Carb Cycling Diet Plan

Carb Cycling Diet Plan

Online Diet plan for weight loss

Plan for 3 phases of diet plan

1st to 2nd week phase 1

3rd week to 6th week phase 2

7th week to 12 week phase 3

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In The Beginning

Carbohydrate cycling is something I learn on when I trained for my first
bodybuilding contest in 1999. It was not something I heard or read about.

This diet is practically in underground available only to bodybuilders rapid weight loss yet maintined their muscle size.
 While I am certain I did not invent this concept, and others
probably had used it in some shape or form, I devised it of my own accord based
on the "little" that I knew back then.

I committed to being on stage in posing trunks--in 16 weeks. Why? I had finally accumulated a
decent amount of muscle mass, and well, why not.

I "knew" then that I "needed" to keep my fat content low, and protein high
(the quotes reflect that I have a generally different view now, though this
certainly is not a high-fat diet). I also "knew" that I needed some carbs, but
that my calorie reduction must come from this macronutrient (as I always kept
fat low, and wasn't about to reduce protein intake), and I knew I needed (as a
genetic endomorph) to keep insulin under control.

I also knew that I hated calorie restriction, that I never stuck to a diet
long term, and that I hated dieting monotony. I also hated (and still hate)
counting calories -- I admit it, I am lazy. And despite this, and poor genetics
with a high body fat setpoint, I needed to get to sub 5% body fat.

Oh, for some context, back then I thought Hot Stuff was the bomb
-- so except for protein, I didn't use any supplements; the point being, with
the exception of a protein powder, no supplements are necessary to make
this diet work. On the other hand, supplements have come a long way since the
mid to late 90s, and so has my knowledge on this topic. Today, there are many
effective products that will contribute to the success of the diet (or the speed
at which you will achieve it), depending on your goals, your phenotype, and your
wallet, of course. Again, we'll get to this in future installments, but for now,
the diet beckons.

So how could I, with my knowledge, genes, and personality traits, devise a
plan that would be effective, and so user-friendly that even I would stick to it
long enough that I could stand on stage, practically naked? Oh, and while 16
weeks may seem like a long cut, this time-frame did not allow any weeks to pass
where I could simply maintain body fat. There was no margin for error. Nope, I
needed to lose a steady 1 to 2 pounds of fat per week to attain my goal.

The answer - at least the one I came up with - was "Carbohydrate Cycling." My
plan was that if I cycled my carb intake, I would have some days that were
unusually strict. This was not a problem for me (being super-strict for short
period of times), especially if I had a reward. Enter, the high carb day, where
I allowed myself to eat as much as I wanted. What's the catch? Well, we will get
to that soon enough.

But in the end, I would average out to a low carb intake level sufficient to
remain hypocaloric, for the week. Or, at least, that was the plan. So yes,
basically this was designed, originally, to meet my psychological needs. Oh, I
also thought it a good idea to "keep the body guessing." Though I really didn't
know what this meant. I had never heard of a refeed, and especially not of

Hell, leptin was just being discovered back then. So many of the positive
physiological benefits of cycling carbohydrates were unknown to me then, except
that it "kept the body guessing." You see, while knowing very little about
biochemistry and physiology, I had the general sense that we bodybuilders were
always battling homeostasis. Other than this general belief, I had no idea why
in 16 weeks I never got stuck or hit a wall.

The Concept: Cycling 101

There are three types of days while on this diet:

  • High Carb
  • Low Carb
  • No Carb Days

Generally, the three days are rotated, or cycled, equally. Again, I will
stress that this can, and should, betweaked, based on the individual's goals,
geno and pheno-types, and dieting history. Indeed, much of this will be
discussed in future installments. Here, we will lay out the basic plan, which is
designed for relatively rapid fat loss for most individuals and the one that got
me into contest ready condition, twice.

Carbohydrate manipulation is the key here, but we will back into this by
discussing our protein and fat intake, which each remain constant. Bear in mind
the multitude of goals and assumptions this diet balances.

Nuts And Bolts: The Basic


This plan is based on eating six times per day. An acceptable alternative is five meals daily, and if
you so choose, be sure to keep the daily ratios consistent, as each meal will
require more food.

Protein Consumption
Protein: the easy part. Actually, protein is the foundation of this diet. It is not to be skipped,
skimped upon, taken lightly, or otherwise reduced simply because the diet does
not focus on it. The significance of protein cannot be overstated, though such
details are beyond the scope of this article. We shall not get into the minimum
requirements for a bodybuilder, which types of proteins are superior to others,
and the numerous other issues that have perplexed the scholars and been debated
ad nauseam.

Suffice it to say, that one gram per pound of bodyweight is the absolute
minimum, and there is no maximum on this diet. In other words, at each and every
meal, of each and every day, you can feel free to dig in to as much protein as
you wish. Though there are some rules. Beyond these rules, and for simplicity's
sake, I will assume you are eating a sufficient quantity at each and every meal
and leave it at that.

Assuming you are eating six meals each day, regardless of which type of day,
you will eat a minimum of 1/6 of your total daily minimum requirement for
protein at each meal. Thus, a 200-pound individual should eat at least 33 grams
of protein at each and every meal. If five meals is the necessary course, the
same individual should eat a minimum of 40 grams of protein per meal.

You can eat more, but to overindulge at one meal, does not excuse a deficient
amount at another. In other words, do not shortchange your protein consumption
at any meal.

Again, this is the minimum, so if you are still hungry eat up. Of course,
like any other macronutrient, too much protein can hinder fat loss or even
promote fat gain. This is another instance where I am putting some faith in the
body's sense of self-regulation. For the few of you who eat too much protein and
fat loss stalls, you will want to limit total daily consumption to no more than
1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.

Most of your protein requirements must be satisfied from very lean protein
sources. Indeed, four of your meals must use lean protein sources, while the
remaining one or two may come from a higher-fat source. For our purposes, a
"lean source" is one that has no more than 10% of its calories from fat. It is
important that you look at the calorie breakdown here, as a product may say "10%
Fat" but refer to the fact that 10% of its macronutrients are fat. And because
fat is more than twice as calorically dense as carbs or protein, it will derive
more than 10% of its calories from fat. Now, as I have stated, this is a simple
diet, so if you don't want to figure out what you can and cannot eat, I have
provided a list of generally acceptable lean protein choices.

In addition, one or two meals should contain a higher-fat protein choice.
Again, I have provided a list for easy reference, but for those of you with
peculiar tastes, you can choose any protein that derives about 20-25% of its
calories from fat. If, however, you'd rather eat a lean protein, then for that
meal you should add about 10-15 grams of fat from the "Fat List" below, in the
fat consumption section. For example, if you have six meals, and four have
protein sources from list A and two from list B, you are fine. You cannot have
more than two from list B. And if you have none from list B, and all six from
list A, then two meals must have an added fat source from the list below.

Approved Lean Protein Sources (A)

  • Chicken (white meat)
  • Turkey (white meat)
  • Tuna Fish (can)
  • Fish (flounder, tuna (fatty or not), salmon, shark, etc.)
  • Shellfish (all types)
  • Protein (preferably whey post workout, and casein before bed; MRPs must be
  • Lean beef(including lean cuts of steak)
  • Cottage Cheese (0 or 1% fat)
  • Egg whites (egg beaters)

Approved Higher-Fat Protein Sources (B)

  • Chicken (dark meat)
  • Turkey (dark meat)
  • Eggs (half whites, half whole eggs)
  • Steak and other meats (not exceptionally high fat cuts)
  • Cottage Cheese (Whole Milk)

Fat Consumption
As for fats, this diet does not worry too much about them.
Nor will we discuss them much, save for this brief discussion here. While this
is not a high fat (or Ketogenic) diet, it certainly is not a low fat diet. When
I first started cycling carbs, I kept fats to probably less than twenty grams a
day. Here, I recommend keeping dietary fats on the low side, with the majority
of fats coming from supplemented EFAs (essential fatty
acids)-specifically fish oil (high in long chain omega 3 fatty acids --

Why fish oil? There are so many good reasons that a
detailed discussion can be an article unto itself. For our purposes, it is
sufficient to know that it has all the benefits of other EFA sources (such as
flax and hemp oil) and in addition, has been shown to increase leptin
sensitivity and exert positive effects on body composition much more efficiently
than other EFAs (this is one of the important nutrient partitioning "tricks" one
must employ for a successful recomposition).

Now, on to the practicality of it. First, you will be getting some fats in
your lean protein sources (probably between 10 and 20 grams of fat) and a few
grams from the carb sources (another 10 to 20 grams on high carb day). Second,
at least two meals per day will include protein of the higher-fat variety. And
if not, then you should add a fat source from the list below.

Fat Sources (an amount equal to 10 to 15 grams of fat).

  • (Natural) Peanut Butter
  • Flax Oil
  • Heavy Whipping Cream
  • Mayonnaise
  • Hemp Seed Oil
  • Olive Oil

Third, you will be supplementing with fish oil at 10 to 20 grams a day -- the
more the better. This assumes you are using a standard fish oil supplement
which, on average, contains one gram of oil and is 30% EPA/DHA. Should you
choose the superior version, you may consume a bit less. I recommend you either
split it up equally across all meals, or split it in half, and consume it with
two meals. If you absolutely refuse to take fish oil, despite my pleas that you
should (and the evidence that will be provided in the third installment), add in
one to two servings of flaxseed or hempseed oil daily.

Carbohydrate Consumption and the Cycling Process
Ah, the carbohydrate. By now (if you haven't skipped
ahead, and I know some of you have - shame on you) you are saying, "its about
time!" Well, the protein and fat portions of this diet are relatively easy to
follow, but that does not mean they are unimportant. To the contrary, they are
critical. This diet is one, however, that focuses on daily manipulation of
carbohydrate consumption. First, we will discuss how we do this; then we will
discuss additional concerns important to this diet. As previously mentioned, in
a future installment, we will discuss in greater depth the theoretical and
scientific underpinnings of the carbohydrate manipulation.

As mentioned, we have three types of days in the diet, and they vary only by
the amount of carbohydrate that is consumed. They are the high carbohydrate day
(high carb), the low carbohydrate day (low carb), and the no (approaching zero)
carbohydrate day (no carb). Again, we are assuming six meals per day, so you
will need to adjust if you follow a five-meal plan.

High Carb Day

On your high carb day, four of the meals (three if you are only eating five
meals) can have as much carbohydrates (yes, they must also be from the approved
list - we love lists) as you like. But remember, you must eat the minimum amount
of protein at each meal as discussed above. So for you carb gluttons out there,
you might want to make sure you eat your protein source before truly loading up
on those carbs first.

Also, each one of those meals must include a small piece of fruit (again, a
requirement before downing enough other carbs to the point of no return). Almost
any fruit will do (save bananas, kiwis, avocado, and other very high calorie or
high fat fruits). We are looking for a small serving of fresh fruit, say between
50 and 100 calories worth. The fructose from fruit will help keep liver glycogen
stores full and keep your body in the fed state as opposed to starvation-mode.
And, if only consumed in small amounts, is not likely to spill over into

Also --and this is important-- you can choose which meals (3 of 5 or 4 of 6)
will have carbs and which don't, but the meal preceding and following your
workouts must be a carbohydrate meal. Obviously, make sure you leave sufficient
time between your pre-workout meal and your workout, or limit the quantity of
carbs at this meal, lest your body succumb to reverse peristalsis. Other than
that, it's up to you, as I don't want to bog you down with too many "rules" (we
have plenty already). The other two meals will be made up of protein only, and,
while there is a minimum amount, as always, there is no maximum.

So to sum up, all but two of your meals will have a small piece of fruit, and
as much carbohydrate from the approved list as you like. The goal is to eat
until complete physical, emotional, and thus, physiological satiety. You are not
expected to gorge yourself, nor are you expected to exercise the usual strict

As I said previously, I am a big believer in self-regulation by the mind and
body. You are not to worry or stress about whether you are eating too much, or
too little. If you eat too many carbs one meal, you will probably eat less the
next, as you'll still be full (just make sure you get the protein in). The
beauty of this plan is its simplicity-you are not "aiming" for any number.
Rather, you are aiming for the subjective feelings that I just discussed, a
satisfied stomach and mental state. You should not "want" more.

Nor should you eat more than you want. Relax and go with the flow; it is
quite hard to mess up the high carb day, if you stick to the right carbs. And
you will learn your body's response as you go on. Increase your carbohydrate
consumption if you are not "satisfied." You want a constant feeling of fullness,
all day, such that you don't want to eat further. You need to be in tune to your
body, and this comes with practice.

Most people find themselves looking forward to, if not salivating at the
thought of, the upcoming high carb day. This is no surprise. Indeed, it is by
design, and how I came up with the plan for myself. It is a psychological
reward, satisfying your emotional need to eat. It makes the very strict part of
the diet (which we will get to) bearable. It is a small but frequent reward to
hang on to that also has these profound psychological and, equally as important,
physiological benefits.

However, some of you will have a difficult time with the high carb day.
Stress and concerns of eating too much will plague you. Not counting every gram
of carb, and every calorie consumed, will haunt you. For those of you with such
concerns I remind you that first, you are supposed to eat a lot of food on this
day, to make sure that your weekly caloric deficit is not too low, and second,
that no one should ever dread high carb day. The point is to eat as much as you
want; not stuff yourself like a Thanksgiving turkey.

Low Carb Day

The low carb day is a bit trickier. Actually, it's the most difficult of the
bunch. The anal group out there will love it though, as there are specific
macronutrient goals. For those of you who, like me, deplore counting, fret not.
There is a way around it (we'll discuss this privately later my lazy brethren).

Here, three meals (two if you are only eating five meals) may contain carbs.
Again, one rule is that at least the meal following your workout must be a carb
meal. The others you can schedule as you see fit. Here, carb amounts are
limited, however. We are seeking to eat approximately one gram of carbohydrate
(from the list) per pound of bodyweight each low carb day. So our hypothetical
200 pound dieter would eat about 66 grams of carbs in each of three meals of the
day, and the others would be just protein. Oh, and don't forget your small piece
of fruit, at these carb meals, as well.

Now, recall that this plan is designed for simplicity. So it is best if you
simply learn general portions of the carbohydrates you choose to eat. I'd prefer
that you don't measure out your carbs strictly; but for the exceptionally anal,
this is your chance to shine. For those like me, the goal is a satisfied, but
not full stomach. The subjective feeling to strive for is where you'd like to
have more, but know you don't need it.

No Carb Day

The no carb day is the simplest, yet most physically challenging day. For
most, the cyclical nature of the diet will make this day a relatively easy
emotional challenge, however. It also, I am willing to bet, will be the most
controversial day, among the dieting community. Yes, I am prepared to be tarred
and feathered. Hell, I may enjoy it. Regardless, it is the key to this diet. And
it involves, quite literally, no carbohydrates. Okay I lied: a few sneak in with
your green veggies; as with any good rule, there is an exception.

Here, you will stick to your six (or five) meals, and only consume protein
(and some fats); again from the list, and again, at least meeting the prescribed
minimum. Unless "masticatory boredom" sets in, however, I doubt you will have
any trouble eating your minimums, and you likely will eat far more. However, do
not be surprised if you eat less than you expect, since eating protein alone can
cause one to feel satiated more rapidly. This may seem like a painful or
difficult day, but in practice it's not that bad. Trust me. And remember, a high
carb day is just around the corner.


 No, I did not forget. You won't find veggies (except the truly calorically dense ones) on
the carb list. And here, I am referring to green leafy, low calorie, fibrous
vegetables. Things like salad (no dressing), cabbages, escarole, broccoli,
spinach, zucchini, squash, and kale are appropriate. Generally, any vegetable
that contains less than 50 calories per cup will suffice.

Each and every day, whether it be a high, low, or no carb day, at least three
meals, each and every day should include one cup of green veggies. It can be
with or without your carb meals. I don't care, though you may find it more
pleasing to the palate to consume your vegetables with your no carb meals.

Now, on to the good stuff: the lists. Don't get overly excited because you
aren't going to see most of your favorite goodies on here. Indeed, it is a
relatively sparse list, given the plethora of carb sources found in grocery

Approved Carbohydrates:

  • Brown rice
  • Oats (Slow Cooked Preferred)
  • Sweet potatoes or Yams
  • Fiber One (All Bran) Cereal
  • Starchy Veggies (corn, peas, etc.)
  • Beans/Legumes
  • Approved Yet Limited Carbohydrates**
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Whole grain breads, pitas, etc.

** These may only be consumed on high carb days, and
only for one meal per high carb day

Additional Yet Important Concerns

Measuring Success.
The old dieting adage
that one should not weigh (or take measurements) oneself daily is perhaps never
truer than on this diet. This is especially important for those of you fixated
on the scale. Wild weight fluctuations will occur, as you deplete, and replete,
glycogen stores daily. And remember that for every gram of glycogen stored (or
lost), three grams of water are also retained (or lost).

As well, you are likely to look and feel bloated at the end of, and the day
after, your high carbohydrate days. This is normal and not an indication of lack
of progress (as many an individual who were skeptical, yet tried the diet can
attest to). To the contrary, it is an indication that things are moving along
swimmingly. As well, if you try to measure progress in this manner, you will
become frustrated after your high carb day.

You may then come to the "epiphany" that the no carb days are doing wonders,
and you will start adding in extra no carb days. Next, you will skimp on your
high carb days, and all this will speed progress correct? Wrong. Rather, you
will speed up your inevitable metabolic crash, as well as emotional and
physiological discomfort and you will spiral into a pattern that's end is
failure. Melodramatic? Perhaps, but I think I made my point.

So, we resolve this by always taking measurements, and charting weight after
the same type of day. Whether it is the morning after a high carb day, or the
end of a no carb day, or whatever, consistency is key. Personally, for
psychological reasons, I prefer the morning after a high carb day, but the
choice is yours. Moreover, you should not be weighing in after a single
three-day cycle. Weighing yourself once every other cycle is more than
sufficient; so you are tracking progress every six to eight days, depending on
your cycle length.

Cooking and Food Preparation
Ah, cooking. Before I get a zillion questions on this, let me try to head this off
at the pass. This diet does not allow for calories (whether they be fat, sugar,
or what-have-you) added at the preparation or cooking stage. Thus, you cannot
fry, add butter, or oil. You cannot add salad dressing or breadcrumbs. You
cannot add sauces or glazes. You cannot, well, you get the point, I hope.

You can use no-cal or very low-cal substitutes. So vinegar, soy sauce, and
mustard are fine. No calorie dressing works if you can stand it. You can get
away with some keto products, or even a small amount of balsamic vinegar. Pam is
your friend, as are most spices, grilling, broiling, boiling, and baking.

While I don't necessarily recommend them, I don't shun things like sugarless
gum, diet soda, coffee or tea (black or with an artificial sweetener only),
sugar free jello, and crystal light, and other things containing artificial
sweeteners while on this diet. With that said, one must be careful that an
excessive amount of calories is not consumed regularly with such "low calorie"
items. Likewise, one should be particularly careful on No Carb day with these

Post-workout Nutrition
While bodybuilders and non-bodybuilders can use this diet, most of us reading this
perform some form of resistance training. For those that do, I assume you have a
"typical" post-workout protocol, so I'll just give some basics. In conjunction
with the Basic Plan (with fat loss being the goal), I recommend, at a minimum,
between 30 and 50 grams of whey protein.

This can be a protein only meal, and then followed by a carb meal on carb
days, or can be taken with oatmeal (or another carb from the list) on carb days.
On no carb days, obviously you'd just be having the whey. When using this diet
to cut, we are not looking to create a post-workout insulin spike. However, a
pure ectomorph looking to cut should probably consider it (by adding 30-50 grams
of dextrose and/or maltodextrin).

Water Consumption
In short, you can never have enough. The ten 8-ounce glasses per day recommendation is easily a
minimum. I recommend at least a gallon to 2 gallon per day.

A Word On Cardio
Briefly: cardio sucks. Or, and perhaps more accurately, cardio
is overrated. And, hence, it is over-utilized, to the detriment of the
dieter-especially the muscular dieter. I expect this will be the second most
controversial aspect of this article. Perhaps I'll add a section on religion, to
take some heat of my views here.

So for most people, unless "skinny" (as opposed to lean) is the look you are
going for, or you just love your cardio, I'd suggest dropping it. Period.
Resistance training can provide most, if not all, of the physical benefits of
cardio, and can do so more efficiently. Benefits such as improved heart rate,
reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels, increased , and nutrient partitioning are generally
more efficiently achieved with resistance training, and of course, resistance
training carries the added benefit of muscle growth.

With that out of the way, cardio does have its use. If you have been dieting
for an extraordinarily long period of time, it may be beneficial. If you are
already very lean, and still seeking to get freaky lean, that would be a good
situation to add controlled amounts.

A thorough discussion of different types of cardiovascular activity is well
beyond the scope of this article. Generally, however, adding in a weekly session
or two of high intensity interval training at the appropriate time is a good

Tweaking, Generally
As alluded to
above, this diet is rather malleable. It can be tailored to the individual's
goals, genetics, preferences, lifestyle, or all of the above. We have already
taken up much of your time today, so the next installment will discuss in
greater detail how to apply the basic plan to a bulk, how to optimize it in
relation to one's training, how to optimize it in relation to ones
supplementation regimen, and how to arrange it to fit one's lifestyle (if you
have a specific idea in mind, be sure to email me, and perhaps I'll include it).

Here, I will state briefly, that the three-day basic plan will (or should)
provide for rapid, steady fat loss. You can easily self regulate this. Should
fat loss prove too rapid make no adjustments until at least three weeks or
approximately 7 mini-cycles to attain a baseline (and know that you are losing
weight as opposed to water). Then simply add in an additional high carb day. So
the rotation can be, High, Low, High, No, and it is a four-day rotation.
Conversely, if you are still not shedding fat quickly enough, you should add an
extra no carb day, as such: Low, No, High, No. And, of course, this is not the
only way to do this.

Who can use this diet?
Well, frankly,
anyone. With any goals. With any genetics. As I said, the diet is malleable -
such is its nature, by design. Who has used the diet successfully?

Many people find a random three-day cycle as outlined in my first installment
to be difficult, lifestyle-wise. If this is you, we can resolve this problem
relatively easily. Here is one way:

      Monday, Wednesday, and Friday - No carb days


      Tuesday and Saturday - High carb days


             Thursday and Sunday - Low carb days

This schedule assumes a "normal" life. Should your schedule vary, and for the
gravediggers and college kids out there, you may want a different plan, but my
hope is that this will appeal to the masses, while simultaneous teaching the
rest of you how to properly manipulate the diet to match your lifestyle.

Just keep the following concepts in mind:

  • Try not to put two no carb days back-to-back
  • Certainly do not put two high carb days back-to-back
  • Maintain what amounts to (roughly) a weekly ratio of 1:1:1 of the three
    types of days; and error towards the lower calorie side rather than the high
    calorie side


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