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How to Use Calorie Cycling for Weight Loss

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When you’re a savvy gymgoer, you in all probability suppose “calorie biking” appears like one other health gewgaw that’s unlikely to assist anybody construct muscle and lose fats.

And also you’d be a minimum of partially proper. 

Many “gurus” promote calorie biking as a magic bullet of kinds, a method to “hack” your metabolism and supercharge fats loss whereas defending your physique in opposition to the ravages of “hunger mode.” 

Others invoice it as a extra clever and efficient utility of conventional bodybuilding “bulking” rules, a method to acquire lean muscle whereas staying ripped, and even the “secret” to constructing muscle and shedding fats on the identical time.

And none of that’s true. 

Calorie biking is mainly all sizzle and no steak. When you’re a newbie or intermediate weightlifter (as much as 4 years of correct consuming and coaching) who’s trying to construct muscle, all you’re going to get from the discount is complexified meal planning and prepping. 

If, nonetheless, you discover weight-reduction plan for fats loss unbearably troublesome, and suppose you’d profit from structured “weight loss program breaks” now and again, calorie biking might be able to assist (even when it means fats loss will likely be barely slower).

Likewise, when you’re a complicated weightlifter who desires to reduce fats acquire whereas lean bulking, calorie biking may need one thing to give you.

Maintain studying to seek out out what calorie biking is and find out how to use calorie biking for weight reduction and muscle acquire.

What Is Calorie Biking (a.okay.a “The Zig Zag Weight loss program”)?

Calorie biking—often known as the “zig zag weight loss program,” “zig zag calorie biking,” or the “calorie shifting weight loss program”—is a technique of consuming that entails deliberate will increase and reduces in calorie consumption, often by consuming kind of carbohydrate

There are numerous calorie biking protocols to select from, however most alternate (or “zig zag”) between high-, medium-, and low-calorie days all through the week.

  • On high-calorie days, you sometimes devour extra energy than you burn.
  • On medium-calorie days, you sometimes devour as many energy as you burn.
  • On low-calorie days, you sometimes devour fewer energy than you burn.

The precise mixture of your high-, medium-, and low-calorie days is determined by your objectives and preferences. 

For instance, if you wish to lose fats, you possibly can keep a calorie deficit for 5 days per week, and eat at upkeep on the remaining two days to provide your physique a break. 

If you wish to acquire muscle and energy whereas minimizing fats acquire, you may flip this structure round and keep a slight calorie surplus 5 days per week, and eat at upkeep or perhaps a deficit on the remaining two days of the week.

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Calorie Biking for Weight Loss

Any weight loss program that has you keep a calorie deficit over an prolonged interval will trigger weight reduction, no matter when and the way you devour these energy. 

As such, calorie biking isn’t inherently higher for weight reduction than another weight loss program that helps you keep a calorie deficit.

That stated, the rationale some individuals like to make use of calorie biking to drop a few pounds is that they discover it simpler to stay to than different types of weight-reduction plan.

You see, preserving to a weight loss program isn’t all the time a snip.

Once you limit energy for a sustained time frame you set off a cascade of unfavorable hormonal adjustments in your physique, equivalent to . . .

. . . all of which work to cut back power expenditure and enhance power consumption by jacking up starvation, reducing motivation to maneuver and train, and slowing metabolic fee.

In different phrases, the longer your weight loss program drags on, the harder it’s to stay to it.

The concept behind calorie biking, although, is that you simply periodically increase your calorie consumption to provide your self a respite from these signs. Consider it as arising for a breather earlier than going heads-down for an additional lap within the pool.

You’ve got many choices by way of the way you set this up, with some individuals sustaining a calorie deficit for 4 or 5 days adopted by a 2-to-3 day weight loss program break, and others weight-reduction plan for a number of weeks earlier than taking a 1-week weight loss program break.

Sometimes, you increase your energy to upkeep ranges (sufficient to keep up your physique weight) throughout a weight loss program break. This isn’t a “cheat day” (or week), and it’s nonetheless essential to regulate your meals consumption throughout these breaks.

Some individuals additionally declare that these weight loss program breaks permit your physique to proper the hormonal or metabolic wrongs that make weight-reduction plan harder, and in doing so, hold dietary bugaboos at bay so you’ve a better time reducing weight.

Whereas it’s a neat principle, increasingly proof is exhibiting the advantages of calorie biking for weight reduction are extra fiction than reality. 

For instance, in a research carried out by scientists at The College of Western Australia researchers discovered that individuals who took common weight loss program breaks misplaced the identical quantity of weight and had the identical metabolic charges as individuals who dieted repeatedly.

What’s extra, taking weight loss program breaks had no important impact on hormones which can be related to starvation, muscle mass, and metabolic fee, equivalent to ghrelin, testosterone, leptin, or thyroid hormone.

The one main distinction was that individuals who took weight loss program breaks reported feeling much less hungry and irritable and extra full and happy regardless of consuming in a calorie deficit, and extra alert than those that dieted repeatedly. 

In different phrases, taking weight loss program breaks wasn’t superior on a physiological degree—it didn’t result in extra fats loss, larger metabolic fee, or beneficial hormone ranges—however it did make weight-reduction plan really feel extra snug for a few of the individuals.

Whereas this can be useful for some of us, these modest advantages must be weighed in opposition to the simplicity of conventional weight-reduction plan: calculate your energy and macros, plan and prep your meals, then keep it up till you hit your goal.

Calorie biking requires you to micromanage the precise variety of energy you eat every single day to be over, underneath, or at upkeep, which provides a degree of complexity that may be complicated, particularly when you’re new to correct weight-reduction plan.

What’s extra, relying on the way you arrange your zig zag weight loss program, it would in all probability take you longer to succeed in your objective weight than it will when you maintained a calorie deficit throughout your whole weight loss program.

For instance, when you eat in a deficit for 5 day per week, then at upkeep for the remaining two, that’s nearly 30% of your time spent not reducing weight. Put one other method, if it was going to take you three months of weight-reduction plan to succeed in your objective weight utilizing a conventional weight loss program, it will take nearly 4 months utilizing zigzag calorie biking.

Another excuse calorie biking isn’t optimum for everybody is precisely what makes it nice for others: common breaks from weight-reduction plan.

Whereas some view these breaks as a welcome reprieve and an opportunity to regroup earlier than one other spherical of weight-reduction plan, others desire a extra dogged strategy the place they intestine out the weight loss program till the job’s accomplished.

In abstract, some individuals could discover that calorie biking makes weight-reduction plan really feel simpler, which can assist them stick with their weight loss program. 

That stated, primarily based on the burden of the scientific proof, it seems like this isn’t the case for most individuals, particularly when weighed in opposition to the downsides (way more time spent weight-reduction plan). 

Calorie Biking for Muscle Achieve

Calorie biking isn’t for individuals new to weightlifting who need to maximize muscle acquire. 

As long as they eat sufficient energy and protein every single day, they’ll make speedy progress, and complicating issues with calorie biking will solely detract from that. 

Even an intermediate weightlifter is healthier off preserving it easy when lean bulking: eat about 10% extra energy every single day than you burn, do a variety of heavy weightlifting, and when you’re round 15-to-17% physique fats (males) or 25-to-27% physique fats (ladies), minimize right down to a physique fats proportion that you simply’re snug with (usually round 10% for males, or 20% for lady).

Rinse and repeat till you’re a complicated weightlifter (somebody with a minimum of 3+ years of productive energy coaching who’s achieved 80% or extra of their genetic potential for muscle development).

Solely then is it value contemplating utilizing calorie biking to construct muscle. When a complicated lifter desires to make gradual, regular muscle and energy positive aspects whereas staying lean (10-to-12% physique fats for males or 20-to-22% for girls), calorie biking is a viable possibility (however actually not a “hack.”)

It really works nicely for superior weightlifters, as a result of when you’ve gained a lot of the muscle and energy accessible to you genetically, progress slows to a crawl and your physique doesn’t want as many further energy to proceed progressing.

The excellent news is whereas muscle development turns into extra elusive as we get larger and stronger, the smaller calorie surplus required to maintain progressing diminishes fats acquire. A lot so as to lean bulk for a lot of months earlier than your body-fat ranges rise excessive sufficient to warrant a slicing section.

When you go searching on-line for find out how to lean bulk, the same old recommendation you’ll see is to keep up a slight calorie surplus of about 10% extra energy than you burn every single day (together with relaxation days and days you elevate weights). 

Calorie biking for lean bulking works a lot the identical method, besides you eat at upkeep or in a deficit in your relaxation days.

For instance, you possibly can keep a slight calorie surplus for 5 days per week after which eat at upkeep or in a deficit for 2 days per week. 

In principle, this creates a “upkeep with advantages” situation the place you may acquire muscle slowly with little or no fats storage.

Which sounds nice . . . however doesn’t fairly pan out in apply.

For one factor, muscle development is a course of that begins within the fitness center and completes a number of days later, not a number of hours. By limiting your energy even a few days per week, you faucet the brakes on muscle development and sacrifice some potential positive aspects.

Moreover, many individuals discover it troublesome to stay to the plan, as a result of it takes some enjoyment out of lean bulking. Even when you’re not a lot of a foodie, it’s good to eat a bit off-plan at times. Once you’re calorie biking, nonetheless, it’s essential to pay nearer consideration to your day-to-day calorie consumption. 

Additionally, as many individuals prepare in the course of the week and take the weekends off, consuming in a deficit on relaxation days could make dinner outings, social occasions, and off days much less pleasing. 

Lastly, it’s debatable how a lot this actually reduces fats acquire versus simply sustaining a smaller common calorie surplus all through your bulk. As an example, it beggars perception {that a} 200-calorie surplus every single day would actually be any worse than sustaining a 300-calorie surplus 5 days per week. 

And as I discussed a second in the past, there are good causes to suppose calorie biking could also be barely worse for muscle development than sustaining the identical calorie consumption every single day.

One purpose to make use of calorie biking throughout a lean bulk, although, is to reduce the injury from periodic overeating.

When you eat a bit an excessive amount of on a surplus day or two (simple to do when consuming out), you may all the time eat a bit much less just a few different days in the course of the week to countervail any fats acquire. 

Easy methods to Make a Calorie Biking Meal Plan

There are numerous methods to configure a calorie-cycling meal plan, however relying in your objectives, I like to recommend you rotate between three ranges of calorie consumption: 

  1. A high-calorie day of about 10% above upkeep energy
  2. A low-calorie day of about 20% under upkeep energy
  3. A medium-calorie day of about upkeep energy

There are excessive variations of calorie biking on the market that contain alternating between very-low and very-high calorie days, however I don’t advocate these. 

Whereas such protocols can work, they’re much more bother than they’re value and often produce worse outcomes than the extra cheap, average technique I’ll educate you right here.

Easy methods to Use Calorie Biking for Weight Loss

If you wish to use calorie biking for weight reduction, you might want to observe two guidelines:

1. You have to get most of your further energy on higher-calorie days from carbs.

It is because consuming carbohydrates favourably impacts hormone ranges in your physique and eases some adverse unwanted side effects of calorie restriction. It’s additionally a good suggestion to maintain protein consumption excessive, as this will increase your physique sensitivity to those hormones which is essential for regulating urge for food.

2. You have to eat at upkeep energy for two-to-three days per week.

The hormone-enhancing results of carbs are short-lived. Thus, over time, your hormone ranges steadiness out, no matter how a lot or little carbohydrate you’re consuming every single day. 

A single high-carb meal or day received’t make the grade, both, as a result of it doesn’t affect hormone ranges sufficient to affect your physiology. It takes a minimum of a few days (and generally as much as every week or two) to your mind to acknowledge what’s taking place and reply positively.

Subsequently, by elevating your energy to upkeep two-to-three days per week and staying in a deficit in any other case, you may reap the (theoretical) advantages of calorie biking.

With these guidelines in thoughts, I like to recommend you set up your calorie biking for weight reduction meal plan in order that it supplies 5 low-calorie days and two medium-calorie days. You’ll be able to organize today nonetheless you want, however I like to recommend you place your medium-calorie days on or earlier than the times of your hardest exercises.

When you prepare very first thing within the morning or within the afternoon, schedule medium-calorie days in order that they precede coaching days. When you prepare within the evenings, schedule them on coaching days. This manner, you give your physique time to maximise muscle glycogen ranges, which can enhance your weightlifting efficiency.

For instance, right here’s the way you may do it on the 5-day program:


And when you skilled within the evenings, it might appear to be this:


My complete day by day power expenditure is round 2,900 energy on my lifting days (5 per week) and a pair of,500 on my relaxation days (two days per week), placing my complete weekly calorie expenditure round 19,500.

So, utilizing myself for instance, right here’s how a low-calorie day would look:

  • 195 grams of protein (780 energy)
  • 55 grams of fats (495 energy)
  • 280 grams of carbs (1,120 energy)
  • Totaling round 2,400 energy

And a medium-calorie day:

  • 195 grams of protein (780 energy)
  • 65 grams of fats (585 energy)
  • 410 grams of carbs (1,640 energy)
  • Totaling round 3,000 energy

This may put me in a calorie deficit of round 1,500 energy for the week.

After you have your numbers, all you must do subsequent is flip them right into a meal plan that you simply get pleasure from and stick with it. 

Easy methods to Use Calorie Biking for Constructing Muscle

Once you’re calorie biking on a lean bulk, I like to recommend:

  • 4 or 5 coaching days per week: 5 high-calorie and two low-calorie days per week
  • Three coaching days per week: 4 high-calorie and three low-calorie days per week

As the dimensions of your surplus on high-calorie days will likely be smaller than the dimensions of your deficit on low-calorie days, your complete weekly calorie consumption will kind of even out to upkeep. 

If, nonetheless, you discover you’re reducing weight, swap a low-calorie day for a high-calorie one. Equally, when you’re gaining weight too shortly (greater than 0.5 to 1% of physique weight monthly), flip a high-calorie day right into a low-calorie one.

The place you place your high-calorie days doesn’t matter a lot, and you may transfer them round week to week, however I like for them to fall on coaching days. I prepare Monday via Friday and take the weekends off, so right here’s how I’d do it:

  • Monday: Excessive-calorie day
  • Tuesday: Excessive-calorie day
  • Wednesday: Excessive-calorie day
  • Thursday: Excessive-calorie day
  • Friday: Excessive-calorie day
  • Saturday: Low-calorie day
  • Sunday: Low-calorie day

And for me, a high-calorie day would appear to be this:

  • 195 grams of protein (780 energy)
  • 75 grams of fats (675 energy)
  • 460 grams of carbs (1,840 energy)
  • Totaling round 3,300 energy

And a low-calorie day:

  • 195 grams of protein (780 energy)
  • 55 grams of fats (495 energy)
  • 280 grams of carbs (1,120 energy)
  • Totaling round 2,400 energy

FAQ #1: Is calorie biking good for fats loss?

It may be.

Any weight loss program that has you keep a calorie deficit over an prolonged interval will trigger fats loss, no matter when and the way you devour these energy. 

As such, calorie biking isn’t inherently higher for fats loss than another weight loss program that helps you keep a calorie deficit.

Nevertheless, when you discover that calorie biking makes sustaining a calorie deficit really feel simpler and it helps you stick with your weight loss program, it’s value making an attempt.

(Oh, and when you aren’t certain if calorie biking is best for you or if one other weight loss program is perhaps a greater match to your circumstances and objectives, then take the Legion Weight loss program Quiz! In lower than a minute, it’ll inform you precisely what weight loss program is best for you. Click on right here to test it out.)

FAQ #2: How do I understand how many energy to eat on my high-, low- and medium-calorie days?

All of those numbers are primarily based in your complete day by day power expenditure (TDEE), which is a mathematical estimate of what number of complete energy you burn all through the day primarily based in your weight, top, age, and exercise degree.

One of the simplest ways to calculate them is to make use of the TDEE calculator right here.

FAQ #3: Which dietary supplements ought to I take to hurry up fats loss on a zig zag weight loss program?

So long as the whole variety of energy you devour every week is decrease than the whole variety of energy you burn, you’ll drop a few pounds whether or not you are taking fat-loss dietary supplements or not.

That stated, when you’d like to hurry the method up, there are just a few dietary supplements you may take to assist. (And when you’d wish to know precisely what dietary supplements to take to succeed in your health objectives, take the Legion Complement Finder Quiz.)

One of the best fat-loss dietary supplements for are:

  • 3-to-6 mg of caffeine per kilogram of physique weight per day. It will increase the variety of energy you burn and in addition will increase energy, muscle endurance, and anaerobic efficiency. In order for you a clear, scrumptious supply of caffeine that additionally incorporates 5 different elements that may enhance your exercise efficiency, attempt Pulse.
  • 0.1 to 0.2 milligrams of yohimbine per kilogram of body weight earlier than coaching. This will increase fats loss when used along with fasted coaching, and is especially useful with shedding “cussed” fats. In order for you a 100% pure supply of yohimbine that additionally incorporates two different elements that may provide help to lose fats quicker, protect muscle, and keep coaching depth and psychological sharpness, attempt Forge.
  • One serving of Phoenix per day. Phoenix is a 100% pure fats burner that hastens your metabolism, enhances fats burning, and reduces starvation and cravings. You may also get Phoenix with caffeine, or with out.

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