years ago from Port Orchard

      great hubs katie

    • michelle.dragon99 profile image

      michelle.dragon99 7 years ago

      detail analysis....very informative hub katie...great job!