Carb cycling is an eating pattern that involves cycling between low-carb and high-carb days. It’s rooted in the competitive weightlifting world. Bodybuilders have long used it as a way to deplete glycogen stores, lose water weight, and optimize exercise performance right before an event.
“Carb cycling is a tool often used for people following a lower-carb diet eating plan like a ketogenic diet that involves alternating the amount of carbohydrates that you consume on different days,” explains Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., a functional medicine practitioner.
According to Cole, a typical 7-day carb cycling plan might involve cutting your carb consumption for five or six days and then increasing your intake one or two days per week. For athletes, high-carb days often align with their training plan to provide extra fuel for high-intensity or endurance workouts.
Proponents of carb cycling claim that it can promote weight loss, boost energy levels, and even enhance insulin sensitivity. Plus, some note that it can be a more manageable approach to low-carb eating plans by allowing you to enjoy your favorite high-carb foods a few times per week.
On the other hand, some note that carb cycling can still be overly restrictive and might not be a good fit for everyone.