Calorie cycling occurs when individuals consciously vary the calories they take in each day, rather than consuming one set amount each day. This can help individuals lose weight and stick to a diet. Depending on an individual's diet restrictions, dieting can make them feel hungry and increase their likelihood of bingeing. By engaging in calorie cycling, along with making sure they're getting the right number of nutrients each day, individuals can ensure their body is healthy and balanced. Calorie cycling increases weight loss by speeding up the individual's metabolism. If individuals restrict calories exclusively, their metabolism will slow down to retain weight. However, if they eat a high amount of calories one day and few the next, their metabolism will burn more weight because it's not in survival mode.
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Calorie cycling is shifting between high-calorie and low-calorie periods. Some also call this diet style calorie shifting. Calorie cycling can be integrated with many different types of diets. It doesn't specify any food restrictions, portion sizes, times to eat, amounts of meals per day, or strict guidelines to follow. Instead, individuals can customize their diet to suit them. Of course, individuals should always talk to a nutritionist or doctor about how to get the right nutrients in their diet, especially if they have any health conditions impacted by what they eat. Calorie cycling doesn't function as a traditional diet, but is instead a way for individuals to structure their monthly or weekly meals. By using this technique, individuals may be able to boost their metabolism enough to lose weight even if they don't change the kinds of foods they eat from day to day. Researchers have found calorie cycling helps individuals stick to diets and feel less hungry throughout the day.
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Potential Side Effects
Traditional dieting and severe calorie restriction cause several side effects that make weight loss nearly impossible. When the body detects an individual is eating less food, it causes serious metabolism shifts to retain weight. This is an adaptive survival mechanism to protect against starvation. Calorie cycling can cause the same metabolic shifts as with traditional dieting, but studies indicate this occurs on a much smaller scale. Rather than shifting completely into survival mode, the body varies the calories individuals burn in normal ways based on how much they eat. Restricting calories for too long can lead to a decrease in testosterone. It also decreases the amount of resting energy individuals expend, the amount of thyroid hormone circulating in the body, the amount of physical activity they can handle, and the amount of the hunger hormone leptin. Leptin tells an individual's brain when they're full. At the same time, restricting calories can cause the stress hormone cortisol to increase and increase the amounts of ghrelin in the body. Ghrelin is a hormone that tells individuals they're hungry.
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Support for Calorie Cycling
Several studies support calorie cycling. Some individuals originally thought varying their caloric intake would result in less weight loss than total restriction because of the increased caloric intake, though this doesn't appear to be the case. Studies indicate cutting calories leads to a sharp decline in the amount of calories an individual's body burns each day. Restricting calories for just eight weeks can cause an individual's metabolism to burn 250 fewer calories at rest each day, which means they'll regain weight very quickly when they start eating a normal amount of food again. In one study, participants who ate a low-calorie diet for three weeks experienced a resting metabolism decrease of more than one hundred calories. But when they switched to a higher caloric intake, their metabolism became higher than when they first began the study. In some studies, the reduction in metabolism reached levels of five hundred calories each day, which means maintaining a goal weight would involve eating twenty-five percent less food per day. One study involved eleven days of calorie restriction followed by three days of high-calorie eating. Participants lost more weight and had a lower metabolic rate reduction than individuals who restricted exclusively.
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How To Put Calorie Cycling Into Practice
Since calorie cycling doesn't have strict guidelines, there are no hard and fast rules for how to put calorie cycling into practice. If there's an approach to overall dieting that works best for an individual, they should stick with that. After a period of dieting, individuals should do a short intermittent period of high-calorie intake. High-calorie days are days where individuals can eat whatever they want, provided it meets their nutritional guidelines. The best time to start a higher-calorie period will vary depending on the person. Usually, a high-calorie period is best from one to four weeks after an individual has been dieting. They should look for physical changes indicating their metabolism is slowing down. Do they have less energy to do physical tasks? Is exercise harder? Are they feeling more tense and stressed-out than usual? These are all signs it's time to eat more.
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Combining With Exercise
Like any diet, calorie cycling works best when individuals combine it with healthy exercise. Exercise is key to overall health and weight loss. When individuals exercise, their metabolism speeds up and they burn calories. An individual who exercises will burn more calories at rest than someone who doesn't exercise. Individuals should make sure they tailor their caloric intake to their overall activity level. If individuals are exercising for several hours a day, they'll need significantly more calories than someone who only does twenty minutes of exercise three times each week. The healthiest option is to engage in long and intense exercise sessions on high-calorie days, rather than overexercising when restricting calories. Light exercise sessions are better for low-calorie days. This allows individuals to maximize their overall exercise performance and retain muscle while also losing fat storage.