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The zig-zag diet is a fascinating concept that has many fans, the idea being that by staggering your calorie intake, you can create a calorie deficit without suppressing your metabolism. This is not effective for a couple of reasons.

  1. The reduction in metabolic rate usually follows a decrease in weight or activity level, which makes a lot of sense. A sensible caloric restriction program does not adversely affect metabolic rate until one is very lean.
  2. For a zig-zag diet to be as effective as standard caloric restriction, it must create the same deficit as a regular caloric deficit, often involving very low calorie days to make up for higher calorie days, which in some cases they find it more difficult than a normal diet.

So the zig-zag diet is pretty normal in that regard, however what about when we want to simultaneously gain muscle and lose fat? It becomes very useful.

This is not the zig-zag diet in its ordinary form. It’s strategic, it involves caloric restriction, and most importantly, it’s highly effective. So how does it work?

It’s actually quite simple, acute periods of overeating and undereating allow anabolism and catabolism to occur on a small scale in continuous cycles until the effects are very pronounced.

The traditional load and cut cycle typically occurs annually, with volume in the fall/winter months and cut in the spring/summer months. This is fine, I still see it as a very respectable method of gaining muscle and controlling 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 lose as much fat as in a yearly cycle of mass cutting, but it may be that we can 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 trained but this is only brief, if this is the case the excess calories may be unnecessary on non-training days and can contribute to fat gain.

The solution is a diet that provides extra energy when needed to build muscle and doesn’t rack up calories at times when they won’t 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 you want 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 can be high on training days and low on non-training days, but it should also show a direction, whether to gain or lose weight, the overall effect will be determined by your weekly calorie intake.

Applications of the Zig-Zag method

gain muscle

As an example, a person wanting to gain muscle mass could eat at maintenance on non-training days and eat 500 calories above maintenance on training days, if a person trains 3 times per week this will equate to a weekly surplus. 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—into new muscle. The net effect is weight gain, and most of that weight is likely to be muscle.

lose fat

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 below on non-training days and eat 250 calories above maintenance on training days, this would equate 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.

Mark again

Recomposition is the process by which fat is replaced with muscle by keeping calories the same and performing resistance training to increase muscle mass relative to fat mass on your body, this is only possible on a small scale for as long as 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 stay 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 were to lose two pounds or gain two pounds separately. If you have a bit of fat to lose or muscle to gain, then the above methods would be more suitable for you.

An example of a recomposition schedule would be if someone consumed 500 more calories on each of the three training days and 500 less on three of the four non-training days, the remaining day they would only eat at maintenance. This would keep calorie intake and weight roughly the same and if training, rest, and protein intake were adequate, fat would be lost and muscle gained over time.

This is one of the most effective nutritional strategies to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. Try it for just 6 weeks and you’ll be amazed at the differences you’ll see.

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