How Does Carb Cycling Work?

Can anyone give me a brief explanation on how it works? How low should I take my carbs on a low day?

If you google “carb cycling” on T-Nation you’ll find many detailed articles with breakdowns of everything you need to know. Here’s one. The Carb Cycling Codex.


Every so often my weight stalls out, so I keep switching it up.

Stalls rising?

No, I’m down to 223 from around 290 this time last year

How long of a stall? And just how accurately are you tracking weights? And is it a stall in weight lost or an actual stall in body re-composition?

How closely are you tracking calories? Have you really been counting macros, calories, and scale weight for a full year?! I took five a half months to prep for my show and I was starting to go bat shit crazy measuring my food for every meal. No offense, but I highly doubt many non-competitive people do this, let alone for a year!

In a nutshell carb cycling works because there is a limit, physically and mentally, on just how much of a restriction someone can handle in a caloric deficit. So by cycling carbs and calories, it makes a deficit better to deal with. Of course one has to lower calories as time goes on but flat deficits set people up for failure especially naturals.

When I am trying to reduce bodyfat slowly and steadily, I will record everything. I usually work in 3 week blocks. I will aim to reduce a certain number of calories from maintenance level per day, which can be as high as 1000 calorie defecit, or as low as 100 (kind of a recharge your battery). Typically I will alternate between 700, 100, 1000 and 400 daily deficit for a 3 week period.

So lets say I plan to create a 700 daily deficit for a 3 week block. That equals a total 14,700 calorie deficit over the 3 week period.

Now, I will NOT keep things the same every day during that 3 week period. Usually I will try to get ahead on that 14,700 calorie deficit by getting a little stricter in the first week, and in the first couple of days of each week, as long as I am 700 down per day at each point. I may even have a day where I eat maintenance level if I am way ahead. Not a cheat day, just more good food.

Also, I will naturally oscillate between more carbs and less fat, and less carbs and more fat. Usually in calorie restriction, I am getting 40% of my calories from protein (with a little variability, but say 140-220 grams per day. The other 60% may be 20% carbs/40% fat one day and 40% carbs/20% fat another, and will be between those two points MOST of the time, though I may have 1 day a week when I am getting 10% carbs/50% fat, and one day with 50% carbs and 10% fat at the extreme. I am not getting sub 10% yet, (but getting close), so those three methods 1) varying the deficit of 3 week blocks, 2) starting each 3 week block a little tighter to get ahead on the 3 week deficit and 3) naturally varying carbs to fats mostly between a 1:2 to a 2:1 ratio, but occasionally having a very low carb or very low fat day keeps the fat% dropping.

I may gain a small amount of scale weight by the way on a 100 daily deficit block, or if I eat more at the end of the 3 week block, but my fat% continues to drop.

Alternating between fat and carbs as a fuel source, in a calorie deficit I think keeps you more insulin sensitive. You have low fat stretches where your muscles will make more glucose burning enzymes, and you will have lower carb periods where your muscles will be stimulated to produce more enzymes used in beta oxidation of fats, so you become an efficient burner of both fuels.

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