Want to learn more about carb cycling for women? Wondering how this fits into a low carb diet? If you are left wondering what is carb cycling, what are high carb days, what are low carb days and how to carb cycle for fat loss, you need to continue reading.
Carb cycling is a healthy diet plan that can help you lose weight and feel great. Who doesn’t want that? I’m a woman who loves carbs, but I don’t just want to eat pasta every day! That’s why carb cycling is perfect for me because it still lets me indulge in my favorite foods while also helping me reach my goals.
Do you love carbs too? Then you need to know how carb cycling works and how it can be beneficial to you.
Looking back at the beginning of my weight loss, I was carb cycling to lose weight and didn’t even realize it. Prior to 2013, my normal daily diet was carbs, carbs, and more carbs. Problem was, after 40, that also meant pounds, pounds and more pounds. That was until I decided enough was enough. It was time to stop weight gain and take control of my eating and have better health, better results and have a healthy diet.
The carb cycling diet turned out to be a great way for me to lose over 35 lbs and get over my weight loss plateau. Salads are great, but who wants to only eat salads? Carb cycling for women works because what woman doesn’t love carbs?
I love carb cycling (sounds like a bumper sticker) for the flexibility it provides while giving the results we want. Anyone can do low carb a day or two at a time if you know higher carb days are right around the corner, right?
What is Carb Cycling for Women?
Carb cycling has been around for decades. It is the process of lowering your carb consumption for a short period of time before gradually increasing it. It uses the body’s natural processes and reactions to food to boost metabolism while burning fat cells rather than muscle tissue.
Without getting into too much science, we want our fat cells to burn rather than muscle tissue. That may sound very logical, however, there are many women (including me, years ago) who are starving themselves to lose fat, only they are losing muscle mass.
When we shed pounds through starving our body, our muscle tone goes away, causing us to weigh less, but we are not fit, healthy or slim. Which is exactly why the scale may move but the clothing size doesn’t move as much as it could.
Example. Many years ago, I would lose weight through diets and starvation only. No exercise. Yeah, the weight was dropped, my clothing size even dropped a little. I would end up weighing about 140lbs, and wear a size 8/10.
However, I never could get below an 8 and thought it just wasn’t possible for me.
Once I started eating healthy and exercising, my muscles were toned, the fat was burned and I am now a size 0/2 without a day or hour of starving. Did I mention I still weigh about 140 lbs?
You can see the difference in how eating right and exercising can be beneficial for results.
Metabolism is kicked up through what we eat and the amount of muscle tone we have.
What is a carb cycling diet?
A carb cycling diet is alternating carb macro amounts from day to day. You may have 3 low carb days and 4 high carb days per week. Or, maybe it changes from week to week. There are many different combinations to carb cycling. Carb cycling is changing the number of grams of carbs eaten.
I believe carb cycling to lose weight could be the key.
Without intentionally planning, I am pretty sure my eating habits have had some carb cycling effects.
Knowing my goal was to be healthy, I have been trying to eat clean, moderate carbs for a few years. Like you, I have had my weak days or even gladly ate a cheat meal here and there.
When that happens, I then make sure my clean healthy, moderate carb meals are on point for at least a few days to make up for it.
In simple terms, that is what carb cycling is.
Benefits of Carb Cycling
Carb cycling can be an incredibly powerful tool for consistently losing weight. This is because it allows you to eat the foods that you love (and crave) while still attaining your desired results. It’s also extremely versatile, allowing you to pair it with any type of fitness regimen or even modify its rules to better fit your lifestyle.
Carb cycling is the alternating of low-carbohydrate and high-carbohydrate days. Each week you typically replace 2 to 3 of your low-carb days with high-carb days. There are many benefits to carb cycling.
A high-carb day, like lighting a fire, satisfies your metabolism. As a result, you keep your lean muscle and burn more calories. You will also feel more energized which helps you push your workouts to the max.
Burn Fat More Efficiently
It’s no secret that reducing carbohydrate consumption helps you lose weight. When carbohydrates are unavailable, your body uses fat for energy. As a result, low-carb days help your body burn fat.
On the high carb days, carbohydrates are stored in your muscles as glycogen. Your workouts deplete the glycogen stores, which builds up your muscles while burning fat. When you eat carbohydrates, they refill your glycogen stores to prepare you for the next workout. This means more carbs on high carb days are beneficial for building muscle and increasing strength. More muscles means more fat burning. More muscles also create more toned appearance.
Build Lean Muscle Faster
Carbohydrates aren’t necessary for muscle building, according to keto enthusiasts. While this is technically true, there’s no doubting that carbs help the process move along more quickly.
By increasing your carbohydrate intake, you’re giving your muscles the energy they need to repair following a workout. This means more muscles faster, with less effort.
Carb cycling has been shown to help balance blood sugar levels, which can fix many issues such as mood swings, cravings, and fatigue.
Other benefits include: Improved focus (serotonin), reduced muscle loss while dieting (growth hormone), decreased insulin resistance, decrease in hunger following a low-carb day, higher energy levels on high-carb days, improved triglyceride levels (good cholesterol) and more.
Enjoy Carbs Guilt Free
Who doesn’t love carbs? And with carb cycling, you can enjoy those cards without the guilt that comes with breaking your diet. When you know you can do something you love in a day or two, it is much easier to stick to those low carb days.
Carb cycling alleviates the monotony of restrictive dieting. This allows you to enjoy the foods you love on your high carb days, follow low carb on your low days. This allows you to be able to eat the foods you crave during social occasions while staying on track. There is no guilt because it is all part of the plan.
Reasons to Consider Carb Cycling
There are other reasons to consider carb cycling besides weight loss.
If your thyroid levels have declined since you have started a keto diet, carb cycling can help bring them back up.
If you are trying to add muscle mass , carb cycling can add a little bit of carbs back into your diet, since it is designed to prevent muscle breakdown.
You are always hungry and never feel satisfied. Carb cycling can help you better manage your appetite without worrying about calorie intake.
You get heart palpitations.
You get dizzy or have headaches. Both of these symptoms are signs that your electrolytes aren’t where they need to be for you to function normally. Carb cycling can help replenish those and balance them out so you feel much better.
Your periods are irregular or your PMS symptoms are getting worse. Your hormones could be out of whack due to low carbs, so carb cycling has been known to help with that as well.
With all of these possible benefits, there is no doubt that carb cycling can be a helpful tool for many women.
What Should Your Carb Cycling Macros Be?
There are different carb cycling plans with different macro numbers to follow depending on your goals. Each plan is a rotation of high and low carb days. In the FFM Weight Loss Plan, high carb days are a 40 40 20 macros split, while low carb days are a 20 40 40 split, rotating carbs and fats.
If you are wondering what do you eat on a high carb day, you’re not alone. There are so many choices of carbs. Although the carb cycle plan has some flexibility, every high carb day can’t be full of breads, pastas and sugars. Sure, those are in the amount of carbohydrates they contain, but those carbs will wreck your diet if you eat them often.
How Many Carbs Should I Eat When Carb Cycling?
As stated above, on our plan, we believe 40% carbs is a good number for high carb foods day. In our program, we have an easy to follow program with lists of foods to choose from to fulfill proper macros.
On the lower or moderate carb cycle days, 20% carbs are the goal.
Learning about macros for women can be an important step to educating yourself for weight loss and better health. Tracking macros for fat loss is vital to get a clear and honest view of how your body uses the food you’re eating. Simply cutting back calories at this point in our lives as women over 40, just doesn’t work like it used to.
If you need help in how to calculate your macros, visit my post on Nutrition for the details.
Depending on what day it is your carbs will range from a high – low – moderate amounts. You will adjust the rest of your macros accordingly. Meal plans for carb cycling can be confusing, but through meal planning and tracking it becomes easier.
What does the menstrual cycle have to do with carbs?
Love it or hate it, for most women, their menstrual cycle shows up on a monthly basis and our bodies work hard during the time preparing for a baby. That means that a woman’s body is sensitive to the changes that happen over the course of a cycle, including changes in energy and carb intake. If you have too low energy intake and too low carb intake can signal it is not time for a baby because it can signal hormonal dysregulation.
This is why many women choose to use carb cycling throughout their menstrual cycle. This can prevent the body from going into survival mode. Estrogen can drive the changes in insulin sensitivity and carbohydrate tolerance.
As estrogen spikes, which happens twice during a cycle, women can use this to increase their healthy carbs. This can optimize building muscles. Increased carbs during this time can also help reduce inflammation that can come during high intensity physical activity.
On the other side of this, when estrogen is low, this is the perfect time for your low carb days. This is when a woman’s body is likely to store carbs. This can cause weight gain and an increase in body fat.
Carb Cycling for Weight Loss
Carb cycling is a genius food plan. Really, it is.
You’ve heard of cheat days? Well, with carb cycling you get a cheat day without the guilt!
Basically, carb cycling for weight loss rotates low and high carbs days within a week. Depending on personal weight loss goals, that determines how many of each are planned.
Then there’s the cheat day. The cheat day or cheat meal depending on the exact plan you are following and will consist of ANYTHING you want!
Because of the constant change from high to low carbs and with the cheat meal or day scheduled in, the body burns more calories!
On the high carb days, it burns the food instead of storing because there is enough. On the low carb days, the body is forced to burn fat.
It’s best to correlate your exercises with your carb cycling schedule. If you need help correlating the two, be sure to grab the Carb Cycling Cheat Sheet above by submitting your email address and I will send you a copy straight to your inbox. With it, you’ll be able to see what days are best for your harder workouts, plus calculate what your macros should be for optimum success.
As I learned about carb cycling, I realized in some ways I had already been doing this plan, albeit not quite as structured.
Carb cycling for women is easily customized for different goals and works right along with vacations and individual schedules. I really love the flexibility and carb cycling schedule that can work for anyone.
Additionally, we have a 28 day meal plan for carb cycling right here on the website for your convenience. It has a large variety of recipes as well as plenty of quick, easy solutions to ensure you’re eating the right foods on the right days.
Have questions? Just leave a comment below.