Calorie Cycling For Rapid Weight Loss | The Zig Zag Diet

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

apple and donut for calorie cycling meal plan

The calorie cycling diet, or better known as the zig zag diet is a relatively new and intriguing diet that can help you lose weight rapidly and effectively. Calorie cycling for weight loss has been shown in studies to have amazing results. But what is the zig zag diet? First, let's go over what a standard diet entails.

Diet |di·​et|: "A regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight." per Webster's Dictionary. You consume roughly the same quantity of calories every day on conventional diets. Results can be seen almost right away. However, even if you haven't changed anything, the weight loss eventually plateau, and you end up giving up on the diet. So, how is the zig zag diet or calorie cycling different and how do you break the diet plateau?

What Is Calorie Cycling and/or The Zig Zag Diet?

We'll go into further detail as we go, but to put it simply the zig zag diet for weight loss involves alternating low-calorie days with high-calorie days on a regular basis. This is also known as calorie cycling. It is thought that by keeping your body guessing, you may prevent homeostasis. The aim is that by confusing your body, your metabolism would shift into high gear, burning calories more vigorously and efficiently. Many people use a variety of calorie cycling for weight loss.

What is Homeostasis and Why Do We Want to Prevent It?

Oranges and Apples for Calorie Cycling Weight Loss

Homeostasis, by definition, is any self-regulating process by which an organism tends to maintain stability while adjusting to conditions that are best for its survival. The calorie cycling zig zag diet is meant to prevent the body from becoming "comfortable". Whereas on a conventional diet, the body becomes "comfortable" with the same amount of calories being consumed every day. This causes the body to know what to do even before the calories are ingested, which is precisely what we want to avoid. Think of it as keeping your body on its toes since it has no idea what's coming or what to expect. This is why this diet has coined the name "Zig Zag".

How To Calorie Cycle Each Day?

If you stick to a calorie cycling food plan, you'll consume 1100 calories some days and 2600 calories on others. You in theory want to stay under 12,600 calories a week (still under 1,800 a day on average). Your largest meal of the day will be during breakfast on some days, lunch on some days, and dinner on the others. This calorie cycling food plan is something that will keep your metabolism humming, burn excess fat, keep your body from becoming comfortable, and break that diet plateau.

Here's a graph comparing a traditional diet of 1,800 calories per day to a calorie cycling zig zag diet of varied calories per day, yet still averaging 1,800 calories per day for the week.

Conventional and zig zag diet graph over two weeks
  • Monday 1,600 Calories

  • Tuesday 1,900 Calories

  • Wednesday 2,500 Calories

  • Thursday 2,100 Calories

  • Friday 1,400 Calories

  • Saturday 2,200 Calories

  • Sunday 1,600 Calories

  • Monday 2,300 Calories

  • Tuesday 1,800 Calories

  • Wednesday 2,400 Calories

  • Thursday 1,300 Calories

  • Friday 2,100 Calories

  • Saturday 1,700 Calories

  • Sunday 2,400 Calories

Zig Zag Diet Plan

This all sounds great right but what are the eating restrictions? There are really none! There are different types of diet plans such as a clean calorie cycling zig zag diet or a dirty calorie cycling zig zag diet. A clean diet is a combination of healthy foods low on saturated fats, sugars, deep-fried foods, etc...

The Dirty version is that you may eat whatever you want as long as your weekly average daily calories are less than the suggested number. In this example, 1,800 calories are consumed for your daily average.

avocadoes are great for calorie cycling for weight loss results

Incorporating The Zig Zag Diet Into Your Current Diet

After weeks or months following a traditional diet, you inevitably hit a point where you can’t go on, may it be because of the dreaded "diet plateau" or something else. Along with the physical burnout comes mental boredom. But calorie cycling keeps you from hitting this wall. Not only do you make continuous progress, but you also keep things interesting. And that feeds your motivation to keep going. I know quite a few people who follow

the keto diet incorporates the calorie cycling zig zag diet every few weeks or so.

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Zig Zag Diet Precautions

Zig zag dieting might be challenging for some people, and it may not work as well if you have a history of disordered eating. It's hardly an excuse to be hungry from Monday through Friday and then overeat on weekends. This is not a long-term way of life. Instead, it should be employed to aid in the learning of balance.

zig zag diet line picture

Calorie Cycling Calculator

You'll need to know a few things in order to calculate your zig zag calories:

  • How many calories do you typically burn?

  • How quickly do you want to lose weight (0.5–2 pounds each week)?

  • How many calories should you consume each day to lose weight?

There really is no perfect calorie cycling calculator. Fortunately, though, there are so many free calorie calculators on the internet that you won't have to do any complicated arithmetic to figure this out. Here is one of the many free calculators. Is one I like to use.

You can calculate how many calories to consume each day once you've determined your weekly weight reduction target. The quantity of calories you're allotted for the week is calculated by multiplying that number by 7 (days a week). That total number should be the same number of calories from your previous diet. Remember, calorie cycling requires eating a different quantity of calories each day. That is basically the calorie cycling calculator. These outcomes may be obtained without the use of a high-end application.

the smoothie diet can be part of a calorie cycling plan

Zig Zag Diet Results

Calorie cycling results can be seen in those who follow the zig zag diet for 8 to 12 weeks. Some have been shown to lose 4 to 8% of their body weight, according to studies. This doesn't include the people who have their normal diet and then integrate calorie cycling intermittently. Integrating your current diet with the zig zag diet can drastically improve your calorie cycling results.

In general, current research suggests that both continuous calorie restriction (normal dieting) and calorie cycling can help people lose weight. Individuals who opt to cycle their calories, on the other hand, may suffer less metabolic adaptations, maintain more lean mass, and have greater adherence.

What Is A Calorie?

List of food calories for calorie cycling weight loss

Throughout this article, the term "calorie" has been used several times. The majority of you are undoubtedly aware of what a calorie is. The calorie is everything in the zig zag diet or any diet, and it should be studied more closely.

A calorie is a unit of measurement. Specifically, it is defined as the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. Our bodies require energy (heat) to survive and stay healthy, which is provided by the calories we consume. Everything we accomplish is reliant on the energy provided by calories.

In terms of weight loss, it's simple. a calorie is a calorie, in order to lose weight, you simply need to consume fewer calories and burn more.

This is where dieting, especially the zig zag diet, comes into play. This isn't new information; every diet requires you to burn more calories than you consume. Calorie cycling, however, as mentioned above, tricks your body and metabolism.

How Zig Zag Calories Are Burned

Assume you consumed 2,600 calories the day before. The body burns those calories vigorously throughout the day, giving you the energy you need to complete your activities.

When you wake up the next day, your body is anticipating another 2,600 calories, which means your metabolism is revving up, anticipating what is to come. Instead, you consume only 1,300 calories today (calorie cycling). Your body burns those calories quickly, anticipating another 1,300 to arrive, but they never do. This is when your body taps into your fat reserves to keep you going. As a result, you will lose weight. The what is calorie cycling weight loss is compounded if you're consuming nutrient-rich calories such as proteins, healthy fats, & fruits.

The traditional diet, on the other hand, consists of consuming only (depending on your daily weight loss calorie restriction) roughly 1,800 calories a day. Every day, your body predicts what will happen next so it can store the calories you won't expend that day. It knows another 1,800 calories are coming tomorrow.

woman calorie cycling weight loss progress

3 Rules Of Calorie Cycling - Zig Zag Diet

The low amount of rules is one of the popular advantages of the zig zag diet. Here are a few to keep in mind as you calorie shift.

  1. Five Meals A Day On Low-Calorie Days. When you calorie cycle you eat fewer calories a day, therefore you want to eat more often, up to five meals a day. Your body will be screaming for more calories and may cause low blood sugar if you just eat a 1,300 calorie breakfast for the day.

  2. 2-3 Meals A Day On High-Calorie Days. Just the opposite for low-calorie days. If you're aiming for a 2,600-calorie day, your 1,300-calorie breakfast should be plenty to carry you to lunch, where you may have the remaining 1,300 calories. Though going over 3 meals a day isn't the worst thing in the world. 2 meals a day have been proven most beneficial for calorie cycling weight loss.

  3. Always Stay Under Your Weekly Caloric Goal. As previously stated, if your daily calorie goal is 1,800, limit your weekly calorie intake to under 12,600 for the most effective calorie cycling weight loss results.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ #1: What vitamins should I use to help me lose weight faster on a zig zag diet?

You'll lose weight whether you use fat-loss pills or not as long as the total amount of calories you consume each week is less than the total number of calories you burn. That said, if you’d like to speed the process up, there are a few supplements you can take to help with the calorie cycling weight loss process.

java burn coffee for zig zag diet fat loss
  • Small amounts of caffeine (3 to 6 mg). Caffeine is widely known as a great supplement for weight loss. Combining it with the zig zag diet will compound the benefits of weight loss.

  • Chromium Picolinate. Chromium is a mineral that enhances insulin, a hormone that's important for turning food into energy. Your body also needs it to store carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It has been shown in tests to reduce appetite, which is ideal for low-calorie days.

  • Bitter Orange increases energy expenditure and lipolysis and acts as a mild appetite suppressant.

  • Lemon Juice is another all-natural substance that can be used for weight loss. Lemon juice has been shown to reduce cravings, boost metabolism, & even promote healthy skin. Whether that be in your water, squeezed over specific meals such as salmon, or even your morning coffee. You can read more about the weight loss benefits below.

Coffee And Lemon Juice For Weight Loss.

lemon juice and coffee blog for weight loss, calorie cycling for weight loss

FAQ #2: Is The Zig Zag Diet Sustainable?

Calorie cycling also has the advantage of being easy and straightforward. It's a big plus to be able to eat anything you want as long as you keep it under your weekly calorie cycling limit. Though no diet is easy to stick to for a long time, the calorie cycling diet, or better known as the zig zag diet, is at the top of the list for long-term weight loss.

FAQ #3: Can You Sustain Or Even Build Muscle?

The zig zag diet helps to keep metabolism in check by preventing muscular tissue degradation. A quicker metabolism and more calories burnt are the results of having greater muscle. Which will assist you in becoming slim and looking your finest.

Furthermore, calorie cycling can help you grow muscle without accumulating fat. You generate a calorie surplus by adding additional high days. The low and middle days will keep you slim.

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FAQ #4: When Should I Schedule My High-Calorie Days While Calorie Cycling?

This is a great question because of how you can compound the benefits of your high caloric days. If you're aiming to build muscle as stated above. You would want to consume a lot of calories on gym days. Weekends are also ideal days to plan them because you'll have more leeway to go out for dinner or have a drink.

Intermittent Fasting and Calorie Cycling

The latest craze these days has been around intermittent fasting. Rightfully so, the benefits can be astounding, which you can read about in a later article I will publish. But can intermittent fasting and calorie cycling co-exist? The answer is yes. Any diet can be molded around intermittent fasting. Especially beneficial are intermittent fasting and calorie cycling.

fit woman results after zig zag calorie cycling for weight loss

We've previously informed you about keeping your body guessing, not allowing it to know how many calories you plan on consuming each day. It might keep your body wondering even more if you intermittently fast with the zig zag diet. Whether it be the 16:8, 20:4, or any other variation of the intermittent fasting diet.

When you wake up in the morning and have your first meal you are breaking your fast. This is why breakfast is called "break-fast." You are essentially breaking the fast of the previous night's meal for dinner. The longer you can hold off on "breaking the fast" or breakfast, the better the results of that fast will be.

young woman calorie cycling fat loss resluts

So in theory, if you hold off until at least lunch to have your first meal. Let's say it's 1,000 calories of a 2,000 allotted day, your weight loss benefits will be compounded exponentially. Calorie cycling for fat loss in conjunction with intermittent fasting can show amazing results.

Final Thoughts

The zig zag diet appeals to a wide audience due to its freedom and flexibility. It is recommended that you incorporate an exercise program as well as a healthy food plan to achieve greater weight loss. No diet is easy, but I hope that this information has given you enough knowledge to make an informed decision on whether or not to use calorie cycling in your weight loss goals!

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