In simple terms, calorie cycling is just a method of eating that allows you to have a few higher-calorie days while still maintaining your caloric deficit. Every day will not be the same, we are only human! So, instead of restricting your intake to your total deficit every day, calorie cycling allows you to gain more flexibility with higher-calorie days, and lower-calorie days while maintaining that same deficit.
With calorie cycling, we look at the whole week’s average. That’s why I always say “one day will not derail you as long as you get back to it”! Chances are you are not eating all of your calories every day. Therefore, you are leaving a few extra calories in your “bank” to use on weekends, celebrations, extra hungry days, etc.
When calorie cycling, you will have a few lower calorie days and a few higher calorie days that all result in the same caloric deficit. It is important to note that your weekly average of calories will always stay the same and your protein needs never change. Protein is the one nutrient we do not have adequate stores of in the body, therefore it must be consumed adequately each and every day. Do not sacrifice your daily protein intake to save calories. Always aim to hit your daily protein goal. On the flip side, we have plenty of carbohydrate and fat stores in our bodies, so when saving up or “banking” your calories, they will always come from carbs and fats.
For example, let’s say your calories are set to 1600. If you optimize your protein and fuel up until full and satisfied but you still have 200 calories left, don’t worry! If you wish, those are in your “bank” to use on another day. On the flip side, let’s say you went out to dinner with friends and ended up at 1800 calories a few days later. When you look at your weekly average, you had some leftover calories to use from earlier in the week so overall, no harm done.
If your caloric deficit is 1600 calories, it is extremely unrealistic to think that you will eat exactly 1600 calories every day for the rest of your life. We are only human! Some days we are hungrier, some days we are not. We will likely go over our calories when celebrating holidays and birthdays, and sometimes we need more fuel after a hard workout. Calorie cycling lets you be a little more in tune with your hunger cues and allows you to save a few more calories on your less hungry days, in order to have a few more calories on your hungrier / celebrating days- all while maintaining your weekly average for 1600 calories (or whatever your deficit is)
The longer we stay in a caloric deficit, the more our metabolism adapts to burning at that slower rate. This is called metabolic adaptation and this is usually when we begin to plateau. However, calorie cycling helps our bodies have a few higher calorie days in the mix which can slow down the potential for a plateau.
Biologically, our bodies don’t necessarily understand “dieting”. So when we are in a caloric deficit, our bodies want to find and preserve energy. Being in a caloric deficit can cause an increase in the hunger hormone ghrelin and a decrease in the fullness hormone leptin. Calorie cycling may help by reducing these negative hormonal occurrences.
It is important to note though, that caloric cycling is a strategy for flexibility. This is not an excuse to restrict during the week and binge out on the weekends. We want to keep this balanced and healthy! If you feel that calorie cycling leads you into a binge/restricted cycle, then just keep in mind the bottom line that your weekly average matters most and do not plan on caloric cycling every day. Honor your hunger cues!
If you want to learn more about macro management and and calorie cycling then join my LEAN program! I will calculate your personal macros and teach you how to hit them daily! New session is starting soon! More information using this link: https://amandanighbert.com/lean-program/