One of the most difficult challenges faced by anyone on a journey to lose a significant amount of weight is the dreaded “metabolic adaptation” (a fancy way of saying that your metabolism slows down and eventually the weight stops coming off). The trick? Calorie Cycling.
Cutting calories even further is often the knee-jerk reaction, but there’s a better way, and it involves re-training and fooling your metabolism so that it doesn’t know quite what to expect from day-to-day. Calorie cycling is the golden ticket to boosting a slow metabolism, and breaking a weight loss plateau!
What is Calorie Cycling?
With a normal diet, a person might be eating (as an example) 1,300 calories a day in order to lose weight. (This adds up to 9,100 calories per week). Each day is the same, and the ratio of protein, carbs, and fat stays the same.
With Calorie Cycling, however, you still eat the same (example) 9,100 calories per week, but you’ll eat very differently during each day of the week. Some days you eat less, some days you eat more—but the net weekly calories remains unchanged.
Furthermore, for macro-counters, some days are tagged as high carb days, and some are high-fat days. The idea is to force your body to deal with a variety of different energy scenarios. (Protein generally remains similar from day to day). For Keto (CarbX) people, the ratios change slightly from day to day, but carbs remain low, all the time. The end result is that you’re eating a different number of calories, and different macro ratios every day!
What’s the theory behind it?
1) Fool the metabolism so it doesn’t know what to expect. If your body is constantly dealing with different ratios of fat/carbs, and constantly dealing with different amounts of calories, your metabolism can’t adapt, and “slow down”. Not only will this help you break almost any plateau, but it will also keep the fat-burning fire burning longer than normal.
2) The low-calorie days encourage the production of the fat burning hormone Leptin. The idea is to force the body into a “feast or famine” mode where it will feel the need to burn fat on your low-calorie days. Normally, intensely low calorie days like this would put the body into starvation mode (blocking fat burn). However, because you immediately follow the low-calorie days with high-calorie days, you get the benefits of the fat-burn without risking a total shutdown.
And yes… It really works.
Do I need to exercise?
In general, no. But it works a lot better if you do, and you significantly reduce the risk of storing fat on your high-calorie days.
Optimally executed, calorie-cycling would involve your heaviest workouts on the higher-calorie days and some moderate workouts on the low-calorie days, with one or two rest days sprinkled in.
What should I expect if I do this?
About 2 pounds per week of weight loss is normal, if the plan is properly calculated, and perfectly executed. But if you’re not the kind of person who’s good with meal planning and strictly managing your food ratios while sticking to the plans that you’ve built, you might make your situation worse. Put simply, calorie cycling is really more of an “advanced” technique, for people who’ve already mastered the meal planning, macro counting, and discipline associated with normal weight loss.
One other warning. The scale is probably going to go up around the high-calorie portion of the week, simply from the water-weight needed to process the extra food. While this can be hard psychologically, remember that you aren’t eating enough calories to really “store fat”. The extra weight will fall off again (and then some) during the low-calorie portion of the week!
What do I do if I get hungry?
Can you do intermittent fasting with calorie cycling?
YES! In fact, stacking the two together is probably a great idea! If it makes you more comfortable, you can skip intermittent fasting on your high-calorie (“super”) days. Read more about intermittent fasting, here.
How do I get a Calorie Cycling plan?
I’ve implemented Calorie Cycling in Weightix, I call it “Metabo-BOOST”. It’ll do all the math for you, and build you a plan!