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Wellness Icon Kathy Smith Reveals the Carb Cycling Plan That Helps Her Stay Healthy at Age 72, Plus How You Can Do It Too

Love carbs too much to give them up? Here's how to enjoy and still get in great shape.

You’ve likely heard all about the keto diet and other low-carb plans that are helping people reach their goal weight. But what if cutting about carbs just isn’t for you? “Then consider carb cycling,” suggests iconic wellness expert Kathy Smith, who credits the strategy with keeping her in amazing shape at age 72 and says she’s seen the technique work wonders for countless other women at midlife and beyond. “It’s so simple to do. You just boost your carb intake for a few days, cut back for a few days, then continue alternating. Results happen quickly. And it feels so great, you won’t even need willpower.” To discover how you can harness a carb cycling plan for simple slimming and great health, keep reading.

What is a carb cycling plan?

A carb cycling plan is an easy and flexible way of eating. The gist: Simply incorporate a few low-carb days built around protein, healthy fats and veggies. Then, alternate these days with higher-carb days with a few added servings of fiber-rich carbs like quinoa, sweet potatoes, beans or fruit. For best results, aim to be more active on higher-carb days. (Click through to learn how carb-cycling improves adrenal gland function.)

But why not just eat low-carb all the time? Trouble is, constant carb restriction is hard to maintain, and long-term, “it can cause a stress response in the body that hinders weight loss and health,” cautions Smith.  A carb cycling plan offers almost all the advantages of a lower-carb diet but without deprivation, struggle or negative side effects, she adds. How? For starters, it still lowers overall carb intake. And because it’s both physically and psychologically satisfying, we tend to eat less automatically.

How carb cycling plans compare to keto diets

Low-carb dieters tend to skimp on fiber, the favorite food of trillions of slimming bacteria that live in our gut and are “command central for weight control and wellness.” New research hints that boosting these bacteria can lead to faster fat burn. But if we neglect them, our waistline and every part of us suffers. It’s a big reason many keto dieters plateau and can’t lose again. (Click through to learn about the gut-healthy fiber psyllium husk for weight loss.)

According to Harvard-trained carb-cycling advocate Sara Gottfried, MD, most of us have systems that are “stuck in a rut.” They’re so locked into using carbs for fuel that they struggle to turn fat into fuel. And while a keto diet might seem like the logical fix, it just creates a new rut — one where we burn more fat but can’t handle carbs without gaining. The real solution: Train your body to burn whatever you throw at it.

Related: Women Over 50 Are Losing 100+ lbs With This “Super Fiber” — Without Feeling Deprived

How carb cycling boosts fat burning

Research shows carb cycling “helps you become more metabolically flexible. That means if you eat carbs, you use carbs for energy and if you eat fat, you use fat for energy,” explains Smith, who recently discussed metabolism on her podcast with Dr. Gottfried. “People who eat whatever they want and stay lean almost always have excellent metabolic flexibility.” It’s an ability that carb cycling can help anyone develop. (Click through to learn more about metabolic flexibility.)

Proof: A British study found that women up to age 65 who alternated between two low-carb days and five days of unlimited normal eating saw significant improvements in how their bodies burned both fat and carbs. They ended up losing about double the weight of a control group on a traditional low-calorie diet. “I’m totally excited about this study,” says Smith. “When you get in the rhythm of carb cycling, you reach your ideal body weight without obsessing over counting calories or measuring portions.”

What’s more, a new Yale study found cutting carbs triggers a surge of special gamma delta cells that rev metabolism and fight countless diseases. The hitch? After a week or so, levels of the cells dwindle again. That’s why cutting carbs “may actually work best in small doses,” per study head Vishwa Deep Dixit, PhD. Because every time you start over, you set yourself up for another flood of slimming super-cells.

Related: Top MD: These ‘Invisible Carbs’ Lower Blood Sugar + Speed Fat Burn — Shortcut Recipes Make It Easy to Benefit

Carb cycling before and after: Pam Nogueria, 51

Before and after photos of Pamela Nogueria who lost 101 lbs on a carb cycling plan
Michael Church

After Pam Nogueria became an empty nester, “I wanted to go back to work, but at my weight, I got tired easily,” she recalls. So she reached out to a local weight-loss coach who recommended wholesome foods and carb cycling. Some days the North Carolina mom would eat protein-topped salads and fish with veggies; other days she added fruit and healthy carbs. Her first week, she lost 10 pounds. Soon her rosacea, swollen ankles, brain fog and fatigue disappeared. “I started to realize how great I could feel!” In 10 months, she’d shed 101 pounds. “That’s really, really super-fast,” marvels Pam, 51. “So many other diets, I gave up because they were so slow. I realize now I just wasn’t using the right approach. When you find the right one, it can be fast!”

Learn more about the North Carolina-based coaching service Pam used at

Carb cycling meals to get you started

Stuck on where to start? Smith’s Eat for Vitality plan recommends alternating your low- and high-carb days, building meals around protein, veggies and healthy fats, plus added fiber-rich carbs for your high-carb days. Stick to commonsense portions and stop eating when lightly full. We’ve got recipe ideas below for both your low- and high-carb days to help kickstart your carb cycling plan.

Breakfast: Enjoy eggs with veggies and avocado; on higher-carb days, add a serving of sweet potato or fruit.

Lunch: Top a salad with salmon and cheese; on higher-carb days, add a serving of chickpeas or quinoa.

Snack: Sip a low-sugar protein shake; on higher-carb days, add a serving of fruit on the side.

Dinner: Grill skewers of marinated meat and veggies; on higher-carb days, add brown rice.

Bonus recipe: Protein pudding

Cupo of chocolate chia seed pudding from a recipe that's part of a carb cycling plan

Snack on this simple treat in place of a protein shake.


  • 1 cup unsweetened nut milk
  • 2 Tbs. cocoa powder
  • 1 serving chocolate protein powder, such as KS Wellness Protein
  • ⅛ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbs. honey or stevia to taste
  • ¼ cup chia seeds


In blender, blitz all ingredients except chia. On a low setting, gradually add chia until mixture is smooth and thick. Cover and refrigerate for 3–4 hours. If desired, garnish with berries or nuts. Makes 3 servings

For more ways to lose weight, check out these stories:

Chickpea Cookie Dough Is the Viral Dessert Helping Women Lose Weight Deliciously

It’s Easy to Turn This 2-Ingredient Dough Into Protein-Packed Bagels and Donuts — And Science Says It Can Boost Weight Loss

MD Shares the Oatmeal Diet Helping Women Over 50 Lose Fast — It’s Easy + Delicious

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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