Carb Cycling: What It Is and Why I Do It

When I was planning this post, a thought came to me:  what do I know anyway?  Who am I to tell anyone what or how to eat.  I was already looking for another topic on which to write and then I had my Upper Room devotion this morning.  This is what the LORD said to Moses:

But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.  (Exodus 9:16 NIV)

Now, I am not Moses.  But I am called for a purpose:  to show the power of God and proclaim it on this earth.  I love God and my entire weight loss journey has been about renewing my body, my Temple, for His purposes.  He gave me a brain and a fair amount of intelligence.  He gave me a love for people – men, women, and children of all ages, races, socio-economic status, and religious (or non-religious) affiliations.  He gave me a forum to share what I know.  So, I kicked the devil and his lies to the curb, and decided to write what I know — the way I’ve succeeded in losing weight.  I am going to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked about how I lost the weight and what eating plan I follow.

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Carb cycling — what is it?  It’s a way of eating that changed my metabolism.  It is, in scientific terms, cyclic ketogenic dieting. Carb cycling involves eating a low carb diet on some days during the week, interspersed with high carb days.  The reason carb cycling works is because it helps put (and keeps) your metabolism in a constant state of fluctuation.  Your body doesn’t get used to the amount of carbohydrates you consume, so you are less likely to hit a plateau.  If you reach a plateau in your weight loss (a place where you consistently stay the same weight for an extended period of time), you have to jump-start your metabolism so your body will signal the cells in your body that it’s time to burn the fat that’s stored in them.

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I first learned about carb cycling when I saw Chris Powell on Dr. Oz.  Then I watched him on “Extreme Makeover:  Weight Loss Edition.”  (This year they changed the title to “Extreme Weight Loss” and it comes on ABC, Tuesday nights at 8:00 pm.)  This is how Chris teaches his client to eat and the results are incredible.  So, I bought his book Choose More, Lose More for Life.  After four months of eating as outlined in his book, I lost twenty-eight pounds.  (There are many book that promote cyclic ketogenic plans, like The 17-Day Diet, but I’ve read them all and like Chris’s book the best.)

There are four ways to carb cycle.  I am using the “Turbo Cycle” because it gives you faster results.  But during vacation, I used the “Classic Cycle” because we ate out more and you get more high carb days.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t gain weight on vacation!  (You can also choose from “Easy Cycle” and “Active Cycle.”)

So, how does my “Turbo Cycle” work during the week?  On low carb (LC) days, I eat 1200 calories and limit my overall carb intake to 25-30 grams or lower.  On high carb (HC) days I eat 1500 calories and my overall carb intake is between 50-75 grams. This is the my week at a glance:

Monday – LC

Tuesday – LC

Wednesday – HC

Thursday – LC

Friday – LC

Saturday – HC 

Sundays are special days.  Sundays are days that are for a special meal that you would not eat during the week.  On Sundays, I eat low carb with the except of eating a special food that is usually a no-no on any other day of the week.  For example, if I want to eat Papa John’s pizza, I eat it on Sunday AT ONE MEAL ONLY.   If I decide that I’m going to have a big bowl of ice cream, I do it on Sunday afternoon, but I eat ONE BOWL.  There are other people who carb cycle that use the whole day to go on an eat-fest.  But I can’t do that.  I can’t promise that I can rein myself back in after an all-day, eat-whatever-you-want, free-for-all. So I choose one special dessert or meal for Sundays and the rest of the day, I eat low carb.

When do I weigh?  I weigh once a week on Saturday morning because that is what Chris Powell recommends — weigh on a the same day each week and on a day AFTER you’ve had a low carb day (or a couple of low carb days on the Turbo Cycle).

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How long do I carb cycle?  Carb cycling should be done in three-week increments.  On my fourth week, I eat high carb every day for seven days, 50-75 overall carbs per day.  I DO NOT WEIGH ON THIS WEEK.  Why?  Because I will gain 1-2 pounds during this week.  You have to do a HC week because it will allow your body to gather energy to burn fat for the next three weeks.  If you’re a lifelong dieter, this will be hard for you.  It was for me, so that fourth week, I just continued carb cycling.  By week six, I had reached my first plateau.  I was hard-headed so I just ate low carb the entire seventh week – and I gained three pounds!  So, I did the HC week under personal protest.  The next week, I returned to carb cycling and I had lost five pounds! NEVER SKIP THE HIGH CARB WEEK!

What do I eat?  I eat real food.  I eat no processed foods.  I eat low glycemic index foods because they don’t spike my blood sugar (and spikes in blood sugar can cause cravings).  I eat fruits, vegetables, and grilled/baked/broiled meats.  I watch my intake of starchy vegetables (like corn and potatoes) and limit my intake of bread.  When I do eat bread, I love Ezekiel 4:9 breads and English muffins.  These breads are made from sprouted grains and are on the low glycemic index.  The Ezekiel 4:9 Cinnamon Raisin bread is my absolute favorite.

Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. ( Ezekiel 4:9a, NIV)

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How do I know what’s good for me?  I read.  I research things on the internet.  I talk to people who have been doing this longer than I have.  I exchange information with friends.  I never put any food in my body whose ingredients I cannot pronounce. I get enough good fats.  You have to consume fat to burn fat!  I stick to whole foods because I know what’s in them.   If you are a vegan or have a special needs diet, then carb cycling can be adapted.  (Chris addresses this in his book.)

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Sounds complicated and time-consuming!  At first, it was.  But then I remembered that fast and easy was how I gained 75 pounds.  Not caring about the food I put into my body brought me to the point of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and pre-diabetes.  So, it takes a little planning.  At first, I almost became overwhelmed, but at the end of my first three weeks of carb cycling, it was almost second nature.

If you have questions, please leave them in the comment section.  I will answer them.  If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find the answer.  Carb cycling changed my life.  It may sound cliche, but it IS a lifestyle change.  Below is a sample menu from a LC day.  If you see an asterisk (*) beside an item, then there’s a corresponding recipe coming in tomorrow’s post.  I do not share recipes that I have not personally made. (Let’s be honest – some low carb recipes are a waste of your food resources and time!  They taste B.A.D.)  I am pretty creative in the kitchen so a lot of these will be my own recipes. If I’ve adapted them from a source, I’ll tell you so you check out the original. All recipes have been approved by my family — I figure if THEY won’t eat it, neither will anyone else!

This sample menu is made up of foods that I actually have eaten on a LC day:

BREAKFAST

Basic Breakfast Scramble*

1/2 cup Confetti Veggie Hash*

1 cup green tea sweetened with stevia

MID-MORNING SNACK

I cup red seedless grapes

15-20 raw almonds

LUNCH

Bunless Burger Salad*

MID-AFTERNOON SNACK

2 wedges Laughing Cow Herb & Garlic Spreadable Cheese

Unlimited celery sticks

DINNER

Grilled Spicy Cod Fillet*

1/2 cup Confetti Veggie Hash*

2 (or more) cups of tossed salad

1-2 Tablespoons Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing or Lite Vinaigrette Dressing

What about a snack at night?  I don’t eat after 8:00 pm.  But if you like a snack at night, choose raw almonds or walnuts, a tablespoon of nut butter (peanut or almond) on celery sticks, or an Extend snack.  (Extend snacks are made by the Extend Company and are made for diabetics, so they adhere to the low glycemic index and will not cause a spike in blood sugar, which could really derail you at bedtime.

Beverage Consumption?  I drink water.  That’s pretty much it.  I don’t drink carbonate beverages — even diet sodas.  My daughter and I gave soda up for Lent three years ago and we’ve just never picked it back up. Divide your body weight by half and that’s a good estimate of how many  ounces of water you should have a day.  I do drink green tea or coffee in the morning, but I am caffeine sensitive, so only at breakfast.  I do love de-caffeinated ice tea with stevia, though.

Do I fall off the plan?  At least once a week.  But I get right back on track.  That’s the only way to get where I’m headed:  get up and just keep going.  Carb cycling never leaves me hungry.   It’s a huge amount of food to eat in one day.  It’s the way I’ve chosen to eat for the rest of my life because I don’t feel deprived.

I hope this helpful.  Just writing it made me appreciate how carb cycling has changed my body and how grateful I am to God that I found this way of eating.

shr

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36 thoughts on “Carb Cycling: What It Is and Why I Do It

    1. I’ll be posting the recipe for confetti veggie hash tomorrow. I will list each recipe’s nutritional values as well. You can go to http://www.myfitnesspal.com and register there. Their app for iPhone is called My Fitness Pal and it’s free. I also use the free app called Calorie Counter. Both sites will ask if you want to receive the email newsletter. I love them both. I use the My Fitness Pal app to track calories, carbs, and fats, and exercise. Thanks for asking. Sandy

  1. Thanks Sandy!! I appreciate the info on Carb Cycling!! I think this just might be the ticket for me. I’m already low carb so I’m thinking it could work well for me. Thanks for sharing on Terri’s Skinny Friends. You are very sweet to do that!!!!😄❤

  2. What would you say is the carb that perhaps you should try and really limit? Also would it be better to start this ‘;lifestyle’ change gradually beginning with for eg one meal a day and if so what would you suggest. My husband and I just have to lose some weight but it’s the ‘getting going’ that’s the difficulty…. Diane

    1. Curb your bread intake. Half a bun instead of both on a burger. One piece of toast instead of two. Brown rice not white. Whole wheat pasta — under sauce I can’t tell. And try it at your biggest meal, either lunch or dinner. Did you know that most calories, including carbs, consumed before 10am are usually burned off by the body by day’s end? There’s a saying: breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper. Hope this helps, Diane.

  3. I know I’m a little late on this post but I just read Chris Powell’s book last week and am looking to get started carb cycling. I related so much to your post because I decided that I have not been honoring The Lord with my temple and that I have believing so many lies about my worth because of being overweight. I also have 75 lbs to lose and hope that this is something I can finally stick with and see the results I need.

    Did you also do the 9 minute missions every morning and the shredders?

    also, do you have a sample menu of a high carb day?

    Thank you for the wonderful post! You inspired me to go forward with this program!

  4. I have weight gained from steroids to reduce joint inflammation – my old standby of exercise & low calories has not moved the pounds at all. I am just now starting this carb/calorie cycling thing and I’m excited to honor God and lose weight the healthy way. Question – do you exercise as well? I exercise 30min-1hr a day (or every other day if my RA is inflamed more) – I’m trying to figure out how to factor that into my calorie & carb amounts.

  5. Loved reading this today. My husband and I are on week 2 carb cycling. We are doing turbo. I feel like I eat way more than you do for snacks.

  6. Hello I was just reading your blog post on carb cycling. I have two books on Amazon. One is a Carb Cycling Recipe and Diet book and the other is a cookbook with recipes you can make in advance and then heat up for lunch or dinner. I think one or both of the books might be of interest to your audience. Can I send you a PDF version of one or both books? If you like them, it would be great if you could post a quick review on your site or if you want, we could setup a giveaway for your users, that could also be done as part of your review.

    You can get more information at http://www.carbcycle.net and http://www.fitrecipe.net

  7. Hi…I just stumbled upon this post. I also turbo cycle (120 lb female) but I am wondering about your carb intake? 50 carbs is not considered high carb at all…that’s actually pretty low! My lc days are under 60 and high carb is double my bodyweight, so 240! I’ve had great results too.

  8. Thisis a brill read!!!! What a coincidence as i just ordered that book last night. Do you have a sample high carb day example?

    1. I’ll have to look. Ashamed to say that after two surgeries, I gained the weight back because of depression. Start carb-cycling again last Monday (Aug 17) and I’m already down 3 pounds. Waiting for Chris Powell’s newest book too! Thanks for stopping by. Looks like you’ll be on my journey with me!!!

  9. Hi I just started carb cycling 2.5 weeks ago and haven’t yet seen much change in weight. I feel better eating healthy foods consistently. I haven’t given up coffee completely yet. I usually have a cup maybe two per day with half and half and never any sugar. I’m just wondering if that’s compliant with carb cycling and if the half and half counts as a good fat?

    1. In carb cycling, half and half is not considered a good fat. However, this shouldn’t have kept you from not losing. Even though I lost weight carb cycling,I don’t strictly do it anymore. To be honest, I had two back to back surgeries and gained back almost all my weight. My mother encouraged me to try Weight Watchers. I have had the same amount of success with WW and counting the points is simpler. I don’t have a “cheat day” because I can have a treat every day if I want one — those points are built into my week. BUT, I still use the carb cycling recipes and incorporate low carb into WW. I’ve lost 30 lbs since September 1, 2015. With WW, you don’t lose weight as fast as with WW, but I found for me, it’s better. GOOD LUCK!

  10. Hello!
    I am starting the Turbo today! I am excited and was also very happy to see this article you wrote- very helpful!
    My question- I am concerned about the amount of veggies I have to eat every 3 hours. Any suggestions?

    1. Honestly, I just cannot eat that often. I found Turbo just too much for me. I had no time for anything except eating. LOL. I still carb cycle but I do the low carb every other day. I had 2 surgeries that hampered my weight loss but I got back in the saddle last July. It took me nearly a year to lose 43 pounds and I still have 25 to go. I hope to reach my goal by December 31, 2016.

  11. Hi Sandy! I’m thinking about starting the carb cycling plan. The problem is there is no way I can eat 5-6 meals a day. I work as a Special Education Instructional Assistant and I’m lucky if I get to use the bathroom during the day ;D Also, I only have a 1/2 lunch break @ 10:30 in the morning. Since you have experience with carb cycling, do you think I can break my meals into 4 times a day and still get the same benefits? ……wondering if this plan will be a good option for me.
    At any rate, I’m ‘addicted’ to sugar and need a realistic way to cut back on the sweet stuff.
    I would love any advice you could offer.

    1. I whole-heartedly understand, as a former teacher myself. I urge you to buy the book. It explains in detail what you can do if you need to tweak a cycle. This is the turbo cycle. There are other cycles to choose from. I will tell you that right after I wrote this, I had surgery and gained back almost all the weight I’d lost. September 2015, I started again. I am using the Turbo cycle and in 15 months, I’ve lost 55.6 pounds. I am 13 pounds from my doctor-approved goal weight of 157.

      I just ordered Chris and Heidi’s new book “Transformation.” But my Bible is “Choose More to Lose More.” I didn’t start out eating the 5-6 meals — it was a lot of food! But I kept working on it until I ate at least 5 small meals. Eating 5-6 smaller meals feeds your body. Part of the reason we can’t lose weight is because most “diets” are based on deprivation. If your body doesn’t get nourishment, it goes into survival mode and holds on to the fat in our bodies to conserve nutrients. That’s why he pushes the 5-6 small meals. Your body is getting the right kind of nutrients instead of empty calories and rewards you by releasing the stored fat.

      I keep my 5 yo granddaughter, so we are very active most of the day. The routine I have now is 3 large meals (breakfast/lunch/dinner) and two snacks (usually about 3pm and then after dinner, if I feel like I need a little something.) Sometimes that last snack is a protein smoothie. I don’t eat after 7:30/8:00pm.

      I cannot eat all the meals either. For one thing, eating less has caused my stomach to return to its normal size. Secondly, I don’t have cravings at night anymore.

      We lost a lot of our home and belongings in Hurricane Matthew. Thank goodness we had wonderful insurance. I’m waiting on my new computer and I’ll be back to writing regularly. I am working on a post about what the last 15 months has been like (very rocky emotionally and physically) and how I decided not to give up even though I wanted to.

      And let me assure you, I don’t get paid to talk about Carb Cycling as Chris Powell has designed and written in his book. His plan just worked for me. And I think that 4 meals a day will work just fine. Like I said, as I lost more and more weight, I customized his concept to fit my lifestyle. And that sugar addiction, I *PROMISE* will decrease over time. In fact, I made Almond Joy Brownies for The family Christmas Eve dinner. It’s sitting in my kitchen and there’s probably 3/4 of it left. Why? My daughter eats a small piece every day — she lifts weights and can do that. I know it’s there but I don’t eat it because the sugar addiction is conquered. I ate a small piece on Christmas Eve and that was it. By the way, I lost half a pound during the week of Christmas! It can be done! Good luck dear reader Kristi!

  12. Hi Sandra,

    Are you still carb cycling? I have just started after 3 years of low carb eating. I have PCOS and always feared carbs- my body packs on the pounds from them. I am very much like you and everything I eat is based on a whole foods approach. Ezekiel is also my favourite and is the only pasta, bread and cereal I will eat. After 3 years of eating no traditional carbs other than fruits and vegetables, I realized my body was not functioning as well anymore so I tried to reintroduce healthy, wholesome carbs and the weight started increasing rather quickly. My hopes is that perhaps cycling will work for me and my condition and I was curious if you are still cycling and how it went. I am hoping this may provide my body with the balance it needs.
    Would love to hear more of your story.

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