Carb Cycling 101: What Is It + How Does It Work?

Carb cycling is the foundation of what I do every day and with every client. I know through years of experience with many different clients that carb cycling works, so I’m going to introduce you to the basics and the five different carb cycling plans—Easy, Classic, Turbo, and Fit, and Extreme. I’m stripping it down to the basics to get you started:

What is Carb Cycling + How Does it Work?

Carb cycling is an eating plan with alternating high carb and low carb days. It’s that simple. It also has built-in reward days or reward meals (depending on the plan you’re following), so you can still eat your favorite foods on a regular basis. Sounds pretty much perfect, right? You can eat healthy foods, enjoy foods you love, and still lose weight.

While each plan has a different mix of high carb and low carb days, each day works basically the same:

  • Eat five meals—no more, no less.
  • Eat breakfast within 60 minutes of waking or whenever your feeding window opens if you’re an intermittent faster.
  • For breakfast, you’ll eat a portion of protein, carbs, and fat.
  • For your next 3 meals (snack, lunch, snack), you’ll eat either a low or high carb meal depending on which day you’re on. So, if you’re on a low carb day, those three meals will be low carb. If you’re on a high carb day, those three meals will be high carb.
  • Your last meal of the day will ALWAYS be a low carb meal. Always.
  • Choose approved foods.
  • Drink ½ your body weight in ounces of water every day. So, if you weigh 150 lbs, you’ll drink 75 ounces a day.

How Does Carb Cycling Work?

Carb cycling is based on the right combination of proteins, carbs, and healthy fats. In order to lose weight, our bodies need the right combination. Here’s why:

  • Protein builds and maintains muscles and these muscles burn calories like an inferno. Protein also breaks down more slowly than carbs and fat, which burns even more calories and helps you feel fuller longer.
  • Carbs are the preferred fuel source for your muscles and organs, and they come in healthy versions (vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes), and not-so-healthy versions (cakes, cookies, soda, doughnuts, candy, and many processed foods).  Healthy carbs are also crucial for burning calories, and since they break down more slowly than those not-so-healthy carbs, they keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady, and they also keep your calorie-burning furnace hot so it burns more calories!
  • Healthy fats (unsaturated fats) eaten in moderation help the development and function of your eyes and brain and help prevent heart disease, stroke, depression, and arthritis. Healthy fats also help keep your energy levels steady and keep you from feeling hungry.

Why do we alternate high carb + low carb days in carb cycling?

On high carb days you’re stocking your calorie-burning furnace so that on low carb days your furnace burns fat, and lots of it! This pattern tricks your metabolism into burning a lot of calories, even on those low carb days. It’s an amazing and well-proven process.

What are the Benefits of Carb Cycling?

Carb cycling has many benefits:

  • It fits any lifestyle.
  • You’ll learn how to shed weight and body fat and how to make smart lifestyle choices for the rest of your life. This puts YOU in control.
  • You’ll feel better and have more energy.
  • You’ll eat the foods you love.
  • You’ll build lean, strong muscles.
  • You’ll be empowered physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

I’ve only skimmed the surface of carb cycling, so learn more about our five carb cycling plans to find your ideal cycle, and let’s get cycling!

Get even more information on carb cycling in both or our books: Extreme Transformation (the newest edition to our carb cycline lineup featuring the Extreme Cycle) and Choose More, Lose More for Life (which features our other four cycles).


If you’d like some help creating your own meals, there’s a handy “Create Your Own Meals” chart in this post! To get a customized cycle for you and your goals + several workout programs (from gym-based to bodyweight to dance) + the all-important life lessons (the key to long-term transformation), check out The Transform App.

Note: If you’ve been carb cycling using our book, Choose Lose More, Lose More for Life, you’ll notice that we’ve changed a couple of things since that book was published: You now include a fat for breakfast, and every final meal of the day is a low carb meal. Like with a lot of things in life, the more you do them, the more you learn about how to do them even better!


1,381 Responses

  1. Hey! Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy you guys. I watch and read you alls stuff for daily and weekly motivation. You guys are awesome! And congratulations 🙂

  2. I’m wanting to follow in the footsteps of the success stories on the show. This info will be a huge help, hopefully I can make the recipes with a tiny food budget (why is it eating healthy is more expensive than junk food? *sigh*)

  3. Have been following Chris & the show for some time. Still a little confused after reading this. Would love to win the book.

  4. I read the first book took notes & got the food I need to follow this lifestyle but when it comes to the shaper exercises I need a substitute for push ups, I have bicep tendonitis with rotator cuff strain so the action of doing the push-up hurts my arm so I know that is no good. Any suggestions for an alternative shaper exercise, Thx!

  5. I found this whe I read Chris’s first book and this helped even oug some questions! Great breakdown!

  6. I watched Extreme Weight Loss last night. I chose to watch it because Drew Manning (lives in my neighborhood and he I am friends with his wife) was going to be on it. I have never seen Chris Powell in action until last night. I really like his attitude and the way he motivates people. I am a new fan of Chris Powell. I would like this book and give The carb cycle solution a try.

  7. Thanks for the info, after watching the show, find this interesting. Although, my job sometimes doesn’t allow me to eat every three hours. 🙁

  8. Is this kind of diet possible if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet? Most of the proteins that I consume are vegetable based.

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