What Is Calorie Cycling and Why You Need to Try It
Calorie cycling is an emerging dieting style that lets you cycle between a high-calorie intake period and a low-calorie intake period. Instead of dictating what to eat and what not to, calorie cycling only accounts for the number of calories you take in a specific period.
Basically, calorie cycling is a way of increasing and decreasing your calorie intake in regular intervals. This can be done by analyzing the amounts of carbohydrates you take.
Calorie cycling is not a diet plan; it is a way of life (or a lifestyle change if you are new to it). There are a couple of methods by which you could practice calorie cycling and researchers have suggested that it has a lot of benefits when followed regularly.
How Does it Work?
If you think that calorie cycling is some sort of a “secret plan” that will help you tone your body and burn fat, then you’re thinking wrong about how it will benefit you. The plan varies from person to person and is entirely dependent on your body type.
The plan is somewhat complex and personalized based on your workout and eating habits. There are no specified limits or regulations but you have to create and implement your plan yourself.
A calorie cycle comprises 3 calorie periods:
- High-Calorie Days: On these days, you will have to consume more calories than you burn. This will result in an increased diet.
- Medium Calorie Days: On these days, you will consume the same number of calories you’ve burned.
- Low-Calorie Days: On these days, you will consume less and burn more calories. This will result in a calorie-deficit period.
The number of days in each phase depends on a variety of factors, so a specific calorie cycle that has worked with your gym partner will not necessarily work for you. This is why you should experiment with these phases to find out the cycle best for you. This way, you can figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Don’t feel compelled to give up because you don’t see results. If you have tried all three plans, you may have to blend intervals in each plan (remember, this is not a diet, but a lifestyle change).
What Effect Does It Have on You?
The primary reason for the popularity of the calorie cycle is the benefits that it offers. As opposed to the other bodybuilding diets, a calorie cycle can help you lose fat and gain muscle without any harmful supplements or additives.
The following are some of the benefits of a calorie cycle:
- Boosts your metabolism
- Reduces untimely hunger
- Helps you lose fat
- Improves your workout
- Helps in muscle growth
- Tones your body
Main Advantages of Calorie Cycling
Out of all the basic changes that your body undergoes, two are considerably noticeable; losing fat and gaining muscle. This is why I think it is important to explore committing to this way of life since the results are long-lasting.
- Weight Loss
It’s simple science; maintaining a calorie deficit over a long period of time will obviously result in weight loss. There are mostly two main reasons for this:
- Remaining on a strict diet and eating less.
- Burning more calories than you are intaking.
The main point that I’ll discuss here is the second one. Calorie cycling allows you to plan the number of calories you will intake. Doing this monitors the portions you take so because you are only eating the calories specified. When you limit your calories to a certain amount, your body begins to have reactions. It undergoes chemical, hormonal, and metabolic changes at the cellular level.
In the early stages of your plan (typically the first four to eight weeks), you will experience no significant change in your body. It will become easy to resist hunger on the low-calorie days. You will feel normal since the results will be gradual (here again, your body has to adjust and since you are interval eating, your body will slowly start making metabolic changes during this time).
After two to three months of continued calorie cycling, you will start to feel the effects. You will suddenly lose your energy levels. Your body parts will soar more often and you’ll be feeling more hungry than usual. But what is the cause of these late changes? Your body starts to feel like it’s being robbed of the essential nutrients. This is why it pushes you to your limit and it becomes easy to want to break your intervals in order to feel normal, less fatigue, and less hungry. It becomes a fight not to want to eat the calories that you’ve been so smartly managing.
As a competing measure, calorie cycling provides a solution to resolve feelings you have. When you feel that you’re ready to quit or not feel well, change the interval cycle. Switch it from low-calorie to high-calorie. After the first time it happened, you will get a better understanding of when to switch cycles. It’s the same as ‘rewarding’ your body.
First, you induce it into a low-calorie diet, and then when needed, you change into the high-calorie diet. This prevents your body from feeling like it is crashing and does two wonders in a single trick.
- Try to include more carbohydrates in your diet
- Maintain your leptin levels
- Maintain a high-protein intake
- Use carbs to increase your workout performance
- Avoid substances with dietary fat
- Raise your calories for maintenance for at least two to three days
- Bring your body fat to a healthier and more sustainable range
- Don’t try too hard (make the transition as easy as possible)
- The cycle will only show effects if your fat level is below 15% (for men) and 25% (for women)
- It can’t get you from fat to fit unless you do the work
- Building Muscles
Aside from burning fat, calorie cycling also helps with the building of muscles. As the muscles keep growing, the number of surplus calories required for the workouts also decreases. This way, you can easily maintain your body fat throughout the muscle-building process.
Who Should You Try It?
Let’s be honest. Calorie cycling child’s play. If you’re a beginner looking to get toned overnight, sorry to disappoint you, but there’s no magic wand to do that. Calorie cycling will bear no fruit unless you’re a heavy weightlifter with a toned body and a proper gym regiment.
If you’re an intermediate lifter that has been doing workouts regularly for two to three years, I’ll suggest that you continue your routine and keep your calorie levels a little higher than the amount you’re burning. It will get you as toned of a body as you want. But if you’re looking for a perfect body without any fat, then you’re probably already going for calorie cycling. It is an extreme workout plus diet routine that can push your already leaned body beyond its limits.
Once you’ve worked out in the gym for several years, you’d start noticing that your muscles aren’t growing at the rate they used to. This is because your body has reached 80% of its genetic potential. Now, further progress will be less likely to occur. At this stage, if you think you’re still not satisfied with the 80% and want to test how much potential you’ve got, then calorie cycling will be the best method there is to get you perfectly lean.
How to Plan?
If you’re looking to target muscular growth as your priority, then you should look for a plan similar to this:
- Four to five days of surplus calorie intake
- Two to three days of deficit calorie intake
This means that you’ll spend most of the week intaking more calories than you burn. And the rest of the week, you’ll bring your body to a lower-calorie level to ensure that the fat levels remain maintained. This way, you can slowly increase your muscles with minimal fat gain.
The Hard Part:
In normal routine diets, you can leave a part every now and then, because you know it won’t hurt your routine that much. But when calorie cycling, you will have to be extra careful about maintaining the calorie intake levels. Things become difficult (especially when you’re in the middle of a deficit calorie intake period) and have to attend events or during holidays that are more tempting to eat.
However, this can be prevented, do prevent it. Even if you eat a little extra on a surplus day, you can always level it by eating a bit less on the next deficit day. This will be done to maintain the overall calorie bounds of your body.
How to Make the Perfect Plan?
Concentrating on losing fat will require you to spend most of your week in deficit calorie intake. On the other hand, if you prefer building up muscles, you will have to increase the number of surplus calorie intake. The best method to get out of this plan is to make a balanced plan that gradually helps you in both of the tasks.
For a balanced calorie cycling, you could try one of the following routines:
- Five days for high-calorie intake and two days for low-calorie intake
- Four days for high-calorie intake and three days for low-calorie intake
You should choose the plan according to your expectations and requirements. A plan that works for one person might not work for you the same way. That is why you should devise your plan after taking a look at all the calorie maintenance levels.
The important thing is that you have to be flexible. You have to make a plan that you can follow easily. For that, you will have to account for all the external factors in your life and strategize the plan only after prioritizing your daily affairs. For instance, don’t describe the weekends as surplus workout days while knowing that you visit your parents during that time. The plan will be of no benefit to you if you are unable to follow it.
Calorie cycling has no straightforward plan to reach your goal(s). You can use it to your advantage in many ways because of its flexibility. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to cut the extra fat or bulk up the toned muscles. You just have to come up with a suitable plan for you and then follow it within the parameters that work for you, while making the necessary adjustments when needed.
Calorie cycling is an efficient method of ‘hacking’ your metabolism. It can help you drastically lose fat and provides you energy for your workouts. The important thing is to be able to control it.
It’s just the same as holding a remote control in your hand. The channel appearing on the TV set depends on the button you press on the remote. Similarly, the effects of calorie cycling depend upon the type of plan you’ve made for it. If you’ve directed it towards deficit calories, it will help your metabolism to lose extra fat in your body. And if you direct the cycle towards surplus calories, it’ll help you build up the muscles you’ve been dreaming about.
Long things told short? Calorie cycling is the best way to reach the level of leanness and then maintain it.