The Zig Zag Diet, also known as calorie shifting, involves staggering a low-calorie diet with high-calorie days. The belief is that if you can keep your body guessing, you can avoid homeostasis. By confusing your body, the hope is that your metabolism will shift into high gear burning calories more effectively.
How to Do the Zig Zag
The Zig Zag diet is determined by following a simple formula. Take the number of calories you should be eating to maintain your weight using a calculator such as that provided by the site Free Dieting. Next, determine your weight-loss goal. A pound of fat requires a weekly caloric deficit of approximately 3500 calories. Using a traditional diet plan, this means eating about 500 fewer calories per day. Using calorie cycling, you will stagger the deficit across seven days, with some days having a higher caloric deficit than others.
Planning Your Week
You can choose to fluctuate your calorie-deficit days with your high-calorie days any way that works for your lifestyle. For example, you may choose to stagger high-calorie days and low-calorie days so that every second day your caloric intake shifts into high gear. Alternatively you can choose to incorporate two "cheat days" spread apart during the week to jolt your metabolism. If you find figuring this out on your own to be a cumbersome task, you can use an online tool such as the one provided at the Free Dieting site.
How It Works
There are many individuals within the fitness and weightlifting field who swear by this approach to weight loss and fitness. The theory behind this approach is simple: Your body is prone to homeostasis. The human body is a wondrous thing that will adapt to a diet, the theory being that this is what stalls weight loss for many people who follow low-calorie diets. When you decrease your calories for a low-calorie diet, your body produces hormones to regulate metabolism and lipid oxidation; this process then slows how efficiently your body burns calories. Calorie cycling helps you to avoid this pitfall, tricking your body into staying away from a homeostatic state.
Does It Work?
There are many fitness professionals and weightlifters who swear by this approach, providing anecdotal evidence of its success. A study in the September 2010 issue of the "Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition" reports that diet cycling, along with an exercise program, may be an effective way to lose weight. Always check with your physician before starting any new diet or weight-loss plan.