Everything you need to know about carb cycling

On the long list of dieting and sports nutrition trends, there’s the new concept of carb cycling. But what is it and is it right for you? We break it down.

What exactly is carb cycling?

Carb cycling started out as a handy tool for bodybuilders, but then became popular among novice athletes as well. The concept is simple. You just rotate your carb intake in a cycle, with the cycle differing according to the person.

Your carb cycle usually revolves around your workout days. So, for example, on intense workout days, you would eat more carbs. On low-intensity workout days, you would eat fewer carbs. 

The idea is that if your body isn’t receiving all those carbs all the time, it’ll start burning more fat. The hope is, carb cycling will lead to body fat loss while giving you the fuel you need, when you need it, and not at other times.

Is carb cycling right for me?

As mentioned, carb cycling is best for pro athletes, but novice athletes have found it helpful as well. Athletes with the most success using carb cycling have included endurance athletes, runners, cyclists and swimmers. Additionally, if you’re on a low-carb diet, but you still want to compete or work out on an intense level, carb cycling could help you maintain your low-carb diet while still getting the most out of your exercise (as sometimes exercising on a low-carb diet can be less than ideal, due to the lack of fuel in your body).

How do I get started with carb cycling?

To get started with carb cycling, you’ll want to begin accurately tracking your carb intake via one of the many diet apps out there, or just a simple food journal. But how many carbs should you be eating? Here’s how to calculate your daily intake (though, of course, adjust your approach to carb cycling according to your body’s unique needs).

1. Determine how many calories you’ll need per day. Losing weight? Multiply your current bodyweight by 10. Want to gain weight? Multiply your bodyweight by 15. Want to stay the same weight? Multiply your bodyweight by 12. That’s how many calories you need per day.

2. Divide up your calories among carbs, protein and fat. Always keep your protein and fat intake equal to one another (it’s recommended you consume 1 gram of protein per pound of your bodyweight), while lowering and raising your your carb intake according to your workout schedule. On days you eat more carbs, your protein and fat intake will be lower, and on days you eat fewer carbs, your protein and fat intake will be higher, with your total calories always equalling your goal number. 

Just make sure that you always consume enough calories every day, and that you eat enough fiber during low carb days. 

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