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How to cycle carbs: One week meal plan

Carbohydrates get a bad rap when it comes to muscle-building and fat loss. They cause insulin spikes, which can result in your body storing more energy as fat rather than using fat for energy. But manipulating your carb intake is one of the best ways to get stronger and leaner. 

‘Rather than eating carbs on a daily basis, cycle your intake with low, medium and high days – evidence has shown this will produce much better results in losing fat and building muscle,’ says Nick Mitchell, founder of Ultimate Performance. ‘This way you get the muscle-building benefit of high-carb days with the fat loss benefits of lower-carb days, all while keeping your metabolism properly revved up with fluctuating daily calorie intakes.’ Here’s a sample seven-day meal planner with low-, medium- and high-carb days.

Monday

High carb

Breakfast: 50g oats with 200ml skimmed milk. Serve with raspberries and honey. Stir in ½ scoop of whey protein at the end. 

Snack: Post-workout shake: blend 1 scoop protein powder, 100ml coconut milk, ½ banana, 75ml semi-skimmed milk and 1tbsp oats.

Lunch: 100g quinoa mixed with a chopped onion, garlic, green chilli and 8 walnuts. Serve with a salmon fillet.

Snack: Small pot of hummus with celery, carrot and cucumber sticks.

Dinner: Ginger chicken stir-fry. 

Snack: Greek yoghurt with cinnamon and pecan nuts.

Tuesday

Low carb

Breakfast:Ham omelette. Handful of almonds.

Snack: Carrot sticks with brazil nut butter.

Lunch: Grilled prawns, mixed salad, ½ an avocado and pumpkin seeds.

Snack: 2 boiled eggs.

Dinner: Steak with roasted vegetables. 

Snack: Greek yoghurt with cinnamon and a handful of walnuts.

Wednesday

Medium carb

Breakfast: Goat’s cheese and spinach omelette. Handful of almonds.

Snack: Post-workout shake: blend 1 scoop protein powder, ½ banana, raspberries, 150ml skimmed milk, 100ml natural yoghurt, 1tbsp sunflower seeds and 20g rolled oats.

Lunch: Lamb steak with 1 baked sweet potato, cherry tomatoes and salad leaves.

Snack: Small pot of hummus with celery, carrot and cucumber sticks.

Dinner: Cod fillet with steamed vegetables and brown rice.

Snack: Greek yoghurt with cinnamon and pecan nuts.

Thursday 

Low-carb

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and lean bacon rashers.

Snack: Cucumber, pepper and carrot batons.

Lunch: Grilled prawns, mixed salad, ½ an avocado and pumpkin seeds.

Snack: Ham salad.

Dinner: Tuna steak with asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower. 

Snack: Greek yoghurt with cinnamon and a handful of walnuts.

Friday

Low-carb

Breakfast:Mushroom omelette.Handful of almonds.

Snack: Post-workout shake: blend 1 scoop protein powder, 100ml coconut milk, ½ banana, 75ml semi-skimmed milk and 1tbsp oats.

Lunch:  Tuna and egg salad.

Snack: Small pot of hummus with celery, carrot and cucumber sticks.

Dinner: Pork chops with assorted green veg. 

Snack: Greek yoghurt with cinnamon and pecan nuts.

Saturday

High-carb

Breakfast: 50g oats with 200ml skimmed milk. Serve with raspberries and honey. Stir in ½ scoop of whey protein at the end. 

Snack: Cucumber, pepper and carrot batons with hummus.

Lunch: 100g quinoa mixed with 2 boiled eggs, 1 chicken breast and broccoli.

Snack: Baked sweet potato with tuna and sweetcorn.

Dinner: Chilli con carne with rice (pictured) and green vegetables.

Snack: Small bowl of porridge with Greek yoghurt and cinnamon.

Sunday

Low-carb

Breakfast: Smoked haddock fillet with 2 poached eggs and asparagus. 

Snack: Apple and a handful of brazil nuts.

Lunch: Diced lamb grilled on skewers with green and red peppers, onion and cherry tomatoes. 

Snack: Ham salad with ½ an avocado.

Dinner: Beetroot, spinach and goat’s cheese salad. 

Snack: Greek yoghurt with cinnamon and a handful of walnuts.

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