Zigzagging is the most powerful tool in your nutrition arsenal for adjusting your diet as your fitness or your goals change. Whether you want to lose weight, gain weight, or just eat so that you perform at your best, the most effective tool to figure out how much you should be eating is known as zigzag dieting. Also referred to as “refeeding” in bodybuilding circles, it’s a technique I’ve been using for years.
Here’s how to zigzag diet: On 2-3 days of the week, eat the same number of calories you usually would. On the remaining 4-5 days, eat more (or less) calories. The general practice is 4 days of change and 3 days of remaining the same, but some prefer 5 and 2, or even changing daily as shown in the graph below. No matter which plan you follow, your body will tell you if it was a good idea by responding better (or worse) to your workouts. While it’s generally used to add calories (hence, “refeeding”), it works the same in both directions. Continue zigzagging up and/or down until you feel like you’re performing at your best.
How many more (or fewer) calories should you eat while zigzagging?
The bigger and more active you are, the higher number of calories you should add or subtract. Most people move in a 200-500 calories per day range (or more, as you can see in the image above, though that’s more of a deficit than I’d use unless I was well versed in it). Don’t get too caught up in the number. There’s nothing wrong with going too low, and then zigzagging again. Unlike yo-yo dieting, zigzagging won’t negatively affect your metabolism. Instead, if you pay attention to your workouts, and keep zigzagging until you’re nailing every workout, your body will respond by raising your metabolism to handle the stress and gaining or losing weight will become easier.
How zigzag dieting can break a plateau
Say, for example, you’re eating 1500 calories a day and you’ve lost weight. But, now your weight loss has stagnated. That’s 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 1500 calories isn’t enough and your body is reacting by slowing down your metabolism and releasing cortisol in a protective response (this is often called starvation mode because this is how your body would respond to being starved).
For the sake of this example, let’s say your run a calorie calculation and determine that you need to 2500 calories per day. You don’t want to jump straight to 2500 calories. First, it would cause some shock to your system and, second, it might be inaccurate, 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 2000 calories per day 3-4 days per week and 1500 calories on the other days. Note how your body responds. My expectation is you’d feel good on the higher calorie days and famished on the lower calorie days.
You want to be energized but not hungry and not full. So, after a week or two, bump up your calories to around 2200 calories for 4-5 days and 1500 calories on 2 days. Do this for about a week. If I’m still starving on the low days, try bumping them up to 2000 and see how you respond. 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.
Weight Loss Without Counting Calories
Have you tried everything to lose weight are still having trouble? Keeping tracks of calories can be difficult and worse yet if you’re trying to keep track of fats, carbs, and protein. There is an easier way and it’s called the 21 Day Fix system.
In the 21 Day Fix system, you use color coded portion control containers to help you keep track of what you eat. There’s no guessing on what you can eat with the complete 21 Day Fix Nutrition Guide that includes lists of what you can place into your containers and also tasty recipes.
Plus, you get super simple exercises that only take 30 minutes a day to finish… And the best part is that the 21 Day Fix is set up to get fast results in only 21 days! Just check out the results people have been getting below:
Patricia Loves the Person She Sees in the Mirror! She Lost 7.4 LBS
Samantha Wanted a Quick & Healthy Way to Lose Weight. She Lost 12.4 LBS
Laura Lost 15.6 LBS & Got Into Her Skinny Jeans
Jamie Found It Easier Than She Thought to Lose 15 LBS
Kristy Lost 24 LBS & Transformed Her Life
Amy Gained Energy & Lost 17.6 LBS
Giselle Got the Body She Desired! She Lost 18 LBS.
Kimberly Now Cooks Different For Her Family. She Lost 15 LBS
Kaylee Didn't Deprive Herself From the Food She Enjoys & Lost 15 LBS
Meskerem Gained New Confidence to Live Life & Lost 18 LBS
Devon Lost 50 LBS & Completely Changed Her Life Around
Ruth Thought Her Only Option Was Surgery. She Lost 33 LBS
Jenna Has More Energy & Lost 17 LBS
Rondi Can Now Keep Up with Her Kids. She Lost 21 LBS
Catherine Had Trouble Losing Weight Until Now. Lost 45 LBS
Cynthia Thought She Had No Time To Workout with 3 Kids. She 27 LBS
Heather is a Happier Mom & Wife. She Lost 21.4 LBS
If you’re ready to lose up to 15 pounds in 21 days, select your workout option below: