Can’t choose between low-carb and high-carb? There’s a third option

It’s no secret that I love carbs. That’s why I was so excited when a new study from the University of Sydney found that high-carb diets could combat brain aging. They may even reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.

But here’s the confusing thing…

There’s evidence that low-carb diets are good for brain health too. A 2017 study found that the ultimate low-carb diet, the ketogenic diet, reduces brain inflammation. And it doesn’t end there…

There’s more evidence that low-carb diets improve your health. And there’s more evidence that high-carb diets improve your health. It’s enough to make your head spin.

How could two completely different diets both be healthy? And more importantly, which one should you choose?

Well, you may not have to choose at all. There’s a third option that combines the best of low-carb and high-carb eating. It’s called carb-cycling. And it could be the answer to the modern carb dilemma so many of us face.

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The benefits of carb-cycling

If you can’t decide whether high-carb or low-carb eating is best for you, there’s another option you should consider…


Carb-cycling involves eating low-carb some days and high-carb other days. If you’re someone who struggles to stick to long-term low-carb diets (like me) this could be a way to find balance. Here’s why this option is the best of both the low-carb and high-carb worlds…

Each of these diets has certain strengths. If you’re trying to lose weight, for example, you’ll have more success going low-carb. But there are downsides to eating low-carb all the time.

A lot of people who eat low-carb for weight loss also have intense exercise routines. But it’s hard to sustain serious exercise sessions when you’re not giving your body enough fuel. Eating more carbs on these days could give you extra energy, so you don’t crash.

ReadThis big ‘oops’ about low-carb dieting may defeat all your reasons for it

Alternating between high and low-carb eating can also keep your metabolism on its toes. Eating strictly low-carb can cause your metabolism to get sluggish. That’s when a lot of people hit the dreaded weight loss plateau. It’s a sign your body has gotten too comfortable with your low-carb diet. If you start switching things up by going high-carb on certain days, it can kick-start your metabolism again.

High-carb eating also helps build muscle mass. So, if that’s your main goal, you may want to eat high-carb more often than low-carb.

How to carb cycle

If you’re ready to try carb-cycling, here’s an example of how it might work…

Say you’re carb-cycling with the goal of losing weight. In that case, you may want to eat low-carb five days per week and high-carb two-days per week. Your two high-carb days can be the ones where you exercise most intensely.

If you’re more interested in developing muscle mass than losing weight, you can do the opposite. Eat high-carb five days a week and low-carb two days per week.

Of course, whether you’re eating low-carb or high-carb the quality of the carb always counts. Avoid packaged, processed high-carb foods. Instead choose whole, high-carb foods that contain a lot of fiber but not a lot of sugar. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are all great high-carb choices.

And if you feel like you need the occasional treat, consider adding a cheat day to your carb-cycling schedule. Just alternate between high and low-carb eating for six days and make the seventh day a cheat day where you can sit down with a cup of coffee and a piece of chocolate cake and enjoy yourself guilt-free.

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  1. Carb Cycling: An Exercise in Weight Loss — HealthDay
  2. What You Need to Know About Carb Cycling — American Council on Exercise


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and