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How to Carb Cycle for Optimal Fat Loss

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What is the best way to carb cycle for fat loss? You’re just about to find out as we lay bare the ultimate carb-cycling diet plan that will bridge the distance between who you are and who you want to be. But before we get to that, what is carb cycling anyway? It involves gradually adjusting the number of carbohydrates you’re taking in to ensure a calorie deficit that encourages fat burning. Essentially, you fluctuate carb intake over a set period, which could be monthly, weekly, or even daily. Overall, carb cycling aims to reduce carb consumption when your body has little need for the macronutrient and elevate consumption when it matters most. 

The different approaches to carb cycling

When it comes to carb cycling for fat loss, there’s no one right way to do it. There are several. The exact strategy you’ll use will be ideal depending on a few unique factors. Let’s go over some popular ways most people execute it to get a better understanding of what we mean: 

  • Training. Certain individuals alternate between high-carb and low-carb intakes according to the intensity of a specific workout session. 
  • Competition. It’s common for people preparing for physique contents, in particular, to “carb load” leading up to the occasion
  • Rest-and-training combo. This approach entails taking in fewer carbs on your off days from the workouts and bumping up consumption on training days. 
  • Composition changes. Some people also choose to switch between the low-fat, high-carb and high-fat, low-carb days depending on periods when they want to build muscle or burn fat 

Of course, there are plenty more ways to go about this. Generally, though, our research across some of the best gyms in San Diego has revealed that most people alternate between high and low carbs for about 2 and 1/3 days respectively, with a further 2 days in between for moderate carb consumption. 

An example of how you could carb cycle

Remember, we’ve said there are many approaches to carb cycling. It’s not a one-fit-all solution, as your exact carb cycling diet plan needs will depend on unique factors that vary from one person to another, namely: 

  • Age
  • Body composition
  • How active you are
  • Your daily food intake

That said, here’s our step-by-step carb cycling guide, which we put together with help from IronOrrFitness, arguably the best personal trainer San Diego has to offer: 

Finding your optimal intake

The first step is trying to understand how much carbs you’ll need to eat daily. Certainly, this is unique and varies from person to person. However, our weight loss fitness trainer has a few general recommendations. 

To figure out what your low-carb day may look like, it’s prudent to consider the minimum amount of carbs that get you to ketosis within a day. This varies across the board but for most people, it’s usually between 50 to 100 grams. We’ll go with 50g for the purposes of this guide as your low-carb day. 

Conversely, on the opposite end of the scale, 180g or so usually counts as a high-carb day for most individuals. This would require you to get about 50 to 60% of your calories from carbs on this day. Advisably, you may need to check in with a dietitian for more personalized suggestions. 

Breaking it down by the day

If you went with 50g for your low-carb day and 180g for your high-carb day, this would make your median or moderate-carb intake about 115g. Working from these numbers, here’s our recommendation for a 5-day carb cycling diet plan: 

  • 1st Day- Low carb day 
  • 2nd Day – Moderate carb day
  • 3rd Day- High carb day
  • 4th Day – Moderate carb day
  • 5th Day- Low carb day

As you can see, we have just one high-carb day in our plan, and San Diego fitness experts recommend using these days for intense training sessions. On the other hand, you want to match your moderate carb days with moderate workout intensities, and your rest days with your low carb days.

Moreover, the experts also warn against skipping meals on low-carb days. When you do this, your body may turn its attention to breaking down muscle instead of fat. On such days, you want to complement a low-carb intake with an increased fat intake to encourage your body to burn fat. Also, you may want to increase fibre intake on low-carb days as the reduced carb intake may be depriving your body of this important nutrient. 

Exploring your carb options

Not all carbs are created equal. Some are better placed for the job than others when it comes to creating your carb-cycling diet plan. Here are some top recommendations from an experienced gym in San Diego on the best carbs to consider when carb cycling for fat loss: 

  • Whole grains
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • High-fibre vegetables & fruits
  • Legumes such as peas, lentils, beans, etc.

Conversely, you may also want to cut off processed carbs, added sugars, and refined grains as well. 

Dealing with side effects

When you restrict your carbs initially, you may experience a few symptoms of what many personal training circles call the “carb flu”. It’s a phase that may entail: 

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Bloating and more

If you do experience these symptoms, you’ll want to bump up your electrolyte and water intake.

Final thoughts: Is carb cycling the best way to lose fat?

Some diets limit carb intake or do away with the nutrient altogether, and studies have found them to be quite successful as far as fat loss is concerned. However, it’s also important to remember that no nutrient per se is inherently bad. The most important thing is to customize your carb intake to match the specific needs of your body. Additionally, carb cycling won’t be as effective without the right training/exercise to go with it. Therefore, you also need to supplement carb cycling with a strategic workout plan. For help with that, visit the IronOrrFitness website to get a dedicated personal trainer to guide your carb cycling workout plan.


Adam Mulligan, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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