I’m a huge fan of calorie cycling. In my experience, it is the more natural way of dieting as compared to the daily consistent calorie deficit. If you aren’t having success with traditional weight loss eating methods, give calorie cycling a try.
What is Calorie Cycling
Instead of eating the same amount of calories each and every day, you instead cycle your calories so you have low and high calorie days. You look at your calorie intake over a period of a week instead of day to day.
For example, if you need 2000 calories per day to lose weight, with traditional dieting you would eat 2000 calories per day each and every day. However, with calorie cycling, you’d alternate days of varying calorie intakes, but your total calories would still equal 2000 x 7 = 14000 over a period of a week.
Benefits of Cycling Your Calories
Where calorie cycling really shines is for people with highly adaptable metabolisms. For these people, cutting their calories and staying in that deficit will leave them with a weight loss plateau in just a couple of weeks. Calorie cycling keeps your metabolism from quickly adjusting to a hypo-caloric environment.
In addition, having high calorie days enables you to change up the monotonous eating of traditional dieting. You’re able to add in more food and actually feel full, which is a huge psychological boost when you’re trying to lose weight. Not to mention, the improved variety of food keeps your taste buds appeased. For a lot of people who eat out frequently, the high calories days can coincide with social outings.
Calorie cycling is a more natural way of eating. In the real world, very rarely do we eat the same amount of food day in and day out. Instead, we naturally have varying degrees of calorie intakes throughout the week. Calorie cycling closely mimics those natural eating patterns.
Finally, those important fat loss and muscle building hormones like thyroid, leptin, testosterone, and growth hormone all down-regulate with traditional dieting. The best part about calorie cycling is that 1-2 times a week during your high calorie days you help restore these hormones to higher levels. I don’t have to tell you what that will do for your fat loss.
Example Calorie Cycling Diet
In reality, there is a near endless amount of ways to cycle your calories. However, there are a few guidelines you should follow as you plan out the structure of your diet.
- High calorie days should be 1-2 times per week and should be at or near maintenance levels.
- Protein intake should stay fairly consistent on all days at around .6-.8 grams per pound of body weight.
- Carbohydrates will be the biggest variable. They will be the main source of extra calories on your higher calorie days.
- Fat intake can be dropped lower on high carb days. Carbohydrates have the biggest effect on up-regulating important hormones.
Now, to structure your diet for the week, we first need to know how many calories we need each day. If we need 2000 calories per day, that means our weekly food intake will need to equal 14,000 calories. We could do that several ways, but my favorite way is to take 2 non-consecutive days out of the week and make them high calorie days, and the other 5 will be low days. It looks like this:
Sunday – 2800
Monday – 1680
Tuesday – 1680
Wednesday – 1680
Thursday – 2800
Friday – 1680
Saturday – 1680
Total Calories = 14,000 / 7 = average of 2,000/day
Week 2 (lower overall calories if you don’t hit your minimum target weight loss)
Sunday – 2800
Monday – 1600
Tuesday – 1600
Wednesday – 1600
Thursday – 2800
Friday – 1600
Saturday – 1600
Total Calories = 13,600 / 7 = average of 1943/day
Do you see the progression? The high calorie days stay high calorie days. Then, you only lower calories on the low calorie days when your weight loss plateaus. Eventually the high calorie days will need to come down a little too. This method creates a built in refeed twice a week and keeps your weight loss consistently moving forward.
On a side note, I’d personally place the high calorie days either the day before or the day of an intense workout for an added energy and recovery boost.
Obviously, you could do any combination of low, medium, and high days as long as your total calories at the end of the week equals out. Try scheduling your high days around your social schedule or workout days, and you will soon see why calorie cycling is the go-to eating method for many successful weight losers.