February 14, 2023

Is A Zig Zag Diet Right For You? A Guide

There are tons of diets to help you lose weight. Of course, it depends on your metabolism and other factors. A notable diet is the zig zag diet. Let's learn more about this unique diet, its pros and cons, and some examples to help guide you.

What Is A Zig Zag Diet?

person creating a zig zag diet

A zig zag diet, also known as a calorie cycling or calorie shifting diet, is a dietary approach that involves alternating between high-calorie and low-calorie days throughout the week.

In short, this approach prevents the body from adapting to a consistent low-calorie intake, which can lead to a plateau in weight loss.

Alternating between high and low-calorie days, the body can adjust to a lower calorie intake and continue to burn calories at a higher rate. Hypothetically, this potentially leads to greater weight loss.

For example, a person may have three low-calorie days followed by one high-calorie day, and then repeat the cycle.

The low-calorie days typically involve a calorie deficit. Remember what a calorie deficit is? A calorie deficit is when you consume fewer calories than your body burns. The high-calorie day may involve eating at maintenance or slightly above maintenance levels. This replenishes energy stores and prevents the body from entering a state of starvation mode.

And, as we've gone over before, undereating and starvation mode can be a catastrophe for your weight loss goals.

But a zig zag diet may not be appropriate for everyone, particularly those with medical conditions that require consistent calorie intake, such as diabetes. We’ll get into that a bit later. Plus, the effectiveness of a zigzag diet for weight loss may vary depending on a person's metabolism, activity level, and dietary preferences. As with any dietary approach, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian before starting. 

Let's examine some pros and cons of starting a zigzag diet for weight loss.

Zig Zag Diet Benefits

When followed correctly and with healthy food choices, the zigzag diet may offer several potential benefits. Let’s check them out.

  • Improved weight loss. The zigzag diet can help create a calorie deficit, which may result in weight loss, especially when combined with regular exercise.
  • Increased metabolism. The alternating high and low-calorie days help keep the metabolism from slowing down, which can happen with prolonged calorie restriction.
  • Balanced blood sugar levels. A mix of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) throughout the diet, the zig zag diet may help to maintain balanced blood sugar levels and prevent spikes and crashes in energy.
  • Reduced risk of binge eating. By incorporating high-calorie days, the zigzag diet may help prevent feelings of deprivation and reduce the likelihood of binge eating.
  • Sustainable approach. This diet may be more sustainable than other restrictive diets. It allows for food choices and meal planning flexibility, which may help reduce the risk of burnout or giving up on a diet.

Can A Zig Zag Diet Be Bad For You?

Possibly, yes. As with any dietary approach, a zigzag diet may not be appropriate for everyone and may have potential drawbacks or risks if not followed properly.

Here are some potential concerns to consider.

  • Nutrient deficiencies. If high-calorie days are filled with unhealthy, nutrient-poor foods, it can lead to nutrient deficiencies and other health issues.
  • Difficulty sticking to the diet. This may be more challenging to follow than other diets due to its alternating high and low-calorie days. This may lead to difficulty adhering to the diet over time. (And switching things up that don't work is okay!)
  • Lack of individualization. With this diet, individual needs and preferences take a back seat, which may lead to inadequate nutrient intake or difficulty maintaining the diet long-term.
  • Risk of binge-eating. The high-calorie days may trigger overeating or binge eating in some individuals.
  • Unsustainable approach. The zigzag diet may not be a sustainable approach to weight loss for some people, particularly if they do not learn how to make long-term, healthy lifestyle changes.

Diets Vs. Dieting: Clearing Things Up

Okay, while discussing diets and dieting, let’s clarify some aspects. We've run into some confusion between diets and dieting. When we suggest diets, we don't always mean diet plans.

Usually, when we promote or explore different diets, we're referring to diets as how someone eats.

So, a plant-based diet is, you guessed it, vegan or vegetarian. It's time to show you what a zigzag diet looks like to see if it could work for your fitness path in and out of the gym.

Zig Zag Diets: An Example

Let's take a closer look at a rough example of a typical zig zag diet.

Day 1: Low-Calorie Day (1,200 calories)

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with fruit and nuts (300 calories)
  • Snack: Apple and peanut butter (200 calories)
  • Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with mixed greens and vinaigrette (300 calories)
  • Snack: Carrots and hummus (100 calories)
  • Dinner: Baked salmon with roasted vegetables (300 calories)

Day 2: Low-Calorie Day (1,200 calories)

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt with berries and granola (300 calories)
  • Snack: Celery and almond butter (100 calories)
  • Lunch: Turkey and cheese sandwich with a side salad (300 calories)
  • Snack: Edamame (100 calories)
  • Dinner: Stir-fry with tofu, vegetables, and brown rice (300 calories)

Day 3: Low-Calorie Day (1,200 calories)

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with spinach and whole-grain toast (300 calories)
  • Snack: Pear and cheese (200 calories)
  • Lunch: Black bean soup with avocado and salsa (300 calories)
  • Snack: Greek yogurt with honey (100 calories)
  • Dinner: Grilled chicken breast with steamed vegetables (300 calories)

Day 4: High-Calorie Day (1,800 calories)

  • Breakfast: Pancakes with maple syrup and fruit (500 calories)
  • Snack: Smoothie with protein powder and almond milk (300 calories)
  • Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup (500 calories)
  • Snack: Energy bar (200 calories)
  • Dinner: Beef stir-fry with rice and vegetables (500 calories)

Day 5: Low-Calorie Day (1,200 calories)

  • Breakfast: Smoothie with spinach, banana, and almond butter (300 calories)
  • Snack: Cottage cheese with fruit (100 calories)
  • Lunch: Quinoa and vegetable salad (300 calories)
  • Snack: Mixed nuts (100 calories)
  • Dinner: Baked cod with roasted vegetables (300 calories)

Day 6: Low-Calorie Day (1,200 calories)

  • Breakfast: Protein shake with banana and almond milk (300 calories)
  • Snack: Apple and string cheese (200 calories)
  • Lunch: Turkey and vegetable wrap with a side salad (300 calories)
  • Snack: Carrots and hummus (100 calories)
  • Dinner: Grilled shrimp with zucchini noodles (300 calories)

Day 7: Low-Calorie Day (1,200 calories)

  • Breakfast: Whole-grain cereal with milk and fruit (300 calories)
  • Snack: Greek yogurt with granola (200 calories)
  • Lunch: Tuna and mixed greens salad with vinaigrette (300 calories)
  • Snack: Edamame (100 calories)
  • Dinner: Baked chicken with roasted sweet potato (300 calories)

This is just an example; you can adjust the number of calories based on your needs and goals.

Is A Zig Zag Diet Healthy?

zig zag diet nutrition plan

It depends. The healthiness of a zigzag diet depends on how it is implemented and the foods consumed during high and low-calorie days.

If the diet is planned carefully to ensure a balanced and nutritious intake of foods on both high and low-calorie days, it can be a healthy way to lose weight.

However, note that any diet involving significant calorie fluctuations may not be appropriate for everyone—particularly those with certain medical conditions. 

Additionally, if the high-calorie days involve consuming large amounts of unhealthy or processed foods, it can lead to weight gain or other health issues.

Furthermore, it's essential to remember that sustainable weight loss comes from making long-term, healthy lifestyle changes rather than relying on short-term diets.

You should follow a well-balanced, nutritious diet that meets your individual needs and preferences, combined with regular physical activity, as a sustainable approach to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight—zigzag or no.

Make A Zig Zag Diet With A Personal Trainer In Irvine, California

Personal trainers in Irvine at Hideout Fitness can help clients with dieting and zigzag dieting.

By working with a personal trainer at Hideout Fitness, clients can receive personalized nutrition guidance and support to achieve their weight loss and fitness goals. All while following a healthy, balanced diet, including zigzag dieting.

Even if this diet doesn't work for you, personal trainers in Irvine can help you find the meal plan that works for you, thanks to an in-depth consultation.

Start the journey to unlock the hero in you. Contact the experienced fitness coaches in Irvine at Hideout Fitness today!

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