What to Know About Carb Cycling for Weight Loss

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You tried the whole low-carb weight-loss strategy and — let us guess — it sucked.

You felt exhausted, your workout performances suffered, and you dreamed of nothing but bread and pasta and pancakes. When baked goods take over your daydreams, carb cycling to lose weight starts looking really attractive.

“Carb cycling is an eating protocol that consists of eating a lot of carbs on days you work out and few carbs on days you don’t,” says Wisconsin-based strength coach Pat Gilles, C.S.C.S. “It’s an easy diet because it allows you to have the carbs you like with little to no deprivation. It ensures you get enough protein and carbs to maintain the muscles you have, but it allows you to lean up at the same time.”

Before you go carb crazy, hold up: There’s a lot more to know about carb cycling for weight loss.

How Does Carb Cycling Work?

Carbs are your body’s quick-acting fuel and — apart from powering your brain, red blood cells, and liver — they are responsible for giving your muscles what they need to crush your hardest workouts, explains Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., R.D., author of Power Eating and a sports nutrition consultant to NFL, NBA, and Olympic athletes.During high-intensity exercise, for instance, roughly 80 percent of your body’s energy comes from carbs — both those floating through your veins and arteries as blood glucose as well as those stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen, she says. So you’