Weight Loss Strategies: Calorie Cycling

After the rather astonishing reception of the previous weight loss post, it occurred to me that people are clearly interested in changing their body weight. So, I wanted to give you another tool for the toolbox when it comes to managing your own weight. This is one that was particularly useful to me due to my personality and idiosyncrasies, specifically that I oscillate between being fairly active and fairly sedentary. Before I go on, here are the three “checks” I use before I employ any method:

  1. Will this fit in as a general lifestyle change?
  2. Will this build good habits?
  3. Is it sustainable?

The following sections will go over what calorie cycling is, and whether or not it fits into the paradigm I’ve laid out.

What is Calorie Cycling?

The definition is actually quite simple. It means that I eat higher calories on certain days and lower calories on other days within the week. I generally have these correspond to days where I lift.

For example: Let’s say I want to have an average calorie intake of 2000 calories per day. However, I find myself hungrier on days that I go to the gym, and substantially less hungry on days that I don’t lift. If I lift 4 days per week and rest 3 days a week, that means I’ll have 4 high days and 3 low days.

Now let’s back up. If I’m eating 2000 calories a day, that gives me a weekly budget of 14000 calories per week (7 days X 2000 calories). As long as I stay within this overall budget, I am fine.

So let’s say I add in 200 calories a day for each day I lift, and let’s say I lift on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday.

Total Budget: 14,000 Calories
Monday – 2200 Calories
Tuesday – ?
Wednesday – 2200 Calories
Thursday – ?
Friday – 2200 Calories
Saturday – 2200 Calories
Sunday – ?
Calories Remaining – 14,000 – (2200*4) = 14,000 – 8,800 = 5,200 calories.

So I now have 5200 calories to spread between three days. If I want to make all the days equal, that’s 5200 / 3 = ~1733 calories per day.

Weekly Calorie Schedule:

Total Budget: 14,000 Calories
Monday – 2200 Calories
Tuesday – 1733 Calories
Wednesday – 2200 Calories
Thursday – 1733 Calories
Friday – 2200 Calories
Saturday – 2200 Calories
Sunday – 1733 Calories

Setting these things up is relatively simple. So let’s take a look at how it fits into my outlined paradigm!

Will this fit in as a general lifestyle change?

Short answer: yes! For me personally, this fits with how I feel day to day. Days I lift, I get extremely hungry. Days I don’t lift, I can legitimately skip meals all day and feel fine. Additionally, it really doesn’t demand much change other than portion sizes. It’s especially better for me because, in a non-pandemic world, I want to be able to eat more on Friday and Saturday! I think this style of creating a calorie deficit can be useful for just about everyone and that the lifestyle component really isn’t very demanding. It comes down to more of a question of personal preference, which is always where we want to land.

Will this build good habits?

I’d say so! The benefit of cycling is it allows me to get better practiced as eyeballing portion sizes and connecting those particular portions with satiety. There will always been events in life that I can’t track calories at, but I can at least have a general idea of what is going on. Learning how to eat when I’m hungry and how much to eat when I’m hungry is a good skill to have. Other than that, I don’t think it impacts dietary habits all that much, which can be a really good thing. All it does is say, “Here are the boundaries for each day,” which gives a bit of structure. If anything, it’s just like constructing a budget.

Is it sustainable?

Once again, yes. This method of dieting is largely non-invasive. It’s easy to go in and out of on a whim, and it’s extremely easy to stick to. That being said, it once again comes down to preference. Some people thrive in day-to-day consistency, whereas others don’t mind adapting to each days demands. Due to the demands on this framework being near non-existent, I would say the sustainability aspect is also a non-concern.

That’s it for calorie cycling! It’s a great method to aid weight loss, generally not so great for weight gain, and probably works fine for maintaining your current weight. I prefer to employ it for weight loss only, but I often do it naturally when maintaining as well.

Thanks for reading, and if you found this helpful, please give it a share! Additionally, if you’re interested in taking the guess work out of your training and taking your training to the next level, head on over to my coaching section here and get in contact with me. Whether your goal is weight loss, muscle gain, powerlifting, or a combination of any of these, we can get you there.

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