What on earth is calorie cycling and should you be doing it?

Chef and Personal Trainer Richard Kerrigan shares his tips to lose and maintain weight effectively.

If you’ve ever cast an eye into the world of calorie counting, you’ll probably have realized that it’s as simple as energy in, vs energy out.

Speaking on Body+Soul’s daily podcast Healthy-ish, personal trainer, author and chef Richard Kerrigan says that calories (or kilojoules, as they’re the same) is the unit of measurement we use to find out how much energy is in food.

“It’s about understanding how many calories you need a day or how much in a certain amount of food. Then you can almost track it as you go,” he tells host Felicity Harley on the Healthy-ish episode Calorie cycling? Please explain.

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“If you stick to calories, then obviously you need to know what your calories are. If [your food labels are] in kilojoules, try to convert into calories…simply divide [the kilojoule number] by 4.18, and that will give you your calorie.”

For example, if you see a food that offers 1000kJ, divide it by 4.18, to reveal that it has 239 calories.


Kerrigan also explains that while the dietary guidelines recommend men intake 2500 kJ and women intake 2000 kJ, it all depends on your lifestyle.

“They talk about two and a half thousand calories for men and two thousand for women but this is such a generalised piece of information to take in because you’re not taking into account someone’s weight or their activity level,” he says.

“It’s great to have a rough idea, but you really need to know your own individual amount in order to get those great results.”

Kerrigan has an app on his website where you can input your personal data to get an idea of how much your intake should be.

What is calorie cycling?

Once you’ve reached your goal weight it can be really tempting to go back to your old habits – too much wine on the weekends, carb heavy meals and daily chocolate fixes – however this can lead to yo-yo dieting.

Kerrigan instead suggests a practice called ‘calorie cycling’ as a part of the maintenance phase.

“It’s literally going through a cycle of higher calorie days and then lower calorie days,” he explains.

So, if your goal calorie limit is 2,000, you might budget 2,500 for weekend days or events, and lighter days around the 1500 mark when you can.

“You can average everything out over the time, so it’s a great way to maintain a healthy, calorie focus throughout the week.,” he adds.

If you’re looking to start calorie cycling or counting, there’s lots of apps available on the internet and on mobile app stores to help you. You can also try out Kerrigan’s app here.

Find out more about Richard’s book, Crush Calories in 20 Minutes (New Holland, $40), here. Or, follow him on Instagram, @richardkerrigan_. Check out his website, here.