Are you ready to achieve your weight loss goals? Carb cycling is an effective way of burning fat without triggering your body’s defenses against starvation, but even the best plan isn’t worth much if you can’t reference it.
Today, we’re going to show you how to make a good PDF file and how you can use it to manage your diet correctly.
Step 1: Get Your Meal Plan
If you don’t already have a meal plan, a carb cycling calculator can help you figure out what (and when) to eat to lose weight or to beef up that muscle mass.
If your calculator doesn’t have a specific meal plan, you’ll need to start researching foods and make your own meals. The general idea here is that you should try to match not just the number of total calories each day, but how many calories you should be getting from each source.
Here are a few options in each category to get you started.
- Protein: Good sources of protein include foods like spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, halibut, and beans. Greek yogurt, cashews, and teff (a gluten-free, somewhat nutty grain) are also acceptable choices for your protein intake.
- Carbohydrates: Ideal sources of carbohydrates include bread, some fruit, sweet potato, brown rice, oats, bananas, and blueberries. All of your carb sources should be minimally processed – pasta, alcohol, and sugar are off limits.
- Fats: Good sources of healthy fats include nuts, fish, and chia seeds. Cheese is another good source, especially high-protein options like parmesan, romano, and gouda. Be wary of low-fat cheeses, since you want to get some fat from them to keep that fat intake up in a carb cycling diet.
One thing you may notice while planning your meals is that some foods provide multiple types of macronutrients. Nuts and cheese, for example, provide protein and fat.
This makes them much easier to work into a calorie-restricting diet, and you can expect to eat quite a lot of them over the course of your diet.
Remember, you don’t have to eat entirely separate ingredients. Low carb Indian food, for example, can provide most of your nutrients in one tastier package.
Step 2: Decide How Many Meals To Have Each Day
Some carb cycling plans schedule six meals a day instead of three. The primary goal of these plans is to help you avoid overeating – if you’re never truly hungry, you’re much less likely to start reaching for snacks ‘just this one time.’
This isn’t required – as long as you’re eating the right amount each day, having anywhere from three to six meals makes no real difference – but it’s worth doing as long as your daily schedule supports it.
If not, don’t worry and just stick to three regular meals.
Step 3: Start Planning Variant Meals
Nobody wants to have just two different meal plans for several weeks in a row. In general, your meals should be something you look forward to rather than a boring event to endure.
This comes back to the same reasoning as Step 2 – you don’t want to give yourself excuses to deviate from your plan.
For your PDF, create several different ‘sections’ for each meal that you can mix-and-match. For example, you may have oats and chia seeds for breakfast one day, then yogurt and bananas the next day.
Remember to schedule carb intake both before and after your exercise times. Your carbohydrate intake does impact your ability to exercise (yes, there’s proof), and you don’t want to be lacking in sustained energy during a workout. So, plan it accordingly based on your activity level.
If you have to quit early, you could throw off the entire diet. Similarly, you should have variants of your meal plans for both the low carb and high carb days
In general, try to avoid eating the same thing more than once every three days. This provides enough variety in your diet to satisfy your taste buds while simultaneously helping ensure you get all of the nutrition you need.
Step 4: Put Your Plan Together In A PDF
Once you have all of your meals planned and ready to go, it’s time to put them together. There are many ways of actually saving a PDF file, from saving web pages to creating PDFs in word processors like Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
As you do this, consider how you’d like to access your plan throughout the week. Many people prefer to save the plan onto their computer or smartphone, but if you’re willing to print things out, you can add a few helpful features.
The most notable of these is a form-fillable field. You can create these directly in programs like Adobe Acrobat or Microsoft Word. Alternatively, you can create blank “tables” that you can write in after you print off your plan.
Personally, I’m quite fond of the latter – regularly marking off meals provides a psychological reward as you work towards your goal, and anything that makes a diet easier is okay in my book.
The most important thing to consider here is how to get the most useful plan for your needs. You can limit yourself to merely printing off a schedule, but the more detailed your plan is, the more it can help you accomplish.
Step 5: Add Tracking Information
Once you’ve been cycling carbs for 2-3 weeks, you should have a sense of how much weight you’ll be able to lose each week. Remember that weight loss tends to slow down once you’ve reached a certain point, so you shouldn’t expect the same rate of fat loss forever.
It can be discouraging to set an estimate and continuously fall short of it. Instead, start recording your weight at the start of each week and keep that as a running tally on your meal calendar.
This way, every time you look at it, you’ll be reminded of your progress and how the plan has already helped you succeed.
Step 6: Add Rewards
Having a long-term goal for weight loss is essential – indeed, carb cycling should only be done to reach a specific goal – but it can be challenging to remain motivated for several weeks straight, even though there are some rest days. This is where smaller rewards come into play.
Now, I’m not going to tell you exactly what reward to use – different people like different things. However, there are two general principles that I recommend following.
First, no food-based rewards. All that does is throw off your plan, so it’s self-defeating.
Second, experiences are better than things. For example, instead of buying an updated phone, treat yourself to a short adventure, especially if it sounds like fun.
Develop Good Habits has an excellent list of potential rewards here. You should try to have at least one reward each week for successfully following the diet, with a great reward at the end. If you plan to diet for more than four weeks, you should also have a better reward somewhere around the mid-point.
The main idea here is to always have a goal that’s close by – that way, instead of working eight weeks for one grand reward, you can work one week each for eight moderate rewards. It’s always easier to keep going when you’re rewarded on a regular basis.
Remember, rewards don’t have to be expensive – or rather, they’re not really a reward if they ruin your budget. Many delightful experiences are low-cost or even free.
If you’re having trouble deciding, try rewards like these:
- Go to a local art show or festival
- Visit a free museum
- Watch a comedy show online or on television
- Move things around to create a clean, restful area in your home
- Volunteer at an animal shelter
- Go hiking
- Go swimming
- Call a friend and talk with them for a while
Don’t slack on this part of your plan. All of the carb cycling meal plan PDFs you save should have a clear goal at the end, as well as a reminder that you have to follow the plan to get the reward.
(Incidentally, if you have children, this can be an excellent way of teaching them good habits. You may want to keep a ‘schedule’ going with doing chores around the house for this very purpose.)
Step 7: Start Saving Your Variants
By this point, you probably have too much information to keep on one page. The ideal weekly plan is only one page long, allowing you to see everything at a glance. Rather than having multiple pages to print out, put each weekly plan in a different file. You may wish to call them something like “Week 1”, “Week 2”, and so on, which provides a clear schedule to follow.
Step 8: Make Backups
No piece of technology lasts forever – but losing your diet plan to computer failure makes a bad situation even worse. Save copies of your PDFs onto a flash drive or some form of online storage.
Google Docs is an excellent choice for this, given the sheer redundancy of their systems. That way, whatever happens, you’ll still have access to your carb cycling meal plan.