Calorie Cycling 101: A Beginner’s Guide

What Is Calorie Cycling?

Calorie cycling refers to the practice of eating less calories than your body needs each day in order to lose weight or maintain a certain level of fitness. You may have heard about it before from friends, family members, or even some health professionals.

But what exactly does it mean? How do you go about doing it? What are the benefits? And how much does it cost?

There are many different types of calorie cycling. Some people choose to eat only high-calorie foods like candy, cookies, cakes, ice cream and so forth on days when they exercise or workout hard. Other people prefer to eat low-calorie food such as vegetables and fruits on non-exercise days. Still others will consume no calories at all during non-workout times (i.e., weekends).

The most common type of calorie cycling involves eating fewer calories than your body needs on non-training days and more calories than it needs on training days. For example, if you want to lose 1 pound per week, then you would eat 500 fewer calories than your daily requirement on non-training days and 1000 more calories than your daily requirement on training days.

Does It Really Work?

It all depends on how much you want to weigh and how much effort you’re willing to put into it. For example, if your body requires 1800 calories per day to maintain its current weight and you eat 500 calories less than that every day of the week but exercise moderately 3-4 times per week (i.e., burn 500-1000 more calories than you eat), then you will probably lose about 1-2 pounds per week. On the other hand, if you eat 1800 calories per day but exercise hard 4-5 times per week (i.e., burn 2000-3000 more calories than you eat), then you will probably lose about 1-2 pounds per week as well. In both cases, your weight loss will level off after a while and you’ll hit your “weight loss plateau.”

The only advantage to calorie cycling is that it makes dieting slightly easier to stick with. If you’re trying to lose 5 pounds in 2 weeks for an upcoming vacation and your weight loss plateaued at 3 pounds after a week, then you could increase your calorie deficit by 1000 calories per day for the next week (i.e., eat only 500 calories per day) in order to reach your goal.

But there’s nothing magical about calorie cycling. It’s just another diet strategy–and a rigorous one at that. Most people would be better off either sticking to a lower calorie/moderate carbohydrate diet for a longer period of time or just going to the gym for an hour three times per week. The good thing about the former is that you don’t have to think or track anything; the bad thing is that it can be really easy to get bored. The good thing about the latter is that it only takes half an hour per day and you can do whatever you want afterwards; the bad thing is that weight loss will be very slow (i.e., half a pound per week).

But if you can deal with the slow rate of weight loss, then there’s no reason to calorie cycle.

I should also point out that many women find it very difficult to accurately track their food intake. I don’t know why this is though. It could be a psychological thing or it could be a biology thing. (There’s evidence that women’s bodies deal with food in a different way than men’s bodies do.) In any case, what often happens with calorie counters is that they grossly under-eat or they binge and wind up gaining back all the weight that they lost–and more.

So if you’re a woman who wants to lose weight, I would suggest using the low/moderate carbohydrate approach instead and then just exercising as much as you feel like whenever you feel like it.

Sources & references used in this article:

Build Lean Muscle with Intermittent Fasting, Carb and Calorie Cycling by J Maxwell –

Energy: a beginner’s guide by V Smil – 2017 –

Sleep 101: Beginner’s Guide to Unraveling the Mysteries of Life’s Forgotten Third by D Erichsen – 2012 –

The Pros and Cons of the Ketogenic Diet for Your Skin by WA Fitness

The climate challenge: 101 solutions to global warming by A Vaughn –

Find the Martial Art That Makes You Fit by D Johnson-Cane, J Glickman, J Cane – 2002 – Penguin

Exercise and training machine with microcomputer-assisted training guide by G Dauncey – 2009 –

Safe Cycling by J Maine –