In this final installment, I’m going to take you through the steps of setting up a carb cycle for figure or bikini competition. As mentioned in Part 2, I don’t really see the point in carb cycling much sooner than about 6 weeks or so out from a contest, although I have occasionally used it further out under very specific/unusual circumstances. Having said that, I don’t think we need to get into determining ideal calories/macros for you, since if you’re at a point where you should be cycling carbs, you already know where your calories should be set in terms of weekly average. I will however use an example that shouldn’t be too far off where I’d envision the average 120 lb 6 weeks out bikini/figure competitor. That doesn’t mean you should use these figures if you’re 120 lbs and competing in bikini…its just an example.
As I mentioned in part 2, the only real legitimate benefits of carb cycling are improved nutrient partitioning and (hopefully) improved performance in the gym. So that said, all you really need to do differently on training days is insert more protein and carbs in the meals immediately surrounding your more intense training (weights and possibly intervals). So rather than get into all these compex formulas, we’ll just assess the pre/post workout protein/carbs needs and “borrow” those calories from your non-weight training days, where you won’t need them as much. Assuming you’re already putting a decent amount of protein/carbs around training, we don’t really need to add much on top of that. For the average 120-130lb competitor, I’d say an additional 20g carbs pre-workout and another 20 post-workout should be fine.
So if you’re currently on a linear diet of 1400 calories, 160g protein, 100g carbs and 40g fat, and you lift weights (or do typical bikini prep “pump and tone” work) 4x/week, here is what your carb cycle plan would look like:
160g protein, 140g carbs, 40g fat. The additional 40g carbs would be split in half, with each half being added to the pre and post workout meals. No need to up protein in this scenario because its high enough already and you need it to be up even on off/lower intensity days. You COULD lower fat by up to 10g if you want to save some for your low days, but that’s up to you. We don’t have carbs up so high that you need to bring fat down, and 40g isn’t really very high to begin with.
160g protein, 47g carbs, 40g fat. Put about half of this day’s carbs post cardio, if you do cardio on these days. Other than that, just spread it all around. Carbs at night won’t be an issue.
So lets back up and look at how we arrived at these numbers, and how you can determine your carb cycle based on your (pre-determined) calories and macros. Since we kept protein and fat the same, we don’t need to do any math there. For carbs, I multiplied the weekly average of 100g by 7 (as in 7 days per week) to get the total of 700g of carbs per week. So we need to structure the carb cycle so weekly carbs add up to this number. We know that we need a little more carbs around training (40g more is plenty), so we just upped carbs by 40g each of the 4 weight training days. So 140g carbs x 4 days=560g of our weekly carbs being added to our weight training days. This leaves us with 140g to spread around the 3 remaining days. 140 divided by 3 is 47…pretty simple. And 47 is enough that you can have a little something around any cardio or lighter work you might do on these low carb days. We even managed to keep low day calories right around the 1200 area that most experts agree to be the minimum for anyone regardless of how little/much they weigh (some exceptions aside).
So one more time in case I lost you:
1) Multiply your daily carbs (of your current diet) by 7. This is your weekly carb total (you need this for step 3).
2) Add 40g carbs to each of your days where you have your most intense training (weights/intense intervals).
3) Add up carbs from all of your high carb days and subtract this from your weekly carb total (see step 1). The number you’re left with is what you get to spread around your low carb days.
4) Evenly distribute the number you were left with in step 3 (high carb days total minus weekly carb total) between your low days.
5) Optional: Borrow some fat from your high days to put on your low days so you’re not too miserable. Just be sure to leave yourself with at least 25-30g of fat on high days so you can still get all your essential fats. Put the extra 40g of carbs on high days in the meals immediately surrounding your intense training (20g before, 20g after). This should be ON TOP OF the carbs you’re already getting in these meals. Or you can just sip on a protein/carb drink during training if you prefer…just make sure the extra 40 is around training.
That’s it! All the technical talk in parts 1 and 2 were just to tell you there isn’t really all that much to it. Its just putting carbs where we need them most at the stage in our diets where we don’t have a lot of them to go around, and shifting a little further into fat burning mode on low days. I hope you’ve enjoyed this 6 month article series. Feel free to leave a comment or question.
Schedule your free fitness evaluation today. Just click here to sign up!