Carb-Cycling: What It Is And How It Works

By Alexandra Nadeau-Gagnon – on in Food
Carb cycling is based on a different dietary approach that alternates low, medium and high carbohydrate intake to facilitate weight loss, among other things.

Generally used for weight loss, carb-cycling can also help to counteract a weight loss plateau or to maintain physical performance while dieting. The effectiveness of this nutritional approach lies in taking carbohydrates when they are most beneficial to the body and abstaining when they are not needed.


What Is Carb-Cycling?

We always hear that you should eat as few carbohydrates as possible, especially if you want to lose weight. However, instead of always being careful to eat as little as possible, some people choose instead to carb-cycle, which comprises alternating, on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, the amount of carbs they eat.

By controlling your carbohydrate intake in this way, you not only allow your metabolism to regenerate but also allow your body to produce enough testosterone, and thyroid and leptin, hormones that help you maintain a healthy weight. So it’s an effective way to maximize the benefits of carbs for your body.

It is important to remember that carb-cycling still offers a considerable challenge, and therefore, is not suitable for everyone. It is indeed a diet, and not just a simple way to eat healthily.


How Does Carb-Cycling Works?

As mentioned before, carb-cycling can be done on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, but the most important thing to remember is that the more intense the physical effort you put into your day, the more carbs you will need to eat, and vice versa.

For example, if your typical week comprises strength training on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, you will eat more carbs on those days (between 20 and 400 grams from starchy carbs, whole grains, fruit, non-starchy vegetables, and dairy products), as opposed to Tuesdays when you do more aerobic exercise, let’s say. So you would eat a moderate amount of carbohydrates during that day, while on the remaining three days of the week you would eat almost none because you are not training, let’s assume. On these low-carb day, you should only eat 50 to 150 grams of carbs from non-starchy vegetables.


What Are The Benefits Of Carb-Cycling?

In general, although further research would be necessary, it would appear that carb-cycling would improve your physical performance.

During low-carb periods, the benefits include improved insulin sensitivity, increased fat burning, improved cholesterol levels, and optimized metabolic health. In high-carb periods, the benefits are in hormones production, as mentioned earlier. From this perspective, this diet may interest insulin-resistant, prediabetic, type 2 diabetic or weight-loss resistant people.

However, scientifically, there is unfortunately not yet enough data to know the real long-term benefits of carb-cycling.


Should you try carb-cycling? It’s sincerely at your discretion. While its benefits are not scientifically proven, this diet is not harmful to your health. However, it may be a good idea to consult your doctor before, to evaluate whether carb-cycling could be right for you or not!