Carb Cycling Made Easy- Part 1


The first time I experimented with carb cycling was some time back in the early 90’s, largely influenced by the work of Michael Zumpano and the late Dan Duchaine. I was blown away by how incredibly well this worked so I immediately enlisted a few more test subjects to try it out on. Again, the results were awesome. My brother, our friend Todd and I all got in the best shape we’d ever been in to date. After that I had some clients try it and the results were the same.

Being like a lot of people I was in search of the next best thing so I got away from it for a while. Too long, in fact. Because the honest truth is that carb cycling HAS to be a part of your nutrition program if you are really serious about getting results. There’s simply no way around it.

I haven’t written a diet in the last six years that didn’t include carb cycling and I’m not about to start. It’s a major part of the Muscle Gaining Secrets program and just about every member of the Renegade Inner Circle follows a carb cycling diet.

The problem is some people get freaked out and think that it’s gonna be the hardest thing in the world to figure out and adhere to. Trust me, it aint. It really couldn’t be easier.

To sum it up in simple terms carb cycling means that you eat higher carbs on training days and lower amounts of carbs on off days. Now, obviously it can get more complicated than that but that’s pretty much the gist of it. I prefer that you start with baby steps and progress slowly. Unless you have plans of competing in a bodybuilding show in the next twelve weeks you don’t have to get crazy right off the bat.

Getting Started

The first thing you need to do is determine your bodyfat levels. If you’re above 20% there’s going to be very minimal carbs in your diet at all other than vegetables and moderate amounts of fruit. At that level I allow ONE cheat meal per week on a Saturday or Sunday where you can eat up to 100 grams of carbs or so in one sitting (depending on your bodyweight). So the majority of your weekly meals will consist of organic eggs, free range chicken, grass fed beef, wild caught fish, protein powder and a hearty serving of veggies. Raw, organic nuts and seeds are also allowed and some low glycemic fruits like apples, pears and berries can be included in moderate amounts as well.

Your weekend cheat meal might consist of a few slices of pizza and some ice cream or one of the delicious healthy desserts from the Renegade Recipe Guide. Then you’re back to low carbing it again immediately after and until you get to below 20% bodyfat. The honest truth is that for most people, not interested in high performance levels, this is the optimal way to eat.

You really don’t need starchy carbs at all if you’re not training hard or playing a sport. The average guy should really be eating nothing but lean protein, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds.

Since just about everyone reading this right now is interested in looking and performing like an All Star you guys are definitely gonna need some starchy carbs (as long as you’re below 20% bodyfat.) Fruits and veggies just won’t be enough.

Muscle growth and performance are both optimized when insulin is present. Insulin levels become elevated when you eat carbs. Insulin is a highly anabolic (muscle building) hormone so you want it around when you’re trying to get jacked. On the opposite side of the coin is the fact that insulin is also very effective at storing bodyfat when it’s around for too long, too often or at the wrong times. That’s why it’s always referred to as a double edged sword.

If you eat tons of carbs all day you’ll definitely grow pretty rapidly. You’ll also end up looking like a big fat mess, though. Most people can’t tolerate too many carbs too often. Unless you’re an ectomporphic teenager with a lightning fast metabolism, a genetic freak or a professional athlete who trains for twenty plus hours a week, the chances are very good that an unregulated approach to carb consumption will lead to massive fat gain. Therefore the only solution is carb cycling.

With carb cycling you can:

  • Gain size while maintaining your bodyfat levels
  • Get lean while not losing any size or…
  • Build muscle and lose fat at the same time!

It’s really the ultimate diet solution.

How You Do It

As I already mentioned, you need to first determine your bodyfat levels. That will tell you how many carbs you can consume on each day. The fatter you are the fewer carbs you can have and the leaner you are the more carbs you can eat.

This is for two reasons. Firstly, when you’re fat (above 15% bodyfat) your insulin sensitivity usually sucks. That means you don’t tolerate carbs very well and eating them is very likely to make you even fatter. Secondly, if you’re fat and trying to get lean, that’s obviously going to be difficult to do while eating a lot of carbs. But that’s pretty damn obvious.

When you’re trying to gain size but are above 15% bodyfat you will gain an equal amount of fat and muscle when you eat a decent amount of carbs. That’s if you’re lucky. In the worst case scenario you will gain two pounds of fat for every pound of muscle. So it’s best to be somewhat lean before trying to gain a ton of size.

Now, when you’re lean enough to tolerate carbs you can break your carb consumption down into high, medium and low days.

There’s more to it and more variables to consider but for now, without getting overly complicated we’ll set it up like this and go with these rough figures…

13-15% Bodyfat
High carb days- 1.5 – 1.75 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight
Medium Carb Days- 1 – 1.25 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight
Low Carb Days- .5 – 1 gram of carbs per pound of bodyweight

10-12% Bodyfat
High carb days- 1.75 – 2 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight
Medium Carb Days- 1-1.5 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight
Low Carb Days- .5-1 gram of carbs per pound of bodyweight

8-10% Bodyfat
High carb days- 2 – 2.5 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight
Medium Carb Days- 1.25- 1.75 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight
Low Carb Days- .75-1.25 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight

6-8% Bodyfat
High carb days- 2.5 – 3 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight
Medium Carb Days- 2 – 2.25 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight
Low Carb Days- 1 -1.5 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight

Let’s leave it at that for now and in Part II we’ll get into how to set up the days and what foods you should be eating when. Proper food choices and meal timing is key so we’ll address those issues in the next installment.

For now let me know if you have any questions.

PS. In the mean time I highly recommend that all fitness pro’s looking to make more money get a copy of Shelby Starnes brand new Carb Cycling For Fitness Professionals by clicking HERE now.

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33 Responses to Carb Cycling Made Easy- Part 1

  1. Raymond- ZenMyFitness February 17, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    I heard a lot about carb cycling but never really tried it. I not really into measuring carbs so I take the philosophy and try and wing it if I get no results I’ll have to try and measure it.
    According to the callipers I’m in that 6% range so I don’t have the pressure of wanting to measure at this stage.
    Hey but I made your raw pineapple cheese cake recipe and look forward to that this weekend for my cheats.
    Raymond

  2. Joe Meglio February 17, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    Great article Jay. Looking forward to part 2!

  3. Laura February 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    Are these bodyfat levels the same for women?

  4. Marc February 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    Great post Jason, thanks a lot!

    On this moment i’m not carb cycling yet, and I’m allready getting pretty good results (using all your principles). So things probably will get even better when I will implement this strategy!

    Was wondering what’s your advise for guys who train in the evening. I usually have a shake with brown rice protein, veggies and some oats at 6 pm, then to gym from 7 pm till 8 pm, drink a shake with waxy maiz and brown rice protein and go home. Then I’m having a meal with a sweet potatoe, lean protein and soms veggies at 9 pm. I know that’s a little late for eating carbs but I can only train in the evening on this moment.

    Do you have any tips or some adjustments?

    Thanks a

  5. Ross Cassidy February 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    Nice article. I think I read on Sean Hyson’s website that the sweet potato does not really spike your insulin? I wonder if that means you should stick to other carbs when bulking like oats and brown rice?

  6. Marc February 17, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    lot! Whoops!

    Ps: i’m at 14% bf, weigh 200 pounds and 192 cm tall

  7. Jose February 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Good article, don’t forget your vegan fans in part 2!
    How do you mix carb cycling and fasting? Do you recomend that mix for skinny fats like me?
    By the way your vanilla cream recipe is awesome.

  8. Tyson February 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    I would like to hear more on Ross’s question about sweet potato not really spiking one’s insulin. I haven been doing carb cycling for a little while now but have not really gotten the results I expected. Being a primal fan, I don’t eat a lot of starchy carbs and have instead tried to get my carbs from sweet potatoes. If, what, Ross says is true, could that be the reason why I have not leaned up?

    I currently sit at 5’10″ and 175lbs. My best guess is that I am right around 10% body fat. The days I don’t workout, I eat less than 100grabs/carbs. My workout days are usually around 150.

    Anyway, great article and cannot wait to read part II.

  9. Tim February 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    Good article. Nice and simple man. Carb cycling helped me go from a very lean 6’2 180lb. senior in hs to a current 240lbs at around 11% bf. in about 5 years. Going back to college to play football this year, so I’m working hard on getting my bodyfat down into the mid single digits. Question Jason- what do you think of the twinlab amino fuel? I’ve been sucking that shit down for about a month and I feel like it’s pretty good overall. Do you have any better recommendations on aminos? Also…this is total irrelavent to your article, but, I’m trying to get my bench up. Current max 305 for 2 reps. What kinda program do you think I should be following to add some good weight to the lift? I’m throwing in blast strap push-ups/doing all the important assistance work. 5×5? Dynamic and max effort? I just don’t know man, if you don’t answer, it’s all good. Know you’re a busy man. Congrats on making it out to live in Cali..peace!

  10. Mina February 17, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    Great article Jason.

    What about cardio though? Should it be done on low carb days or high carb days?

  11. Jami February 17, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    Hey Jason…how do the fat percentages break out for women and where we should start? Also, how would I apply this as a vegetarian? A lot of my protein sources are higher carb like beans and lentils…I don’t eat dairy but I do eat a lot of egg whites and of course sun warrior protein :)
    Thanks as always for your great articles and info!!!

  12. John Madsen February 17, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    Jay,

    Good Article. Short story about me; I graduated High school as the classic ectomorph. 6’4″ 185 lbs. I went on to play football for the univeristy of utah as a wide receiver in which I got my body weight up to 220 lb by training hard and eating whatever the hell I wanted. I then signed with the Oakland Raiders and they thought my frame was that of a Tight End. I took my 220lb 8% body fat body and got it up to 250 lbs and 16% body fat in my 3 years in the NFL. Being skinny my whole life I didnt really care that about the excess body fat. Performance wise though my athleticism suffered. In the last year out of football My body weight went back down to 240 as I opened up a training facility for college and high school guys. I then started eating “paleo” 5 weeks ago. (Meat, fruit, veggies, no grains). My weight has plummeted to 230 and I am lean as ever now. Performance wise I can run faster and Jump higher than I ever could which is great, but I hate being small! Im also just as strong as ever! Id really like to stay around 245lbs and keep the body fat under 10%. Is it possible to pack that size if Im a true ectomorph at heart while eating like a strict caveman??? Love your stuff man.

  13. Kevin Valluzzi February 17, 2011 at 10:37 pm #

    Jay, this is a great article. I LOVE the break down on the high, medium and low days. I’ve wanted to try this for a while now but was never really sure of how to break it down.

    “Now there’s steak with the beans and rice”!

    Thanks man!

    Kevin

  14. Larry February 18, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    What about those of us in the 15-20% BF range? Right now I’m 18.5% with a goal of dropping down to the 12-14% range. Also, what about if you fast one 24 hour period a week? Thanks.

  15. Christopher February 18, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    Hey. Jason on days I’m not strength training i do sprints or jump roPe should I be consuming more carbs on conditioning days or on strength days? Sorry the article kind of confused me

  16. Bill February 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    Thanks Jason, this is very helpful; I look forward to the next post. Just discovered your blog not too long ago (by the way, thanks for the previous post on deadlifting (very helpful as well). I wish you would have been around when I was in my 20s – I’m an oldtimer now (at 53), but still like to train hard.

  17. JMJ February 18, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    I have to keep my carbs high or I just can’t seem to keep the weight on. Brown rice, sweet pot’s, whole wheat toast, fig newtons for dessert, these are all staples. No disrespect but I googled John madsen, he is legit.

  18. Jamie February 20, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Awesome post Jason. Do you also manipulate protein and fat amounts on low, med, and high CHO days?

  19. Dan Go February 20, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    Awesome post Jason. Can’t wait for #2!

  20. Gary Deagle February 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    Awesome post Jay. I think a lot of times people scare their self out of carb cycling and try to make it more difficult than it is. Learning from the inner circle and applying the higher carb days to lifting and low on non is as easy as it gets.

    Then when summer creeps up maybe a 3 to 1 rotation for a month or so is a good switch up.

  21. Ryan Schaefer February 21, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    J- Great post. In MGS you give an example carb cycling diet for a 180 lb. man at 20% bf trying to loose fat. I weigh 220 lbs. about 18% bf, and I am starting carb cycling. What do you sugest to add some calories on low carb days?

  22. Jason - Muscle Building and Fitness Workouts February 22, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    Looking forward to part 2. I have never really had a problem with fat but I am looking to get super lean to take a few pictures.

    For the most part I have stayed away from high carb meals but find it tough at times because of the culture we live in. It seems bread potatoes, and pasta are staples in North America. Lucky for me I can do without many of the high starch foods like pancakes, pasta, or bread. It is rare for me to eat a sandwich, burger, or plate of pasta. I find bread is one of those things that smells way better than it tastes.

    I have just kind of winged it with my diet, I know not the best thing to do but I am looking to try a low card diet a try. Look forward to part 2
    Thanks.

  23. Andrew February 22, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    How would these body fat percentages apply to woman?

  24. Matt February 25, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    Jason,
    Great article mate. I will be implementing this into my diet as of today. Also, what have you found to be the most reliable and simplistic way of determining your BF%?
    Matt

  25. Anthony Martinez November 13, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    I’m 45 years old, I look I’m in the late 20′s. I eat very healthy. I want to increase my wrist, arms, etc.. in general look very fit. I weight around 170. I don’t know how to calculate my body fat in an easy way. I want to get build up for about to 185 I think will be fine. I consider my body fat, maybe around 15%. I need some advise from a professional. I haven’t gone to the gym for the last three months, personal matters but I need to get back to it and stay with it. I eat very healthy, but when sould I stop eating carbs, time, what amount in training days and non training days? I burn around 450 calories in 30 minutes at the gym(running), Can I still do it to burn fat in non training days. Anyone in Orlando I can get an advised and ask questions.

  26. Martin March 19, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    Well, the i have a question…

    i always train with bodywieght excersices, almost all of them are gymnastics strength training…

    the only part of my body wich i train lifting are legs (not heavy weights as i suffer lower back issues)

    i’m 6′ and 155, with 9% bodyfat…

    so, does it apply the same on me?

    Thanks in advice!

  27. Dylan Kucheravy March 7, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    Would you recommend this for athletes who are trying to gain weight for their sports? i.e. football?

  28. Sean April 1, 2013 at 1:34 am #

    How would you fill in the rest of calories when someone has a higher requirement than usual (such as those with active jobs)?

    More protein (doing 1g per pound now) or fat?

  29. Lara May 30, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Hello Jay, thank you for the awesome info. I have the same question as others….how would this differ for women? Thank you.

  30. Tom F June 27, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    Jason,

    How does this apply to a hard gainer? What if that hardgainer goes MGS 4 days a week, plays soccer 1-2X a week and on another day does hardcore hills/sprints?

    Thank you.

  31. Nicole November 11, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Jason – how does this apply to women? What are the figures for body fat % for each category and how many grams would be high/med/low for women?

    Thanks

  32. FaithNoMore December 18, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    how about simply taking in carbs post workout?

    i train fasted.

  33. Sherri January 27, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    Again, please don’t leave women out. I’m thinking 15% body fat is not “fat” for a woman?
    Also, I’ve been carb cycling for a little while now and it makes sense for me on the days I train renegade style (x-fit, oly lifting, power lifting) which I do 3 x a week. And for rest days. But how do I implement during days of pure cardio, like a solid 4 mile run if a 7 mile run? Theses are not HIT runs just general conditioning and mental health runs? Would this be a low, mid or high carb day?