Are you following a low carb lifestyle, but miss your favorite carbohydrates? Learn what you need to know about carb cycling on the keto diet so you can enjoy your favorite foods once in a while.
As I’m sure you already know, the keto diet (keto is short for ketogenic) requires that you eat a super low carb diet. Most often, people on the keto diet eat fewer than 20 net carbs per day. However, that number varies by person, and some people may even be able to remain in ketosis by consuming up to 50 net carbs per day.
If you’ve been in the lazy keto groups, you’ll see talk about “cheat days.” On these days, you eat whatever you want to eat or you practice something called carb cycling.
If you haven’t heard of it yet, carb cycling is the theory that you can increase your carbohydrate intake by a specific amount. The following day, you go back to the keto guidelines and eat that way the rest of the week.
Reasons You May Want to Try Carb Cycling
Some of the many benefits of following a carb cycling plan include things like helping with your overall mindset about following a low-carb diet. Other benefits include becoming much more open to eating cheat foods once in a while. That’s especially nice during the holidays when there are so many holiday parties.
If you find yourself struggling with eating fewer than 20 net carbs per day, for example missing your favorite fruit and other healthier carb choices, then carb cycling is something you’re probably going to really enjoy. That way you can enjoy some extra carbs and eat a few of your favorite healthy foods every once in a while, but you’ll get back into ketosis quickly on your lower carbohydrate days.
It’s also a good idea for people who find themselves continually hitting plateaus to try carb cycling. Some people even find that when they confuse their body every few days with different carb and calorie intakes, it’s much easier to prevent or steer out of any unwanted weight loss stalls.
Your Mentality Matters
While carb cycling on the keto diet sounds like a convenient and helpful strategy, there are also a hand full of challenges you need to be aware of before you get started. These challenges all center around mentality. For example, if you use your carb cycling days as an excuse to binge on junk food, you can cause more harm than good for your body. It’s not an excuse to eat junk.
When you binge on sugary junk, you may end up having to get over cravings for sugar and carbs all over again. Plus it can often make it harder to stay under 20 net carbs the next day. The best strategy for carb cycling is starting slow while only choosing higher-carb foods that are on the healthier side on your increased carb days.
How to do Carb Cycling on the Keto Diet
How you choose to practice carb cycling is entirely your choice. When you get started, you’ll find that it can feel like an experiment trying to figure out what plan works best with your body and your own personal lifestyle.
Some people may find that increasing their carb intake every 3-4 days works best for them, whereas other people prefer to carb-up only once time per week. Some people find they can only do it every other week.
If you’re in a good place in your keto diet journey and you haven’t found yourself hitting any plateaus or struggling with carb cravings, it may be best to try carb cycling only every other week in the beginning. A side benefit to that is that if you have a day on your off week where you start craving something carby, you don’t have to stress about it. Just go ahead have a carb-up day. Just don’t do that more than once a week!
Final Success Tips
It’s best if you don’t do an increased carb day until your body has already been in ketosis for a month or so if you want carb cycling to work better for you. That should be enough time for you to get used to living a keto lifestyle before you start increasing your carbohydrate intake.
After that time has passed, it’s best to carb-up gradually and slowly. Maybe start with 50 net carbs for your first carb-up day. Then you can gradually increase that number if you find that it doesn’t affect your body or mind too much. So remember. Just take things slowly and make sure you’re keeping close track of what you eat so you can stay within your chosen carb range.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to carb cycling on the keto diet. If any of the reasons for trying it resonate with you, we hope you’ll give it a try.