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Calorie Shifting, Zig-Zag Diet?


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Has anyone heard of this? Does it work? If this DOES work, What are good calorie examples of a dieting day and an "off" day?

(Example, right now I'm working on keeping my calories at 1500 or less... So if I were to go off my diet, would I still want to keep it under 2000, or does it not matter?)

From what I understand about the mentality behind this: It is a diet where you eat low-calorie for 3-4 days, then have a high-calorie day... Then you back to low-cal for another 3-4 days. The purpose here is to trick your metabolism: Normally, after a period of low-calorie dieting, it goes into starvation mode and you have to eat even fewer calories to lose (Then it adjusts for the fewer calores and you have to eat even fewer -- an especially vicious circle). With the calorie shifting, just as your metabolism thinks it should go into starvation mode, you shock it with the extra calories and it settles back to "normal".

I want to try to find some more information, but I was curious if anyone had ever heard of this, if it works, etc. Thanks in advance for your time!

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Yes, if you read 'Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle' (http://www.burnthefat.com/ - the site looks like an informercial, but the book is actually really good) it goes into detail on this.  Ideally, you eat restricted calories for 3 days and then normal (maintenence) for 1 to 3 days (what ever works best for you).  This way your body never gets time to adjust to the restricted calorie amounts and you maintain maximum metabolic burn.  It's a bit of trial & error to find out what works best for you.  If you were worried about not restricting enough, you could do 3 days restricted and 1 day maintenence and repeat.

The human body is super adaptable and will adjust itself to what ever you feed it.  Within 3 to 4 days of restricted intake it will slow down your metabolism to compensate for the lack of calories.

Personally, I find it is easy to restrict during the week and difficult on the weekends.  So I do 4 days restricted (Mon to Thurs) and 3 days maintenence (Fri to Sun).  If I was super dedicated I would probably do 3 & 1, but I've already hit my goal weight (50 lbs lost, used zig-zag for the last 10) so I just do 4 & 3.

Hmmm... Different things work for different people. I've been on a 1500 calorie a day diet for a week and a few days, now, and haven't lost a single pound. I'm wondering if this could help jump-start the weight loss for me, but I don't want to sabotage myself, either.

I know it depends on the person, but do you think 1500 for restricted days and 2000 for maintaining days might work, or should it be more like 1500 restricted, 1700-1900 maintaining? Or am I just going to have to play with it until I find something that works?

Thank you for the link, too... *runs to take a peek*

You need to use the calculators to figure out your maintenance level.  If you know your body fat % (vs your weight) you can get a much more accurate figure.  Assuming your metabolism is working at a healthy rate, then a maintenance day is like a zero day.  You are consuming exactly what your body needs to run.  The problem comes if your metabolism has slowed down and your body tries to horde any excess calories because it is just not used to having any (starvation effect).  If you were/are someone who skips breakfast, has a medium lunch and then a huge dinner and then dessert and more snacking, you have got to work on getting your metabolism back on track.  This post has some good information on how you should structure your day...

http://caloriecount.about.com/sharing-info-nu tritionist-slow-weight-loss-ft71645

Also, if you have been eating poorly, as in not near enough most days and then eating way to much on other days, then your metabolism may be all out of whack.  I would suggest eating the correct healthy amount for a little bit to get your metabolism burning at a normal, healthy rate and then begin restricting your intake.  If your metabolism is all messed up and running at a lower rate then restricting your calories will do nothing for you.

For me here is what I do: (My dieting started on Weds)

Weds: 1100 Thurs: 1300 Fri: 1100 Sat: 1700 Sun: 1200 Mon:1200 Tues: 1500 

This averages out to a 1300/ daily carlorie intake. My daily maintance need is 1970. This creates a deficit of 670/ daily calories (4680/wk).  Then I took the advice from Fatloss4Idiots and on the 12th day I am going to pig out (no junk food) for 2 days and restart my diet again.

I have been doing this for 1 week now and I have seen changes to my body already!! Hope this helps

So after you set yourself up for 12 days, you have two days off your diet and then you go on for another 12 days? (12 on, 2 off, 12 on, 2 off, etc.)

And you are losing weight, yes?

This is interesting for me. Weather and life situations are making it hard for me to get much more then 30 minutes of (not all that intense) exercise per day, and it's taking a while to even work up to that.... So in a week and 4 days of dieting, I haven't lost a single pound. If I can trick my body into processing food differently it might help.

I'm one of those people who don't mind dieting so long as I can see SOME results. I know it's going to take a long lone time and a lot of hard work to get myself, healthier, but I don't want to get frustrated, you know? I'd like to see SOMETHING come off in 2-3 weeks.

Thanks for the info, and sorry to keep asking questions on this, I'm just intrigued.

I'm curious how this is working out for people?


I only have a few pounds to lose (about 10), but my husband has about 80 to lose, and this is a "diet" that I think he could actually stick to.

I'm a girl, so hubby is going to need to tweak things a bit... He'll need more calories per day, etc. but here's my 2 cents:

Well, hon, I found this website and the mentality here: http://www.j3nn.net/about/ along with the tools of CC really seem to be working for me. I've lost about 10 lbs since January 10th. Now, I've got a LOT of weight to lose (115 lbs) so it's going to be "easier" for me to drop weight for a while. The lower we get, the harder it is to lose.

For me, calorie shifting is just... "natural". I try to stay at around 1500 hundred calories a day (Low-ish because I'm not on a set exercise routine until this weather straightens up a bit) but it seems almost impossible for me to stick to a static number. Sometimes I go over (1600-1800) sometimes I'm only around (1200). I'm not STRIVING for these things, it's just how it works out and is normal for me.

Jenn (The linked site above) has an example, here, of how SHE zig-zags, and I'm sure this would work well, too:

"Sunday: 1800 calories
Monday:
2000 calories (+exercise)
Tuesday:
1400 calories
Wednesday:
2800 calories (+exercise)
Thursday:
1200 calories
Friday:
1500 calories
Saturday:
2100 calories (+exercise)

Seems like a lot? It's really not! Even if I weighed 125lbs right now and wanted to maintain that weight, exercising 5 days a week, I'd need 2019 calories per day (14,133 per week) to do so. So at 1829 calories a day on average, a 27 year old female weighing 125lbs + exercise, there would still be a small deficit; without factoring in lean body mass."

And I really, really encourage people to have a cheat day every week. For me, it gives me a guilt-free night to go out and have a few beers. Some people treat themselves to favorite foods (i.e. cheese, chocolate, whatever) or get their fast food fixes on these days. They really seem to help as far as sticking to the life-style changes "forever". We aren't dieting, right? We're changing our habits!

Okay, I've babbled on long enough. It's just so exciting, because I'm learning so much about how my brain and body work and I tend to get a bit wordy. I hope some of this helps! Good luck on getting those pounds off to both of you!  

Personally I would worry about over eating on the off days. This makes sence but as a person who used to struggle with bulimia I don't know if I could mentally handle this. This could be a fine line kind of diet, does this make sence?

I've been zig-zagging my calories for about 2 months, but not quite the way you describe.  Rather than following a fixed daily intake, I have a fixed weekly target (7 x daily target) and then vary the amount I eat every day.  Some days I eat close to the daily target, some more, some less.

The first week I zig-zagged, I just came up with a seven day calorie plan that hit my weekly target but kept the variation +/- 15% -- in other words, the 'high' calorie days are no more than 15% higher than my daily target and the 'low' calorie days are no more than 15% below my daily target. Then I created a spreadsheet that I use each day to figure out how many calories I should eat to keep to my target weekly average.  It calculates how many calories I ate in the last seven days, subtracts that figure from the my total weekly calorie goal (to account for the inevitable small discrepancies between the goal and reality) and then adds the resulting figure to the number of calories I ate seven days earlier. This way, I always have a specific target goal for the day (no "off" days), but I am constantly varying my intake.  It really works for me.

I to have been doing calorie shifting (zig-zagging) and I find it works really well. I choose healthy foods and basically I have different amount calories everyday. I try eat 3-6 small meals a day divided the calories accordingly.My calorie intake goes like this 1500,1000,1800,1000,2000,1500,1200 my calories that I am allowed is 1531 so as you see 2 of my days I have over my amount and 3 days under and 2 day my allowed amount. I know that 1000 cal is low but I am doing this under doctor's ok. When I am able to start doing more exercise then I will have to adjust the lower amount of calories for those days. I have been given alot of advice from a lot of people here on CC and right now i am going to stick with this as long as it is working and as long as I am eating healthy. I can honestly say I do not get hungry. I have however had to eat about 300 cal over one day due to my blood sugar dropping low but it was on my high day that it happened and now a low day.

I found this website really helpful:http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calc ulator.htm

If you enter your stats, it gives you a daily calorie target and also gives you a sample 7-day zig-zag schedule.

I had to give up on the zig-zag for a while.. I might get back into it, because it really does seem to be effective, and helps keep one from stalling out, but I was just miserable on my 1200 cal days... Once I get a handle on this again, I will try zigging again... I think the site ruby posted would help a lot!! 

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