Overcoming Weight Loss Plateau Part 2. Carb Cycling

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This post is the part 8.2 of The Ultimate Weight Loss Guide

Another technique for overcoming weight loss plateau is a rotational diet or a carbohydrate alternation diet. There is a variety of terms for this technique for getting rid of subcutaneous fat. However, the bottom line is always the same – varying calorific value. Within several days in a row, your food intake remains at the minimum calorific value and it is virtually devoid of carbohydrates (the primary ingredient is proteins).
During this period your fat deposits are continuously burned to release energy yet at the same time, you experience a buildup of fatigue and a deceleration of metabolism due to a lack of energy.  After a few days of this, you entertain yourself to a nosh-up by adding lots of carbs to your daily ration in order to increase your metabolism and enhance your well-being.  Upon satiation you go on a low-cal diet again. This alternation between “starvation diet” and “savage gluttony” allows us to be more effective in burning the fat deposits under the skin compared to a classical low-carb diet and speeding up the plateaued weight loss.

How to break a weight loss plateau with this diet?

CARBOHYDRATE ALTERNATION DIET is an updated version of a common low-carb diet. Why is it called this way? The explanation is simple: the fundamental element of this diet is continuous variations of your carbohydrate intake.

  • At first, you are on a LOW-CARB diet = your fat burns and your metabolism slows down
  • Then you change to a HIGH-CARB diet = your fat stops burning and your metabolism powers up.

Why is it so effective? How to overcome weight loss plateau using this method? It is so effective because you get all the benefits and minimize the drawbacks. The benefits refer to the shortage of carbs which is what you need to lose weight. The drawbacks pertain to the slowing down of metabolism (reduced fat-burning).

Everything that happens in the body is interconnected and makes sense. There is a basic energy source, which is very cheap, hence it is best for transformation into energy. I am talking about CARBS which are stored as GLYCOGEN in your muscles and liver cells. Then there are emergency energy sources which are very expensive and therefore they are expended last of all (after you have run out of carbs).  These are PROTEINS AND FATS. They include the ones which are deposited under your skin.

ROTATION depletes the glycogen reserves (CARBS) and forces the body to start burning FATS (thus making you lose weight).  Several CARB-FREE DAYS in a row help us exhaust the glycogen reserves to the maximum (that’s when the body starts to burn fat deposits).  And right before the body is about to pull the emergency lever and decrease the energy consumption (by slowing down metabolism and fat-burning), we begin our CARBOHYDRATE DOWNLOAD.

By filling the muscles and liver with glycogen over the next couple of days we stop the body from making a springback which can be quite harmful to its metabolism.  Once the state of the body is stabilized, we begin another round of several CARB-FREE DAYS followed by CARBOHYDRATE DOWNLOAD.  Thus we take two steps forward after taking one step back.  Two benefits in exchange for one drawback.  And we keep moving forward in a wave-like fashion by alternating between shortages and excesses.

During the first day of cutting carbs the body loses its reserves of glycogen and on the second (and the third) day the body begins to burn fat. In the ensuing days of the low-carb diet the body kicks back into emergency adaptation to hunger, which is meant to keep the weight (this emergency adaptation stage is characterized by a decline in performance of thyroid hormones, an increased release of catabolic enzymes, a lowered release of insulin, an inhibition of transformation of fats into glucose and so forth).

In other words, if we don’t increase the carb intake at that point, then we can considerably slow down or stop the fat-burning processes altogether, which can lead to a weight loss stall.


  • 1-5 DAYS = CARB-FREE DIET (2-4 g of protein + 0-1 g of carbs per 1 kg of weight)
  • 1-2 DAYS = CARBOHYDRATE DOWNLOAD (1-2 g of protein + 3-5 g of carbs per 1 kg of weight)

Then you repeat the rotation routine time and time again. Theoretically, the results should be as follows: your weight drops due to burning of fat deposits and your muscle tissue volume remains the same.

For the first couple of days the body acts like it’s being subjected to a regular carb-free diet with only the best food to eat for weight loss. In other words, the body switches into a self-sustaining mode and begins to burn the most convenient type of fuel – endogenous glycogen. Once its reserves in muscles and liver have been depleted, the body turns to degrading fats and by the end of the second day fat-burning process usually reaches its peak intensity. However, you cannot go on like this for too long otherwise in a couple of days your metabolism and, consequently, your fat-burning process will slow down sharply.

This occurs due to the fact the body perceives a long-lasting shortage of carbs as a life-threatening situation, therefore, it attempts to preserve the “necessary” stock of fat by burning less valuable muscle cells. That is why when you are on a “fasting” diet you experience a sharp decrease of weight at first and afterwards your weight settles down to a standstill.

However, if you give your metabolism a boost on the 6th or the 7th day by adding extra carbs to your diet the body will continue to burn its fat deposits yet the newly acquired carbs will replete the endogenous supply of glycogen.

A four- or five-day cycle of the carbohydrate alternation diet is by no means a rigid rule. Many people have successfully adjusted this routine to their own needs. For instance, you may as well stay on carb-free nutrition for five days (from Monday to Friday) and get loaded with carbs during the weekend.

Trial and error will help you work out your own most favourable rotation routine. Carb-free diet in combination with the rotation technique is the most effective method I have ever tried. It does work and break the weight loss plateau.


So, how to get over a weight loss plateau if you’ve chosen this diet? It can be a very effective method. BUT it requires a very high degree of CUSTOMIZATION!  There is too much room for error. This is a very complex diet because only by trial and error you can determine your individual parameters:

  • THE DURATION (in days) and VOLUME (the amount of food) OF “CARBOHYDRATE DOWNLOAD”

First of all, the number of days can be excessive or insufficient. Some may experience a sharp decline in metabolism as early as in 3-4 days of carb-free diet while others can hold out on “starvation diet” for a week and yet continue to burn fat. If you let him eat too many carbs in such conditions then his fat burning process will come to a halt.

Secondly, “carbohydrate download” may happen to be overly large or too small.  For instance, some of you may be happy with just a large bowl of rice for breakfast and your metabolism will be no different from that of pre-diet days. While others may have to eat loads of food for a couple of days in order to get the same effect.  Another thing that matters is whether you eat fast or slow carbs.

All such issues make it tough to customize since your own wishes will do their best to turn you towards a more “sweetened” strategy.  In view of these circumstances, I would not recommend such cyclical diets for a novice.



I cannot provide you with exact numbers because they vary for different kinds of people. For instance, an ectomorph may need his carb download in as little as two days, while an endomorph can put it off till next week. You have to put yourself to the test and see what results you end up with.

I can only provide you with estimated duration values as starting ground for further experiments and study. For starters, I would try the following routine: 2 days of CARB-FREE DIET + 1 day of “CARB DOWNLOAD”.

Then I’d check my overall state of health and take a long hard look in the mirror.  If you are feeling healthy (no fatigue, no serious decline in your strength training workouts), then I would recommend to extend the CARB-FREE DIET for another day and retain one day of “CARB DOWNLOAD”.  Then I’d advise to stick to this routine for a couple of weeks, with periodic checks of your state of health and your looks.

  • STATE OF HEALTH STILL GOOD = feel free to extend your carb-free diet (add more days)
  • STATE OF HEALTH GETTING WORSE = cut the carb-free diet or extend the “carb download” diet.
  • YOUR LOOKS IN THE MIRROR SHOW SIGNS OF PROGRESS = keep staying on track (no changes needed)
  • NO SIGNS OF PROGRESS DETECTED = make the required changes to your carb-free and carb-download rations.

Ideally, you need to work out the “fasting (carb-free) and carb download” rotation routine which will allow you to see your shape get slimmer yet maintain the good state of healthy (no deceleration of metabolism).

About 50% of people will most likely be happy with the rotation routine of 4 days of fasting followed by a day of carbohydrate download.  However, it may turn out for the better if during your carb-download day you schedule all of your meals for the first half of the day instead of allocating them during the whole day.

In addition to that, it may be a good idea to experiment with the glycemic index of carbohydrates you consume during your carb-downloading day.   For instance, you may try simple carbs (sweeter foods), or complex carbs (cereals) depending on the duration of your carb-downloading period.

Theoretically, complex carbs are better if you are on a diet. However, as a matter of practice, I noticed that when you have a short “time slot” for food intake (for instance, you have to squeeze it all in during the first half of the day), then simple carbs provide a more effective output.  For you, it may be different. But you won’t be able to see that until you give it a try.


STAGE 1: CARB-FREE DIET (2-5 days)

Daytime menu (protein + fiber, minimum of carbs):

  • Chicken breast (500 g)
  • Chicken eggs (10 whites + 3 yolks)
  • Low-fat farmer cheese (300 g)
  • Vegetables (300-500 g)

If you get really hungry, you can add more chicken breast or fish (animal source of protein).


  • Oatmeal (200 g)
  • Buckwheat or rice (300 g)
  • Any amount of protein and fiber

On this day we overstock ourselves with carbohydrates.  In my example, there is oatmeal and rice. Please note that these products are not a must-have and can be interchanged with other similar foods.  Perhaps you prefer buckwheat or spaghetti.  Or, as a matter of fact, you are a die-hard fan of honey.

This is a day for experimenting with carbs.  However, you have to keep in mind that this day is not for eating yourself sick!  Carbohydrates are not for indulging yourself in gluttony.  They are ultimately a means for preventing your metabolism from slowing down.  Therefore, choose your products not in terms of their taste, but in regard to their effectiveness in prospective burning of fat.

Don’t throw in the towel at the first signs of frustration or disappointment. Take your time, don’t lose hope and give up the program – and in a little, while your weight will surely begin to drop. Some people are able to go through this complicated period entirely on their own while others have to seek outside help.

But how to get past weight loss plateau even faster? A reasonable way to help will be to subject the body to any type of physical action aimed at removing fatty acids from the adipocytes (fat cells).  This may include, for instance, an active anti cellulite massage therapy focused on problem-ridden areas, or a variety of physiotherapy practices.

In the next article you can read the last but not the least part of the weight loss-plateau tips – physiological treatment procedres. You think that honey body wraps and sea salt baths won’t help you lose weight? You’re mistaken! They can be great for slimming, too, and definitely can help you break that annoying weight loss plateau!

GO TO THE PART 8.3 OF THE ULTIMATE WEIGHT LOSS GUIDE  >>> Overcoming Weight Loss Plateau Part 3. Physiological Treatment

 What do you think about it? I would be very grateful if you share your opinion in comments!
Updated: November 22, 2017 Author: Dmitrii

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Hi, I am Dmitrii!

I have become a master of my own weight without exhausting diets or fasting. No, I am not yet another guru from the weight-loss industry. I am just a regular guy who wanted to live a balanced and healthy life. Like many of you, I have studied great volumes of information on the subject until I have found what truly works for me. And I would like to share all I have learned with you and most importantly, to tell about finding your own way towards a healthy and fit body.

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