T Nation

Carb Cycling Question


I've been trying to get more cut/toned lately and decided to try carb cycling for the first time after reading some of the articles on this site and around the web. My question is, in your guys' opinions, is carb cycling the best way to get toned without losing much muscle mass? And if so, is my routine maximizing my results? Here are my measurements:

Age: 21
Height: 5 feet 6 inches
Weight: 160lbs.
BF: 12-16%

I currently lift six days a week. I run in the morning and lift around 5-7pm. My lift days are as follows:

Day 1: Legs
Day 2: Shoulders and Arms
Day 3: Chest
Day 4: Legs
Day 5: Shoulders and Arms
Day 6: Chest
Day 7: Rest

On high carb days I consume roughly:

272-408g Carbs
136-204g Protein
As little fat as possible

On low carb days I consume roughly:
68-204g Carbs
170-238g Protein
34-68g Fat

Those numbers were determined from a sample plan I found that gave ranges (in grams) for each food group based upon weight and body fat percentage. The ranges seem a little large to me though (especially with the carbs).

Anyway, just looking for some feedback on what you guys think about my goals and how I'm approaching them. Although I've been on here for a little while now lurking in the shadows and reading articles, I haven't really started posting and following a nutrition plan until now. Just looking for some feedback!


Put on mass first.

And looking at the numbers, the gap is is way too big. 272 - 408??? that's 136g. Or 544 calories.

Look at the bodybuilding forum and read the stickies. You need the basics.


Putting on muscle mass at the same time as getting toned can be a daunting task, however check out the Lean Gains method as a lot of people have used that method with much success from what I've read.


If you have not tried it, please stop commenting.

Reading about it does not give me the right to speculate. Do it, then talk about it.


And don't use the word, "toned."

For what it's worth I used the 8/16 fasting method described on the Leangains site and found it to be to my liking for leaning up, I don't think it would be as helpful in gaining mass simply due to the huge caloric need being hard to fit into only 8 hours.


diet looks solid... maybe more solid food on your back days


Did anyone else notice he's not training back?


@SquatDeep385: Actually we don't know that, he hasn't posted his routine or diet. He could be doing deads on leg day and pulling with shoulders and chest. You are likely correct, but we don't know.

@mattwalshonline: unless he deleted his diet, how can you say, I see no mention of any food. So speculation is all we have.

@Curve875: I know it seems like you have given us info, but it is quite a range of possibilities. I agree with JFG's assertion that you need to focus on the basics. I think you can probably achieve your goals easier than you think and perhaps even gain some muscle if you are a relative newb (not trying to diss you here). A simple maintenance diet and a simplified training program would probably work as good or better than the cute shit that it appears to us you are trying to do.


I can't tell you if low-carb, low-fat, carb cycling, or whatever will work. Anything you can execute 80-90% of the time will work well, the question is how much effort it takes. My recommendation is you simply eat a balanced diet that can easily be modified later.

You have stated a CLEAR GOAL: get ripped and not lose muscle. Lets start there.

BTW, I am pretty sure you use 15% BF in your calculator, n'est pas?

First off, your maintenance intake is around 2600-3000 Kcal at the training level you describe.

If you are losing a pound of fat a week, that is an extra 500 Kcal per day of fat. Eating carbs would blunt this, so that may not be the best strategy, a competing BB with much more muscle mass and lower BF is a totally different case.

So 5 meals of 500-600 Kcal is your target, or 4 times 600-700. They don't have to be exactly on, but the day's totals should be in the range given above.

Each meal should be 40-60g protein depending on how many times you eat. That is quality animal protein (note, I did not say low fat). Examples are 1 large - 2 small chicken legs - remove skin after baking (75-85 min @ 350, rub some spices and salt between skin and meat), 7-9 oz. lean ground beef, a can of pacific salmon or 200-300g raw fish, 6-8 whole eggs (preferably omega3, these are from flax fed chicken), 7-9 oz. pork sirloin or similar low fat pork, 2-3 scoops of Low Carb Metabolic Drive, or any meat that is roughly this serving size and in the 10-20% fat range when raw (10-15 is better, but in a pinch you can get by).

At least twice a day eat a decent serving of spinach, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, bok choy as your main veggie addition to protein meals.
Spinach - pan, medium heat, let warm for 5 min, 10g butter, coconut oil, or olive oil, add 100g spinach, bit of salt, any herbs or spices, accent veggies like red onions, peppers chopped, etc., cook till size of spinach reduces to about a forth or fifth of starting size (the color will turn a bit darker too), it should be sizzling a bit, but not too much, find the right heat and use this setting in the future.
Broccoli - half pound in a bowl with plate on top, make sure there is no gaps, nuke for 4.5-6 min, a pinch or two of salt, drizzle a little bit of olive oil or a pat of butter.
Kale - tear leaf from stalk (150g), pieces should be 2" square at most, warm oven to 350, put a baking sheet in for 2 min with 10g butter to melt, take out, put kale pieces on sheet , move around to get butter on it, flip kale and get butter on other side, put in oven, check after 12-13 min, as soon as the edges brown and it is crispy, remove, keep checking every minute (my oven is about 15 min), salt and enjoy
brussels sprouts - cut in half, do the butter on baking sheet as for kale, brush some butter on the top, 350 for 30 min.

You probably are best of limiting fruit. A couple servings of berries (I use mostly frozen raspberies as they are very low sugar and high fiber) and one or two pieces of other fruit per day should round out your fruit and veggie intake nicely. Bananas can be had preworkout or after with a scoop of whey and a quarter teaspoon salt.

Carb Sources
Rolled oats, rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes are your best bets with rice being the least nutritious, but a good easy digesting post workout carb source. I would keep this to 1-3 servings a day (serving is 1 cup uncooked or 200g/half pound of sweet potato - see how you can cycle carbs easily with this construct)

Nuts, avocado, fish oil, ground flax seed should round out your fat intake nicely. Your can always keep the skin of chicken and not eat carbs with it to go low carb and keep calories the same, it gives you options that are easy to implement without having to worry that you met your nutrient needs.

You can always eat one meal less or more to cycle calories, go by how you feel. If you follow such a plan that has you eating a near perfect diet food choice-wise rather than focusing on macronutrients, your body will do a lot better than eating worse food than fits a certain breakdown.

Limit booze, preferably keep it to 2 drinks a week. Every week or two ignore this for a meal or two, but make sure those calories are not more than a normal meal.

Consider walking instead of running, first thing before you eat, too much running will impede fat loss, if you are doing sprints, no more than 5-10 3 times a week, 2 easy runs - kinda cruise, if you can't do this, just walk, it will work way better, 1 long run but don't kill yourself, if you couldn't do double the distance at that pace, its too much. For the sprints, don't go balls out, focus on form and foot speed/turnover. If you do this you will progress way quicker - I wish I knew this 10 years ago.

4 days is plenty, 3 may be better, I would pick a large movement and one or two accessory exercises and some abs and isolation work for arms. You could use the 5/3/1 pattern for the main movement and do a rowing type exercise with shoulders, pullup with bench (or do pushups instead of bench - heresy, I know, but it will work better than you think), reverse lunge with deadlift, and one-leg romanian deadlift with squats. Throw in bicep curls and a triceps exercise with upperbody days and calves on lower body days.

Check out these articles:


alternative to weights if you are a relative beginner and your bench is less than 200 or pullup ability is low:


Hey SquatDeep385 ,

Sorry, just forgot to put it in there. I train back on the same day as chest.


@Peter: Thanks for all the great advice. I'll check out those links as soon as I can and incorporate your advice as much as possible. And yes I am a relative newb :slight_smile:

Until now I've been highly active in sports. I played basketball, baseball and soccer in high school, and baseball and soccer on traveling teams as well. So even though I wasn't lifting regularly (even though I should have been) I stayed in great shape just from being active around the clock. But now the lack of sports has exposed just how terrible my eating habits were. So all the feedback is really helpful.


I've never fucked a supermodel either, but that won't stop me from talking about it


Congrats, you won the Internet. Go knock on Bill's door and claim your prize.

I prefer the real world.


So on high carb days you consume between 1938-3060cals and on low carb days you consume between 1258-2380 cals. How on earth do you track progress if you are varying by 1000 calories on a daily basis?