Nutrition for Women

Erin Stern’s Top 5 Tips for Carb Cycling

Oxygen Challenge coach and The Body Builder’s Kitchen author Erin Stern shares how to cycle your carbohydrates and fats the right way.

Our bodies are amazingly efficient. We adapt to training programs in a matter of weeks. If the physical stimulus doesn’t change, our bodies tend to stay the same. I think that eating the same foods day in and day out also can create a plateau in progress. The best way to encourage the body to change is to periodically adjust meal plans.

Carb cycling is a great option if you’re looking to change things up, encourage the body to use fats for fuel, or to make your meal plan better fit your activity levels. The concept is relatively easy: Eat normal to moderate amounts of carbs most days, and toss in two to three days when you drop carbs to almost zero and eat fats for fuel instead.

Protein intake should remain the same on all days. Low-carb days should be strategically matched with days off from the gym or on easy training days. Low-carb days can help the body better adjust to burning fat for fuel, while the higher-carb days replenish energy sources and decrease feelings of deprivation.

Up Your Leafy Greens on Low-Carb Days

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It may help to increase the amount of leafy green vegetables on low-carb days. Since they’re almost calorie-free, they add bulk to a plate without changing calorie totals. We eat with our eyes first, so a full plate is visually satisfying.

Stick With Whole-Food Fats

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Try to stick with whole-food sources of fats for your low-carb days. These can include coconut oil, avocado, eggs, cold-water fish, grass-fed butter and nuts. 

Measure Your Fats and Carbs

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I recommend measuring your fats because the calories can add up. On normal days, make sure to measure carbs, too. There’s a tendency to underestimate protein intake and overestimate carb and fat intake.

Don’t Decrease Carbs Without Increasing Fats

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The body needs either carbs or fats for energy, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re fueling up for your day and for training. 

Don’t Skip Meals

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Don’t skip meals on low-carb or normal days, either. This can cause the body to break down muscle. And always have a snack handy, just in case.

I use carb cycling when I’m leaning down for a shoot or show. I have seen great results with it. I do notice that my energy levels are lower on the low-carb days, but it’s only two days per week. I have tried a ketogenic diet in the past and could not function on it. Carb cycling can offer similar benefits without the ongoing fatigue and brain fog.

We take the guesswork out of carb cycling with The Erin Stern Challenge. The meal guide outlines what and how to eat for normal and low-carb days. It’s a fantastic resource for continuing progress. Thanks for reading. Until next time, train hard and eat right, y’all!