By Steve Edwards
One of the most effective dieting techniques we’ve found is zigzagging. Not to be confused with yo-yo dieting, zigzag is a technique that should be used anytime you want to increase or decrease your daily caloric intake, and can be used to find out what your caloric intake should be. Instead of moving straight to a new daily caloric number, you move in smaller increments on a staggered schedule. You hear the phase “listen to your body” all the time. Can Zigzag Dieting Work for You? It actually teaches your body how to have a conversation with you.
Here’s an example of how it works:
Say you’re eating 1,500 calories a day and have been for a period of time during which you’ve lost weight. Now your weight loss has stagnated. This is a common scenario because the new, fitter you has a different body composition than the former you. You have more muscle and a higher basal metabolic rate (BMR). In order to continue your weight loss, you need to eat more, because 1,500 calories isn’t enough—even though it once was—and now your body is reacting by slowing its metabolism and releasing cortisol in a protective response (often called starvation mode because this is how your body would respond to being starved).
It’s possible this could be a lot more calories, depending on one’s size. A large person who should be eating, say, 2,500 calories to maintain his or her optimal weight could lose weight by massively undereating when he or she is deconditioned. As this person’s body composition changes, he or she will need more calories to continue to lose weight. So let’s say this individual figures to need 2,500 calories a day.
Weight times 10, plus 10 percent to 30 percent for daily activity depending on how active you are, plus the estimated caloric burn of your exercise, or just click here to calculate your caloric needs at TeamBeachbody.com.
You don’t want to jump straight to 2,500 calories. First, it would create a shock to your system, and second, it may be wrong, as those calculators only give ballpark figures. The most effective thing to do is to zigzag your caloric intake. In this instance, I would recommend eating 2,000 calories per day for 3 to 4 days a week and 1,500 calories on the other days. Then, you note how your body responds, which I would expect to be positively on the higher caloric days and by feeling famished on the low-cal days.
You want to be energized but not hungry, so after a week or two of this, I would bump up to around 2,200 calories a day for 4 or 5 days, and 1,500 calories a day for 2 days for maybe one week. If you’re still starving on the low days, try bumping them up to 2,000 calories a day and see how you respond. Use this tactic until you regulate, which means that you’re energized but not hungry, and also not full. You can tell when you’re eating too many calories because you’ll begin to feel full, you won’t digest your food between meals, and you’ll feel more lethargic at the beginning of workouts.
Zigzag dieting works whether you need to reduce or increase your caloric intake, and whether you need a subtle change or a dramatic change. There is no numbers formula except to increase/decrease in small increments between 200 and 500 calories a day, and to zigzag your caloric intake 2 to 4 times per week. Then, you just listen and let your body tell you how much you should eat.