Carb cycling for vegans
You’ve found yourself on this page, so I’m assuming the question on the end of your lips is this: Is it feasible to carb cycle as a vegan?
The answer is yes. But, due to a more limited selection of foods it can be challenging for vegans and vegetarians. In this article you’ll find two plans: one for fat loss and one for muscle gain. In addition we’ll offer a suggested meal plan for both days and will offer some tips and advice.
Lets start with a basic plan:
Carb cycling for either fat loss, or muscle gain
You should know at this point that carb cycling involves alternating days of high carbs and low carbs. If that’s news to you, check out our introductory post to carb cycling.
Before we get into the specifics it’s worth noting that carb cycling has a scientific basis.
It is understood in the scientific world that the body burns carbohydrates preferentially for energy. When carbs are in low availability the body will instead burn fats, and when fats aren’t available then protein is used instead. It’s also understood that what we eat effects hormone levels.
Now, if your aim is to lose weight then you want your body to preferentially burn fats. In carb cycling, this is achieved by having low carb days – and more of them than high carb days.
You might be tempted to just cut out carbs all together but remember balance is important, and that’s what high carb days add to your diet.
On the other hand if your aim is to build muscle, you need to be aware that the same hormones that help to build muscle can also lead to the body accumulating fat. Alternating high/low carb days help keep hormone levels – particularly insulin – balanced & healthy. You won’t need as many low carb days as those trying to lose weight however.
So here is a great plan (thanks to Rob Allen) for alternating your days, that we think will work perfectly well for vegan carb cycling:
A quick note before we get to the sample meal plans
You should know there are some common pitfalls with carb cycling. The main one is focusing entirely on the Carbohydrate content of your diet (at the cost of other important macronutrients). Sure carbs are the main focus, but balance is still important.
Protein for example is essential. A lack of it can result in your appetite quickly returning after a meal which will make it difficult to stick to your plan. It’s obviously also important in muscle maintenance and repair. As a vegan protein sources can be somewhat limited, especially when trying to find a protein source which is also low in carbohydrates. As such we recommend finding one or two protein sources that are low carb and sticking to them exclusively on your low carb days. A good example being soy or tempeh.
Fats are also essential. More so on low-carb days when your body will burn fat in place of the carbs. For vegans and vegetarians, some of the best fat sources include olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, nut butter, avocado, and others.
And one final but useful tip before we jump into the sample mean plans:
- Low carb day = high fat day
- High carb day = low fat day.
The main event: How to carb cycle as a vegan
With the basics covered, it’s now time to get into the specifics of what you should be eating on your high carb days, and on your low carb days.
High carb day for vegans
Breakfast: Oats w/ added fruit or honey
- Lunch: Eggplant & salad sandwich.
- Dinner: Spinach-Potato Tacos
- Snacks: Fruit
Solid protein choices for high carb day:
- Beans with rice
- Ezekiel bread
- Protein-rich vegetables (kale, mushrooms, broccoli)
Low carb day for vegans
Breakfast: Smoothie with coconut milk and blueberries.
- Lunch: Carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus dip, and a handful of nuts.
- Dinner: Tempeh stir fry, with coconut oil, cashew nuts and veggies.
- Snacks: Nuts
Solid protein choices for low carb day:
- Plant-Based Protein Powder
- Nut butter
A quick note on fruit
Most fruits contain a lot of carbohydrates, as such they are probably best suited to your high carb days. If you absolutely must have fruit at all times, then try to stick to a limited amount of berries on your low carb days. They contain slightly fewer carbs than other fruits.
And there you have it, that should serve as a basic carb cycling plan. As mentioned before it is going to be harder as a vegan but it just takes a little thought. Depending on the interest I may flesh out the low carb/high carb sections into fully comprehensive meal plans so if that’s of interest please leave your comments below.