When a person’s weight is greater than what is considered healthy for his/her age and body type the person can be first classified as overweight.
However, obesity is a chronic condition in which the overweight individuals keep on gaining weight and when their weight exceeds a particular amount then they are classified as obese.
For instance, people with BMI between 25-29.9 are considered overweight but with BMI beyond 30 are considered obese.
The excess weight in obese individuals is due to excess accumulation of fat.
Being obese increases the risk of diseases such as Diabetes, coronary artery disease, arthritis even cancer.
It is imperative that we maintain our weight within healthy parameters.
Apart from genetic reasons, obesity is mainly caused when the energy intake becomes more than the energy expenditure.
This is called a negative energy balance.
This negative energy balance needs to be converted to a positive energy balance in which the energy intake is less than output or output is more than intake.
This is where calorie-restricted diet or low calorie diets come into the picture for weight loss.
A Low calorie- diet to maintain a positive energy balance is the first line of action for treating obesity.
However, people find it difficult to adhere to these diets as the food intake is reduced, there is total boycott of sugars, saturated and trans fats which implies no comfort food for very long time, and these diets bring about weight loss gradually and in moderate amounts therefore the person does not stay motivated enough for a long time to actually follow these diets.
In a calorie-restricted diet, only low-calorie foods are consumed throughout the period of treatment.
The downside of it is difficulty in adherence.
Moreover, studies have shown that people tend to gain 30-35 % of the weight lost within the first year post treatment.
Weight maintenance after weight loss is of great importance and difficult for the individual to cope with.
Therefore, new strategies and different approaches are required for losing weight in a healthy manner.
One such approach is the Calorie cycling or Calorie shifting method.
What is Calorie cycling?
In this type of diet instead of keeping a person on a consistent low-calorie diet until the person reaches the goal weight, the person is made to alternate between low calorie and high-calorie periods.
Therefore, it not much a type of diet than it is an eating pattern.
For instance, 11days of low-calorie diet followed by 3 days of self-selected diet (high-calorie diet) is called calorie cycling.
So, the person follows the low- calorie diet for 11 days then eats whatever he wants for 3 days and again goes back to the calorie restricted diet for 11 days.
This can be continued till however long the dietician deems fine or till however long it takes for the person to lose weight.
4 Reasons Why Calorie Cycling Is Better Than Low-Calorie Diets
Here are 4 reasons why calorie cycling is found to be a better for weht loss than low calorie diets.
1.Calorie cycling prevents drop in metabolism
To understand this one must first understand energy expenditure by our body.
There are 3 components of energy expenditure- Basal metabolic rate, thermic effect of food (food required for digestion and absorption of food) and physical activity.
Basically, these are the 3 main components for which our body needs energy. Basal metabolic rate uses around 65-70% of all the energy.
Basal metabolic rate is the energy required by our body at rest for vital functions like breathing, maintaining the body temperature, etc.
Several clinical trials have found that shifting to a conventional low calorie diet lowers this basal metabolic rate or BMR .
The lowering of BMR leads to a sluggish feeling and a person becomes less physically active.
If somehow this BMR is maintained at higher levels along with the low-calorie diet then it would lead to more efficient weight loss as there would be more expenditure of energy.
It was found that calorie shifting did not let the basal metabolic rate fall and maintained it .
The basal metabolic rate is maintained when the person gets a break from the low-calorie diet and eats as he pleases during that designated break.
What does this mean? Calorie shifting helps maintain metabolism and prevents it from dropping as in the case of low calorie diets. This is beneficial for faster and healthy weight loss.
2.Calorie cycling leads to better weight loss and appetite control than low calorie diet
A study was conducted to compare the effects of calorie shifting diet and the conventional low-calorie diet.
This study suggested that the people who followed the calorie cycling pattern experienced more reduction in weight, their BMR was unchanged and there was more reduction in the body fat as compare to the group who followed the low calorie conventional diet .
The fat loss in calorie shifting diet was 6.02kg compared to 5.15kg and continued for 1 month where fat loss was 5.24kg for calorie shifting diet and 4.3kg low calorie diet. Metabolic rate was maintained in calorie shifting diet.
It was also observed that the feeling of hunger reduced and the feeling of satiety increased in the people who were following calorie cycling than the people who were following conventional low calorie diet.
What does this mean? Calorie shifting leads to better fat loss and better appetite control than low calorie diet.
3.Calorie cycling is a healthier eating pattern than low calorie diet
Low calorie diets often cause negative fluid balance in the body, there is a reduction in leptin levels (satiety hormone), it also negatively affects the metabolism and secretion of other hormones in the body like testosterone, thyroxin, insulin etc. .
Even though they bring about reduction in fat mass a significant amount of biologically active fat free mass (muscles) is also lost .
All these negative effects or conventional low calorie diets are balanced by calorie shifting to some extent, though not to a tremendous extent but it has certainly been proven to be healthier and better way of losing weight than the low-calorie diets especially in the case of beginners who have never been on low-calorie diets before.
What does this mean? Unlike low calorie diets, calorie shifting does not cause sudden changes in hormones and metabolism; this makes it a healthier alternative to low calorie diets.
4.Calorie shifting gives a window period for body to adapt
Calories shifting gives the body time to adapt to the sudden reduction in the calorie intake.
Since the person feels sluggish or less physically active during low calorie consumption periods, the high calorie period can be coupled with exercise to make the weight loss even more efficient and healthier.
What does this mean? Calorie shifting gives the body time to adapt to the sudden reduction in energy intake and helps burn fat faster.
How to practise calorie cycling?
There have been no rules mentioned as such to practise calorie cycling, it’s important to understand how your body is reacting to the diet and when is the appropriate time to switch to the high calorie diet.
Stick to the diet you like and alternate it with the low-calorie diet. There has been only one relevant scientific study to test calorie cycling.
In that study, positive results were observed by alternating 3-day high calorie day period with 11 days of low calorie diet. this 14-day cycle is usually practised and is considered most beneficial.
However, a person can tailor the cycle according to his needs. Some people follow the 5-day low calorie and 2-day high calorie cycle.
While, some follow 3-week low calorie followed by 5-7 days high calorie re-feed. So, it’s more of what suits your body rather than a rigid pattern that one is supposed to follow.
Calorie shifting is a great way to lose weight in an efficient and healthy manner. It has been found to overcome all the negative effects of a conventional low calorie diet.
Till date no negative effects of calorie cycling have been observed. There is a need for health practitioners to encourage this pattern of diet.
It’s important to remember that calorie shifting isn’t a magical way to lose weight.
It overcomes the main disadvantage posed by the conventional low-calorie diets i.e. Adherence, as the person gets a break in between to eat as he pleases for a designated period.
An individual still needs to adhere to the low-calorie diet period in the diet pattern.
All the rules applicable for low calorie diet are applicable here too with the added benefit of consuming as one pleases for a short while.