Here's what you need to know...

  1. The simplest way to implement carb cycling is to break it down into two categories: training and non-training days.
  2. Adjust carb intake according to workout volume and intensity. Big workouts require more carbs. Small workouts require fewer carbs.
  3. After "big" workouts, have two post-workout meals. For a 200-pound guy, each of those meals should contain 50 grams of carbs.
  4. After small workouts, have two post-workout meals. For a 200-pound guy, each of those meals should contain 25 grams of carbs.
  5. On non-training days, eliminate carbs altogether and reduce total caloric intake by 10 percent.

Carb cycling works. Generally you have low, medium, and high-carb days, or possibly days with no carbs. The trouble is, this method is somewhat cumbersome because measuring out carbs from low to medium to high on different days of the week requires overthinking.

The simplest way to implement carb cycling is to just break it down into two days:

  • Training days: Big training days and small training days
  • Non-training days

By doing it this way, you're not having to overthink the whole low-medium-high carb day thing. You just adjust your carb intake on workout days in accordance to your training load/volume. After all, you probably don't need a ton of carbs for glycogen replenishment after a 30-minute arm workout, but you might need a sizeable amount if you're a very large individual and just did a two-hour leg workout.

You also don't need to cram all of your post-workout carbs into some tiny 30-45 minute window after training. You have a larger post-training window where you can take advantage of elevated glycogen resynthesis.

Training Day Carbs

Training-day carb cycling is based on the amount of volume you did (the number of exercises, sets, reps etc.) and what you worked in that training session. As noted, you probably don't need the same amount of carbs after doing a quick arm workout as you do for squat and deadlift day, and this is where there's a bit of flexibility meshed into the plan.

The two largest body parts are legs and back. However, depending on how you split your program up, a chest and shoulders workout could very easily be considered a "big" workout day. If you're doing 15 sets for chest and then another 10-12 sets for shoulders, that's 25-27 sets done in a session. That would most definitely fall into the category of a big workout.

Carb Intake After "Big" Workouts

A good guideline for fat loss would be to limit carb intake to around .25 grams per pound of bodyweight for the two meals following training.

So for a 200-pound guy, that's 50 grams of carbs during the first post-workout meal, and 50 grams of carbs for the second post-workout meal. You should also use a high glycemic index (GI) carb with the first post-workout meal, and then a low glycemic index carb with the second.

High-GI carbs get through the gut quicker and will replenish glycogen at a faster clip. However, in a hypocaloric state, higher glycemic carbs have a tendency to make people more ravenous and less satiated than low-GI carbs. As such, we want to move to low GI carbs for the second meal in order to facilitate satiety.

For the third meal (if there is one, depending on the time of day you train), you'd go to a protein and fat only meal. That means no carbs.

Carb Intake After "Small" Workouts

All you're going to do here is cut the amount of carbs in half from what you'd take in after a big workout. Using the sample above of the 200-pound lifter, he'd take in 25 grams of carbs in each of his two post-workout meals. All the other rules applied for big workouts stay in place here: high-GI carbs for the first post-workout meal, and low-GI carbs for the second one.

Steak and Veg

The Remaining Meals of the Day

As for the rest of your meals on a training day, if you're working to get leaner, then pound down the protein to the tune of 1.25 to even 2 grams per pound of bodyweight (depending on your level of experience and degree of muscle mass). The rest of your caloric intake should come from fats and only trace carb sources like vegetables. As a baseline recommendation, your calories should be somewhere between your bodyweight x 10-15.

Bodyweight x 15 tends to be about the range most people will need to maintain their current bodyweight, and 10 is the "floor" in regards to caloric intake. If you need to get into a larger energy deficit to get even leaner, then do more work rather than reduce calories further.

Carb Intake on Non-Training Days

On your off day from the gym, simply eliminate carbs altogether and reduce total caloric intake overall by about 10%. Again, this is for people who want to shed unwanted fat and maintain lean muscle mass.

Get almost all your calories from proteins and fats. As far as fat sources, go with almonds, macadamia nuts, almond butter, coconut oil, and olive oil. And there's really no need to count vegetables as carbs. Not a single person ever failed fat camp because they ate too much steamed broccoli.

Lifting During Different Times of the Day

The only real complicating factor in all this is that people train at different times of the day. Some people are morning lifters, some are mid-day, and others train in the evening. Here's how each type should implement carb cycling into their plan:

Morning Lifter

Breakfast

  • Whole-egg omelet with added turkey or shrimp
  • Spinach

Post Workout

Second Post-Workout Meal

  • Lean protein source
  • Sweet potatoes or brown rice

Remaining Meals

  • Fats and protein with trace carb sources

Mid-Day Lifter

Breakfast

  • Whole egg omelet with added turkey or shrimp
  • Spinach

Pre-Training Meal (60-90 minutes prior to training)

  • Lean protein source
  • Good fat source
  • Trace carbs

Post Workout

Second Post-Workout Meal

  • Lean protein source
  • Sweet potatoes or brown rice

Remaining Meals

  • Fats and proteins with trace carb sources

Evening Lifter

Breakfast

  • Whole egg omelet with added turkey or shrimp
  • Spinach

Meals 2 and 3

  • Lean protein source
  • Good fat source
  • Trace carbs

Pre-Training Meal (60-90 minutes prior to training)

  • Lean protein source
  • Good fat source
  • Trace carbs

Post-Workout

Last Meal of Day

  • Egg whites
  • Oatmeal

The listed foods can be exchanged for something similar and the amounts will vary based on a myriad of factors, but this is a solid template to build from to get you moving in the right direction. If you're already lean, you can use this plan to gain mass by simply playing around with the amount of post-workout carbs until the scale starts to move.

Supplements for Even Better Results

If you're a low volume-high intensity guy, then your workouts probably don't exceed 45 minutes. If that's the case, then just drinking water with added Mag-10®, or even just some added BCAAs or EAAs are a great option.

If you're training with a lot of volume for a couple of hours, then using Plazma™ is ideal. Even if you're in fat loss mode, the simple carbs it contains aren't going to be stored as body fat.

Related:  Carb Cycling for Fat Loss

Related:  Carb Cycling for the Non-Counter