First things first: if you want to figure out your own caloric needs, be sure to check out my FREE . Note that this will give you your , so if you have specific or goals, you’ll need to make some adjustments.
Okay, now let’s get into it…
What is ?
, sometimes called a zig zag or , is not really a at all.
Put simply, it’s a way of eating some days, and more calories other days.
When most people set a goal for themselves, they aim to eat consume the same amount of calories every single day.
With , you aim to hit that same goal, but as your daily average. In other words: some days can be higher in calories and other days can be lower in calories, but it averages out throughout the week.
A has you looking at an overall week vs daily intake, giving you more leeway with your . Think of it as a slightly more advanced way of .
It’s important to note that there is no specific benefit to ; it’s simply a way to switch things up. At the end of the day, you will still need to be in an overall if you want to lose .
alone will not provide that for you.
What’s the benefit of ?
Why would you want to switch up your daily ? Well, a few reasons…
1) You find yourself getting stressed out trying to hit a specific goal every day and want more flexibility.
Most people end up getting really fixated on trying to hit specific calories. If they know they need to consume 2,500 calories to be in a , a day ending with 2,700 calories feels like a failure.
We seem to forget that calories don’t reset overnight.
That’s not to say that they necessarily “reset” after a week, but looking at the big picture of a full week makes things much, much easier. This is why I always recommend setting ranges for macronutrient goals as well!
2) You are hungrier on days when you work out.
A lot of people end up being very hungry after they . If you have an intense strength training session first thing in the morning, odds are that you are going to be very hungry as the day progresses.
When you cycle your calories, you can plan to consume higher calories on a and on your rest days.
3) You want flexibility on weekends.
One of the biggest problems that people face when is overeating on weekends. They “stay on track” all week long, but then the weekend hits and things change.
Between going out to dinner, hanging out with friends, parties, holidays, and more, weekends tend to come with .
Cycling your calories to be higher on weekends sets you up to be able to live your life with less stress over the weekend knowing that you are staying perfectly on track.
These are just a few reasons why you might try , but it doesn’t cover all of the possible reasons.
No matter what your reasoning is, it’s clear that the major benefit of cycling your calories is the flexibility it provides!
How should you cycle your calories?
Should you plan your calories ahead of time? Should you only have ? on days when you ? Should you be ? What about
Don’t worry, there is truly is no right or wrong way to cycle your calories, so don’t overthink it!
Planned vs unplanned
So far we’ve talked about different scenarios when you might want to cycle your calories. You may want to consume more food on training days or leave yourself on the weekend.
But your amounts don’t need to be planned ahead of time.
Personally, I love , but I don’t plan it out.
First, set a daily goal for yourself. For example’s sake, let’s say that your goal is 2,500 calories per day.
Spread that out over a week, that means your total goal for the week is 17,500 calories.
At that point, you can just go with the flow of things! If you’re not very hungry on Monday, maybe you only eat 2,000 calories. Then on Tuesday, you find yourself a bit hungrier after some , so you end up eating closer to 2,700 calories.
You can keep going through the week playing it by ear, aiming to hit your total goal by the end of the week.
When you don’t plan ahead of time, just keep in mind that you may find yourself way off when the end of the week rolls around. If you’re way under your total goal, you don’t need to force-feed yourself to hit your calories. On the flip side, if you’ve gone over for the week, please don’t starve yourself when the weekend rolls around! It’s absolutely okay.
Don’t expect perfection. is all about flexibility, so if the week didn’t go exactly as planned, just aim to hit those goals more accurately next week.
I often see method, but it’s simply a way to . touted as an effective
Carbohydrates have caloric value (every gram of carb contains 4 calories) so when you carb cycle, you’re !
On a , you’ll need to consume overall, and those calories need to come from somewhere! Many people find that it’s easiest to remove those calories in the form of carbohydrates.
Technically speaking, carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that are non-essential. They are extremely beneficial for providing energy, but many people thrive on a ketogenic without any carbs at all.
Because they’re not essential, many people choose to cycle their calories in the form of carbs.
Personally, if I have any kind of , I remove calories in the forms of carbs. For my goals, I try to keep my protein and intake high, so I do not want to jeopardize those. For that reason, it’s easiest for me to cycle carbs, but it’s not necessary!
How you choose to cycle calories is up to you, and it certainly does not need to be in for the form of carbs.
These two methods of often go hand-in-hand, so it’s worth talking about.
Now, I will admit that I do not recommend for the average person. Many people find great success with it, but it’s not for everyone.
If you do choose to intermittent fast, it can work very well with .
To keep it simple, means you fast for the majority of the day, then limit your daily to a small window of the day. By doing this, many people find it is harder to consume a large amount of calories, which leads them into an overall .
This can work well with , you may plan for a shorter window. by changing up your method of based on the day. In other words, on a , you may plan for a longer window of eating, and on a
Summary: Should you cycle calories?
At the end of the day, I think most people could benefit from .
If you’re not into , then certainly the idea of cycling your calories will not be appealing.
But for everyone else, specifically those on a hoping to lose some , can be hugely beneficial.
Don’t get it twisted: for a while, cycling your calories is not suddenly going to provide a fix for you. is not some magical that will transform your on its own. If you’ve been in a
But if you find yourself getting stressed about hitting a specific goal every day, or you want to be able to have a bit more flexibility in your , can be a huge help!
I talked a lot about throughout this post, but can be very beneficial if you’re trying to maintain your current or add – it’s not exclusive to !
Personally, I apply this idea no matter what my goals are, and I find it has really helped improve my overall relationship with .