Calorie cycling: fat loss & lean bulking – here’s how to do it

Calorie cycling is to cycle between certain amounts of calories on different days, to amplify the effect of fat loss or lean bulk. It’s basically a form of “dieting” that is manipulated so that you can get the best fat loss or muscle growth, while preventing the pitfalls of regular dieting.

Why do calorie cycling?

  • For fat loss – it helps prevent metabolic slow down, keep fat loss as fast as possible, prevent the loss of muscle and suppress hunger as much as possible while providing lots of energy.
  • For lean bulking – it helps minimize fat gains while gaining muscle and having the most energy on days that’s important. Eating ample calories for gains, but manipulating it in order for you to stay lean.


Calorie cycling for fat loss

If fat loss is the goal, we want to eat as much as possible while still losing fat at the right speed. Eating in a big caloric deficit is the biggest risk of metabolic slow down as you then consume inadequate micro-nutrients and insufficient macro-nutrients to assist necessary metabolic processes. So we want to be active enough to increase the energy we burn so we can eat more.

So our low calorie days (caloric deficit) are going to be on training days, as that’s when we burn the most energy.

Lets create an example:

When I’m sedentary, I’ll burn about 2,300 calories. Whereas on a training day, I’ll burn ∼2800 calories.

If I train 5 days a week, I’ll burn 2800 calories 5 days a week, and then I’m sedentary on weekends, because it’s my rest days so then I’ll burn 2300 calories.

The idea is to loose 1 pound of bodyfat per week (1 pound of fat is 3500 calories), and in order to do that, I’ll have to be in a daily 500 calorie deficit so it can add up to 3,500 calories at the end of the week.

Let’s look at how to achieve this with calorie cycling.

Total weekly maintenance calories

Training days: 2,800 x 5 = 14,000

Rest days: 2,300 x 2 = 4,600

Training days + rest days = 18,600 weekly calories

Total weekly deficit calories

18,600 – 3,500 = 15,100

Now subtract the maintenance calories off from the 2 resting days (weekends):

15,100 – 4,600 = 10,500

10,500 calories is what is left for your training days during the week. Now divide it by 5 as you train 5 days a week.

10,500 / 5 = 2,100

That leaves you with 2,100 calories a day from training days.


Summary calorie cycling for fat loss

Training days: 2,100 calories

Rest days: 2,300 calories

At the end of the week, I’m losing 1 pound of bodyfat and avoiding metabolic slow down.  I ‘refeed’ by eating maintenance calories on off days, and yet don’t stuff myself with extra food.


Calorie cycling for lean bulking

If we continue from the previous example, our weekly maintenance calories would be 18,600 calories.

If we want to bulk lean, we must be in a 10% caloric surplus, which will give us:

18,600 + 10% = 20,460

Our weekly surplus calories will thus be 20,460.

Now subtract rest day maintenance calories (2300 x 2) from the weekly surplus calories.

20,460 – (2,300 x 2) = 15,860

Now we have 15,860 calories left for our training days. Now divide it by 5 as you train 5 days a week.

15,860 / 5 = 3,172 calories

That gives you 3,172 calories per day for training days.

Summary calorie cycling for lean bulking

Training days: 3,172 calories

Rest days: 2,300 calories

This will ensure you to have tons of energy for training days and optimal nutrients for growth, while helping you to stay lean by giving your body a break from eating in a surplus on weekends, while not being in a caloric deficit.



There you have it. Calorie cycling is just a tool you have in your toolbox. It’s not the alpha and omega, but it can work really well for you if you use it correctly. This is truly a successful method, and you will only know how well it works if you try it out. 

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