A bodybuilding bulking method that helps pack on muscle mass while minimizing fat gain. Based on the latest science.

Zig Zag BulkingIt’s time to get radical!

Conventional bulking involves eating a large amount of calories for weeks on end. This is a proven method of packing on muscle. But it also is a proven method of packing on fat.

I want to provide you with an alternative method of gaining muscle. One that won’t turn you into a bloated sumo wrestler.

Zig Zag Bulking

Here’s how it works. On training days, you eat more. On non-training days, you eat less. And one day a week, you eat like a monster! We’re talking 5,000 to 6,000 calories, or more.

Before we start putting numbers to paper, you must first know your daily caloric maintenance level (DCML). This is the number of calories you can eat each day, and not gain or lose weight. If you’re not sure, spend several weeks logging everything you eat and your morning weight. Take some time, and find your maintenance level. Once you know your DCML, it’s time to rock. Grab a pen, and start scribbling.

Aggressive Plan

The aggressive zig zag diet plan is for lifters who carry around very little body fat. On non-training days, you will eat your normal DCML levels. On training days, you will eat 500 more calories then normal. And one day a week, you will eat as much of anything you want. On this monster eating day, it’s your goal to eat at least 5,000 to 6,000 calories.

The day following your monster eating day, your muscles will feel full and engorged. I recommend working a lagging body part on this day. It is also a good idea to train deadlifts or squats following a monster day.

Here is a sample aggressive zig zag plan for a natural bodybuilder who requires 3,500 daily calories to maintain weight. He trains 4 days a week.

  • Monday (training day). 4,000 calories
  • Tuesday (off day). 3,500 calories
  • Wednesday (training day). 4,000 calories
  • Thursday (off day). 3,500 calories
  • Friday (training day). 4,000 calories
  • Saturday (training day). 4,000 calories
  • Sunday (off day).  5,000+ calories (Monster day)

Moderate Zig Zag Plan

For lifters who are carrying around a little more body fat then they desire, I recommend the moderate zig zag plan. The only difference between the moderate plan, and the aggressive plan, is that on the moderate plan you will be eating 500 fewer calories on non-training days.

Here is a sample moderate zig zag plan for a natural bodybuilder who trains 4 days a week, and requires 3,500 daily calories to maintain weight.

  • Monday (training day). 4,000 calories
  • Tuesday (off day). 3,000 calories
  • Wednesday (training day). 4,000 calories
  • Thursday (off day). 3,000 calories
  • Friday (training day). 4,000 calories
  • Saturday (training day). 4,000 calories
  • Sunday (off day).  5,000+ calories (Monster day)

As you can see, it’s not important when you have your monster day each week. It’s best to eat more when convenient and appropriate. Most of us enjoy a good party or barbeque on the weekends, so naturally, a weekend monster day generally works best.

Why Zig Zag?

Is it really necessary to zig zag calories? No, it’s not necessary. But zig zagging is a more effective method. When you over-eat during a standard bulk, the body generally takes 2 weeks to adapt to this new eating style. During that time, your body is very anabolic, and will pack on muscle mass at an accelerated rate.

But after 2 weeks, and once the body has adapted itself to your gluttonous behavior, you become a fat storing machine. Read that again…you become a fat STORING machine.

By cycling your calories, you can confuse your body, and stave off adaptive responses. Hence, it will take longer to become a fat storing machine.

Don’t be fooled, you can still gain fat on a zig zag bulking diet plan. But with that said, you won’t gain nearly as much as you would with a long term bulking diet. Again, the body remains in more of a neutral state, not switching to fat storage mode.


There’s no doubt about it…you gain more strength during a prolonged bulk. With that said, the zig zag approach isn’t far behind. Expect very good strength gains, and slightly more energy then when on a standard bulk.

Cyclical bulking is much easier to stick with. Instead of eating like a pig every day, or cutting every day, zig zagging allows you some fluctuation. As a lifestyle, it will be far more enjoyable.

Because the zig zag approach keeps you in a more lean state, you will rid yourself of long term cutting cycles.

shaan roda
Posted on: Fri, 04/01/2022 - 15:31

Hi i workout 6 days a week so shall i eat higher calories for 5 days 1 monster day and on my rest day less cals than my maintenance cals ?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 04/17/2022 - 08:00

What is your goal, Shaan? If it's weight loss, then you should definitely eat less cals on the rest day. My guess is that the one monster day is for your biggest training session. If so, just make sure the calories you eat are high quality.

Posted on: Mon, 03/16/2020 - 05:03

Old post, i know...
Was wondering after this long of time of anyone has any feedback about it?
I am looking to bulk and found this article and I am interested in trying it.

Posted on: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 00:10

I've hit a wall. I'm 178.4lbs with 16.8% body fat. (SUX!) The goal is 185 with 10% or less. I've completed several cycles on Big Beyond Belief, making satisfactory gains (size & strength) for well over a year. About three/four months ago I stopped progressing altogether. No strength gains, fatigue while working out (What I mean is that sometimes I'm unable to perform at a level that matches the the previous week's performance.) & no gains in size. (SUX!) Admitedly, my diet was lacking. Not nearly enough calories.
Over the past several months, I've experimented with my protein (1.5/1.75) & calorie in-take. I used the Body Bug to get an understanding of my caloric input/output. (I track my diet with an online ap. I eat clean—NO! processed foods. SUX!) For several weeks I maintained 4000 calories. I felt like I was starting to make gains; fatigue seemed to fade. So, logic following, I amped it up to 5000 calories. Last week I started to feel strong in the gym, again. Today I couldn't even complete my third set of pull-up. (I've never progressed beyond four complete sets of fifteen on pull-ups.)
Today I weighed myself & measured body fat (electronic BMI device). I was devastated. Yes! devastated. I lost a pound of body weight & increased my body fat by a percentage point. What can I do to get past this plateau?

Posted on: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 03:47

I have one question though. I train ~25 hours a week (gymnast) and have a maintenance level of 4-5000 calories a day. I'm also big on eating challenges - so 'as much as I can' for me would be about 20,000 calories.
Is this method going to work for me?

Posted on: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 01:10

Hi Steve, I am 5'11 and weigh 145 pounds with 10% body fat. I want to go up to 160 and have 8% body fat. Should I go on the zig zag bulking until I go up to 160 and then switch to the zig zag cutting or should I start with the zig zag cutting and go down to 8% body fat and then go to the zig zag bulking to get to 160lbs? Also, if I go on the zig zag bulking should I take the moderate or aggressive plan I only workout three days a week?

Posted on: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 03:06


Im currently on the 5-day power muscle burn split, with:

Mon: chest/tris
Tue: back/traps
Wed: quad/calf
Thu: OFF
Fri: shoulders/bis
Sat: Deadlift/Hamstring
Sunday: OFF

With only two off days, how would u recommend the above and below maintenance days be distributed for a MODERATE zig zag plan? Also, with only two days off, would sunday still be an ideal monster day?

thanks for your time!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:28

Hi Eead,

I would keep it the same since you will be eating 4k calories on squat and deadlift day. There will be a few days with lower cals but this won't be too much of an issue.

Any day can be used for the monster day. I choose Sunday because that is usually a lazy day for many. But really, you could switch that each week to fit your schedule: family gatherings, etc.

Posted on: Wed, 11/10/2010 - 20:00

ty very much for your answer steven...i also have one more question..is there any problem with de 2 days that are below maintance level?i mean will they interfere with the recovery and building?would it be better to make them maintance days too and removing the +200 calorie suplus from Sunday? ty

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 09:13

Hi Kostas,

Those days won't interfere with recovery. Rest plenty and drink your water. Being that you are staying at a calorie average above maintenance, you will still build muscle.

If you don't gain fat easily, then you certainly can make them maintenance. My best advice is to try both methods for a month and see how your body responds. Purchase a skinfold caliper and take readings. They are fairly inexpensive, and will give you an accurate reading in millimeters how much fat you have gained in certain areas.

Posted on: Wed, 11/10/2010 - 06:17

Hello steve,

I have a question about zig zag calorie cycling.We are taking an example for a +300 calorie surplus per day for muscle mass and weight gain.Weight training days 3: monday-wednesday-friday.light cardio 2:tuesday-thursday.If we eat +600 calories above maintance on training days, -100 calories below maintance on cardio days,saturday maintance day and sunday +300 above maintance calories,(high calorie weight training days=high carb(meals around training) high protein low fat days,low calorie cardio train=low carb high protein high fat,no exercise days moderate carb moderate fat and high protein) we have the same amounts of muscle gains but with less bodyfat?do u suggest something else?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 11/10/2010 - 13:36

Hi Kostas,

That's a good approach. It will help minimize bodyfat while adding muscle. I would use that approach for several months and see how your body responds. It should work very well.

Posted on: Sat, 09/18/2010 - 20:47

I have noticed some nice gains in muscle so far, but I have also began to notice that my abs are showing up less. Should I cut back on carbs? And if so should I make up the calories in protein/fats?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 09/20/2010 - 14:58

Hi Charlie,

My best suggestion is to try cutting back for several months. Personal experience will teach you a lot. Sometimes eating too little can hinder muscle gains. I would recommend purchasing a skin fold caliper, and checking your bodyfat percentage weekly with it. this will help you to understand how the diet changes are impacting your physique.

Posted on: Sun, 09/12/2010 - 11:12

On my off days(2500) if I do a cardio session should I make-up the calories I burned or still eat the same? I usually do about 30min with 2-3min warm up and a good cool down; so I usually burn about 250-300 calories.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 09/16/2010 - 13:23

Hi Charlie,

I would keep the calories the same, and if the scale doesn't move, add them equally on each day.

Posted on: Wed, 08/18/2010 - 13:56

Hi Steve,

It's me again :). I was just wondering if I needed to stop this diet after 2 weeks or if I could continue this for longer. Also if I need to cycle this diet, what do I need to do on my off weeks?

Thanks so much for all the help so far, look forward to hearing from you.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 09:58

Hi Charlie,

Cycle-style diets can be run for a very long time. You could take a 2 week break from bulking after each month or two - possibly a 2 week period where you eat at maintenance. This might help to serve as a reset.

Posted on: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 08:19

Hi Steve,

I was just wondering about the calorie breakdown. Should I be focusing on a certain amount of protein and fat a day and let my carbs fall into place? And if so, how many (grams) of protein and fat should I be taking in per day. Looking forward to hearing from you!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 14:40

Hi Charlie,

At minimum you want 30 to 40 grams of protein every 2.5 to 3 hours. You can eat a bit more on higher calorie days if you choose. I recommend that 20-30% of daily calories come from fats. And after this, the rest is carbs. So primarily, you will be cycling carbs.

Posted on: Thu, 08/19/2010 - 10:18

Thanks for the feedback!

I'm sure I'll think of something else soon enough to ask about :), but for now I think I got it sorted out!

Posted on: Sat, 08/14/2010 - 10:52

For me to maintain (based on the calculator) is around 2900-2950, so I should eat around 3400-3450cals on training days and 2400-2450 on nontraining? Also I'm on your 5 day power lifting split so on Sunday I eat 4500? Is this diet recommended for someone with more days off?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 08/16/2010 - 10:39

Hi Charlie,

This approach can work with any split as long as your average weekly calories are spot on. If you're using the moderate approach, based on your maintenance levels I would suggest:

* Monday (training day). 3,500 calories
* Tuesday (off day). 2,500 calories
* Wednesday (training day). 3,500 calories
* Thursday (off day). 2,500 calories
* Friday (training day). 3,500 calories
* Saturday (training day). 3,500 calories
* Sunday (training day). 4,500+ calories (Monster day)

The off days can fall on whichever day of the week works best. My example isn't a carved in stone template.

Brandon Fournier
Posted on: Sun, 07/18/2010 - 20:53

Hey steve. What should the macros look like on this diet? Do all the cals need to come from clean sources? Im 18, 5'10, and about 165 lbs. I want to put on around 25 pounds and then do a small cut. Say i need to eat 3000 cals a day on a training day, how many should come from carbs and fat? Also on the monster day, can I eat whatever I want including ice cream, pizza, and such?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 07/19/2010 - 15:41

Hi Brandon,

It can sometimes be difficult to eat completely clean and hit your targets. Try to eat at least 80 to 90% clean.

I recommend 30 to 40 grams of protein every 2.5 to 3 hours. For fats, stay in the range of 20-30%, and fill the rest of your calories with carbs. I don't like to micromanage calories on a bulk. As long as you are getting in your protein and fats, the carbs fall into place.

On monster day, as long as you get in your protein, by all means what what you want. Some are very much against "dirty" food, but I think eating like this once a week is perfectly fine - especially at your age, and with your metabolism.

Brandon Fournier
Posted on: Mon, 07/19/2010 - 17:25

Ok that makes sense. So say my cals to maintain my weight are at 2800. I would be eating 3800 on workout days. If I do what you advocate, that would be over 400 carbs in one day. Is that not too much?

I've always heard that that many carbs will pack on tons of fat and hence have been afraid to consume alot of them. Thanks for the fast reply steve!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 07/20/2010 - 13:58

That's not too many carbs. Some bodybuilders advocate 3 times bodyweight for carbs on high eating days. Your overall weekly calorie average is in check.

Keep in mind that the body doesn't work like a light switch, meaning that if you eat one additional calorie, it isn't automatically stored as fat. The body takes time to transition to full blown fat storage mode, and by keeping calories uneven, you are confusing it, making it harder to store fat.

Posted on: Thu, 07/01/2010 - 13:22

I went to the tools section on this site and clicked BMR calculator and found it. I'm 16, 5'9 and 137lbs so I'm pretty skinny and an ectomorph I think. My bodyfat percentage is also somewhere between 9 and 11.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 07/01/2010 - 19:22

Hi Jordan,

I would wager that your BMR is 3500 or more. I would eat 3500 calories per day for a week and see if you gain or lose weight. You might need to eat 4000 or more per day just to gain weight.

Posted on: Thu, 07/01/2010 - 06:38

Hey Steve you've already answered a lot of questions I've asked so thank you for that. My maintenance level is 2500 so on a monster day should I eat 3500, 4000, or 4500 calories. Also say its 4500 calories thats about 335 grams of protein that I would have to eat. I dont think I can afford that much since protein is pretty expensive what should I do? Lastly and sorry for all the questions but could I do this for just as long as a regular bulk like 8-12 weeks.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 07/01/2010 - 10:57

Hi Jordan,

I would aim for 4500 calories. You don't have to eat that much protein on monster days. Simply eat more carbs and fat. You could run this for 8 to 12 weeks. Best to experiment and see how you respond to it before you run it longer then 8 to 12 weeks.

Your maintenance level seems a bit low. What's your age and weight? And did you discover your maintenance level on your own, or were you provided the number by someone else?

Posted on: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 00:10

If you're on a 4 day split, would the zig zag have the same effect?

Training days:


Off Days:


M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 14:59


Sandy Norval
Posted on: Sun, 03/28/2010 - 12:23

I'm just about to go back on another bulking cycle Your article says that during the first two weeks of a bulk you will see an accelerated growth in muscle mass. If so could I go for two weeks on a full calorie surplus and then switch on to the zig zag method afterwards?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 03/28/2010 - 13:28

Sandy...A zig zag would be good as long as you're have your average calories in line. All things considered, a staggering of calories during bulks and cuts is very a bad thing. It fights against the body's urge to adapt.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 03/18/2010 - 23:54

Lud...the example is based upon an individual with a 3500 maintenance level. One larger than normal day isn't a big issue if you choose the right foods. 1500 calories is a weight gain shake, some almonds and a couple glasses of whole milk. The point of a zig-zag is to help prevent the body from stagnating. Over time, the body will slowly adapt itself to a consistent caloric intake.

There are many choices for bulking or gaining weight. The aggressive plan can add a pound per week, and many young and underweight individuals need and want that weight gain. I suggest that if you do not want that weight gain, perhaps try a moderate clean bulk.

This is also a great approach for a young athlete who wants to get stronger and gain 20 pounds in the off season.

Posted on: Sat, 03/27/2010 - 21:51

Lets say i follow the plan on a 3200 calories on workout days and 2400 on non workout days and then have a refeed were i raise my calories to 3700 of mostly carbs since i'm a endo and the monster day may make me put on a few more ponds than i want to

Posted on: Thu, 03/18/2010 - 23:10

i feel like the monster day will just add an unnecessary amount of fat. Couldn't you just eat 1000 calories over maintenance that day (4500 on a 3500 cal maintenance) and get the benefits of a caloric surplus without the going overboard? seems like it sets up people for binging.

Posted on: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 00:11

One day will not add sufficient amounts to make it noticeable...in fact if most are good calories then this keeps hormone levels up and pushes the thyroid up a few notches. This makes your body think you will be consuming the same amount of calories the next day and adjusts. It's all about confusing your body nutritionally and in the gym. We are creatures of habit and so is the human system.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 03/14/2010 - 08:49

Dmail...the aggressive plan is setup to add about one pound per week. The moderate plan will add about 2/3rds of a pound each week.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 02/14/2010 - 18:36

DML...cyclical bulking would be better than a straight high-calorie bulk. I would also recommend cycling bulks 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off. The key to all plans is to scientifically take measure of how a plan is impacting your body, and to make appropriate course corrections. No plan, in and of itself is perfect - so I would try it and be prepared to make adjustments.

Posted on: Sun, 03/14/2010 - 08:22

how much clean weight should u put on a week

Posted on: Sun, 02/14/2010 - 17:47

Would this work for an endo plus what body fat should you be to begin this any reply would be great

Posted on: Sun, 12/06/2009 - 07:10

This is the exact method I was planning to use for my next bulk. Great work Steve!

Posted on: Sun, 12/06/2009 - 05:11

Loving these new articles. This starts tomorrow for me! Just what I've been looking for as I'm going for muscles to show rather than to lift at the moment!