I'm looking to lose some of the belly fat that I'd accumulated while doing Starting Strength (SS) for the last 6-7 months. At the same time, I don't want to lose the strength that I've on the bar. From what I see after googling, it seems like Carb Cycling (having a combination of High/low/No carb days over the entire week) seems to be the answer. However, like most things on the net, the specifics vary widely, and I'm unable to tell a reliable source from one thats not. Hence, I've the following queries that I hope the community can answer - or even better, point me to resources that've worked for you!

  1. What is the typical duration of a carb cycle - I want to get back to making progress on my lifts, and I know that can't be done when I'm losing fat, and in general on a calorie deficit!

  2. What are the most reliable, detailed source of information for the nutrition aspect of Carb cycling? Some sites advocate a High/Mid/Low spread, while others insist on having at least some No Carb days! Also, the definition of "High" vs "Mid" is not entirely consistent!

  3. If my current lifts are as follows: Deadlift => X, Squat => Y, Bench Press => Z (in the same pattern as a SS routine), should I be following the exact same routine with same reps/set and max weight, or should I be expected to drop some sets (how many?) while keeping the work set at same weight and reps?

  4. Anything else I'm not focussing on (that I should take care of) while attempting such a routine!

3 Answers 3


There are several accepted ways to carb cycle, a discipline that has been in use for a couple decades now. Let's first cover some basics on carb levels:

  • Below 120g/day: ketogenic levels. Ketosis is a useful tool for burning fat, however it does affect your strength levels.
  • 120-130g/day: Minimum levels needed for your brain and thyroid to function normally. The thyroid helps in the process of burning fat.
  • Above 130g/day: Excess carbs are used for replenishing muscle glycogen and for performance in the gym.

Your carb and Calorie levels can be varied throughout the week so that you have them when you need them. The key is to time them so that they are available when you need them. This article by Jordan Syatt helps to shine some light on the subject. In that article there are some important points:

  • Total Calories are the most important item for whether you gain or lose weight
  • Macro nutrient content is the second most important item. I've seen some variation in recommendations here as well, but all of them have protein higher than 1g / pound body weight for fat loss.
  • Timing is the third most important item. You want your carbs 1-3 hours before training so you have the energy all through out training.

As to the minute details and specifics you have a couple choices: try and work it out for yourself or hire a coach. Hiring a coach is expensive, but it is much easier to follow the plan. The biggest thing with working it out yourself is that you monitor your progress often. If things seem to stall, change your approach. For example, instead of carbing up once a week, do it when you lose the next 2 lbs--however long that takes.

Fat loss doesn't happen linearly. You'll find that you'll hit some stalls along the way before you start losing weight again. The biggest challenge you'll have is experimenting with how little of a Calorie deficit you need to lose weight. Going too aggressively will affect your strength.

In regards to the programming aspect:

If you are still making consistent gains with Starting Strength, then don't change anything. You'll be surprised how far you can go. If you are starting to have some misses here and there, it will only get worse as when you start cutting calories.

If that's the case, it might be beneficial to change to a program where you increase weekly such as Texas Method. You'll still be making regular increases, but you'll be able to recover better each training session.


I’m in the same situation and have similar goals. I did Starting Strength and I definitely got bigger and stronger, but I also added a lot more fat than I am comfortable with.

I am now carb/calorie cycle while continuing to lift heavy, I’m succeeding in building muscle and losing fat at the same time.

Here’s how I’m doing it:

Monday: Lift heavy (3x5 squats, 1x5 deadlifts, 3x5 bench press), eat big.

Tuesday: High intensity interval training (HIIT), eat small.

Wednesday: Lift heavy (3x5 overhead press, 3x5 rows), eat big.

Thursday: HIIT, eat small.

Friday: Lift heavy (3x5 squats, 3x5 weighted pull ups), eat big.

Saturday: Rest, eat small.

Sunday: Rest, eat small.

The details:

• “Eat big” means 500-1000 calories above maintenance.

• “Eat small” means 500-1000 calories below maintenance.

• I eat 1g of protein per pound of lean bodyweight, whether I’m eating big or small.

• When eating big, I make the breakfast right after the workout huge, with tons of protein and plenty of carbs.

• When eating small, I skip breakfast, which keeps me in a fasted state for 16 hours (overnight counts) and takes advantage of the fat burning effects of intermittent fasting.

• Ideally, I also try to eat below 50g of carbs on the “eat small” days to take advantage of the fat burning effect of ketosis, but I’m less strict about carbs than calories. This flexibility allows me to simply eat whatever dinner my wife cooks.

• I find it impractical to meet the protein requirement without protein shakes.

To your other questions:

• Keep your Starting Strength routine the same, but lower your expectations about how quickly you’ll increase the load. Progressing at about half the rate you were before (i.e., adding 2.5-5 lbs/week to your lifts rather than 5-10 lbs) is likely.

• The best info I’ve found on carb/calorie cycling is http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-carb-cycling.

• Check out Intermittent Fasting as well, since it also allows you to build muscle while burning fat. The best site is leangains.com.

• Take advantage of the fat burning effects of HIIT, see http://www.muscleforlife.com/high-intensity-interval-training-and-weight-loss/.

  • Your answer doesn't really address the original question, it's a lot of "Hey, this is what I did, read these links"
    – JohnP
    May 8, 2015 at 20:46

Some benefits you actually get out of Carb cycling, Maintaining that metabolism normally when you are a quart deficit your metabolism starts to slow down you notice that your body starts burning fat less and you can even go into starvation mode where your bus or your body starts to break down your muscle instead of utilizing fat as an energy source but with carb cycling your spikes and calories or spike and carbs helps to keep your metabolism riding throughout the week instead of just dropping straight down to the cut,

It drops on the low carb days and comes back up and drops and comes back up you will also be able to retain muscle, the insulin manipulation your body is going to be muscle sparing you are going to use readily available energy as well as utilizing fat as an energy source and then there’s consistent fat burning your body instead of using those carbs because you don’y have them it’s going to utilize fat to get you through your work your workouts to get your gives you through the day just staying alive.


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