7-Day Carb-Cycling Meal Plan & Recipe Prep

Carb meal plan foods

Verywell / Amelia Manley

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and consider the whole person. Before starting a new diet plan, consult with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

A carb-cycling approach to diet is straightforward if you think about it. You have days that are high in carbs and those that are low in carbs in order to maximize how the body uses dietary carbs and stored glycogen. However, going back and forth between low-carb and high-carb days can be a lot to keep track of. Instead of winging it, a carb-cycling meal plan will eliminate any confusion and provide you with a blueprint for your nutrition.

Meal planning can help keep you on track, no matter what your nutrition goal is. Prepping and planning don’t have to be time-intensive and complicated. A few simple steps, including basic meal constructs, shopping lists, and food prep, are what make meal planning a helpful tool to keep you energized, meet your nutrition goals, reduce food waste, and save money.

Why Nutrition is Important for the Carb-Cycling Diet

Carb-cycling is based on the idea that on days you burn fewer calories (i.e. non-exercise days), your body needs fewer carbs—so you eat fewer carbs. Then, on training days, or days where your body requires more fuel from carbs for energy, you eat more carbs. You can alternate your days however you would like and cater them to your training routine. That means one person's high-carb days may be different than someone else's high-carb days, and vice versa.

Additionally, because people often report low energy or reduced strength while on a low-carb diet, carb-cycling is an excellent alternative. That's because staggering carbs has been shown to prevent dips in performance and energy during exercise.

To ensure you're eating enough carbs on your high-carb days, aim to make around 50% of your calories from carbs. Avoid getting fewer than 10% to 15% of calories from carbohydrates on low-carb days. The remainder of your calories can be split between protein and dietary fats at your discretion.

7-Day Sample Menu

This one-week meal plan was designed for a person who needs about 2,000 calories per day and has no dietary restrictions. Your daily calorie goal may vary. Learn what it is below, then make tweaks to the plan to fit your specific needs. Consider working with a registered dietitian or speaking with a healthcare provider to assess and plan for your dietary needs more accurately.

This meal plan is broken up into four high-carb days and three low-carb days. Note that the carbohydrates fluctuate from as low as approximately 105 grams of carbs (on low-carbohydrate days) to as high as 225 grams of carbs on high-carb days. You will find three meals and two snacks each day. Feel free to swap similar menu items, but stay mindful of carb content.

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Day 1 - High Carb

Breakfast

  • Three large eggs, cooked to your liking
  • Two slices of whole wheat toast
  • 1/2 large grapefruit

Micronutrients: 427 calories, 28 grams protein, 42 grams carbohydrates, and 17 grams fat

Snack

  • 6 ounces 1% cottage cheese
  • One large peach

Micronutrients: 190 calories, 23 grams protein, 21 grams carbohydrates, and 2 grams fat

Lunch

  • 3 ounces canned tuna, drained
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 10 high-fiber, whole-grain crackers
  • One celery stalk
  • One medium apple

Micronutrients: 500 calories, 26 grams protein, 59 grams carbohydrates, and 20 grams fat

Snack

  • Two cups of air-popped popcorn
  • One small box of seedless raisins
  • 1 ounce of chocolate chips

Micronutrients: 326 calories, 4 grams protein, 65 grams carbohydrates, and 9 grams fat

Dinner

  • 8 ounces grilled chicken breast
  • 1 cup of cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup of steamed broccoli

Micronutrients: 608 calories, 75 grams protein, 57 grams carbohydrates, and 10 grams fat

Daily Totals: 2,052 calories, 156 grams protein, 243 grams carbohydrates, and 58 grams fat

Note that beverages are not included in this meal plan. Individual fluid needs vary based on age, sex, activity level, and medical history. For optimal hydration, experts generally recommend drinking approximately 9 cups of water per day for women and 13 cups of water per day for men. When adding beverages to your meal plan, consider their calorie count. Aim to reduce or eliminate consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, and opt for water when possible.

Day 2 - High-Carb

Breakfast

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

  • One scoop of protein powder
  • 1 medium frozen banana
  • 1/3 cup dry oatmeal
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 1 cup of water and ice

Micronutrients: 461 calories, 35 grams protein, 46 grams carbohydrates, and 18 grams fat

Snack

  • 1/2 cup of hummus
  • 1 ounce of pita chips
  • 1 cup of grapes

Micronutrients: 433 calories, 14 grams protein, 64 grams carbohydrates, and 16 grams fat

Lunch

  • One 7-8" whole wheat wrap
  • Four slices of deli turkey meat
  • One slice of provolone cheese
  • Two slices of tomato
  • Two romaine leaves

Micronutrients: 461 calories, 35 grams protein, 44 grams carbohydrates, and 15 grams fat

Snack

  • 7 ounces 2% plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup of fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup of granola

Micronutrients: 316 calories, 24 grams protein, 30 grams carbohydrates, and 11 grams fat

Dinner

  • 5 ounces of baked cod or other white fish
  • 1 medium baked potato
  • 1 cup of mixed vegetables, steamed

Micronutrients: 355 calories, 39 grams protein, 46 grams carbohydrates, and 2 grams fat

Daily Totals: 2,026 calories, 147 grams protein, 230 grams carbohydrates, and 62 grams fat

Day 3 - Low-Carb

Breakfast

  • Two slices of tomato
  • 3 large eggs, cooked to your liking
  • 1/4 of avocado
  • 1/2 grapefruit

Micronutrients: 352 calories, 21 grams protein, 20 grams carbohydrates, and 22 grams fat

Snack

  • 1 cup of salted and prepared edamame in pods
  • 1 cup of sliced carrots

Micronutrients: 175 calories, 5 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrates, and 4 grams fat

Lunch

  • Greek Salad with Grilled Chicken (3 cups of chopped salad greens, 4 ounces of grilled chicken breast, 1 ounce of crumbled feta cheese, 1/4 cup sliced cucumber, four olives, four cherry tomatoes, 1 ounce of balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil)

Micronutrients: 430 calories, 40 grams protein, 13 grams carbohydrates, and 25 grams fat

Snack

  • One scoop of whey protein powder mixed in water or coffee
  • 1 medium banana

Micronutrients: 218 calories, 26 grams protein, 29 grams carbohydrates, and 1 grams fat

Dinner

  • 8 ounces of baked salmon
  • 1 medium baked sweet potato
  • 1 cup of green beans with lemon and garlic

Micronutrients: 664 calories, 56 grams protein, 45 grams carbohydrates, and 29 grams fat

Daily Totals: 1,900 calories, 147 grams protein, 155 grams carbohydrates, and 81 grams fat

Day 4 - High-Carb

Breakfast

Micronutrients: 509 calories, 51 grams protein, 53 grams carbohydrates, and 11 grams fat

Snack

  • Two hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 cup of sliced carrots
  • 1 cup of mini pretzel twists

Micronutrients: 359 calories, 18 grams protein, 45 grams carbohydrates, and 12 grams fat

Lunch

  • 2 cups of lentil soup
  • 4 tablespoons of sunflower seeds

Micronutrients: 452 calories, 25 grams protein, 45 grams carbohydrates, and 21 grams fat

Snack

  • One (7-ounce) container of 2% plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup of raspberries

Micronutrients: 162 calories, 20 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrates, and 4 grams fat

Dinner

  • One (4-ounce) 97% lean ground beef burger with lettuce, tomato, and onion
  • One 100% whole wheat hamburger bun
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • One medium ear of corn

Micronutrients: 592 calories, 42 grams protein, 55 grams carbohydrates, and 24 grams fat

Daily Totals: 2,075 calories, 156 grams protein, 210 grams carbohydrates, and 72 grams fat

Day 5 - High-Carb

Breakfast

  • Two scrambled eggs
  • 1/2 cup of dry oatmeal cooked with water
  • 1/4 cup seedless raisins
  • Dash of cinnamon

Micronutrients: 405 calories, 19 grams protein, 57 grams carbohydrates, and 12 grams fat

Snack

  • 1/4 cup of roasted chickpeas
  • One part-skim mozzarella string cheese
  • 1 cup of grapes

Micronutrients: 367 calories, 17 grams protein, 57 grams carbohydrates, and 9 grams fat

Lunch

  • One whole wheat pita
  • 4 ounces of grilled chicken breast
  • Two romaine leaves
  • Two slices of tomato
  • 2 tablespoons of Caesar dressing

Micronutrients: 513 calories, 41 grams protein, 40 grams carbohydrates, and 23 grams fat

Snack

  • 1 medium apple
  • 2 tablespoons of almond butter

Micronutrients: 291 calories, 7 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates, and 18 grams fat

Dinner

  • 6 ounces of grilled chicken breast
  • 3/4 cup of cooked whole wheat pasta noodles
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 cup of broccoli

Micronutrients: 580 calories, 66 grams protein, 57 grams carbohydrates, and 11 grams fat

Daily Totals: 1,978 calories, 150 grams protein, 242 grams carbohydrates, and 73 grams fat

Day 6 - Low-Carb

Breakfast

Micronutrients: 381 calories, 20 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrates, and 18 grams fat

Snack

  • 6 ounces of 1% cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup of blackberries
  • 1 ounce of cashews

Micronutrients: 300 calories, 26 grams protein, 17 grams carbohydrates, and 15 grams fat

Lunch

  • 3 cups of romaine lettuce salad mix
  • 6 ounces of grilled chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup of chickpeas
  • 4 large strawberries, sliced
  • 1 ounce of chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons of lite balsamic dressing
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Micronutrients: 737 calories, 63 grams protein, 29 grams carbohydrates, and 42 grams fat

Snack

  • One scoop of whey protein powder mixed with 1 cup of low-fat (1%) milk

Micronutrients: 215 calories, 33 grams protein, 14 grams carbohydrates, and 2 grams fat

Dinner

Micronutrients: 235 calories, 20 grams protein, 11 grams carbohydrates, and 13 grams fat

Daily Totals: 1,869 calories, 162 grams protein, 108 grams carbohydrates, and 91 grams fat

Day 7 - Low-Carb

Breakfast

Green Strawberry Smoothie

  • 1 1/2 scoops of vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup of low-fat milk
  • 1 cup of frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup of frozen spinach

Micronutrients: 359 calories, 54 grams protein, 30 grams carbohydrates, and 5 grams fat

Snack

  • One (7-ounce) container of 2% plain Greek yogurt
  • One large peach
  • Three tablespoons of coconut milk

Micronutrients: 303 calories, 22 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrates, and 14 grams fat

Lunch

  • One 7-8" low-carb wrap (under 15 grams of carbohydrates per serving)
  • Six ounces deli roast beef (about 6 slices)
  • One slice of provolone cheese
  • 1 ounce of sauerkraut
  • 2 tablespoons of Thousand Island dressing

Micronutrients: 347 calories, 22 grams protein, 20 grams carbohydrates, and 20 grams fat

Snack

  • 1/2 cup of guacamole
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of pita chips

Micronutrients: 343 calories, 7 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrates, and 21 grams fat

Dinner

Micronutrients: 369 calories, 58 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, and 8 grams fat

Daily Totals: 1,831 calories, 183 grams protein, 127 grams carbohydrates, and 75 grams fat

How to Meal Plan for Carb-Cycling

  • Map out a plan. Start by determining which days you will follow a low-carb menu, and which you will follow a high-carb menu. Usually, high-carb days are allotted for days in which your workout session is intense and requires more energy. Low-carb days can fall on off-days and low-intensity days, when you need less energy. Creating a plan that clearly depicts how to eat each day will help you stick with the program and be more consistent.
  • Determine how many carbs you'll eat for low and high-carb days. Successful carb-cycling requires careful planning and calculations. You'll need to know how many carbs to eat on both menu plans, so figuring this out first is essential.
  • Use a calorie tracking app. Because you have specific carbohydrate goals, using an app that calculates your carb intake may make meeting your daily goals easier.
  • Utilize leftovers and make carbs separately. Creating meals that are easy to add or subtract carbs from is ideal for meal prepping. That way, you're not preparing a lot of different foods. For example, a batch of chicken breast can easily be paired with spaghetti squash and marinara sauce on a low-carb day, or rice and veggies on a high-carb day. On the other hand, if you make a noodle casserole, it might be harder to use it on low-carb days since it is higher in carbohydrates.

A Word From Verywell

Carb-cycling has been popular in the bodybuilding world for decades. But it also can be a valuable tool for improving performance levels during workouts.

Following a carb-cycling diet requires careful planning and prepping. This easy-to-follow 7-day carb-cycling meal plan can help you get started. Talk to a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian before beginning any new meal plan to help you determine what is best for you and your lifestyle.

We recognize that meal plans may not be appropriate for all, especially those with disordered eating habits. If you or a loved one are coping with an eating disorder, contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Helpline for support at 1-800-931-2237.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Harvie M, Wright C, Pegington M, et al. The effect of intermittent energy and carbohydrate restriction v . daily energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers in overweight womenBr J Nutr. 2013;110(8):1534-1547. doi:10.1017/S0007114513000792

  2. National Library of Medicine. Low-carbohydrate diet.

  3. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. How much water do you need?

By Shoshana Pritzker RD, CDN, CSSD, CISSN
Shoshana Pritzker RD, CDN is a Sports and Pediatric Dietitian, the owner of Nutrition by Shoshana, and is the author of "Carb Cycling for Weight Loss." She's been writing and creating content in the health, nutrition, and fitness space for over 15 years and is regularly featured in Oxygen Magazine, JennyCraig.com, and more.