The zigzag diet is a fascinating concept that has many followers, the idea is that by alternating calorie intake, you can create a caloric deficit without suppressing your metabolism. This is not effective for a couple of reasons.
- The decrease in metabolic rate generally follows a decrease in weight or activity level, which makes perfect sense. A sensible calorie restriction program does not adversely affect metabolic rate until one is very lean.
- In order for a zig-zag diet to be as effective as standard caloric restriction, it must create the same deficit as a regular caloric deficit, this often involves very low calorie days to make up for higher calorie days that some find more difficult than an ordinary diet.
So the zigzag diet is pretty normal in that regard, however what about when we want to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time? It becomes very useful.
This is not the zigzag diet in its normal form. It’s strategic, involves calorie restriction, and most importantly, it’s highly effective. So how does it work?
It really is quite simple, acute periods of binge eating allow anabolism and catabolism to occur on a small scale in continuous cycles until the effects are very pronounced.
The traditional bulge and cut cycle typically occurs annually, with a bulk in the fall / winter months and a cut in the spring / summer months. This is fine, I still see it as a very respectable method of building muscle and managing fat year after year, but this article begs the question, is there a more efficient way?
An add a little, take a little approach may be better for the average person without a serious time commitment, and may in fact be better for many natural bodybuilders. So what are the benefits of this?
You don’t put so much fat as in an annual bulk cutting cycle, but we may be able to add the same amount of muscle. There is a clear pattern of muscle accretion after a stimulus, in our case this is the last session in which we train but this is only brief, if this is the case perhaps excess calories are unnecessary on non-training days and may contribute to fat gain.
The solution is a diet that provides extra energy when it is needed to build muscle and one that does not accumulate calories at times when they will not be used well. This can be used in a number of ways, it can be used to maintain muscle mass very well when dieting, or it can be used to minimize fat storage when aiming to gain muscle.
When using the zig-zag method, it is important to count not only your daily calorie intake, but also your weekly calorie intake. Your intake may be high on training days and low on non-training days, but it should also show a direction, either to gain weight or to lose weight, the overall effect will be determined by the weekly calorie intake.
Applications of the Zig-Zag method
For example, a person who wants to gain muscle mass can eat during maintenance on non-training days and eat 500 calories above maintenance on training days, if a person trains 3 times a week, this will equal a weekly surplus of 1500 calories per week. . Some would consider this a modest surplus, but this method is very effective at putting those excess calories exactly where you want them, on new muscle. The net effect is weight gain, and most of that weight is likely to be muscle.
A person wanting to lose weight and maintain or possibly gain some muscle while dieting would take a slightly different approach and this is where you need to remember that calorie intake is always important. The same person who wants to lose fat can eat 500-1000 calories less on non-training days and 250 calories above maintenance on training days, this would be equivalent to a weekly deficit of between 2750 and 6250, which is between 1 and 1.5 pounds lost. per week, this may not sound like a lot, but losing pure fat is the best way to go in terms of body composition.
Recomposition is the process by which fat is replaced by muscle while maintaining the same calories and participating in resistance training to increase muscle mass relative to the fat mass in your body, this is only really possible on a small scale, since it is possible to lose a lot of fat in a relatively short time, muscle mass is gained slowly and gradually. An untrained person can gain two pounds of muscle and lose 2 pounds of fat each month and their weight would remain the same, although in the long run one might find that gaining one pound of muscle per month is closer to average. The appeal of recomposition is that even though the weight stays the same, the body will look much better than if one lost two pounds or gained two pounds separately. If you have to lose some fat or gain muscle, then the above methods would be more suitable for you.
An example of a recomposition program would be if someone consumed 500 more calories on each of the three training days and 500 fewer on three of the four non-training days, on the remaining day they would only eat maintenance. This would keep calorie intake and weight roughly the same and provide adequate training, rest, and protein intake, eventually losing fat and gaining muscle.
This is one of the most effective nutritional strategies for losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time. Try it for just 6 weeks and you will be amazed at the differences you will see.