Carb Cycling and Why You Might Want to Give it a Try!

Oh no, not that dreaded word ... CARBOHYDRATE! Sadly, we have become accustomed to hating this word. For some reason, we have learned to view carbs as the enemy, a "BAD" food if you will. When and why did carbs get such a bad rap?!

According to Mayo Clinic, "Your body needs carbohydrates to function well." It is important to note that choosing the RIGHT type of carbohydrate is essential for maintaining good health. Some good options include, whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, oats), legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas), vegetables, and fruits.

So what in the world is carb cycling? I know what you are thinking, "Please do not make me go on another low carb diet, for the love of all that is good I need bread and pasta!" Not to worry, this plan still allows you to eat carbs. Hallelujah! It is just a matter of cycling between different amounts of carbs each day.

According to Yuri Elkaim, author of "The All-Day Fat Burning Diet," carb cycling can be summarized as "some days high, some days low, some days no." Basically, you are varying the level of carbohydrates you consume on a day to day basis.

How Does Carb Cycling Work?

A common way to do this in a sustainable way is by dividing your carb cycling into 5 days:

  • Day 1: Low Carb
  • Day 2: High Calorie
  • Day 3: Fasting or No Carbs
  • Day 4: Regular Day
  • Day 5: Low Calorie

Cycle between these days and repeat. It is pretty straightforward, but let's break down what those days actually involve.

Low Carb

Goal: Stick to 50 to 75 grams of carbs on this day

Tips for success:

Include a generous portion of healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, fish) and lean protein at each meal. This will be your main source of energy, so be sure to fill up on your fat and protein macros.

Non-starchy vegetables will be your friend! They have far fewer carbs than starchy vegetables, like potatoes. Some examples of non-starchy vegetables are peas, broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, artichokes, greens (swiss chard, arugula, spinach, kale, etc).

High Calorie "Feast Day"

Goal: Consume approximately 50% more calories than your normal daily intake on this day

Tips for success:

It must be noted that this is NOT A FREE FOR ALL!!! Eating 50% more calories sounds awesome, but keep in mind you will still be eating high-quality calories, not junk food! The main difference between this and a normal day is that you will increase your portion size slightly.

You still want to include lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats and each meal.

*It is recommended that you avoid dairy, gluten, soy, and alcohol when experimenting with carb cycling. These are some of the most common food allergies and triggers for inflammation and digestion issues. After you have experimented with carb cycling for approximately several weeks, you may choose to slowly add these food items back into your diet. That way you will know if they are a trigger for inflammation or other digestive problems.

No Carbs or Fasting Day

Goal: Try to consume less than 25 grams of carbs on this day.

Some may choose to actually do a fast. Although there is promising research about including intermittent fasting in your routine, this is not for everyone! Please listen to your body and do what is right for you! I prefer not to do a total fast, especially because I am pretty active. Therefore, I just eat fewer carbs on this day rather than remove them altogether. Do what works for you!

Tips for success:

Again, Fill up on non-starchy veggies along with healthy fats and lean proteins. Try to avoid starchy vegetables, fruits and grains to keep your carbs at or below 25 grams.

Regular and low-calorie days just mean eating a well-balanced meal of fat, carbs, and protein at each meal. On your low-calorie day, try to eat around 25% fewer calories than you would on your regular day.

Why Should I Give This a Shot?

Everyone is uniquely different and that's amazing. Therefore, the type of foods you thrive on and enjoy might be entirely different than your best friend's, husband's or children's preferences! However, carb cycling is an informative and effective way to dive in and listen to your body's needs. It helps you to get in touch with what really works for you as well as what type of foods really support your mind, body and gut health!

Through Yuri Elkaim's research, he found that there are several possible advantages to carb cycling. These include but are not limited to:

  1. An increase in insulin sensitivity (requires lower levels of insulin to lower blood glucose levels. Someone who requires large levels of insulin is referred to keep blood glucose stable is referred to as insulin resistant)
  2. It encourages fat burning
  3. It prevents leptin resistance (leptin is the "satiety hormone" that lets you know when you are full and helps to control our appetite)
  4. It promotes healthier eating habits by focusing on healthy carbohydrates
  5. Helps to decrease cortisol levels (when this stress hormone's levels are high, it causes your liver to convert proteins in the muscle into glucose for energy)

Remember, we are all uniquely different. One person's food may be another's poison. Carb cycling can be a great place to start if you have tried everything and cannot seem to get on a sustainable, healthy eating plan. If it doesn't work for you, no big deal! However, the core concepts of eating a large assortment of vegetables at every meal as well as healthy portions of lean protein and fat are something we should all get on board with!

The reason I like this way of eating is that I tend to overeat carbohydrates. When I do this, I feel bloated, sluggish and just plain gross. Having a thought out plan that allows me to reduce inflammation and digestion issues is what works best for me. I do not always follow this plan perfectly, but I do use a lot of the core concepts and have been able to implement what really works for me and my body!

So maybe this is just the type of plan you needed to get back on track. Let me know if you have any questions. As always, I would love to hear from you! Comment on this post, stop by my contact page or e-mail me at with questions or to schedule your free health and fitness consultation!




Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or registered dietician. You should always consult your physician or registered dietician before partaking in any dietary changes!