how to carb cycle

Using a carb cycle to lose fat and build muscle might be the most underrated dieting principle in the iron game.

Carb cycling works exceptionally well when you run it right.

When your goal is to build a worthy physique it must be done correctly or the final results will be underwhelming.

The average person does the same old dance when they are trying to lose fat.

They eat dramatically less and exercise dramatically more.

This looks good on paper but like most paper champs you will not reach the Finals.  This starve yourself/overtraining strategy can only get you to the first round of the playoffs at best.

When you arrive for round 1 you will undoubtedly get swept into oblivion using this plan.

I have seen many folks go on ridiculous diets in an attempt to drop weight only to sacrifice precious muscle mass.  When they complete their diet they look depleted and flat.

There is nothing wrong with losing excess weight to get leaner.  Having success with the process all comes down to how you do it.

Consuming a super low-calorie diet and exercising excessively with marathon workouts is a horrendous plan.  It only leads to a smaller, weaker, and less muscular version of yourself.

You will have lost weight but now you will look like Francisco Flaccid.  It just doesn’t have to be that way.

With everything in life, there is a solution.  Today you are going to learn about how to carb cycle to lose fat and build muscle.

Athletes, bodybuilders, and office workers can all benefit from this.  The best way to lose fat, protect your performance, and build/retain your muscle is to cycle your carbohydrates and calories.

What In The Blue Sky Is Carb Cycling?

Utilizing a carb cycle to lose fat is so dangerously simple and effective.

I wonder why anyone looking to gain muscle and lose fat is not implementing it.

The basic premise behind carb cycling is that you rotate your carbohydrate amounts each day based on your activity.

For example a lower body training day and a rest day would have different carbohydrate intake requirements.

The amount of protein you eat will stay pretty much the same give or take some grams throughout the entire process.

The amount of fats you eat will be higher on low-carb days and lower on high-carb days.

Carbs and fats are both energy sources and overloading on both will not allow you to get ripped.  Eating too many carbs and fats will ultimately push your caloric intake into a surplus.

Being in a caloric surplus is great for adding muscle mass, but the surplus is not great for losing body fat.

By constantly consuming high carbs and high fats you will continue to sport a smooth body.

What About My Total Calories?

Your total calories will also rotate based on your activity for the day.

A tough, lower body session involving squats, GHR’s, and hip thrusts will require more calories than an upper body session involving curls and skullcrushers.

One major issue in the iron game is that people overestimate how hard they are training.  Then they start wondering why they are not dropping body fat even when carb cycling.

How can you justify eating all that food when you went to the gym, played patty-cake on the machines for an hour and then wasted another hour dancing in the “cardio” section going nowhere fast?

This is the definition of fake hustle.

If you are consuming too much food, you will not lose body fat even if you are on a carb cycle.

Your caloric intake needs to be in line with what you are about to do in order to build a leaner and stronger physique.

How Do I Calculate My Total Calories And Macronutrients?

All foods (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) fall under a macronutrient category.

Foods like rice and beans would fall under carbs.

Foods like chicken and beef would fall under protein.

Foods like olive oil and mixed nuts would fall under fats.

A general rule of thumb when calculating calories for fat loss would be to take your bodyweight and multiply it by 11 or 12.

The final number would typically be the amount of calories you need to eat to begin to lose body fat.

However, this rule will not apply to everyone in the same fashion.

If you weigh 170lbs, have a fast metabolism, and can maintain your current physique or bodyweight eating 2500 calories a day, then dropping to 1870 calories is too steep of an initial drop for workout days.

I would start that lifter around 2200-2400 calories on training days, and about 1800-2000 calories on off days.

An example lifter eating 2000 calories on a lower body day on a 30C/40P/30F split to lose fat will split up their percentages like this.

Larry Lifter

• 2000 calories
• 30 percent carbohydrates (1 gram of carbs = 4 calories)
• 40 percent protein (1 gram of protein = 4 calories)
• 30 percent fat (1 gram of fat = 9 calories)

The formula for determining how many grams of carbs, protein, or fat that you need is:

Calories X The Percentage / 4 or 9

To calculate your carbs:
• Take 2000 and multiply it by .3
• Take 600 and divide it by 4
• Larry Lifter would eat 150 grams of carbs on this day

To calculate your protein:
• Take 2000 and multiply it by .4
• Take 800 and divide it by 4
• Larry Lifter would eat 200 grams of protein on this day

To calculate your fat:
• Take 2000 and multiply it by .3
• Take 600 and divide it by 9
• Larry Lifter would eat 66 grams of carbs on this day

The only numbers that will change over time are the total calories and the percentage you have per macro.

These are some of the splits I have used with myself and my clients below.

Standard Split (higher in protein)

40% Protein
30% Carbs
30% Fats

Standard Split (higher in carbs)

40% Carbs
30% Protein
30% Fats

Athlete Split

40% Carbs
40% Protein
20% Fats

High Protein Split

45-50% Protein
30-35% Carbs
15-25% Fats

Can I Improve Weak Body Parts With Carb/Calorie Cycling?

Using a carb cycle to lose fat is phenomenal but another major benefit to using carb/calorie cycling is that you can strategically use it to bring up lagging muscles.

If you have muscles that are behind, eating in a caloric surplus and increasing your carbs on that day will allow you to turn those weaker body parts into strengths.

Let’s say you have absolute pipe cleaners for legs.

In this scenario, The Scarecrow from Batman has more leg thickness than you.  Your last attempted squat occurred during the series finale of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Since your legs are behind in muscle development you can plan to eat more.  Your calories and carbs on your lower body days will be higher to help with the muscle growth.

On the flip side, you can decrease the amount of calories and carbs you have on the days where you train your stronger body parts.

They will not get weaker or shrink, but slowing their growth rate will allow the weaker muscles to close the gap.

A balanced physique looks 100 percent better than the typical unbalanced, commercial gym body you see so often.

How To Carb Cycle To Lose Fat And Build Muscle

The top 3 methods to cycle your carbs are:

1) The Daily Rotational Method

The Daily Rotational Method is my preferred way to eat throughout the year.

The DRM is easy to use.  I utilize it for multiple events like track meets, bodybuilding competitions, or photo shoots.

I started using this method in 2012 and have been constantly evolving it since then.

When I used it in 2014 the results were astounding.

fitman bodybuildingIf you look at the main picture to the right you will see that I literally lost zero muscle during the 12-week process.

I was significantly more ripped and fuller than I ever was in my life.

My bodyweight only went from 170lbs to 164lbs which proves again the scale is not the main factor in determining progress.

The DRM involves you cycling your carbs daily to match that day’s activity level.

This will allow you to retain muscle fullness and your performance in the weight room or on the track.

Many carb cycle plans will give you a set amount of carbs to reach each day but with the DRM, you do not have a specific set amount of carbs or calories to eat.

You will have a specific carb/calorie range.  The amount of food you eat will be based on:

• How you feel
• What you look like
• How demanding your training session was

The harder and more demanding your training session is, the more food you are allowing yourself to eat in order to recover.

You may set a range of 200-250g of carbs for a lower body session followed by hard conditioning.

In that session, if you added an extra set or reps and you are completely folded at the end then you will probably aim to eat closer to 250 grams for that day.

Let’s say you simply followed the plan that day.  If the session was tough, but not a knockout punch you would probably eat closer to 200 grams for that day.

Do you really need to take a trip to the deepest parts of Carb City when all you did was perform the bench press and pull-ups?

The demands for that workout do not need to be as high as the previous day.

The toughest part about the DRM is that it does require a tremendous amount of self-awareness.

To carb cycle to lose fat, you cannot just eat carbs because you think you need them.

Let the reflection in the mirror and your performance in the gym or track tell you about exactly what you need.

Check out a sample DRM below:

-106-143 grams of carbs
-1700-1900 calories

Monday-Lower Body
-173-250 grams of carbs
-2300-2500 calories

Tuesday-Upper Body and Conditioning
-150-193 grams of carbs
-2000-2200 calories

-106-143 grams of carbs
-1700-1900 calories

Thursday-Lower Body
-173-250 grams of carbs
-2300-2500 calories

-106-143 grams of carbs
-1700-1900 calories

Saturday-Upper Body and Conditioning
-150-193 grams of carbs
-2000-2200 calories

40-45 percent of your calories will come from protein and then the rest will come from fat.

How will you know when you need to eat more or less carbs and calories on a given day?

Are your numbers in the gym dropping fast?  Slightly increase your carbs and calories.

Do you look bloated and not showing your definition?  Slightly decrease your carbs and calories.

Through trial and error you will find the numbers that allow you to train hard and get leaner without sacrificing muscle or performance.

As you get closer to your peak levels of leanness you will have earned the right to eat more carbs and still get leaner.

Having more muscle and a faster metabolic rate will do that for you.

2) The Gironda Method

If you have read my previous work then you know I am very fond of the principals of the late, great Iron Guru Vince Gironda.

Gironda was eons ahead of his time as far as training techniques and principles are concerned.  The Iron Guru was also equally as far ahead of his time nutrition wise too.

In his time most of the physiques on the stage were bigger and muscular but also very smooth and not ripped.

Gironda was the pioneer in bringing the ripped physique to the stage.

At the time when he competed, he was even penalized for being “too ripped.”

This was the major reason why he was not able to place higher in the bodybuilding competitions of his era.

His famous method to get someone lean and shredded was a guaranteed win like Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals.

His Maximum Definition Diet is without a doubt the most extreme version of carb cycling to lose fat.

With the Maximum Definition Diet, a trainee would eat only protein and fat (meat and eggs) at every meal for 3 days straight.

On the 4th day, one of the days’ meals would be a high carbohydrate meal to restore glycogen levels and to help your muscles avoid looking flat.

Gironda did not have a set amount of calories or macros to eat daily.

But if you lower your carbohydrates to zero for 3 straight days, you will lose a good amount of your normal caloric intake.

On the high carb meal day, you will be increasing your calories due to the influx of carbs within that meal.

You would repeat this process every 5th day.  Check out how it looks below:

Sunday- MDD Standard

Monday- MDD Standard

Tuesday- MDD Standard

Wednesday- MDD High Carb Meal

Thursday- MDD Standard

Friday- MDD Standard

Saturday- MDD Standard

The Maximum Definition Diet is designed for short-term physique goals.

You could compare it to the final piece of a puzzle.

Removing the carbohydrates from your diet allows your body to use more fat for energy instead of carbohydrate.

This is a supremely effective fat loss plan designed by the greatest physique trainer in history.

In the same breath, we are all so very individual.

If you are a natural ectomorph than this type of dieting will more than likely not work for you.  Ectomorphs do not carry enough natural muscle size to begin with.

I have used the Maximum Definition Diet and I was able to get very lean and ripped.  However there was a major cost.

Due to my ectomorph genetics, I was not able to maintain muscular size due to the lack of carbohydrates and calories.  I was ripped but significantly smaller.

The Maximum Definition Diet requires tremendous focus and discipline.

By no means is this a balanced way to eat, and I would only recommend it to use in short bouts to accelerate the fat loss process.

personal training in philadelphia
Jo used the standard method to win the overall at Ms. Natural Philadelphia in 2019.

3) The Standard Method

The Standard Method of carb cycling borrows from the Gironda split but allows you to eat carbohydrates daily.

You will not be living in Carb City but each day you will rotate your carbohydrate amounts.

This is exactly what I mentioned when I talked about the basic premise behind carb cycling.

In the Maximum Definition Diet, you had 3 days of no carbs followed by 1 day where you had 1 carbohydrate-rich meal.

With the Standard Method, you will have set carbohydrate amounts and either a high, medium or low carbohydrate intake day.

For example, Monday may be a high day at 250 grams of carbs and 2500 calories.

Tuesday may be a medium day at 193 grams of carbs and 2200 calories and Wednesday may be a low day at 119 grams of carbs and 1900 calories.

You would restart the process on Thursday.

You would have to be smart with this plan and adjust it to your training schedule so that everything matched up.

Broken down the basic Standard Method would look like this based on the example:

• 119 grams of carbs
• 1900 calories

Monday-Lower Body
• 250 grams of carbs
• 2500 calories

Tuesday-Upper Body and Conditioning
• 193 grams of carbs
• 2200 calories

• 119 grams of carbs
• 1900 calories

Thursday-Lower Body
• 250 grams of carbs
• 2500 calories

• 119 grams of carbs
• 1900 calories

Saturday-Upper Body and Conditioning
• 193 grams of carbs
• 2200 calories

The Standard Method is something that can be used long-term because it is not as mentally taxing as the Maximum Definition Diet.

You also have set numbers for your calories and your carbs which many people find easier to follow than having ranges like the in the DRM.

Most people would benefit from eating in this fashion because it still allows them to have carbs and at the same time lose body fat.

Johanna Blume used the standard method to win the figure overall at the 2019 Ms. Natural Philadelphia.

The amount of food you eat with the Standard Method should be adjusted to you.

How well you handle carbs, your body-type, and how fast your metabolic rate is are the main factors to consider.

Note:  If you are interested in a customized training/carb cycle plan, please contact me at


Using a carb cycle and also cycling your calories is the best way to eat for fat loss while simultaneously building or retaining your muscle mass.

By cycling your carbs you are only giving your body the energy it needs to perform the training.  This will allow more fat to be used as energy throughout the day.

By cycling your calories you are in control of whether you are in a deficit for fat loss or a surplus for muscle growth.

Allotting more calories on certain days can also help weaker body parts become strengths.

Commit to a true carb cycle until you reach your goals and you will be pleased with your much leaner physique.  It ain’t easy but nothing in life worth anything is.

I’ll holla at you next time.
The People’s Trainer,

Previous Post
What Should You Eat Before A Workout
Next Post
How To Stop Wasting Time At The Gym
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] people are looking to build some muscle, drop body fat, and feel better about the way their body looks and performs.  Unfortunately, what actually works […]

[…] I am the ultimate proponent of carb/calorie cycling.  I use all the options above in cyclical […]

Shepherd Vivien

I lift weights s a week and 4 out of the 5 days are in a row, which due to my life, I can t change at the moment. My question is: Would carb cycling still work in this case? Should I perhaps keep my high carb days to the days I train legs and then keep it low carb for other muscle groups?

Get Your Copy Today!


Join The Fit Team for the truth about objective, athletic performance training.  Download your free copy of “The Top Ten Benefits Of Lifting Weights” after you sign up.  I’d be honored to have your support for my newsletter.

the top 10 benefits of lifting weights