Carb Cycling For Beginners With Example Schedule

The goal of carb cycling is pretty simple. You’re trying to match energy needs with energy provided through food (carbs). While it isn’t rocket science, it is easy to make mistakes resulting in decreased performance, weight gain, or both. This carb cycling for beginners guide will help clarify what you should eat everyday, how many carbs you need, and common mistakes to avoid.

Here’s what’s in this guide:

1. What Is Carb Cycling
2. Carb Cycling Goals
3. Which Carbs To Cycle
4. Example Carb Cycling Schedule
5. Common Mistakes To Avoid
6. Carb Cycling And Exercise
7. Carb Cycling Results

1. What Is Carb Cycling?

Carb cycling is the practice of adjusting the amount of carbohydrates you eat based on your expected activity. High carb days are planned for intense training days, and low carb days are planned for days of limited physical activity.

Most diets will restrict calories and carbohydrates to help shed unwanted body fat. While carb restriction does help reduce weight and body fat, it comes at the cost of energy needed for training.

Alternating the amount of carbs you eat can help provide the needed energy for training days, and limit high energy foods when they’re not needed.

2. Carb Cycling Goals

The basic concept of carb cycling is to alternate high and low carb days, but how often you do it and how many carbs you eat is dictated by your fitness goal. Carb cycling is used differently by runners compared to carb cycling for bodybuilders.

Here are several ways to utilize carb cycling:

Improve Training While Dieting. Calorie and carb restriction while dieting can have a negative effect on the energy needed for intense training. The most basic form of carb cycling is to increase your carbs on training days, and reduce them on rest days.

Refeed Day. A one day calorie surplus with very high carbohydrates often used during prolonged periods of dieting. This helps with mental fatigue from long diets, and also helps balance hormones related to hunger and appetite.

Carb Loading. Your muscles don’t normally store enough energy for extended periods of intense exercise. Carb loading is often used by endurance and performance athletes in an attempt to provide the needed energy to sustain long periods of physical activity.

Energy Matching. A more advanced form of carb cycling is to try and match your energy needs with a higher degree of carb precision. The more intense the exercise and training, the more carbs you would schedule.

Carb Cycling For Bodybuilding. Because of the frequent and intense training needed for competitive bodybuilding, bodybuilders often utilize a carb cycling plan.

3. Which Carbs To Cycle

Certain types of carb cycling, like refeed days, are often used as cheat days. But you’ll get better results if you stick to slow digesting carbs, instead of indiscriminately gorging on every carb within arms reach.

Good Carbs To Cycle:

Sweet Potatoes
Whole Grain Foods

Bad Carbs To Cycle:

White Bread
Ice Cream

4. Example Carb Cycling Schedule

Carb Cycling On Training Days

Monday: 150 grams
Tuesday: 100 grams
Wednesday: 50 grams (lowest activity day)
Thursday: 125 grams
Friday: 200 grams (highest activity day)

Carb Loading: Runners

Carbs: 65% Total Calories
Protein: 20% Total Calories
Fat: 10% Total Calories

Detailed carb cycling for runners.

Detailed carb cycling for bodybuilding

5. Common Mistakes To Avoid

Unplanned High Carb Days

When you have a weekly high carb day, it can be tempting turn a “bad day” into a carb day. It’s important to plan your carb day and carb meals in advance. If you eat an entire chocolate cake on accident, that doesn’t count as carb cycling.

Skipping Workouts

If you’re loading your system with energy (carbs) it needs to be used to prevent an unwanted gain in body fat. Increasing carbs and not burning off that energy is one of the more common reasons for poor results.

Cycling The Wrong Carbs

Some carbs can dramatically spike your blood sugar. This can have a negative effect on your energy levels, and important hormones related to body fat storage. Try to stick with slow digesting foods when possible. Unprocessed, high fiber, whole grain food is what you’re looking for.

Excessive Calories

In addition to tracking the grams of carbohydrates in your food, you’ll also want to diligently track your total daily calories. When carbs are on the menu, it’s easier to go over your calorie budget depending on the type of food you choose to cycle.

6. Carb Cycling And Exercise

Carb cycling is intended to match your energy needs on workout days with high energy foods. If you’re trying to get lean. carb cycling and HIIT is a powerful combination to help shed unwanted body fat.

Here’s a good 10 minute HIIT workout from Emi Wong you can start with:

If you want to start carb cycling for bodybuilding, you don’t need to change your routine. But you do want to match your high carb days with your lifting days.

Carb cycling is also popular with:

Long distance running
Power Lifting

7. Carb Cycling Results

Since carb cycling is best used as a way to improve training and boost energy, your carb cycling results will yield more than what you see on the scale every morning. While it can help you lose a few pounds, you’ll also want to monitor how it impacts your workouts.

Here’s some ways to track results:

– Endurance
– Strength
– Training Intensity
– Muscle Gain/Loss
– Mood


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Carb cycling for beginners

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