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Zig Zag Bulking Diet

Has anyone ever tried a Zig Zag approach to Bulking?

BY this I mean eating 500+ surplus calories for 5 days a week and then eating 500 calories below maintenance for 2 days a week.

This is supposedly help to keep fat off an reprime your hormones for better muscle growth(after the 2 days of dieting).

I was thinking of trying this approach

Has anyone tried this or something similar? What were your results?

I’d like to know about this myself and its flipside, reversing the zig and zag for cutting (500 under x5; 100-200 over x2).

I may be wrong but I think Fred Hatfield, Dr. Squat, talks at length the merits of this type of diet one of his books. I forget the name; The Science of Bodyuilding(or something like that).

TC has an article called Delta 1250 and you can also check out the “cheater’s diet”

Keep in mind that as formulated and advertised, you are only supposed to gain or lose 1-2lbs/month.

I used it to come down about 10 lbs. from January to July, all of it fat and maybe even put on a little lean.

The best thing about it was that it was as close to not dieting as you can get and still get some results, especially if you’re on the bigger side, cutting 300 cals is cake, and you can cheat a little on the up days. It’s pretty much a no-stress diet.

I would say go for it if you are already pretty happy with your shape, like within 5-10 lbs. of your goal, because it’ll be like you get the results you want without even trying. It feels like you’re just on a maintenance diet but you will make improvements. But, honestly, if you want big changes either way you may run out of patience. I did, and once I felt like I could take a stricter diet I’m doing T-Dawg with some of Berardi’s tips mixed in, and the fat’s coming off a lot faster.

If I were bulking I would do Massive Eating. Again, Zig-zag works, and it’s easy, but it’s a long term plan, not exactly bulking or cutting, at least not agressively.


Who go all out on bulking(unless you like a layer of fat) if you can get better results albeit slower with a zig zag approach?

I would rather gain 2 pounds of muscle a month and virtually no fat than 3 pounds of muscle and 3 pounds of fat which I will have to shed later.

I’m basically doing this right now but with a modification. I started doing the 2 calorie-deficit days a week and 5 calorie-surplus days and took E/C on the deficit days. It actually worked too good as I didn’t gain any weight in two weeks despite a 3500+ calorie level on the surplus days at a bw of 170. I have since lowered it to one deficit day a week and it seems to be working better.

Hi Fedorov,

Im following a similar approach. I didnt knew it already had a name, but its basically the same: 5 hypercaloric days, and 2 hypocaloric days. I train 5 days a week and I eat hyper on each of them. Ive been trying this approach for only about 1.5 months though. I started this approach after gaining 22 pounds from full bulking. I never lost ab visibility during my bulking, but I can say that after this 1.5 months I have gained 3 pounds and Im sure that Ive lost some fat, since my abs have more definition now. Also, my arms have grown 1cm in this 1.5 month. So I believe this is a good approach for long-term body comp. changes.
The only downside I have found is lower energy on the WO following a cutting day and Im always rotating the muscle groups that will be WO the day before my cutting period which will have no extra calories for growth on the following (off, cutting) days, so I can achieve a balance.

I will post about my progress in about a month or so on my pics thread to share my experience with everybody.
I really think you should give it a try.

Hope that helps,


How many calories above maintenance on high calorie days and below on low calorie days maintenance is ideal for this type of program? 500 each way?

On the lower calorie days is is best to just minimize carbs or to restirct all macronutrients equally?

check out the maximum muscularity plan…its meant for staying lean and slowly adding lean muscle mass as well.

Hi Federov,

Here is what I am doing at the moment. I do 3 days of 20% below my calorie (around 500 cal) needs and try to get a 40%P/40%C/20%F ratio of macros. On my High carb days I try to eat at or slightly below (200 cal or so) my maintenance and do a ratio of 30%P/50%C/20%F.

I think my maintenance is somewhere around 2400 calories according to my SWAG analysis.

Sun, mon, tues, thurs and fri - I try to eat 190 grams of Carbs and Protein and 42 grams of Fat for a total of 1900 calories.

Wed and Saturday I try to eat 165 grams of Protein, 275 grams of Carbs and 49 grams of fat for a total of around 2200 calories.

So far I have lost 15 lbs of fat and gained around 5 lbs of muscle (in the past 6 weeks) according to my body fat numbers. The past two weeks my scale weight hasn’t changed but my calipers are saying I am losing body fat.

If I wanted to get really extreme I suppose I could push my diet a bit more severe but I am pretty happy with the results to date so I don’t think I am going to change anything until my body fat stops dropping.

I supplement with Alpha Male, HotRox, Power Drive before workouts, Surge, fish oil caps, MSM, Glucosamine, and multi vitamins.

Hope this helps…


Hatfield’s book has all the details (I just re-read it and will start a cutting zigzag). The idea is to trick your metabolism so it won’t lower your BMR when you cut Kals. After 5 days of below-maintenance, you then resume maintenance to rev up your BMR.
To bulk, you go above maintenance for 5 days, then at maintenance for 2.
You’ll gain a pound of muscle and fat, then the 2 days will strip the fat.
I’m going to cut by multiplying my LBM by 4 Kals (180 x 4) and go below maintenance, so we’ll see. That’s a pound of fat per week; brutal!

Here is some FANTASTIC info I discovered that supports Zig Zag Bulking.

  1. Cycle in a Low-Carb Day

“A second strategy to promote primary muscle gain over bulking is to cycle in a low-carb day into the mix. Low carb is for dieting right? At first the surplus in calories will promote growth, but after about the 10-14 day mark, your body tends to adapt and where at first it was mostly muscle gain, it will become more a 50/50 muscle/fat gain. Just like in dieting for fat-loss where you have a cheat day or re-feed to prevent leptin drops and a slow down in fat-loss. The opposite can be true, by having a constant high intake of calories and carbohydrates, your muscles can become insensitive to the constant surges in insulin and your fed-state from leptin will become less sensitive, making it harder to be hungry enough to keep eating to grow. So cycling in a low-carb day, where the bulk of your carbs will only be consumed post-workout, can be used. Even better, is scheduling this day on your rest day, and just eating carbohydrates for breakfast for energy for the day. What this does, is give your body a break from high insulin, start to deplete your glycogen stores and if any excess carbs are starting to be converted and stored as body fat, that process is halted. You?ll also be more primed to your hunger signals with Leptin manipulation. This doesn?t mean to cut your calories for the day. Though it will be a lower calorie day with your carbs going from 400g down to less then 200g for the typical lifter, they will be made up with healthy, calorie dense fats and protein can be boosted to 1.5-2.0g per lb of bodyweight for the day. This primes your muscles to soak up the next day of high calorie and carbs, and starting the anabolic environment again. The low-carb and lower calorie day, gives you a day to also do some light cardio and burn a little extra fat that you may have gained so far, since insulin is low for the whole day. How often should this happen??? Well it depends on how easy you tend to put on fat, so the slower metabolisms, this can be done about every 4 days, or 1-2 times a week, which usually will fall into the off/rest days of most mass building workouts. For the leaner hard-gainer, once a week or 1-2 low-carb days every 12 days to finish out an eating to grow 2 week period.”

2.“The most important factors determining your muscle/fat gain are the length of the overfeeding cycle, as well as the number of excess calories. One important factor in this regard is insulin insensitivity, which we must realize is a very selective property. During overfeeding, it will first affect the fat cell[adipocyte], which is a positive thing since it will force energy substrates [glucose, fatty acids, and, indirectly, amino acids] into the muscle cell instead of the fat cell. This is called nutrient repartitioning and is what bodybuilding is really all about. Eventually, insulin sensitivity of the muscle cell drops, which leads to decreased inflow of nutrients to the muscle and hence inhibits muscle growth. To compensate, the body will make more insulin and more glucose transporters [GLUT-4] in fat cells and voil?–the number of fat cells increases.”

  1. “Leptin is by far the most interesting hormone for fat loss. Unfortunately, we develop resistance to this hormone very easily when it is present at chronically [long term] elevated levels. However, this will not happen with my system. The high-calorie phase “primes” the effects of leptin, so it’s very effective during the fat-loss/ dieting phase. There is also an increase in T3 [the “active” form of thyroid hormone], adrenaline, and noradrenaline?all help with fat loss.
    Going back and forth between low- and high-calorie diets is a fantastic way to keep your anabolic hormones and your lipolytic [fat-burning] hormones and enzymes, as well as receptors primed at all times.”

My Summary:
Research suggests that you will acheive better muscle growth results by actually dieting(reducing carbs) for a few days to reprime you muscles to be sensitive to the anabolic effects of insulin.

Eat eat a high carb high calorie diet 5 days a week and a low carb lower calorie diet 2 days(consecutive) a week for AWESOME RESULTS!