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What is Carb Cycling and How Does it Work?

Five carb cycling strategies  |  The healthiest carbs to eat

Every body functions differently. You hear stories of people who have been in ketosis for years and are fine with it. However, for most people, that is not optimal for their health. Ketosis is very helpful, but we are not meant to maintain it constantly. Carbohydrates and insulin have a place in our health. In the modern world, we easily overuse them. But the solution is not to avoid them altogether.

A general principle for health is that you get better from short term stress, but persistent stress is harmful. Ketosis is stressful for the body. Evolutionarily, ketosis is a sign of food shortage, while carbohydrates and sugar (via insulin) are signs of food excess. Being in ketosis for a short period of time makes you healthier. But being in ketosis continuously can throw the system out of balance (think: fatigue, thyroid problems, insomnia and dry eyes). This is where carb cycling comes in—meaning you go in and out of ketosis periodically. There are many possible variants. We discuss five strategies below.


Five carb cycling strategies

The "active" approach

A carb cycle plan can vary depending on your activity level. In general, stick to a low-carb diet on days that don’t include high-intensity activities. That means you can up your fat intake by adding Pure C8 MCT Oil to your morning coffee or Pure Ghee to your vegetables. On those days you want to go hard in the gym, you can up your carbohydrate intake.

The "female" approach

A strategy for women is timing carbs in the right moment for their cycle. Carb cycling is typically recommended on days 19 and 20 of a women's cycle (which is five days post-ovulation), when leptin levels are naturally the lowest and progesterone high. [1]

The "daily" approach

Another carb cycling strategy for both men and women is saving carbs for the latest meal of the day to support serotonin and melatonin demands, and to help your body enter a parasympathetic rest-and-digest state. [1]

The "weekly carb cycling" approach

A weekly carb cycle by adding a carb refeed (150g net carbs) at least one day a week (and sometimes even two days). The other five-six days are low-carb (max 50g net carbs). 

The "seasonal keto" approach

From an ancestral health perspective, this approach mimics the dietary cycles that humans would have once gone through naturally. In the winter, when fruit was harder to find, our ancestors would end up consuming fewer carbohydrates. During the summer, they would eat more fruits and starchy root veggies like carrots, resulting in a higher intake of healthy carbs.

The healthiest carbs to eat

These carb cycling strategies make it easier to follow the keto program, help you loose weight [2], [3], gain muscle [4] and improve your sleep. [5], [6] But because there are big differences between types of carbohydrates, it's important to choose good ones. Let's give you a quick overview of healthy carbs you can use during your carbohydrate cycling approach.

  • Potatoes – white and sweet potatoes.
  • Rice and grains – buckwheat, quinoa, millet, amaranth, rice and brown rice.
  • Beans and legumes
  • Fruit 
  • Tubers and Vegetables – carrots, turnips and beetroot.
  • Squash and pumpkin [7]

Ultimately, it's about experimenting and adjusting your keto diet until you discover what works best for your health goals in a balanced, sustainable way. 

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