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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Collins

Boost Your Weight Loss by Taking a Break

Most people believe weight loss to be a one shot deal. They go into a caloric deficit believing all the weight can be lost in one go.  While this may be achievable for the most bull headed individuals; most people cannot lose all the weight in one go. This often leads individuals to a discouraging cycle of diet-binge-quit-repeat. If you're attempting to lose a large amount of weight you should be implementing diet breaks into your program. What is a diet break? A diet break is taking one step back in order to make bigger steps forward. Think of it as retreating during a battle to regroup, come back stronger and defeat the enemy. What are some of the signs that you need a diet break? You may feel tired, irritable, weak in your workouts and like you just can not stomach another day of your meal plan.

To be successful when dieting you need to know when to make adjustments to your meal plan as well as when to take that step back. This step back is a planned period of time when you increase your caloric intake and allow yourself to maintain. Diet breaks are an important part of a good nutrition program. This helps to increase overall adherence to your program. One of the biggest reasons so many diets fail is lack of long term compliance. If a client needs to diet for longer than 3 months we will almost always have them take a break of about 2 weeks. If they have a significant amount of weight to lose we will repeat this multiple times. People simply cannot lose, lose and lose more weight without a dangerously high chance of rebounding.  Let’s face it no one wants to lose a high amount of weight to gain it back. Unfortunately this step of the process is one that many skip not realizing that how they feel right now is not an indication of how they will feel or be able to adhere to their diet a few months down the line. 

I am one of the bull headed individuals Ryan referred to above. I may even be in his top 3 most stubborn clients ever. No matter how bad I felt or how much self sabotaging and binge eating I was doing I would refuse to go into a maintenance phase EVERY SINGLE TIME Ryan advised me to. Even as recently as a couple months ago I was refusing a maintenance phase. At this stage in the game I know better. I have experienced time and time again over the past 7 years of dieting that if you do not plan and take a maintenance phase your mind and body will decide for you. I’ve probably inadvertently tripled the time it could have taken to lose my weight. Yet you will still find me doing the exact opposite of what I ask of and advise my clients to do  in this regard. See….Bull Headed. 

The concept of diet breaks is known as diet periodization or nutrition periodization. You may be familiar with the concept of periodization for strength training. Utilizing periodization for your nutrition will allow you to lose anywhere between 5-10% or your total weight before resetting with a maintenance phase.  Do you always need a maintenance phase after a dieting phase?  Absolutely not but most people will greatly benefit from a maintenance phase.  

There are both psychological and physiological reasons behind a maintenance phase. Your body can only sustain a hypocaloric period for so long before fatigue stacks up and the increased chance of muscle mass loss and giving up happens. Taking this period to take a break from dieting allows you a mental break, reverses some of the metabolic adaptations to a caloric deficit and allows your hormones to recover to normal levels. This means you will be less hungry, have more energy and fewer cravings.

Some useful tips for maintenance phases:

  • Understand that this will likely double the time it takes to lose your desired weight but also doubles the chance of long term sustained loss.

  • Make sure your maintenance phase lasts ⅔ to 1.5 x the length of the diet.

  • Make sure most diets last no longer than 12 weeks unless this is your first diet and you have a significant amount to lose

  • Make sure your tracking your variables to ensure your maintenance calories are accurate 

    • Weekly average calories 

    • Weekly average weight 

    • Weekly cardio 

  • Make sure your body is completely healed and fatigue has reset before you move forward to your next weight loss phase. 

  • Eat your meals at your normal times just add some calories to them. 

  • Expect that you will gain some weight. This is part of the process as the increase in calories to maintenance generally comes from increasing carbohydrate intake. The glucose from those carbs is stored in your muscles and liver as a fuel source known as glycogen. For this to happen the glucose molecules need water molecules attached to them. For reference 1 gram of carb intake can equal 3-4 grams of stored water. So keep in mind the increase you see on your scale is mostly water weight and will fall off quickly when you begin your next diet phase.

  • Don’t use this time as an excuse to go all in and just eat as much as you want of whatever junk foods you want. Taking that approach will lead to fat gain and setting yourself back. Remember the purpose of this is to propel forward.

  • Do not over think it or make it harder than it needs to be.

We hope you find this information helpful. If you’re stuck in that diet-binge-quit-repeat cycle, need some guidance with your diet and nutrition goals or want a fully customized meal plan click the link below to schedule a free consultation. The team at Ryan Howard Coaching have worked with thousands of clients; helping them reach their weight and fitness goals through individualized programming and coaching. We’d love to help you reach yours.

-Stephanie & Ryan

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