Calorie Cycling Diet For Weight Lose

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Calorie Cycling for Weight Loss: What You Should Know

 Calorie Cycling for Weight Loss: What You Should Know

Calorie cycling probably sounds like yet another fitness gimmick that won't help anyone gain muscle or lose fat. And you would be partially correct. Calorie cycling is promoted by many "gurus" as a way to "hack" your metabolism and boost fat loss while protecting your body from the dangers of "starvation mode."

Others tout it as a more intelligent and effective application of traditional bodybuilding "bulking" principles, a way to gain lean muscle while remaining ripped, and even the "secret" to gaining muscle while losing fat. And none of it is correct.

Calorie cycling is a lot of flash and no steak. If you're a beginner or intermediate weightlifter looking to gain muscle (up to 4 years of proper eating and training), all you'll get out of the deal is more complicated meal planning and prepping.

If you're having trouble losing weight and think you'd benefit from structured "diet breaks" every now and then, calorie cycling may be able to help (even if it means fat loss will be slightly slower). Similarly, if you're an advanced weightlifter looking to avoid fat gain while bulking up, calorie cycling might be a good option for you. Continue reading to learn what calorie cycling is and how to use it for weight loss and fitness.


Calorie Cycling is a term used to describe the process of burning calories.

Calorie cycling, also known as the "zigzag diet," "zigzag calorie cycling," or the "calorie shifting diet," is a calorie-counting method that involves gradually increasing and decreasing calorie intake, usually by eating more or less carbohydrate.

Calorie cycling protocols vary, but the majority alternate (or “zigzag”) between high-, medium-, and low-calorie days throughout the week.

  • You typically consume more calories than you burn on high-calorie days.
  • On days with a medium calorie intake, you typically consume the same number of calories as you expend.
  • You typically consume fewer calories than you burn on low-calorie days.

Your goal and preferences will determine how many high-, medium-, and low-calorie days you have.

If you want to lose weight, for example, you could keep a calorie deficit for five days a week and eat at maintenance the other two days to give your body a break. If you want to gain muscle and strength while limiting fat gain, flip this layout around and eat at maintenance or even a deficit five days a week while maintaining a slight calorie surplus the other two days.


Calorie Cycling is a weight-loss strategy that involves cycling calories.

Any diet that requires you to maintain a calorie deficit for an extended period of time will result in weight loss, regardless of when or how those calories are consumed. As a result, calorie cycling isn't necessarily superior to any other diet that helps you maintain a calorie deficit for weight loss. However, some people prefer to use calorie cycling to lose weight because it is easier to stick to than other methods of weight loss.

It's true that sticking to a diet isn't always easy. When you restrict calories for an extended period of time, your body experiences a cascade of unfavorable hormonal changes, including...

  • Testosterone, thyroid hormone, and leptin levels are all down.
  • Cortisol and ghrelin levels are higher.

All of these factors work together to increase energy intake while decreasing energy expenditure by increasing hunger, decreasing motivation to move and exercise, and slowing metabolic rate.

To put it another way, the longer your diet lasts, the harder it is to stick to it. Calorie cycling, on the other hand, is a technique for giving yourself a break from these symptoms by increasing your calorie intake on a regular basis. Consider it like taking a breather before diving back in for another lap in the pool.

Some people maintain a calorie deficit for 4 or 5 days before taking a 2- to 3-day diet break, while others diet for several weeks before taking a 1-week diet break.

During a diet break, you typically increase your calorie intake to maintenance levels (enough to maintain your body weight). This isn't a "cheat day" (or week), so you should still keep track of your food intake during these periods.

Some people also believe that these diet breaks allow your body to correct hormonal or metabolic imbalances that make dieting more difficult and, as a result, keep dietary pitfalls at bay, making weight loss easier. While the theory is intriguing, evidence is mounting that the benefits of calorie cycling for weight loss are more fiction than fact.

For instance, researchers from The University of Western Australia discovered that people who took regular diet breaks lost the same amount of weight and had the same metabolic rates as those who dieted continuously.

Furthermore, taking diet breaks had no effect on hormones like ghrelin, testosterone, leptin, or thyroid hormone, which are linked to hunger, muscle mass, and metabolic rate. The only significant difference was that people who took diet breaks reported feeling less hungry and irritable, as well as more full and satisfied and alert than those who dieted continuously.

In other words, taking diet breaks didn't lead to more fat loss, a higher metabolic rate, or better hormone levels on a physiological level, but it did make dieting feel more comfortable for some of the participants.

While this may be beneficial to some people, these minor advantages must be weighed against the ease of traditional dieting: calculate your calories and macros, plan and prep your meals, and stick to it until you achieve your objective.

Calorie cycling necessitates micromanaging the exact number of calories you consume every day in order to be over, under, or at maintenance, which can be confusing, especially if you're new to proper dieting. Furthermore, depending on how your zig zag diet is set up, it will likely take you longer to reach your goal weight than if you maintained a calorie deficit throughout your diet.

For example, if you eat in a deficit for five days a week and then maintain for the other two, you've spent nearly 30% of your time not losing weight. To put it another way, if you were dieting for three months to reach your goal weight on a traditional diet, zigzag calorie cycling would take almost four months.

Another reason calorie cycling isn't ideal for everyone is the same reason it is for others: regular dieting breaks.

While some people see these breaks as a welcome break and a chance to regroup before starting another round of dieting, others prefer to stick with it until the job is done. In conclusion, calorie cycling may make dieting feel easier for some people, which may help them stick to their diet.

However, based on the weight of scientific evidence, it appears that this isn't the case for the vast majority of people, especially when the disadvantages are considered (much more time spent dieting).


Calorie Cycling to Gain Muscle

Calorie cycling isn't recommended for people who are new to weightlifting and want to gain the most muscle. They'll make rapid progress if they eat enough calories and protein every day, and complicating things with calorie cycling will only slow them down.

When it comes to lean bulking, even an intermediate weightlifter should keep it simple: eat about 10% more calories per day than you burn, do a lot of heavy weightlifting, and cut down to a body fat percentage that you're comfortable with once you're around 15-to-17 percent body fat (men) or 25-to-27 percent body fat (women) (normally around 10 percent for men, or 20 percent for woman).

Repeat until you're an advanced weightlifter (someone who has completed at least 3 years of effective strength training and has reached 80% or more of their genetic potential for muscle growth).

Then and only then should you consider using calorie cycling to gain muscle. Calorie cycling is a viable option (but not a "hack") for advanced lifters who want to make slow, steady muscle and strength gains while staying lean (10-to-12 percent body fat for men and 20-to-22 percent for women.

It works well for advanced weightlifters because once you've gained the majority of the genetically available muscle and strength, progress slows to a crawl and your body doesn't require as many extra calories to keep going.

While muscle growth becomes more difficult as we grow bigger and stronger, the smaller calorie surplus required to keep progressing reduces fat gain. So much so that you can maintain a lean bulk for months before your body fat levels rise to the point where a cutting phase is required.

If you look up how to lean bulk on the internet, the most common advice you'll find is to maintain a slight calorie surplus of about 10% more calories than you burn each day (including rest days and days you lift weights).

Calorie cycling for lean bulking works similarly, except on rest days you eat at maintenance or in a deficit. You could, for example, eat in a slight calorie surplus for five days a week and then eat at maintenance or in a deficit for the remaining two days.

This, in theory, creates a "maintenance with benefits" scenario in which you can slowly gain muscle while storing very little fat. Which sounds great in theory, but doesn't always work in practice. For starters, muscle growth is a multi-day process that begins in the gym and lasts several days, not hours. By limiting your calorie intake even for a couple of days a week, you can slow down muscle growth and forego some potential gains.

Furthermore, many people struggle to stick to the plan because it detracts from the fun of lean bulking. Even if you're not a huge foodie, it's fun to stray from the menu now and then. Calorie cycling, on the other hand, requires you to pay closer attention to your daily calorie intake.

Furthermore, because many people train during the week and relax on weekends, eating in a deficit on off days can make dinner outings, social events, and off days less enjoyable.

Finally, it's debatable how effective this is at preventing fat gain versus simply maintaining a lower average calorie surplus throughout your bulk. It's hard to believe that maintaining a 200-calorie surplus every day is any worse than maintaining a 300-calorie surplus five days a week.

And, as I mentioned earlier, there are reasons to believe that calorie cycling is slightly worse for muscle growth than eating the same amount of calories every day. However, one reason to use calorie cycling during a lean bulk is to reduce the damage caused by frequent overeating.

You can always eat a little less on a few other days during the week to offset any fat gain if you eat a little too much on a surplus day or two (easy to do when eating out). How to Create a Meal Plan for Calorie Cycling

There are numerous ways to set up a calorie-cycling meal plan, but depending on your objectives, I recommend rotating between three calorie levels:

  • A high-calorie day is one in which you consume 10% more calories than you normally would.
  • A calorie deficit of about 20% of maintenance calories on a given day
  • A day with a moderate calorie intake (around maintenance calories)

Calorie cycling can be done in extremes, such as alternating between very low and very high calorie days, but I don't recommend it. While such protocols can be effective, they are far more trouble than they are worth, and they usually produce worse results than the more reasonable, moderate method I'll teach you here.


Calorie Cycling for Weight Loss: What You Should Know

If you want to use calorie cycling to lose weight, there are two rules to follow:

1. Carbs must account for the majority of your extra calories on higher-calorie days.

This is because carbohydrates have a positive effect on hormone levels in the body and help to alleviate some of the negative effects of calorie restriction. It's also a good idea to eat a lot of protein because it raises your body's sensitivity to these hormones, which is important for appetite control.


2. For two to three days per week, you must eat at maintenance calories.

Carbohydrates have a short-term hormone-enhancing effect. As a result, regardless of how much or how little carbohydrate you consume on a daily basis, your hormone levels will eventually balance out. A single high-carb meal or day won't cut it because hormone levels aren't influenced enough to affect your physiology. It takes your brain at least a few days (and sometimes up to a week or two) to recognize what's going on and respond positively.

As a result, you can reap the (theoretical) benefits of calorie cycling by increasing your calories to maintenance two to three days per week while remaining in a deficit the rest of the time.

With these guidelines in mind, I recommend structuring your calorie cycling meal plan to include five low-calorie days and two medium-calorie days. You can schedule these days however you want, but I suggest scheduling your medium-calorie days on or before your hardest workout days.

If you train first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon, plan medium-calorie days before your workouts. If you prefer to train in the evenings, do so on training days. You'll give your body more time to maximize muscle glycogen levels, which will help you lift more weight.


Calorie Cycling as a Muscle-Building Tool

When calorie cycling on a lean bulk, I recommend the following: Four or five days of training per week: Each week, you should have five high-calorie days and two low-calorie days.

Three days of training per week: Each week, you should have four high-calorie days and three low-calorie days. Your total weekly calorie intake will more or less even out to maintenance as the size of your surplus on high-calorie days is smaller than the size of your deficit on low-calorie days.

If you're losing weight, however, replace a low-calorie day with a high-calorie day. Turn a high-calorie day into a low-calorie day if you're gaining weight too quickly (more than 0.5 to 1 percent of your body weight per month).

It doesn't matter where you put your high-calorie days; you can move them around week to week, but I prefer them to fall on training days. I train Monday through Friday and don't train on weekends, so this is how I'd go about it:

  • Monday is a calorie-dense day.
  • Tuesday is a calorie-dense day.
  • Wednesday is a calorie-dense day.
  • Thursday is a calorie-dense day.
  • Friday is a calorie-dense day.
  • Saturday is a calorie-restricted day.
  • Sunday is a calorie-restricted day.

A high-calorie day for me would look like this:

  • Protein content: 195 grams (780 calories)
  • 75 g of body fat (675 calories)
  • 460 grams of carbohydrates (1,840 calories)
  • Approximately 3,300 calories

And a calorie-restricted day:

  • Protein content: 195 grams (780 calories)
  • Fat content: 55 g (495 calories)
  • 280 grams of carbohydrates (1,120 calories)
  • Approximately 2,400 calories


Is calorie cycling effective for weight loss?

Any diet that requires you to maintain a calorie deficit for an extended period of time will result in fat loss, regardless of when or how those calories are consumed. As a result, calorie cycling isn't necessarily better for fat loss than any other calorie-restricted diet. Calorie cycling, on the other hand, is worth a shot if you find that it makes maintaining a calorie deficit feel more manageable and helps you stick to your diet.


On my high-, low-, and medium-calorie days, how do I know how many calories to eat?

All of these figures are based on your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which is a mathematical calculation of how many calories you burn throughout the day based on your weight, height, age, and level of activity.


What supplements should I take to help me lose weight faster on a zigzag diet?

You'll lose weight whether you take fat-loss supplements or not as long as the total number of calories you consume each week is less than the total number of calories you burn. However, if you want to speed up the process, there are a few supplements that can help. The most effective fat-burning supplements are:

  • Caffeine intake ranges from 3 to 6 mg per kilogram of body weight per day. This will increase your calorie burn while also improving your strength, muscle endurance, and anaerobic performance. Pulse is a delicious, clean source of caffeine that also contains five other ingredients that will help you perform better during your workout.
  • Before training, take 0.1 to 0.2 milligrams of yohimbine per kilogram of bodyweight. When combined with fasted training, this boosts fat loss and is especially useful for shedding "stubborn" fat. Try Forge if you want a 100 percent natural source of yohimbine with two other ingredients to help you lose fat faster, keep muscle, and maintain training intensity and mental sharpness.

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