Zig Zag Diet and Calorie Shifting for Safe, Sustainable Weight Loss

One look on social media and you will see countless diets that all claim the same thing, lose weight with little effort. Remove this or eat more of that. Eat only plant-based and get ripped, but someone else says to eat only meat. What can you do and where can you turn to?

Skip The Fads

Let’s break one thing down, diets work because of a calorie deficit. Regardless of the diet, you pick, fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss (Strasser, 2007). It is recommended to do a caloric deficit of 500-1,000 a day to achieve a safe rate of weight loss of 0.5-1 kg (around 1-2 pounds) per week (Finkler, 2012). 

That might sound a lot easier than not eating any carbs or taking the new juice to cleanse to ‘restart’ your metabolism’. Honestly, it is but at the same time, it is not clickbait. That is why people will make something complicated, in order to sell something. Let’s keep in simple are look at how an easy-to-follow Zig-Zag diet and calorie shifting can help you drop fat at a fast and safe rate.

How does Zig Zag Diet Work?

The Zig Zag diet is a version of calorie shifting and involves staggering a low-calorie diet with high-calorie days. If you were to dig deep into the reasoning behind the Zig Zag diet, the quick is that the goal is to keep the body guessing and avoid homeostasis. By confusing the body, the hope is that metabolism will shift into high gear to burn calories more effectively. Within this article, we are not going to look at the Zig Zag diet in that way. We are looking at it as a simple way to control a caloric deficit.

The Zig Zag diet is determined by following a simple formula. Take the number of calories you should be eating to maintain your weight, try using our free diet calculator to help determine your weight-loss goal. One pound of fat requires a weekly caloric deficit of approximately 3500 calories. Therefore, using a traditional diet plan, there would need to be about 500 fewer calories per day. Using calorie cycling, you will stagger the daily calorie deficit across seven days and allow for some days to have a higher caloric deficit than others.

Zig Zag Diet Example Week

Planning With Calorie Shifting

Calorie shifting allows for fluctuating your calorie-deficit days with your high-calorie days that work for your lifestyle. For example, you may want to stagger high-calorie days and low-calorie days so that every weekend your caloric intake shifts into high gear. Allowing for a few drinks at the bar or a night out to eat with friends. Alternatively, you may not plan your high-calorie days and wait till the moment shows up. A calorie-shifting diet, allows you to move your diet around to fit your needs. This may sound like flexible dieting at first, however, we are looking at the overall calories per day, rather than the macros themselves. This is an overall more simple way of looking at the diet, compared to counting calories and macros. 

The theory behind the calorie shifting approach is simple: The human body will adapt to a diet, the idea being that this is what stalls weight loss for many people who follow low-calorie diets. We see this with long-term weight loss diets and the need for a diet break. With energy balance ‘rest periods’, greater weight and fat loss can be achieved (Byrne, 2005). 

Is Calorie Shifting For Me?

With every diet, the most important part of it is, does it fit within your lifestyle? The idea behind how simple the Zig Zag diet and calorie shifting is maybe the best part of this diet. For some, the idea of counting calories each day or eating the same foods daily can be difficult. The bottom line is that calorie shifting can be easy to follow but at first, it could be hard to get used to. Allowing yourself a few extra calories (a cheat meal) is a great way to keep motivated during a weight loss diet. Remember to eat enough protein and exercise for the best results on any diet. 


Byrne, N. M., Sainsbury, A., King, N. A., Hills, A. P., & Wood, R. E. (2018). Intermittent energy restriction improves weight loss efficiency in obese men: the MATADOR study. International journal of obesity (2005), 42(2), 129–138. https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2017.206

Finkler, E., Heymsfield, S. B., & St-Onge, M. P. (2012). Rate of weight loss can be predicted by patient characteristics and intervention strategies. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112(1), 75–80. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2011.08.034

Strasser, B., Spreitzer, A., & Haber, P. (2007). Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss. Annals of nutrition & metabolism, 51(5), 428–432. https://doi.org/10.1159/000111162

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