On a traditional diet, you determine how many calories a day you can consume while still losing weight, then plan your meals so the daily caloric total comes as consistently close to that number as possible. Calorie cycling -- sometimes also known as calorie shifting -- takes a different approach. Proponents say regularly changing the number of calories you consume is a better strategy. Doing so will supposedly prevent your body from adapting to a set number of calories, keep your metabolism high and lead to weight loss. While some research indicates a calorie cycling diet may be effective, critics contend it might not be the best choice for everyone. Ask your doctor for advice before starting a calorie cycling diet.
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While a number of diet programs, including the Fast Diet, the Every Other Day Diet, Fat Loss 4 Idiots and the Skinny Switch Secret, are variations on the same concept and contain different guidelines, the most basic calorie cycling diet plan simply requires followers to eat a different number of calories every day. Dieters set an average caloric intake goal at an amount that will lead to personal weight loss, then plan each day so that they either eat more, less or just about that calorie total.
Sample Calorie Cycling Plans
A typical calorie cycling plan for a person aiming to consume an average of 2,011 calories per day might consist of 2,012 calories on Monday, 1,610 on Tuesday, 2,414 on Wednesday, 2,012 on Thursday, 1,811 on Friday, 2,213 on Saturday and 2,012 on Sunday. Others feature more extreme calorie fluctuations -- 2,000 on one day, 800 the next and 1,800 following that, for example. Most calorie cycling plan guidelines encourage dieters not to gorge themselves on sugary, high-fat, nutrient-poor foods on the increased calorie days. Instead, eat lean protein, produce and healthy grains. Portion sizes will change depending on the calorie goal for the day, and treats may occasionally be included.
In 2007, a review published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" concluded that alternate-day fasting -- eating few calories on one day, then significantly more on the next, as in calorie cycling -- might be just as effective as traditional low-calorie diets at lowering the risk of problems like cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. In addition, a study published in the "Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research" in 2011 found that people who followed a calorie cycling diet while supplementing with caffeine experienced significant weight loss. Because the basic plan allows you to enjoy more on some days and does not forbid any type of food, it may be easier to stick with compared to diets that restrict your consumption every day.
Developing a calorie cycling diet plan on your own can be difficult since it requires a large amount of careful calorie counting. Online services that design your meals based on your weight-loss goal and preferred foods are convenient, but often expensive. If your chosen calorie cycling plan includes very low-calorie days -- 300 to 500 calories, for instance -- it might be difficult for you to consume enough nutrients to stay healthy. It may also be tough to avoid overindulging on unhealthy foods the next day. The diet doesn't emphasize the importance of regular exercise. It shouldn't be followed by pregnant or nursing mothers or anyone with a chronic medical problem such as diabetes or a history of eating disorders. Berkeley Wellness points out there is no evidence showing that calorie cycling diets are safe long term.