Caloric Staggering for Accelerated Fat Loss

Episode 1: 10 Tips to Losing Body Fat without Cutting Calories
Episode 3: Caloric Staggering while Training

In Episode 1 of the Lean Body Fat Loss Series we looked at ways to lose body fat without cutting calories. There a number of effective techniques to do this, as making your diet more efficient should be the first step in fat loss.

But caution is needed as reducing total calories can mean restricting certain foods or food groups, which can create a nutritional imbalance or deficiency (in essential vitamins, minerals and trace elements).  It can also break down lean body mass, decrease your energy and feeling of well-being, affect your ability to concentrate, hamper your performance.

A reduction of calories will also slow down your metabolic rate. For instance, if you reduce your calories by 500 per day, you may find yourself dropping a pound or so per week, but this may only last a few weeks until your metabolism adjusts and slows down.  This means that you will have to cut calories even further to continue losing weight and or fat.

So how do we but calories to get the fat reduction benefits while avoiding the pitfalls?


When it comes to cutting calories, it’s best to diet longer, not harder.  You’ll sacrifice less lean body mass if you diet gently for a 20-week period, applying all the methods we discussed above and only cutting calories a few weeks here and there, than if you go on a crash “eight-week pre-event diet.” Drastic dieting is a com­mon mistake.


Once you “guesstimate” your target weight, plan your diet so that you never have to lose more than two pounds per week.  If you diet harder than that, for sure you’re jeopardizing hard-earned lean body mass and energy.


If you want to lose a pound of fat per week you have to eat 3,500 calories less than your body is using.  If your normal diet consists of 2,500 calories per day and you reduce your intake to 2,000 calories (a 500 calories per day deficit) for seven days, you’d probably lose about a pound of fat by the end of the week (500 calories a day deficit x 7 days = 3,500 calorie deficit).  That’s assuming you eat quality foods and you’re training regularly.

The problem is that after cutting back a certain num­ber of calories, your metabolism will begin to slow down. Pretty soon that 500 calorie a day deficit that was working well at first later, doesn’t do anything.  So does that mean you have to cut calories again? Not necessarily.


A good way to help you maintain an active metabolic rate when you’re in a caloric deficit is to stagger your daily caloric intake.  Continuing our example above, instead of cutting down to 2,000 calories per day and staying there every day, you could eat 2,000 calories one day, 1,800 the next, then 2,200, 1,700 etc. so that during the week you average 2,000 calories per day.  Your actual intake is always bouncing around above and below this number.

Staggering your caloric intake in the range of 10 percent to 15 percent above and below your target number helps keep your metabolism up and doesn’t let it get accustomed to any one particular low level which can cause it to slow down.  At the end of the week, your total caloric deficit would still be 3,500 calories and you would still have lost a pound, but you probably reduced the risk of slowing your metabolic rate.


This allows you to eat the same average number of calories over any period of time and still experience fat loss. This way you can help minimize the number of times you need to reduce your average target number throughout the period of the diet.

In Episode 3 of the Lean Body Fat Loss Series, We’ll take a deeper look at caloric staggering and how to coordinate it into your training, caloric symmetry and, one of my favorites: Cheat day!

About the Author: Lee Labrada

Lee Labrada is the founder and CEO of Labrada Nutrition, makers of Lean Body protein shakes. Lee’s mission is to empower you with the nutritional products and the know-how to get into great shape and be healthy for life.

One of the world's best-known bodybuilding legends, Lee Labrada holds 22 bodybuilding
titles, including the IFBB Mr. Universe. Lee is an inductee of the IFBB Pro Bodybuilding Hall of Fame. He has appeared on the covers of more than 100 fitness magazines and has been featured on CNBC, FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and ESPN as a fitness and nutrition expert. Lee is the best-selling author of The Lean Body Promise and co-founder of Lean Body Coaching. He is also the Host of The Lee Labrada Show. Check out his podcast here.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.