Beginner’s Guide to Carb Cycling for Fat Loss

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Carb Cycling for Fast Fat Loss

Make no mistake that calorie control is the main determining factor when it comes to fat loss, but macronutrient manipulation (e.g. carbohydrate cycling) is the next step for accelerating that process. It’s understandable that many people just assume that the best way to lose fat is to eliminate carbs from their diet altogether.

However, going “no-carb” isn’t necessary (nor would it be optimal) for fast fat loss. Bear in mind that carbohydrate restriction isn’t the same thing as calorie restriction; unbeknownst to many low-carb dieters, they mainly drop weight so rapidly because they are simultaneously cutting calories (from the carb reduction) and losing muscle glycogen and water weight.

So yes, cutting carbs does help, but it’s not the panacea for fat loss. Therefore, this article will explain exactly what carb cycling is, how it works, and how to devise a carb cycling regimen to cut off that unwanted body-fat, fast!

What is Carb Cycling Exactly?

Carbohydrate cycling is a mean’s of altering your daily calorie intake by manipulating the amount of carbohydrates you consume. In general, carb cycling is comprised of three different days:

  • Zero-Carb Days (No-Starch)—Don’t take the “no” too literally here; you’ll still be eating a trivial amount of carbohydrates from greens and fat sources. The goal, though, is to avoid any direct starch sources and keep impact (non-fibrous) carbohydrates to as close to nil as possible.

 

  • Low-Carb Days—Low carb days start at a baseline of eating 25% of your total calorie intake in the form of carbohydrates.

 

  • High-Carb Days—On these you days, you will be ingesting 40% of your total calorie intake from carbohydrates and eating slightly more calories overall. High-carb days are essentially “refeed” days and help restore muscle glycogen.

 

NOTE*--You will inevitably need to fine-tune the exact amount of carbs you eat as you progress throughout the diet

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What Happens to Your Body When You Cut Calories

The human body is smart, and it knows exactly how much energy (calories) it needs, so there is a bit of a conundrum we are all faced with—fat loss requires us to burn more calories than we consume, but if you do that for a long period of time the body adapts by reducing its metabolic rate (since survival is its primary concern, not being shredded). Think about it from a biological perspective, it would be imprudent for your body to be depleting its energy reserves if nourishment is limited.

Thus, when the goal is to lose fat, you don’t want to be metabolically-efficient. You want the opposite—to be as metabolically inefficient as possible, meaning you need more energy as a result of having a faster metabolism.  

Ultimately, if your metabolism is less efficient, you can eat more during the fat loss process and still shed off body fat.

Determine Your Daily Caloric & Macronutrient Needs:

Whichever weight category you fall into, those will be the number of calories and macronutrients you will aim for on the given days.

Weight (lbs)

Calorie Goal

No-Carb Day Macros

Low-Carb Day Macros

100-120 lbs

1,500

170/20/85

150/94/58

121-140 lbs

1,700

193/23/96

170/107/66

141-160 lbs

1,900

216/26/107

190/120/74

161-180 lbs

2,100

239/29/118

210/133/82

181-200 lbs

2,300

262/32/129

230/146/90

201-220 lbs

2,400

273/34/135

240/153/94

221-240 lbs

2,500

285/35/140

250/160/98

241-260 lbs

2,600

297/36/146

260/166/102

261+ lbs

2,700

309/38/157

270/172/106

***Macros given as grams of Protein/Carbohydrate/Fat

High-Carb/Refeed Day Calorie and Macronutrient Breakdown

Weight (lbs)

Calorie Goal

High-Carb Day Macros

100-120 lbs

2,000

150/250/56

121-140 lbs

2,200

165/275/60

141-160 lbs

2,400

170/300/64

161-180 lbs

2,600

185/325/68

181-200 lbs

2,800

200/350/72

201-220 lbs

2,900

208/368/74

221-240 lbs

3,000

216/381/76

241-260 lbs

3,100

224/394/78

261+ lbs

3,200

232/407/80

***Macros given as grams of Protein/Carbohydrate/Fat

The Diet Rotation

  • No-carb Days—3 per week
  • Lower-carb Days—3 per week
  • Higher-carb/Refeed Days—1 per week

Diet Rotation (Starting on Monday)—

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Low-Carb

Low-Carb

No-Carb

No-Carb

No-Carb

High-Carb

Low-Carb 

 

Keep track of everything you put in your mouth. Make sure you’re weighing out your portions and reading food labels so you have the proper serving size measurements. There are many apps available nowadays, such as MyFitnessPal, that easily allow you to log your food intake.

You should aim to eat 4-6 meals/snacks per day! Simply spread out your calorie/macronutrient intake accordingly. Don’t worry if you indulge just a little bit here and there, the most important thing is to be meeting your calorie and macronutrient intake at the end of the day!

Lastly, don’t freak out if you happen to be just a bit off from your calorie and/or macronutrient goal(s) at the end of the day. If your goal is to eat 1600 calories but you end up eating, say 1650 calories, don't sweat it. Just make up the difference the next day by eating a little less. Nobody is perfect and it is simply doing you more harm than good by ruminating over such a trivial matter.

Recommended Foods

The following table shows what foods we recommend you base your diet around. Remember, you don’t need to sacrifice taste just because you’re trying to lose fat. Be creative and use seasonings and no-calorie condiments to give your food some kick without sabotaging your goals.

 

Food Groups

Recommended Foods List

Grains

Basmati Rice                       Whole-grain Pasta                      Grits            

Quinoa                                 Whole-grain Bread                      Oats                      

Barley                              Whole-wheat Couscous             Shredded Wheat

Brown Rice                        

 

Vegetables (Non Starchy)

Salad/Lettuce                      Zucchini          Artichoke         Brussels Sprouts

Broccoli                                Celery              Spinach              Sour Cabbage

Asparagus                             Beetroot

Vegetables   (Starchy)

 

Sweet Potato             Lentils                       Corn                   Green Peas

Kidney Beans           Chick Peas                Carrots                    Beans

Yams                                           

 

Fruit

Bananas                   Apples                      Plums                  Pineapple

Orange                     Grapes                      Apricots            Pears

Figs                           Blueberries             Melons              Watermelon 

Cherries                    Peaches

 

Dairy

Fat-Free/Low-Fat Milk          Fat Free/Low-Fat Cottage Cheese       

Fat-Free/Low-Fat Yogurt     Fat-Free/Low-Fat Cheese           

Greek Yogurt

 

Lean Protein

Tuna                                      Egg Whites (whole eggs also count as fat source)

Skinless Chicken Breast              96% Lean Beef     

Lamb Chops                                96%  Lean Turkey           

Fillet Steak                                  96% Lean Beef           

Tilapia                                            Shrimp

Salmon (also counts as fat source)   

Healthy Fats

Extra Virgin Olive Oil            Avocado               Peanuts

Almonds                                  Cashews             Pistachios

Natural Peanut Butter             Olives                   Coconut (unsweetened)

 

 

Bringing it All Together

Using the information in this guide and putting it to use will surely help you cut off unwanted body-fat and keep you feeling energetic and healthy. Remember, stick to the diet and be consistent with your exercise regimen, as the latter is just as important as the former.

You shouldn’t feel too “deprived” at any point when doing a carb cycling diet; the good thing about the this type of diet is you get to have your cake and eat it too, at least one day a week. You have the knowledge, now make it happen!

 

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