When you follow a ketogenic diet and hit a weight loss plateau, there are several things you can do to get fat burning back on track. Intermittent fasting and carb cycling are two common recommendations to help ramp up fat burning.
But what about intermittent fasting carb cycling? As in combining these weight loss hacks into one easy plan that keeps your metabolism strumming along?
Keep reading to learn if carb cycling to lose weight is a good idea, plus if adding intermittent fasting into the mix helps build your metabolic rate even faster.
What Is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling is an eating pattern where you alternate between low, moderate, and high carb days. Some people who follow carb cycling come from a low-carb diet, and use this additional method to stoke fat burning. Others add low-carb days into their current routine since a varied eating pattern can help break through weight loss plateaus.
There are many ways you can follow a carb cycling plan. The most common approach is to have a few days each week where you eat high carb foods, followed by low carb days, plus a few moderate-carb days sprinkled in.
This type of eating schedule might look like this:
Monday: Moderate Carb Day
Tuesday: Moderate Carb Day
Wednesday: High Carb Day
Thursday: Low Carb Day
Friday: Moderate Carb Day
Saturday: High Carb Day
Sunday: Low Carb Day
Carb cycling is typically used by high performance athletes who strategically use high-carb days around intense workouts as a way to increase muscle mass. Then they use low-carb days as a way to shed body fat, while not interfering with muscle gain.
Furthermore, there are keto and carb cycling plans used as a way to break through weight loss plateaus. Some carb cycle keto plans follow patterns with only 1 high-carb day per week, while others need a few days with a higher amount of carbs to break through a keto diet weight loss plateau.
Carb cycling is a great way to add variety to a low carb diet, while still getting into a state of ketosis on low carb days.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting, also referred to as fasting or IF, is an eating pattern that cycles between a feeding window, followed by an extended fasted state. IF is a more of a lifestyle change, rather than a diet that specifies which foods you should eat, or that focuses on daily calorie intake.
Just as there are many ways to carb cycle, there are many ways to fast. Common intermittent fasting routines include:
16:8 – where you fast for 16 hours, and eat in an 8 hour window each day.
18:6 – where you fast for 18 hours, and eat in a 6 hour window each day.
5-2 – this is a weekly schedule with 5 days of a normal eating, plus 2 days where you eat less than few hundred calories.
OMAD – this stands for one meal a day, also sometimes referred to as a 24 hour fast, since most people only eat 1 meal during a 24 hour fast.
One of the best ways to add intermittent fasting into your routine is to start with a 12:12 intermittent fasting routine. Then add more time to your fasting window as you feel ready.
It’s also a good idea to combine a low carb diet or ketogenic diet with intermittent fasting since this combo allows your body to adapt more quickly.
Does Carb Cycling with Intermittent Fasting Work?
If carb cycling can help burn fat, and intermittent fasting helps too, does the combination of intermittent fasting and carb cycling boost fat burn?
According to most experts, the answer is to be determined. That’s mostly because there hasn’t been much scientific research on carb cycling.
After losing 100 pounds with a low carb diet, plus intermittent fasting, I believe fasting is a great addition to most plans. It can be especially helpful when it comes to keto since it’s not always the easiest diet to follow. On days you stray from a keto meal plan, fasting is a great backup to ensure you get results.
Of course, I’m not advocating you purposely cheat because you also fast – but it’s a good way to pad results in the event that life happens.
Carb cycling is something I’ve added more recently into the mix – but it’s a tool I wish I added much sooner. While you should be fat adapted prior to adding carbs back in, it’s a great way to stave off boredom. Eating high-carb foods a few days each week makes it feel like you’re cheating on low carb, but on purpose.
As long as you don’t take advantage of high-carbohydrate days by eating junk, adding in a few extra grams of carbs a few days each week could even help you become metabolically flexible.
The good news is you don’t have to follow a keto carb cycling plan to make intermittent fasting carb cycling work. In fact, you may see quicker results when adding in a few low carb days from a high-carb diet.
Once you focus on the whole food nutrition a carb cycling plan requires, your carb cycling and intermittent fasting results may come more quickly than you expect.
How to Combine Carb Cycling and Intermittent Fasting
If you’re already accustomed to living in both the fasted and fed state, aka – you already fast regularly, adding carb cycling into your routine will be easy. However, if you’re new to both carb cycling and IF, then it’s best to ease your way into both plans so you don’t cause too much stress all at once.
Ease Into Intermittent Fasting
When it comes to adding an easy intermittent fasting routine, start with an overnight fast of 12 hours. This is typically your 8 hours of rest, plus 2 hours tacked onto both sides of sleep. Then continue to add a shorter window when it comes to eating – but only as you feel ready.
For example, you could stop eating at night by 8 pm. If you go to bed at 10 and sleep for 8 hours, then you’ll only have to wait an additional 2 hours before your first meal. That comprises a simple 12 hour fast.
If you feel OK at the 12 hour mark, then you can continue fasting. If you feel weak, shaky, or overly hungry – then it’s a good time to eat.
Always listen to your body (within reason) while ramping up fasting time. Even going a short period of time longer each week is a win. Eventually your body will adapt to your new schedule.
To continue adding onto your fasting time, push your fasting window up by 30 minutes daily for the second week. This means you wouldn’t break your fast until 8:30 am. Then do that again the next week, and break your fast at 9 am each day.
Continue to follow this cycle until you reach your intended fasting period. The 16:8 eating pattern is a great routine to reach for when it comes to an intermittent fasting carb cycling plan.
Add Carb Cycling
Since most people won’t over-stress their body too much by starting with a simple 12-hr fast, you can start carb cycling at the same time.
If you already follow a ketogenic plan, then pick a few days each week to add more carbs. For best results, choose the days where you’re more active – especially if you follow a strength training plan.
On the days you raise carbs, be sure to also lower fat intake. Remember, eating too many carbs plus too much fat leads to weight gain.
If you follow a standard carb plan, then choose at least two days to focus on eating less carbs. On these days you should raise healthy fat intake and focus on low carb staples like meat, veggies, and healthy fat sources.
Most carb cycling plans allow for up to 50g net carbs on low carb days. Precede these days with high carb days – which are also spent best on days you’re looking for improved athletic performance. If endurance sports isn’t your thing, do your best to be more active on high carb days.
Then follow the pattern that works for you.
While some follow the schedule we talked about where you always follow a high carb day with a low carb day, others may follow a pattern where you have 2 low carb days in a row to burn through stored glycogen, and then focus on moderate to high carb days the rest of the week.
If you want to follow a carb cycling keto plan, then focus on raising carbs only 1-2 days each week. You should follow your typical keto routine during the rest of the week.
Most experts agree you will need to eat fewer calories to get results. Since under eating can cause as many problems as over eating, it’s best to calculate macros based on your individual needs, and shoot for that calorie range.
Also, most people naturally fall into calorie cycling, where you eat higher calories on high carb days, and lower calories on low carb days.
Protein is important no matter which type of diet you follow. It’s a good idea to eat between 1/2 – 1 gram of protein for each pound of body weight to get best results.
As long as you don’t over stress your body by doing too much too soon, intermittent fasting and carb cycling is a wonderful fat burning combo with tons of other health benefits, like better thyroid output and digging into hard to reach fat stores.
Combining Intermittent Fasting and Carb Cycling – Conclusion
Combining carb cycling with intermittent fasting is a great way to change up your fat burning routine and boost energy levels. Just remember not to jump into either routine too quickly, and to check with your doctor first if you have any underlying health conditions.
While both carb cycling and intermittent fasting have been great additions to my routine, check out our free masterclass if you want to learn the 3 biggest mistakes I made over 20 years of yo-yo diets.
Once I quit making these 3 common mistakes, I lost 100 pounds and reached my goal weight for the first time ever. Hundreds of other women finally reached their goals after following our Ready, Set, Keto method.
Intermittent Fasting Carb Cycling
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