T Nation

Training Type for Carb Cycling


Hay CT, i will be going soon on carb cycling to gain weight but wanted to ask you what will be the best suited training type to go with it. Do i go more for strength training, or combination of strength and few sets of higher rep ranges?


I think that the diet should support your training not the other way around.

I believe that you should start with the training program. Select an approach that fits both your goal and psychological profile. Then build the diet to support the program you selected. It might not even end up being carb cycling.

As Dr.Fred Hatfield said, eat for what you did and what you are about to do. So when you have more volume you might need more carbs, when you go heavier with shorter sets and less exercise you might need less carbs.

Why are you dead set on carbs cycling anyway?


As i want to gain weight, but not to bulk, a little bit steady weight gain, i thought having high/moderatr/low days will help me with both gain weight and not gaining too much fat. I was 2 months on hypertrophy phase, now i should start strength phase.


You can’t force-feed muscle growth. Your body can only use X amount of nutrients to build muscle at any given time. When you exceed that amount all excess calories will either be stored (as fat or glycogen) or used for energy/heat.

In that regard your are limited by your own physiology (anabolic hormone levels and insulin sensitivity for example) in how much nutrients you can use for growth.

“Overeating” will not lead to more muscle growth if your body is already receiving all the nutrients/energy it needs to grow at an optimal rate.

Why am I saying that? Because carbs cycling (and I’m not saying it’s bad I’m only giving you the clear portrait) is nothing special. It’s no more or less effective than having a more constant caloric/nutrients intake provided that both gives you enough nutrients for growth.

Let’s say that you are carbs cycling. Let’s assume at your “moderate” day contains the right amount of nutrients and calories that you can use to fuel growth. The “high” days will NOT stimulate more muscle growth because you were already getting enough nutrients on your moderate days. In the best case scenario the “high days” will only need to an increase in glycogen storage and in the worst case it will also lead to fat gain, but no more muscle growth because your body is already building muscle at an optimal rate.

The low days will provide you with less calories/nutrients than you can use for optimal muscle growth. Will those lower days help you avoid putting on too much fat? Maybe. But they will also limit muscle growth. And since muscle repair lasts for 24-36 hours after a session it might affect the recovery/muscle building from the previous day’s session too.

Correct me if I’m wrong but your mindset seems to be that you need to eat a lot to gain more muscle. BUT you don’t want to get fat. That’s why you want to use carbs cycling (to have both big eating and days where you control your fat gain).

It’s great in theory but it doesn’t work exactly like that. It WOULD work like that if your body could use all the nutrients you give it to grow… it would work like that if eating more always meant more muscle. But it doesn’t. So there is no real point in overeating a lot more than the amount of nutrients you can use.

If you were on anabolics it would work better. Why? Because the body is made more efficient to use nutrients to fuel growth.

NOW I’m not saying that you should carbs cycle. I believe that a proper application is adapting carbs intake to the amount of training volume you do on that day, to fuel the work. And those added carbs should be consumed around the workout (I believe in pre and during workout carbs). BUT you need a lot less carbs than you think to fuel a lifting workout, especially a strength/powerlifting workout since you don’t really rely on glycogen for fuel during sets of 1, 2 and 3 and only a small amount for sets of 4, 5 and 6. And even during a higher volume workout you use less than you think.

If you overconsume carbs you will not stimulate more growth.

I believe that a lot of people who think they are gaining more muscle when they overconsume carbs are actually holding on more water (carbs make you retain water) and get systemic inflammation (a lot of carbs sources as pro-inflammatory).

I once wrote an article on carbs cycling many years ago, I whish I didn’t because I don’t believe in it anymore. I did before I learned deeper applications of nutrition. But not anymore. Except for adding pre/during workout carbs to days where the volume is higher.


Yes, in theory it sounds great, but i know it’s not the case, i can’t ingest more then my body can take, i can but it will go to fat. And strength requires more CNS… In other words i need to deserve my carb intake. I read that article so i wanted to ask you. Correct me if i’m wrong, your thought are to have steady calorie intake, and bump a little bit when volume is higher? What would be good during workout carb drink, BCAA, dextrose…?


Correct. And it’s so much the “more CNS” aspect of strength that makes carbs less necessary, but the fact that you don’t rely on it as your primary fuel source in a strength workout.

Efforts lasting less and 9-12 seconds will rely mostly on ATP-CP (phosphagens) for fuel. So most sets of 1-3 reps are below than and depending on speed of movements sets of up to 5 reps are in that category too. Heck, even if you do to 8 reps, with a regular tempo, a set will last around 25 seconds, the first 9-12 using mostly phosphagens So you are still not burning a lot of glycogen for fuel.

A high carb intake is needed mostly if you do VERY high volume of work or work that is high in energy expenditure (conditioning, metcons, strongman stuff).

You still need some carbs pre-workout and during. But not as much as you would think I personally do great on a total of 240g of carbs per day, and that is when doing more bodybuilding work. When I do strength work 160-180 (with a higher fat intake) is fine.


Find your optimal protein intake (0.8 - 1.0g per pound of bodyweight)

Find your maintenance caloric intake. The best way to do this is to measure everything you eat for a week. Caculate you average daily intake and look at if you gained, lost or had a stable weight over the week. This will give you a good idea of your maintenance level.

If you want to gain size/strength you will need a slight surplus, maybe 250-300 calories over your maintenance per day.

When you know your maintenance level and your protein level you know how much “energy (fats/carbs)” calories you need to consume. From there it’s a matter of allocating carbs or fat. More carbs when doing higher volume, moderate carbs when doing strength work and lower carbs when not training. Fat is adjusted based on carbs to keep caloric intake fairly stable.




Thanks CT for your time!