Key Topics Covered
What is a Diet Break
- Definition: Taking a break from a calorie deficit with periods of maintenance calories
- Typically 1-4 weeks long
What are the benefits?:
- Reduce hunger and desire to eat
- Reverse metabolic adaptation (if long enough)
- Provide a psychological break from dieting
- Allows you to practice sitting at maintenance calories – so at the end of the diet, you know what that looks like and may make the transition easier long term.
1) Reverse Hunger and Desire to Eat Associated with Dieting
- Hunger: Physical feeling of hunger/starvation
- Desire to eat: You can be full and still have a desire to eat a crispy cream for example.
- Hunger and desire to eat increase over the course of a diet.
- A study from Jackson Peos Study called the ISECAP trail.
- Over the course of a 12-week diet, their desire to eat when from 20/100 to >60/100.
- They had a diet break every 4th week, when they did, hunger barely increased.
- A diet break could make this so much more comfortable and easier.
- The Minnesota Starvation Experiment put a goup of people in a 25% energy deficit. They lost 25% of their body weight (they were already lean to start with) and they became obsessed over food. Thinking, talking and dreaming about food.
- When you’re dieting to this extreme for a long period of time, it’s not very likely that you’ll stick to the deficit. You’re likely to cave and over eat.
- If adding a few weeks on to your journey ensures that you’ll stay on track and lose the weight, why wouldn’t you do it?
2) Reverse Metabolic Adaptation
- During dieting phase there is going to be some form of metabolic adaptation. Metabolism will reduce.
- A diet break at maintenance calories(when long enough) may be able to reverse some of this adaptation.
- Metabolic adaptation is likely a very small factor in weight loss plateaus (increased hunger, reductions in PA, and other things probably play a way bigger role) BUT it can be A factor to consider .
- For this to be effective, the diet break must be longer than 1-2 weeks. Ideally around 4 weeks to allow for full reverse of metabolic adaptation.
- Metabolic adaptation may only reduce your calorie maintenance by 100-200 calories. Depending on the individual and their circumstances.
3) Provide a mental break from dieting
- This is obvious. Dieting can be extremely mentally fatiguing, so this will definetly help reduce some of that fatigue.
- Because this allows you to eat the foods you enjoy in larger amounts, and incorporate more of the foods that you enjoy.
- The MATADOR study looked at obese people, who weren’t lifters in a calorie deficit for 16 weeks.
- The diet group had 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off of a diet for 30 weeks. They lost a significantly larger amount of weight compared to the control group.
4) Allow the benefits of spending time at maintenance
- Super useful for allowing a chance to practice what it will be like to eat maintenance calories for when you reach the end of the diet.
- Also very useful for those who have not spent much/any time in their adult life choosing to maintain their weight. It can be a change how you think about food significantly.
- The other interesting factor is that the study, a lot of people who were at a higher body weight than they’d like to be were not meeting their calorie requirements with nutritious foods.
- As soon as you consume higher amounts of whole foods, it’s much more difficult to over eat.
- Getting used to what eating at calories is super important for improving relationship with food, understanding that you can eat a wide variety of food without gaining weight.
- 80-90% of people who lose weight will regain the weight that they loss.
- The game is, how do we beat those odds?
- By understanding your maintenance calories and implementing diet breaks as required, may help you stay more in control of hunger/fullness cues.
How to Implement a Diet Break
- Listen to the cues: Are you hungry? How’s your desire to eat?
- You could plan in advance, having an end date may help mentally.
- We like to do 8 weeks on and 2 weeks off.
- But sometimes more frequently and sometimes less frequently.
- In relation to the menstrual cycle, we like to add more calories around that time of the month. ie. every 4th week is a diet break.
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