Carb Cycling: A How To for High Carb/Low Carb Day

September 24, 2020     •     Nutrition

By Sara Reyes

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In order to optimize carb intake, some people will “cycle” their carbohydrates. Which is known as carb cycling. If you are carb cycling, you will alternate carb intake on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. It is commonly used to lose fat, maintain physical performance while dieting, or overcome a weight loss plateau.

Most people will manipulate carbohydrate intake to when it is most beneficial to them or exclude them when they aren’t needed (for example, on a day where you are highly active - you should aim to have a higher carb intake and then on day’s where you are more sedentary, you should aim to have a lower carb intake).

You can program your carb intake based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to: scheduled refeeds (where you have 1 high carb intake to act as a refeed during a prolonged and vigorous diet - such as preparing for a show), type of training (the more intense training session the more carbs consumed), and body composition goals (some may reduce carbs during a diet then add them back during a “bulking phase” to build more muscle).

Guideline for High Carb Day: Carb Intake

1 Carb Serving = 1 cupped handful for measurement purposes or one measured cup for most servings

Carb allotment:

Breakfast: About 50-60g of Carbs (about 1.5 servings)

Lunch: 30-40g of carbs (about 1 serving)

Snack: 30g of carbs (about 1 fruit or carb based snack)

Post-Workout or Late Snack: 30g of carbs (about 1 fruit or carb based snack)

Dinner: 30-40g of Carbs (about 1 serving)

*This will total about 150-180g of carbs - a solid amount for a high carb day for someone working from home but still working out a few days a week*

Guideline for High Carb Day: Protein Intake

1 Protein Serving = The size of your palm

Protein Allotment:

Breakfast: About 25-30g of protein

Lunch: 30-35g of protein

Snack: 5-10g of protein (comes from most snacks with small amounts of protein)

Post-Workout or Late Snack: 25-30g of protein (protein shake)

Dinner: 30-35g of protein (1 palm sized amount of meat or fish + whatever trace protein comes from the carb you are eating and vegetables)

This will total to about 130g of protein which is on the higher end for a woman. (For males .73 and 1 grams per lb to lose weight is suggested. Athletes or heavy exercisers should consume 1-1.5 grams per lb of protein if aiming for weight loss)

If your goal is 100g for the day either consume less protein at dinner/lunch or don’t have the protein shake. If you skip breakfast, keep the rest of the meals the same and you’ll hit your protein targets*

***During weight loss- overeating protein results in much less stored body fat than overeating in carbohydrates or fat***

Guideline for High Carb Day: Fat Intake

1 fat serving = 1 thumb size amount per meal

Fat Allotment:

Breakfast: About 15-20g of fat

Lunch: 10-15g of fat (lean meat cooked with 1 tbsp olive oil or a less lean meat cooked with 1⁄2 a tbsp)

Snack: 2-3g of fat (comes from most snacks with small amounts of fat)

Post-Workout or Late Snack: 10-15g of fat (2 tbsp of peanut butter or almond butter / cheese)

Dinner: 10-15g of fat (lean meat cooked with 1 tbsp olive oil or a less lean meat cooked with 1⁄2 a tbsp)

This will total about 55-65g of fat. The general range of fat intake for an active individual in their mid twenties - early forties.

Guideline for Low Carb Day: Carb Intake

1 Carb Serving = 1 cupped handful for measurement purposes or one measured cup for most servings

Carb allotment:

Breakfast: 30-40g of Carbs (about 1 servings)

Lunch: 15-20g of carbs (about 1⁄2 serving) or 0 grams for more extreme low carb day

Snack: 25-30 of carbs (about 1 fruit or carb based snack)

Post-Workout or Late Snack: 0g of carbs skipping fruit here

Dinner: 0g of carbs (this doesn’t include any carbs that may come with your veggies)

This will total about 70-90g of carbs - a low amount of intake to reflect a day of less activity*

You will likely need to supplement with Metamucil on this day in order to reach your fiber goal of 25g per day. It is bad for your health to consume very low fiber (8-12g per day) so be sure to be as close to 20-25g per day as possible. Fruits/Vegetables can also really help you hit your target.

Guideline for Low Carb Day: Protein Intake

1 Protein Serving = The size of your palm

Protein Allotment:

Breakfast: About 25-30g of protein

Lunch: 30-35g of protein

Snack: 5-10g of protein (comes from most snacks with small amounts of protein)

Post-Workout or Late Snack: 25-30g of protein (protein shake)

Dinner: 30-35g of protein (1 palm sized amount of meat or fish + whatever trace protein comes from the carb you or eating and vegetables)

This will total about 130g of protein which is on the higher end for a woman.

If your goal is 100g for the day either consume less protein at dinner/lunch or don’t have the protein shake. If you skip breakfast, keep the rest of the meals the same and you’ll hit your protein targets.

Protein goals do not change much on low carb day- you can consume 10-15g additional protein however, just be sure not to exceed 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight unless told otherwise by a licensed nutritionist)

Example: A 115LB female should not consume 125g of protein

Guideline for Low Carb Day: Fat Intake

1 fat serving = 1 thumb size amount per meal

Fat Allotment:

Breakfast: About 15-20g of fat

Lunch: 10-15g of fat (lean meat cooked with 1 tbsp olive oil or a less lean meat cooked with 1⁄2 a tbsp)

Snack: 2-3g of fat (comes from most snacks with small amounts of fat)

Post-Workout or Late Snack: 10-15g of fat (2 tbsp of peanut butter or almond butter / cheese)

Dinner: 10-15g of fat (lean meat cooked with 1 tbsp olive oil or a less lean meat cooked with 1⁄2 a tbsp)

This will total about 55-65g of fat. The general range of fat intake for an active individual in their mid twenties - early forties.

Fat intake can also increase by 5-10g on a low carb day. Adding either 1⁄4 cup of cheese to a meal, 1⁄2 an avocado, or 1-2 tbsp of peanut butter. Base this addition in fat on how hungry you are. If possible, try not to add extra fats*

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