If you have read some of my other posts on the subject of carb cycling, you know that a carb cycling meal plan can produce fantastic results! Although you can “jump right in” to a plan, it is best to go through an adjustment period for optimal results.
This adjustment period is commonly referred to as a fat adaptation phase. I learned about these methods from Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale’s excellent book: The Metabolic Diet. I learned about “Dr. Di” at a Charles Poliquin training seminar and I later saw him lecture at the SWIS weight training symposium in Toronto, Canada many many years ago.
The Metabolic Diet starts you off on a very low carb “assessment phase” which is what I am describing here.
Why do you need this?
Well, when excessive amounts of poor quality carbohydrates have been over consumed (i.e. diabetes epidemic), insulin levels are chronically elevated which leads to insulin resistance.
Here’s an analogy: You walk into a bar (no, this isn’t a one liner joke…) and there is a live band playing. You can’t hear a thing! Then, eventually, you become kind of numb to the music and it doesn’t seem as loud anymore.
Well, that’s what happens to the insulin receptors of your cells when you consume an abundance of over processed carbs. Your body becomes numb to the insulin your pancreas is cranking out in a furious attempt to get your blood sugar levels down.
Even if this doesn’t describe you, this phase is still a great way to get the fat burning enzymes in your body fired up AND assess how well you will do on a low carb diet.
If you have been searching for how to keep your lean muscle while losing fat, a carb cycling meal plan that starts off with a fat adaptation phase is really the most flexible and efficient way to do so.
Any nutrition plan (aka “diet”) that ties your hands to a particular strategy is flawed and doesn’t take into account every person’s unique needs. The carb cycling meal plan that I outline allows you to adjust carb levels to the optimal point once you have engaged the fat burning machinery in your body.
Is this plan just for men? Absolutely not! Carb cycling for women will produce excellent results and the same strategies are employed regardless of sex.
On a side note, I learned from Dr. Serrano in a fat loss seminar that it’s best for women to align their PMS phase of the menstrual cycle with a very low carb phase. If you are a woman, then go for it! If you are a boyfriend or husband reading this then be warned, this results in elevated fat loss AND…. ummmm….. bad moods.
Starting on a Monday, keep your fat intake at 50% to 60% of your total caloric intake while your protein intake should make up most of the difference ( Note: this means that most of your calories should come from fat for this period!).
Keep your carbohydrate intake at a maximum of 30 grams. If, after 6 days, you feel like THE WALKING DEAD, Have some complex carbs before bed in the form of sweet potatoes, oatmeal and fruit (banana is best here). Then switch back to 30 grams max for the remaining 6 days.
I have developed and revised a lean muscle building
and fat loss plan over the past 18 months
and in this article I will reveal all of it!
Have you ever tried traditional “bulking” plans only to end up feeling like a fat slob (ok, a fat, strong slob)? This is usually followed by long periods of dieting and cardio.
I have leveraged the work of many bright people and applied the concepts to my lifestyle (stressful job, 3 young kids, constant craziness, etc).
What I am going to share with you is my “revised”
diet and example workout routine for
excellent lean muscle gains while losing fat.
This really is the best meal plan in my opinion and it has flexibility built in.
Fine! I’m not interested in what you have to say unless you have tried it for yourself <grin>.
This is the best diet I have found for balance in the extremes and it’s definitely not for everyone. You will see what I mean as you read on! You need to experience short periods of pain in order to reap the ultimate benefits of having your cake and literally eating it too!
Let’s get started, shall we?
I start Monday off with a 24 hour fast. Periods of “under eating” or an intermittent fast in this case is a great way to hit the reset button after the Saturday “splurge” and Sunday “Relax” day (described at the end). This brief fast puts your body in maximum anabolic state while at the same time accelerating the use of fat stores as fuel.
While fasting, I consume essential amino acids every 3 hours or so. This is in the form of Beverly International Muscle Mass BCAA tablets or Prograde BCAA capsules and Beverly International Lean Out product or Prograde Metabolism. The Lean Out and Metabolism products are “icing on the cake”. Don’t take either of them if you can’t afford to. I have always taken them with great results so I don’t feel like trying without it although some day I might.
Research indicates that the amino acids help prevent muscle breakdown during the fast while literally feeding the muscles. The body will also convert the essential aminos into glucose to maintain blood sugar levels using a process called gluconeogenesis (Am I a nerd? No! Muscle Geek? Yes!).
“Big” Push-Pull Strength Day
As an example, I have done the following in a fasted state:
A1) Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
4-6 sets of 4-6 reps (or roughly 25 total reps)
A2) Weighted Chin-Ups
4-6 sets of 4-6 reps
B1) Seated cable row to neck
2 sets of 15 reps
B2) Optional Cable Pull Throughs
2 sets of 10-12 reps
High Protein, Low Fat, Low Carb
During the second day, I try to hit roughly BW X 10 for calories. I hesitate to provide this number as it’s not a good habit to start obsessing over calories. Depending on your body fat levels, this number may result in a very low calorie day.
An example day for me might look like this:
Plain Greek Yougurt with a handful of fresh blueberries
1 whole egg (eggland’s best) + 4 egg whites
4 Beverly International Liver Tablets
1 can of tuna with mustard and hot sauce
4 baby carrots
Post Workout shake (2 scoops of blended protein)
Grilled chicken salad with mixed greens and 1 Tbsp olive oil and vinegar
6 ounces lean protein (fish, turkey or lean steak) as another salad.
Sometimes I’ll throw a handful of blackberries on top with yellow peppers and
balsamic vinagar. Try it!
(Metabolic Circuit Day)
This is my version of a cardio day, except it’s more fun (Definition of fun: lying on the floor gasping for air).
I perform all 10 exercises in a row for 45 seconds each, followed by 15 seconds of rest before moving on to the next exercise.
Dumbbell Push Presses
And so on…
Plank Dogs?! Yep!
If you are running short on time then my post: How to get a six pack in 3 minutes
will both destroy you and ignite the fat burning furnace… well, come to think of it, this little devil
of a workout might night save you time becuase you will be lying on the floor
for 10 minutes if you do it correctly!
High Protein, Low Fat, Low Carb + Evening Carb Up
From a nutrition point of view, this day will be a repeat of Day 2 with a glorious rainbow at the end of the day….. the carb up meal! I’m not talking Pizza and cake on this day though. The carb up meal will consist of clean complex carbohydrates. I borrowed this meal from nutrition plans used by Beverly International clients and personally used it while training for my bodybuilding contests “many” years ago…. Ok, more like 12 years ago. Damn!
Repeat Tuesday’s meal plan and eat the following as a sixth meal before bed:
1 1/2 cups oats (before cooking)
1 Tbsp Nut Butter (almond butter works best here)
1 mashed up banana
There is a method to my madness concerning the arrangement of meals thus far.
On Monday, a strength workout fits perfectly with a fast and will rev up your metabolism even more. Tuesday was the metabolic circuit cardio day on a low calorie low carb meal plan. Now that we are on Wednesday, it’s necessary to dig deep because this is a challenging workout. Leg and Horizontal Push (chest) day! This day destroys me since I’m carb depleted by this point
The evening carb up is the perfect fit to re-stoke the metabolism as well as provide a surge of calories and carbs at the tail end of a tough leg workout.
(Legs, Chest and Horizontal Back)
A1) Dumbbell Band Bench Presses
After warm-up sets: 4 sets of 12/8/6/6 reps
A2) Head Supported Dumbbell Rows
4 sets of 6-8 reps
B1) Dumbbell Front Squats
4 sets of 12/8/6/6 reps after a warm up set
C1) Seated Leg Press Machine
4 sets of 15 reps (301 tempo)
60 seconds rest between sets
D1) Cry to the heavens for mercy
and sip a drink of powdered glutamine and BCAA’s
High Protein, Moderate Fat, Low Carb
This is a moderate calorie anabolic day. We will increase the healthy fats as well as saturated fats (also necessary!).
Today is an active rest day. Go for a walk, bike ride, etc. This is also a great day to stretch and foam roll your tight beat up areas. Ideally this is done every day even if minimally.
For meals, repeat Tuesday’s meal plan with more healthy fats. Example:
1 extra whole egg with breakfast
1 tsp olive oil added to tuna fish
1/2 avacado in salad with diner or celery with natural peanut butter
High Protein, Moderate Fat, Low Carb + Option
This day will be a repeat of Thursday. Depending on my current condition and progress, I have been known to have pizza and a beer for diner.
Repeat Thursday’s meal plan.
Now, since I actually have a life, I might find myself out with some friends or at a kid’s birthday party so I reserve the right to have a cheat meal if the situation presents itself.
If I decide to take this option, then I will most likely keep the carbs low on Saturday.
Shoulders and Arms Specialization
This day could vary considerably depending on goals and weak body parts.
My focus has been on increased shoulder and arm size:
Saturday (Home Stretch):
High Protein, Low Fat, Low Carb + Cheat Meals after 6:00PM
Ok, we are in the home stretch now! Have higher protein, low fat and low carb meals for breakfast, lunch and a snack or two. After 6:00PM, go ahead and eat whatever the hell you want! Craving an entire BBQ chicken pizza? Go for it! A pint of Ben and Jerry’s? You know it!
The key is to eat lots of carbs and calories! When you follow your version of this plan, you will get a feel for how far you can take it without impeding progress from week to week.
Option Saturday Workout:
This day consists of “functional training” such as farmer’s walks, sled drags, sand bag tosses, car pushing and whatever else you can come up with to make your neighbors wonder what planet you are from!
This day can be thought of as a “Zone Diet” day. The Zone diet is a popular meal plan developed by Dr. Barry Sears and consists of roughly 40% Carbohydrates, 30% Protein and 30% fat. Seriously, don’t stress the percentages here… just follow the spirit of it. I make sure my calories are at or above maintenance on this day. I have comfort foods and continue to satisfy cravings in moderation. I try not to go ape shit on this day but I still relax and don’t stress out about what I am eating.
If done correctly, your body weight measured
multiple times on a weekly basis may look something like this
And that’s it!
Feel free to ask questions because there are many different options.
The best thing to do is try it out for an honest month and track what you are eating as well as weight and waist measurements.
If you do this, I will be more than happy to evaluate your logs and provide feedback!
Carb cycling is a very effective nutrition strategy for women to burn fat and build lean muscle. Please don’t be turned off when I say “build lean muscle”. For most women, it simply is not possible to gain significant muscle mass due to lower testosterone levels than men. You can find one of my more recent posts that outlines a complete plan here.
Is a Low Carb Diet Best to Burn Fat?
Ok, I’m going to try and keep this discussion simple, so here’s the deal. Carbs are NOT evil but most people consume the wrong kinds and far too many (sugars, breads, pastas, cereals and such). Trust me, your body knows the difference between a sweet potato and a bowl of “low fat” cheerios with processed “low fat” milk!
If most of your dietary intake is from processed foods and “junk” carbs then your insulin levels are chronically elevated. Elevated insulin levels make it nearly impossible for your body to burn fat for fuel! This is why low carb diets seem to work so well….. until they stop working!
A low carb diet to burn fat works very well for the majority of people because it allows your body to basically reset itself from chronic consumption of processed carbohydrates.
Pure Low Carb Diets are flawed
if you Lift Weights…..
When you consume carbohydrates they are first converted into blood glucose (aka blood sugar). Your insulin levels raise since insulin is a storage hormone. Your body will store this glucose in your liver first as something called glycogen. If your liver glycogen is full, next on the list is muscle glycogen. Think of muscle glycogen as fuel tanks full of carbohydrates in your muscles. When you lift weights, these glycogen tanks are depleted.
If your body is good at burning fat for fuel (more on how to do this later) then it will take longer to deplete your muscle glycogen stores but it your train hard, it WILL happen.
…and you need to lift weights to achieve
great muscle tone and a sexy slender body!
This article is not about how to train to burn fat, but I will be clear that if you aren’t performing challenging strenuous activity (either body weight exercises or weight lifting) you may lose weight but you won’t look the way you want to!
Enter: Carb Cycling
Carb cycling is no secret among bodybuilders and fitness competitors but those of us that have full lives, jobs and families want to look great too! Until recently, there has been very little knowledge about carb cycling outside of those elite previously mentioned circles.
In a nutshell, carb cycling allows you to remain is an optimal fat burning state most of the week. Periods of increased carbohydrate intake are planned 1 or 2 times per week to replenish glycogen stores, satisfly cravings and rev your metabolism if your calories where low.
The timing of your carbohydrate intake is very important! Increased levels of carbohydrates in your diet, when timed correctly, have the following benefits:
Replenish Muscle and Liver glycogen (stored carbohydrate energy)
Increase Leptin levels (chronic low calorie diets cause leptin levels to fall and your metabolism slows down!)
Increase Thyroid hormone levels (chronic low carb diets caused these levels to drop)
Increased Insulin levels after strength workouts to drive nutrients to your muscles for recovery
Teaching Your Body How To
Use Fat For Fuel
If you have never followed a low carb plan before, you need to understand some important concepts. For a low carb plan to be effective, your body needs to perform some metabolic “re-wiring” to turn on the fat burning enzymes that have been suppressed by insulin.
To do this, you need to it may be beneficial to switch to a High Fat, Moderate Protein, Low Carb meal plan for about 2 weeks straight. I need to stress that your normal low carb days will not be high fat, but rather moderate fat. This is going to sound a bit strange but you need to eat larger amounts of fat for a short period of time to teach your body how to burn fat! After 2 weeks, have a 12 – 24 hour “Carb up”. Go ahead and eat chocolate cake, pizza and ice cream…. and try not to feel guilty doing it!
If your current “diet” consists of large amount of low fat carbohydrates such as fruit juice and toast for breakfast, etc, then your insulin levels may be quite high.Insulin is a storage hormone and it is nearly impossible for your body to utilize fat for fuel in this state.
Switching to a high fat, moderate protein diet for
12 days is a great way to hit the reset button.
As I said above, this phase is NOT mandatory, but could be beneficial if you have been on chronic high carbs OR chronic low calorie. The goal of this phase is to fix your metabolism. You should only lose some water weight!
Low Carb and Carb Cycling in Action
Once this adaptation has occurred, you will switch to High Protein, Moderate Fat, Low Carb.
So after the above mentioned carb up, you will follow a high protein, moderate fat, low carb plan for a specific number of days, followed by one or two days of increased carbohydrates, then repeat the cycle.
There are 2 primary carb cycling options:
If rapid fat loss is your goal, keep your calorie intake low during the week and follow a high protein, moderate fat, low carb meal plan. If you are above 25-30% body fat, this may be a good option for you. Each weekend you will introduce carbs into each of your meals for a 24 hour period as well as one or two cheat meals depending on your progress.
This short period of time will not be long enough to cause body fat to increase (unless you really go crazy!). Your body will also quickly shift back to a fat burning state after this carb up period.
This carb cycling plan works very well for women and is based on Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale’s Metabolic Diet. There are many many variations, tweaks and modifications that can be made based on body type, training volume, lifestyle, etc.
Option 2 (my preferred choice):
A stricter meal plan that incorporates 3 or 4 days of High protein, moderate fat, low carb, followed by 1 day that is high carb, then repeat the cycle.
Rachel Cosgrove has an excellent plan outlined in her book “The Female Body Breakthrough” that follows this approach in the later stages of the program.
Example Low-Carb Day:
(order of the meals is not critical)
4 oz ground turkey, 1 whole egg, 2 egg whites, spinach, 1/2 grapefruit (or handful of berries)
Meal replacement shake or post workout shake:
1-2 scoops whey protein
handful of mixed berries (post workout)
2 tsp flax seed oil (meal replacement)
Grilled chicken breast salad with lettuce, peppers, cucumber
2 Tbsp Paul Newman’s olive oil and vinegar dressing
6 ounces of lean chicken, beef or fish
2 cups of mixed vegetables (no starches such as corn, peas or potatoes)
2 tsp almond butter on celery
1 can of tuna in water
(mix with mustard and 1 tsp flax oil
2 tsp olive oil based mayo)
Example High-Carb Day:
(order of the meals is not critical)
Meal replacement shake or post workout shake
1-2 scoops whey protein with peach and banana
1 tsp flax seed or Udo’s choice oil
Grilled chicken breast or turkey breast
on a spelt tortilla (or 1/2 cup brown rice)
6 ounces of lean chicken, beef or fish
2 cups of mixed vegetables
1 medium sweet potato or 1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup cottage cheese with pineapple (no sugar added!)
greek yogurt with 1/4 cup raspberries
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Hidden carbs can completely derail your progress as you attempt to shift your body into fat burning mode both in the initial phase and the low carb days that follow. Here is a quote from the book “The Anabolic Solution”:
“Watch For Hidden Carbs The start up phase will run smoother and get you in gear quicker if you remember that refined carbs are hidden in almost everything you will find on those supermarket shelves. Seasoning, ketchup, mustard, salad dressings, nuts, BBQ sauce, breaded or processed meats, gourmet coffee and sausages can all present a problem. These foods are renowned for hidden carbs and you have got to check the label to make sure what you are getting on this diet”
Get started with a Carb Cycling program developed by Celebrity Trainer Shaun Hadsall
This Carb Cycling Body Building Diet Plan is designed for Maximum Fat Loss
Carb cycling is a healthy and super effective technique to maximize fat loss for bodybuilders. In this post, I outline a meal plan similar to the one my wife and I both used to prepare for a body building show with amazing results!
When you keep carbohydrate consumption low throughout the day, insulin levels will be controlled which allows you to remain in a fat burning state.
Weight training throughout the week will deplete glycogen stores within your muscle so it’s necessary to “fill the tanks” with well timed high quality carbohydrate dense meals.
You’ll want to customize this plan based on your weight and starting point.
As a general rule, your total calorie intake should be rough 10 – 15 calories per pound of body weight. If you are near 10% body fat, use 14 or 15 as your multiplier.
The following diet is an example body building plan for a 180 pound male at roughly 10% body fat. It is based on a proven nutrition plan designed by Beverly International and tested on thousands of body builders.
Note: I have placed amazon links to the only protein powder I have ever used with phenomenal results. I make a small commission off sales from those links at no extra cost to you. Use other brands at your own risk. Beverly International is the Protein King!
6 oz lean beef or turkey
1 whole egg, 4 egg whites
1 grapefruit (or strawberries or blueberries if you must)
Protein Shake using 2 scoops Ultimate Muscle Protein, 1 tbsp healthy fat (flax oil, olive oil, etc)
Whole Food Option: 1 can tuna packed in water, 1 whole egg and 1 tomato
6 ounces of chicken or turkey breast (no deli meat!)
2 cups of salad vegetables
Here’s a picture of my wife winning her first bodybuilding trophy. She accomplished this from a home gym in our basement training with weights for 45 minutes in the morning before work. She would wake up at 4:30 in the morning to do this. We have 3 young children now and she still weight trains first thing every morning.
My wife and I didn’t achieve these physique’s by “making small changes”. If you want drastic results, you need to do drastic things…. and guess what? 99% of the people I speak to are not willing to put in the effort.
We basically turned into machines for 12 weeks while we transformed our bodies and prepared for the
bodybuilding contest we had targeted.
The nutrition plan, in a nutshell, was as follows:
If it ran, swam or was green and leafy, we ate it! In addition, we would have a large meal of low glycemic starchy carbs right before bed twice a week. I was introduced to this nutrition plan when I discovered Beverly International supplements during a strength training seminar.
Don’t be the person always searching for the secret answer or the quick fix. Follow the principles below and work your ass off!
My Effective Rules
for How to Get Six Pack Abs
Screw moderation! Once you hit your goal, there will be a place for it!
Eat things that run or swim at every meal
Eat things that are green and leafy as often as possible
Pick up heavy things and put them down
Interval sprints and hill sprints
Full body exercises
Drink lots of water
Get your sleep!!
Expect to change your body overnight
Rely on fat burner and weight loss pills.
Long moderate intensity cardio sessions (small amounts if you must, or if you like it!)
Over train. Your body needs rest and more isn’t always better!
Change your workout routine and/or diet every week
Focus on isolation exercises such as biceps curls and triceps extensions.