Carb Cycling: A Daily Meal Plan to Get Started

You know aA?no-carb dietA?isna??t up your alley, but you dona??t exactly want to fill up on a pre-race pasta feast every night either. No matter your health and fitness aspirations,A?carb cyclingA?might be a good middle ground. Although its roots are in the world of bodybuilding, trainers are turning to the nutrition strategy to help clients achieve their goals a?? whether theya??re trying to slim down or build muscle a?? or both.

a??Eating healthy carbs on certain days keeps your metabolism revved up, and sticking to mostly protein and vegetables on days in between keeps insulin low enough that you canA?burn fatA?without losing muscle,a?? explainsA?Shelby Starnes, a competitive bodybuilder and carb cycling expert. a??Ita??s a routine that anyone can modify for their individual goals.a?? If youa??re intrigued but dona??t know how to start, read on for tips about how to put together a weekly carb cycling menu.

Find the Right Formula

The classic carb cycling schedule alternates between high- andA?low-carb days, six times a week, saving the seventh day for reward meals. Depending on your health and fitness objectives, however, you might want to alter your setup for the week. For instance, to lose weight, you might aim for five low-carb days interspersed with two high-carb days, suggests Starnes. On the other hand, if gaining weight and adding muscle is your goal, think about including four or even five high-carb days. a??Just make sure not to put all your high-carb days back-to-back,a?? Starnes says. a??You should space them evenly throughout the week.a?? No matter your plan, be prepared to closely monitor your progress and consider adjusting your schedule to see what brings the best results for you.

Choose Your Fuel

So should you just munch on meat during your low-carb days and pig out on pasta the rest of the week? Not exactly.A?Jessica Crandall, R.D.N, a dietician and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, recommends getting the majority of your calories on high-carb days from complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes and fruits (or aA?high-quality protein shakeA?if youa??re in a pinch). a??Theya??ll keep you energized throughout the day while still promoting weight loss,a?? she says. To power through low-carb days, try to get your protein fromA?chicken, fish, lean beef, eggs or tofu and complement it with non-starchy veggies a?? basically anything besides potatoes, corn and peas is fair game. As a general rule, says Starnes, do the majority of your shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store. Youa??ll load up on fresh staples and sidestep preservative-packed processed foods.

Snack on Track

Many trainers suggest taking a a??cheat daya?? and allowing yourself to eat what you like, but make sure that approach isna??t setting you back. a??To sustain a diet, a weekly reward day is not the best option,a?? says Crandall. a??If youa??re in the mindset to indulge after depriving yourself, you could end up eating 5,000 calories in one day when you only need 1,400 a?? and that will derail any progress youa??ve made.a?? But dona??t be discouraged; there is a littleA?wiggle roomA?for treats in a carb cycling plan. a??If having an occasional bagel or bowl of sugary cereal helps you comply with your meal plan, work that into a high-carb day,a?? says Starnes. a??Just scale back the other meals a bit that day.a??

Make a Carb Cycling Meal Plan

Once youa??ve stocked your fridge and pantry withA?healthy grains, proteins and produce, coming up with a daily menu is key for achieving the best results. As a general rule, though it will vary from person to person, Crandall says that women should take in around 1,200 calories and men around 1,500 on low-carb days, with slightly more on high-carb days. Starnes recommends calculating the correct portions of each macronutrient by getting a certain number of grams per pound of body weight.


For both low- and high-carb days, be sure to eatA?breakfastA?as soon as possible when you wake up, then consume the rest of your calories across another four to six small meals throughout the day, advises Starnes. Herea??s how you might schedule your meals:

A typical low-carb day:

7 a.m: two scrambled eggs with 1/2 red bell pepper
10 a.m:A?protein shake with berries
1 p.m: 3 ounces grilled chicken with 1 cup asparagus
4 p.m: 1/3 cup oatmeal with 10 almonds
7 p.m: 3 ounces steak with 2 cups steamed broccoli and cauliflower

Carb Cycling: High-Carb Day Meal Plan

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A typical high-carb day:

7 a.m: 1/2 cupA?oatmealA?with walnuts and berries
10 a.m: apple with 2 tablespoons peanut or almond butter
1 p.m:A?half turkey sandwichA?on whole-wheat bread
4 p.m: 1 cup three-bean salad with 1 cup quinoa
7 p.m: 3 ounces grilled chicken with 1 cup whole-wheat pasta and pesto

Keep in mind that you can to still enjoy your favorite foods a?? just in moderation. a??The goal is to slowly change your eating habits to include a variety of healthy foods,a?? says Crandall. Thata??s the kind of formula you can stick to for continued success.

The calculators within this article useA?the equations below for a rough estimation of your daily needs.


High-carb day
2a??3 grams of carbs (x your body weight)
1a??1.25 grams ofA?proteinA?(x your body weight)
As little fat as possible

Low-carb day
0.5a??1.5 grams of carbs (x your bodyweight)
1.25a??1.5 grams of protein (x your bodyweight)
0.15a??0.35 grams of fat (x your bodyweight)


High-carb day
About 1 gram of carbs (x your bodyweight)
0.75 grams of protein (x your bodyweight)
As little fat as possible

Canada Drugs doxycycline Low-carb day
0.2a??0.5 grams of carbs (x your bodyweight)
About 1 gram of protein (x your bodyweight)
0.1a??0.2 grams of fat (x your bodyweight)


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