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Low/High Calorie cycling vs Flatline consumption

warnongbriwarnongbri Posts: 67Member Member Posts: 67Member Member
Hey all,

Long time user of the app, new to the boards. (Side note: great community, love the motivation and knowledge around!)

I've been curious about others' experience with calorie cycling around a maintenance baseline. My current Maintenance is 2300 and I'm thinking of trying out, for the next two weeks, an experiment where I eat 8% (~200 cals) above on weight days and a similar level below on rest/HIIT days. (2500/2100)

If you've tried this in the past, what has been your experience with respect to rate of muscle gain, fat loss, weight gain/loss, general health and mood?
Were there other things that came up that surprised you?


Replies

  • warnongbriwarnongbri Posts: 67Member Member Posts: 67Member Member
    Background

    I'm doing an LP (5X5) program right now and still adding 5 lbs to each compound and 10 lbs to my DL every workout. My assistance/other exercises are ab circuits, some accessory work for back, shoulders and I will be starting to play soccer once a week for a non-competitive 90 mins full field.

    For non exercise days, I'm doing either HIIT or LISS for around 2kms 3x a week (not counting soccer)

    So far, my weight hasn't budged since I started and is steady at 162lbs. My main lifts have doubled (except for OHP)
  • ryanmichaelhornryanmichaelhorn Posts: 13Member, Premium Member Posts: 13Member, Premium Member
    No personal experience as I've always opted to keep a constant calorie stream, but I did find the following article that suggests a CSD (Calorie Shifting Diet) may lead to some better outcomes.

    "The CSD diet was associated with a greater improvement in some anthropometric measures, Adherence was better among CSD subjects. Longer and larger studies are required to determine the long-term safety and efficacy of CSD diet."

    Davoodi, S. H., Ajami, M., Ayatollahi, S. A., Dowlatshahi, K., Javedan, G., & Pazoki-Toroudi, H. R. (2014). Calorie shifting diet versus calorie restriction diet: a comparative clinical trial study. International journal of preventive medicine, 5(4), 447.
    edited August 23
  • CahgetsfitCahgetsfit Posts: 1,811Member Member Posts: 1,811Member Member
    I've done calorie cycling. it's fine. I found that when I did it so that during the week I eat less and on the weekend I eat more, it gives me more flexibility to eat more.

    That is good. It's easy to eat less during the week because of the work week routine.

    I also had a go at it with the eat less when you're not training scenario a while ago, but I was dieting hard and miserable and depleted and it just meant a day where I was starving even more than normal and eating even less carbs than normal so I dreaded it. But that was just a terrible experience all up that I would not recommend to anyone!

  • warnongbriwarnongbri Posts: 67Member Member Posts: 67Member Member
    No personal experience as I've always opted to keep a constant calorie stream, but I did find the following article that suggests a CSD (Calorie Shifting Diet) may lead to some better outcomes.

    "The CSD diet was associated with a greater improvement in some anthropometric measures, Adherence was better among CSD subjects. Longer and larger studies are required to determine the long-term safety and efficacy of CSD diet."

    Davoodi, S. H., Ajami, M., Ayatollahi, S. A., Dowlatshahi, K., Javedan, G., & Pazoki-Toroudi, H. R. (2014). Calorie shifting diet versus calorie restriction diet: a comparative clinical trial study. International journal of preventive medicine, 5(4), 447.

    Thanks. I wonder if they mean that a less strict diet is easier to adhere to. Which makes sense in a way
  • warnongbriwarnongbri Posts: 67Member Member Posts: 67Member Member
    Cahgetsfit wrote: »
    I've done calorie cycling. it's fine. I found that when I did it so that during the week I eat less and on the weekend I eat more, it gives me more flexibility to eat more.

    That is good. It's easy to eat less during the week because of the work week routine.

    I also had a go at it with the eat less when you're not training scenario a while ago, but I was dieting hard and miserable and depleted and it just meant a day where I was starving even more than normal and eating even less carbs than normal so I dreaded it. But that was just a terrible experience all up that I would not recommend to anyone!

    Ahh I see!

    Well I'll report back as I try it out the next couple weeks. I'm just hovering around maintenance so I don't expect to feel depleted. Thanks for the feedback
  • neugebauer52neugebauer52 Posts: 835Member Member Posts: 835Member Member
    Our ancestors knew nothing about calories and cycling on a flat line or otherwise. They were lucky to have a "square meal" every couple of days and were grazers and hunters. It will take a few thousand years before our bodies understand fancy terms which are doing the rounds during the later part of the 20th century and now in the Western society. I simply trust MFP, its calculations and I record everything I eat / drink. So far so good. it is still CICO - nothing seems to replace it if I want to lose weight.
  • warnongbriwarnongbri Posts: 67Member Member Posts: 67Member Member
    sijomial wrote: »
    Are you aiming to maintain weight (you posted in the maintaining forum) or lose weight (you mention your weight hasn't budged?)

    Do you mean net or gross calories? TDEE style or MyFitnessPal style of accounting for exercise?

    Definitely maintain so weight not budging is good for me, as long as my strength progresses.

    I'm using TDEE so I don't eat back my calories burned. I barely even bother recording my activities/workouts.

    In theory, I'm not changing my maintenance by much, it's still going to be 2300 consumed ; just 2500 on and 2100 off days.

    I suppose there's that 200 Cal deficit for day 7 (3x workouts a week) but I'm going to have to finish my kids crackers or juice or something on occasion :) or some such random edible
  • warnongbriwarnongbri Posts: 67Member Member Posts: 67Member Member
    Our ancestors knew nothing about calories and cycling on a flat line or otherwise. They were lucky to have a "square meal" every couple of days and were grazers and hunters. It will take a few thousand years before our bodies understand fancy terms which are doing the rounds during the later part of the 20th century and now in the Western society. I simply trust MFP, its calculations and I record everything I eat / drink. So far so good. it is still CICO - nothing seems to replace it if I want to lose weight.

    Hi neugebauer52, I do NOT want to lose weight. This is a body recomp/maintenance post/thread. Please read my post again.

    Cheers
  • sijomialsijomial Posts: 15,244Member Member Posts: 15,244Member Member
    warnongbri wrote: »
    sijomial wrote: »
    Are you aiming to maintain weight (you posted in the maintaining forum) or lose weight (you mention your weight hasn't budged?)

    Do you mean net or gross calories? TDEE style or MyFitnessPal style of accounting for exercise?

    Definitely maintain so weight not budging is good for me, as long as my strength progresses.

    I'm using TDEE so I don't eat back my calories burned. I barely even bother recording my activities/workouts.

    In theory, I'm not changing my maintenance by much, it's still going to be 2300 consumed ; just 2500 on and 2100 off days.

    I suppose there's that 200 Cal deficit for day 7 (3x workouts a week) but I'm going to have to finish my kids crackers or juice or something on occasion :) or some such random edible

    I experimented with a few different eating patterns: 5:2 to lose weight, 6:1 to maintain, same net goal daily, 16:8 IF and a weekly calorie goal. My weight tracked my overall calories and the eating patterns made no discernable difference to that.

    I settled in the first year of maintenance in just simply eating to my highly varied net calorie goal as that gave me really good energy levels, exercise performance and easy compliance. IMHO it's well worth experiementing as even with failed experiments you learn, or confirm, something about yourself. (e.g. the less hard rules and restrictions the better, breakfast is very optional for me, I enjoy snacks....)
  • warnongbriwarnongbri Posts: 67Member Member Posts: 67Member Member
    My weight tracked my overall calories and the eating patterns made no discernable difference to that.

    What about your lifts?

    IMHO it's well worth experiementing as even with failed experiments you learn, or confirm, something about yourself.

    I agree! This should be a neat experiment. Thanks
  • sijomialsijomial Posts: 15,244Member Member Posts: 15,244Member Member
    warnongbri wrote: »
    My weight tracked my overall calories and the eating patterns made no discernable difference to that.

    What about your lifts?

    Very simple - the harder and more consistently and inteligently I trained the better my lifting got.

    TBH I'm not particularly sensitive to calorie deficits and a moderate deficit has no impact on my strength training at all. Which isn't really that surprising as a strength workout is such a small calorie burn and I'm not under-fed or ultra lean.
    It's why I have a bit of cynicism about daily calorie cycling for someone focussed on strength training - when an adult male at maintenance can store about 2,000 cals of glycogen (and a huge amount of calories in fat stores...) twiddling about with cycling a small surplus and deficit for an hour's workout burn of perhaps 250 - 300 cals seems to me unlikely to make a significant difference.

    Some of the articles supporting the idea are frankly based on the BS that "you can't gain muscle in a deficit, you must have a calorie surplus to gain muscle". Ideas only pedalled by the clueless and/or unthinking but surprisingly accepted as "facts" by a lot of people.....

    For cardio training (I cycle a lot) I can train really hard in the run up to an event for about six weeks in a small calorie deficit before it has a discernable impact on training and recovery in the forms of a plateau in performance, impaired recovery, elevated RHR, fatigue.....

    Having said that there's no harm in experimenting. Even it is merely gives someone easier adherence or a placebo effect that's OK.

    edited August 23
  • warnongbriwarnongbri Posts: 67Member Member Posts: 67Member Member
    TBH I'm not particularly sensitive to calorie deficits and a moderate deficit has no impact on my strength training at all. Which isn't really that surprising as a strength workout is such a small calorie burn and I'm not under-fed or ultra lean.

    I agree, it's barely two slices of bread worth of calorie expenditure. And I've been gaining/recomping muscle on what's probably a slight deficit.

    It's why I have a bit of cynicism about daily calorie cycling for someone focussed on strength training

    Yeah, my curiosity comes from the studies cited by Lyle McDonald showing increase in protein synthesis for 24 hours on workout days. It doesn't mean muscle isn't creating in a recomping individual but that the rate can increase with higher calories on certain days.

    Even it is merely gives someone easier adherence or a placebo effect

    So, not a placebo necessarily. And it's an experiment.

  • DickAichDickAich Posts: 8Member Member Posts: 8Member Member
    Hi, thanks for the thread. Not intending to bust into your information quest, but this question is of interest to me, also. To lose the weight I wanted to get rid of, I merely followed the calorie recommendations the app provided factoring in my daily workouts, which were 3 days of cardio and 3 days of resistance. Now, I want to go into maintain and re-composition.

    I am 70, 5' 11" and currently at 172.5#. My goal is to maintain the total weight while reducing body fat, 15.2% (I am using the gym's InBody 570 scan for the data). My issue during losing weight was the up and down calorie recommendation. One day I should eat like a linebacker and the next more moderately. I am now trying balancing my calorie intake consistently over the week based on the average of my workouts over the past month. I feel like I can get into a much better rhythm of eating and thinking it will ultimately be more sustainable.

    I guess I'm experimenting, too. Thoughts?
  • warnongbriwarnongbri Posts: 67Member Member Posts: 67Member Member
    DickAich wrote: »
    Hi, thanks for the thread. Not intending to bust into your information quest, but this question is of interest to me, also. To lose the weight I wanted to get rid of, I merely followed the calorie recommendations the app provided factoring in my daily workouts, which were 3 days of cardio and 3 days of resistance. Now, I want to go into maintain and re-composition.

    I am 70, 5' 11" and currently at 172.5#. My goal is to maintain the total weight while reducing body fat, 15.2% (I am using the gym's InBody 570 scan for the data). My issue during losing weight was the up and down calorie recommendation. One day I should eat like a linebacker and the next more moderately. I am now trying balancing my calorie intake consistently over the week based on the average of my workouts over the past month. I feel like I can get into a much better rhythm of eating and thinking it will ultimately be more sustainable.

    I guess I'm experimenting, too. Thoughts?

    I've consistently kept the same TDEE established calories per week with slight negligible fluctuations and it's worked wonders for recomp. However a bit part of the success in my recomp is my progressive overload strength training program.

    Keeping it consistent like you're planning on doing is best and has worked best for me and is what I will go back to doing in two weeks most likely.

    But at the moment, I have a fair amount of detrained/novice gains that my body can benefit from that is harder for more advanced trainees.

    So I'm trying calorie cycling to see if the studies will play out for me too. One point I should make is that I am not increasing my calories that much (linebacker) It's around 200 or 300 calories a day; two sliced of bread and a Peanut Butter Spoon basically
  • ahoy_m8ahoy_m8 Posts: 1,864Member Member Posts: 1,864Member Member
    For years I banked calories for the weekend, around a 150 cal deficit M-Th and 200 cal surplus F-Su. Socially convenient because easier to fit in alcohol without cutting food (much). But then I realized I was doing it backwards because my heavier workouts with strength training are on weekdays. I switched to even intake and noticed less scale weight fluctuation. Didn’t notice anything re: health, mood, fat loss.

    Not sure this is applicable, but I also tried a n=1 experiment for most of a year wherein I ate at a slight surplus 2 wks following ovulation (progesterone and hence testosterone highest) and an equivalent deficit for 2 wks following that. It seemed like I progressed my lifts faster in that calorie scheme, but it required a precise level of calorie control that I didn’t want to commit to forever. My cycles became less predictable and I went back to even intake. I have greater definition now, but that’s more likely due to slow steady recomp than any particular calorie scheme. I loved that surplus eating, though!

    ETA: I progressed weights in the surplus weeks, held the increases the deficit weeks
    edited September 5
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