T Nation

First Time Carb Cycling

I’ve been following 5/3/1 for about 6 cycles now with some solid gains in my lifts while not paying too much attention to diet (got my calories and proteins and didn’t focus much on food choice).

I have stalled both in mass gain and in strength gain despite upping my calories and protein (maybe a drop in insulin sensitivity). I’ve also noticed more belly fat. I’m looking to cut (slowly of course) for a few months and get back some insulin sensitivity before aiming for mass and strength again.

I have adopted a carb cycling plan which I am not too sure about, but seems to fit my lifestyle and it looks good on paper.

I’m currently 5’9" at 185 lb. I train 4x a week on one of the most basic 5/3/1 templates.

It follows low carb (with any carbs coming from a mid to low glycemic index food) except on training days where I got high carb in my pre-workout meal, my peri-workout drink, and my post-workout meal. I’m also using MAG-10 during my workouts.

My rest days are all low carb with a slightly higher fat content (avocados, nuts, olive oil).

I’m generally hitting 2200-2400 calories a day on this plan with ~ 35/35/30 (% P/C/F) on workout days and ~ 40/20/40 on off days.

Here are my main foods:

-Complex Carbs-
Basmati Rice
Brown Rice
Sweet Potatoes
Choy Sum (Chinese mustard greens)
Bell Peppers
Grape Tomatoes

-Simple Carbs- (Peri and Post Workout Only)
Fructose (from Strawberries, Blueberries, and Orange Juice)
Semi-sweet Dark Chocolate
Jasmine Rice

Ground sirloin
Boneless/Skinless Chicken Thighs (can’t stand Breasts…too dry)

Peanut Butter
Assorted Nuts
Olive oil
Natural Fats from Meat

Whey Isolate
MAG-10 (Hydrolyzed Caseinate)
Fish Oil
Green Tea Extract

I’m looking for opinions on this. I also don’t know if cheat meals are suggested on this sort of plan since carb days come and go pretty regularly, which may make re-feeding unnecessary.

Looks like a good plan should work well, try it. Perfect world I would drop the dark chocolate and powerade and just get more rice, but not a biggie.

[quote]RampantBadger wrote:
Looks like a good plan should work well, try it. Perfect world I would drop the dark chocolate and powerade and just get more rice, but not a biggie.[/quote]

Thanks for the tip. I can probably drop the chocolate (I’m not big on sweets anyway) but the Powerade is for peri-workout support (especially when I’m working on conditioning).

I wouldn’t count the green leafy veges as complex carbs. Yes, they do have carbs but just eat all the fibrous veges you like. I don’t think its worth counting those.


As someone is just starting out with “dieting”, don’t worry about “insulin sensitivity” and “glycemic index foods”. Eating like a human being will get you farther and stop you from over analysing.

If you are doing 5/3/1, then you should read the part on nutrition on the Beyond book. Simple, to the point advice. if you don’t have the book, do yourself a favour and get it.

I love carb cycling, but must admit, I’ve only used it for weight loss.

Nothing wrong with food choice, but there is a lot more protein variety out there. And if your chicken breast is dry, then you need to learn to cook. George Forman grill are amazing for beginner cook. Wrapped in bacon make sure they stay moist :).

As mentioned above, drop the Poweraid. You could also drop the Beta-Alanine and purchase SWF or Plazma if the budget allows. Unless your conditioning is pushing a prowler or some form of intense HIIT (I doubt it is, as you mentioned you are gaining belly fat), drop the poweraid at conditioning. Just take MAG-10. Green tea extract? Just drink the tea. Just a suggestion. Why is caffeine a supplement?

Addiction is when you need something all the time to function. you need food, air, water, etc, not caffeine. There is nothing wrong with needing a boost once in a while, but every work out?

Spending a little more on quality supplements will take you longer, farther, faster then a whole bunch of sub par products.

As for your total, I personally think it is too low, but only you can make that call. Just see how you feel and look on a weekly basis and make small changes if needed.

Lastly, cab cycling usually has three days. low/medium/high. I like High on leg days, medium on upper body days and low on off/conditioning days. And just to give you an example, the last time I did the diet, I was at 2700/3200/3700 calories (low/med/high). The only thing I changed was the carbs.

Apart from that, good luck.

[quote]Dangles wrote:

[quote]RampantBadger wrote:

but the Powerade is for peri-workout support (especially when I’m working on conditioning).[/quote]

Try Plazma/karbolyn or waxy maize depending on budget. An amino drink like xtend not a bad option either

Thanks for the advice guys.

I would like to defend my choice of beta-alanine and green tea though. It takes a lot of green tea to make up the amount of anti-oxidant and metabolism-acceleration in a single capsule of extract. I’ve done my research, but if you have good reasons why GTE is n’t worth my time, I would gladly take a second look.

Beta-alanine is another supplement I believe in (again, through reading peer-reviewed research). There are many supplements by Biotest that are of great quality as mentioned, but that doesn’t mean everything else is bunk.

As for keeping the diet low cal and highly structured, I kinda have to due to how stubborn my body is. I can eat anywhere from 2800-3400 calories a day for several month with the same workout and not see any changes in body composition. I have an extremely hard time putting on mass and an equally hard time taking fat off. I need to try something more strict than just counting calories and see where it takes me.

I am using a slightly modified version of CBL. I essentially eat very low carb all day long. Then right after training I slam 2-300g of Simple Carbs and Protein. It does not follow CBL exactly by any means but ita working great for me. PRs coming and leaning out fairly well. Sample day is…

Wake up 6:00am
Large Coffe with Coconut Oil

Breakfast 8:00am
6 Eggs/6 Egg Whites
4 slices of Bacon
25g of Casein Protein

Lunch 1:00pm
16oz 90/10 Ground Beef and vegetables seasoned with Taco Seasonings topped with Cheese and Greek Yogurt.

Dinner 7 or 8:00pm (Training Day 3 hour window to slam carbs)
32oz of Orange Juice
1 cup White Rice
25g Whey
12oz Chicken

None training days Essentially repeat lunch.

Drink Casein Shakes through out the day if hungry.


I think your plan is what mine will look like when I get back into strength and mass development. I’ve put on too much fat and my overall anabolic resistant has held me back recently.