As you probably know, the ketogenic, or keto diet, requires you to follow an extremely low-carb diet. It is usually 20 net carbs a day, though some people can remain in ketosis with as little as 50 net carbs a day. There is a lot of talk about “cheat days”, where you eat what you want, as well as doing carb-cycling. Carb-cycling is where you have some days where you increase your carbohydrates a small amount, then go back to the lower carb days for the rest of the week.
Why You Might Want to Try Carb Cycling
There are many excellent benefits to carb cycling, from helping with your mentality about being on a low-carb diet, to opening up the food options available to you. If you are someone that struggles with those 20 net carbs a day and really miss extra fruit and other healthier carbs, carb cycling will be perfect for you. Every few days or so, you can enjoy a little more carbs and eat some of your favorite healthy foods, but you get right back into ketosis on the lower carb days.
It is also good for people who keep hitting plateaus. Many people find that if they can confuse their body every few days with different carb and calorie amounts, it is easier to avoid or get out of those weight loss stalls.
What to Be Careful of
Carb cycling sounds like a great idea, but there are also some challenges. The first challenge is that if you use it as an excuse to binge, you could end up hurting your body instead of helping it. This can lead to cravings of sugar and high-carb foods you used to enjoy, plus it might make it harder to get back to the 20 net carbs the following day. It is best that you start slow, only going for the healthiest higher-carb foods on a carb-up day.
How to do Carb Cycling
The way you do carb cycling is really up to you. It is often an experiment to figure out what works best for your body and your comfort level. Some people might do a carb-up day every 3-4 days, while others like to do them once a week or even every two weeks. If you are doing good on your keto diet and haven’t hit plateaus or struggled with cravings, try just every two weeks. Then if you have a week where you are craving something else, don’t stress and have a carb up day.
Tips for Success
To help the carb cycling option work for you, you should not do the first carb-up day until you have been in ketosis for about a month. This is a good amount of time to get used to this way of eating before you increase your carbs. At that point, carb-up slowly, going up to maybe 50 net carbs, then gradually higher if it doesn’t affect you too much. Take it slow and keep close track of what you eat.