You might well be asking ‘HUH? What’s that?’
It’s also called calorie cycling. It is a well-studied novel approach for improved long-term weight loss success.
As we know, for weight loss to occur we need to consume fewer calories than our body requires. This means we have to create a calorie deficit.
The usual advice is to reduce calories by around 300 to 500 per day. This seems to work quite ok for a while and then….it sort of fizzles out and then it all seems to stop. 😥
We found out that already after 3 weeks of ongoing calorie restriction some unwanted changes could occur. They are usually in full swing by weeks 6-12:
- Decrease in thyroid hormones [They are involved in metabolism and decline when dieting]
- Increase in cortisol [This is a stress hormone that loves to layer body fat around the middle of the body]
- Decrease of fullness hormones and increase of hunger hormones. [We have to work really hard to overcome this by using lots of salads, vegetables, fibre rich foods and plant-based protein. Protein is the macronutrient that prevents hunger the best]
And if this isn’t enough, your metabolic rate slows down to lower the fat-burning process.
Several studies mention that after just 2 months of strict dieting your calorie needs may reduce by around 250 calories.
So if after 6-8 weeks of dieting you thought you’re still 500 calories in deficit, think again. It could be that by then the deficit is much less. Perhaps even only a 250 calorie deficit.
And this is all because of ‘thermic adaption’
That’s the correct describer of metabolism that has slowed down or adapted because you’re eating less (Or even exercising using the same routine. But that is another article]
In short: our body is programmed to do everything in its power to preserve our fat reserves. It slows down weight loss, makes us hungrier and pushes us to regain our hard lost weight.
However, researchers are trying to find ways to overcome these issues so we can happily and successfully lose excess weight on an ongoing basis.
Many of their studies point to a positive outcome when we don’t keep eating the same amount of restricted calories but rather switch up the amounts.
It does NOT show a bigger weight loss each week, especially not during the re-feeding maintenance period. But it does offer a weight loss during the ‘low ‘cycles.
It also offers more enjoyment to people who know that soon there will be weeks or days when they can eat more. It helps to prevent frequent plateaus by avoiding the pesky metabolic slowdown.
AND it helps to maintain our new weight for much longer after we have reached our goal.
In my books, it’s worth giving it a try.
However, this can’t be done using haphazard measures, like enjoying a binge day of pizza 🍕🍕🍕🧁🍷 cakes and wine on the weekends.
Or filling up on pancakes with maple syrup on Sunday morning.
Instead, it should be a scheduled calculated process.
Some people play around with carbs intake [difficult for whole food plant-based eaters]
Others are simply changing the calorie levels up and down.
There are no ‘best’ rules for the calorie or carb cycling periods because outcomes vary between individuals.
If you wish to try something like this, choose one of the weekly or daily periods that you can stick to and one that fits into your lifestyle.
See if it will work for you. It doesn’t always benefit everyone.
Like the 5:2 plan. Do you remember that one? It’s not favoured by many because it is too easy to overeat during the re-feeding days.
Some better examples can be found in this article. Scroll to the middle of the page to see their suggestions.
If you wish to work with calories, check out your needs first for the reduced calorie cycle.
Then during the ‘refeeding cycle’ add back several hundreds of healthy calories for your chosen period. Cycle up and down using the various weekly or daily options until you reach your goal.
Or, a much better idea would be without calorie counting! 😍
Our 2-week KickStarter or 4 Week Revitalise programmes would work really well with a couple of adjustments.
If you like, please tag me in the Facebook Café group on how to adjust those to become a calorie cycle plan.