What Is A Diet Break And How To Implement One

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Published on July 10, 2019

Diet breaks have become quite popular in the last few years. Now you may wonder – are they really beneficial as people claim them to be, or do they represent an excuse for binge eating in the middle of your weight loss journey? There has certainly been quite a lot of controversy and divided opinions when it comes to diet breaks. That is what brought us here today. What will follow is a detailed explanation of what diet breaks actually represent, including whether they are good or bad for your weight loss process according to actual scientific research.

What is a diet break?

Diet break is exactly what it says it is – a long-needed pause from your weight loss diet plan. It is as simple as that. A diet break is recommended and required to be implemented as a part of the weight loss journey in order to achieve better, longer-lasting results that you will be proud of (1). Diet breaks are recommended to individuals who are not restricted by time or prepare for a competition of some kind. The diet breaks are more recommended for the common man, who is looking for a way to reduce his weight for the purposes of becoming a better version of themselves, and improving their mental and physical health.

Usually, the recommended duration of a diet break is around 1 to 2 weeks tops. Some people tend to have a diet break that lasts for one day only, and some decide to take on a diet break that lasts two weeks, the decision is really up to you (2). But the question is – When should you implement a diet break? Well, what you can do is consult your doctor and your trainer, but also follow this rough sketch that we have made for you.

  • If your BMI (Body Mass Index) is higher than 25%, and you are qualified as obese, a diet break is recommended to be implemented every 12-16 weeks;
  • If your BMI (Body Mass Index) is between 15-20%, a diet break is recommended to be implemented every 6 to 12 weeks;
  • And last but not least important, if your BMI (Body Mass Index) is below 15%, a diet break is recommended to be implemented every 4-6 weeks.

However, that does not mean that during your diet break you are supposed to break all of the commitments that you have made to your weight loss diet plan before. This means that those empty calories are still forbidden, even though an increased calorie amount is recommended during your diet break. You can still lean on to fiber, clean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables for the needed calories and energy, as you are supposed to increase your calorie intake and reduce your workouts.

This might sound a bit surprising, but contrary to your calorie deficit during your weight loss journey, a diet break actually requires you to increase the calories that you intake on a daily level. All of that, while reducing your workouts at the same time, especially your cardio workouts which need to be cut in half.

The science behind diet breaks

If you are doubting what we are telling you, know this – science has your back! There is actual scientific research that is backing up the idea and the beneficial effects of the popular diet breaks.

In the International Journal of Obesity, the well-known MATADOR study has been published, just last year. The study followed fifty-one obese men who were trying to lose weight over a period of 16 weeks. The results revealed that an intermittent break or a diet break as we say it, in dieting has helped the individuals to lose greater weight amounts as compared with the individuals who during the study remained in a calorie deficit throughout the whole period of 16 weeks (3).

Another study published in 2003 investigated the potential negative effects of the implemented diet breaks during weight loss. What the study failed to find is a negative impact of the implemented diet breaks on the results of the weight loss process. The participants in the study did not gain any weight during their diet breaks, nor do they experienced difficulties getting back on the normal path after their diet breaks have ended. This, of course, is a good thing to hear (4).

You can doubt everything that we say, but as long as there is an actual scientific proof behind it, it is worth believing and implementing it in your life. So now that we have discussed the actual scientific proof on diet breaks let’s discuss how exactly would you benefit from implementing a diet break in your life.

What are the benefits of a diet break?

Despite the fact that there is an actual scientific proof behind it, you probably still wonder why you would implement a diet break, searching for the potential beneficial effects. Well, you are in luck because what will follow is a discussion on the potential beneficial effects that await you as you go on your diet break.

Beneficial effects for your mental health

Changing your lifestyle from the core is not an easy thing to do. Going on a calorie deficit, and working out regularly sure does have a certain impact on not only your physical health but also your mental health. Despite the fact that these changes are more than welcomed, they can still cause great stress on your body and mind. That is where a diet break comes in handy!

By letting yourself relax for as much as one week, or even a day or two, by reducing your workouts, and enjoying your favorite healthy recipes without a care in the world, can have quite the positive impact on your mind. Whatever we do, we require a pause and going on a diet and spending hours and hours in the gym is not any different than that. Your body and mind require some time to step back and relax before they proceed stronger than ever. By stepping back, you will be able actually to think over your diet plan and physical activity routine, make some changes if needed, but also, acknowledge the changes that have happened and how they influence you (5).

Fuller looking muscles

This benefit you will probably love the most, as you can imagine getting pumped, lean muscles despite the fact that you are on an actual break from your diet plan. And it is true – your muscles will look learned and fulling as a result of the implemented diet break. But the question that you are probably asking right now is – How? And why would they when you have cut your workout time and increased your calorie intake, which is the opposite of what you should have been doing.

You see, instead of going on a calorie deficit, what you are doing is increasing your calories to a maintenance level. This will have a positive impact on your muscles, allowing your glycogen storages in the muscles to be once again refilled, only to later draw in water so that your muscles would look fuller, learner, and stronger than ever. As long as you keep your carbohydrate intake at control, you get to experience this pleasant effect and still not harm your weight loss results.

Boosted leptin levels

Leptin is a hormone produced by the adipose cells in your body, as it is responsible for regulating your energy levels and inhibiting your hunger accordingly. As you lose more and more body fat, there is less and less leptin being produced. This results in your hunger rising as your energy is not regulated accordingly. It is quite possible that this is the reason why it is harder for you to continue following the chosen calorie deficit as your weight results are getting better.

But taking a long needed break from that calorie deficit will allow your leptin levels to rise, without that having to mean that you will instantly gain the lost weight and body fat back. Your body will take a break from the certain metabolic adaptations that have been made in the last period, and you will be able to feel less hungry and irritated all of the time during and after your diet break. You will notice an increase in your energy levels, an improvement in your mood, and a less noticeable feeling of hunger due to the efficiently implemented diet break (6).

How to implement a diet break?

So now that you are well acknowledged with the idea of diet breaks, we guess that you are looking forward to the time when you get to start your own diet break. But you may wonder how you are supposed to do that. And how to avoid weight gain during it. In the following, what you will find are some methods that other individuals have found quite useful when implementing a diet break in their lifestyle. We are hoping that you will do the same.

Continue following your usual meal times

Respect the schedule that you have created for yourself, regarding your meals. If you have chosen to eat three main meals and a snack in between, you are highly recommended to continue doing so during your diet break. Skipping a meal will not help anyone. Plus, what we are trying to do here is actually increase your calorie intake, and that certainly cannot be achieved by skipping a meal.

Do not count your calories

Take an actual break from having to count your calories and macros constantly. Give your body and mind some long needed pause and skip counting how much calories you intake. You are still recommended to eat the same amounts of foods, even bigger, keeping track of your meals using portions, but no mental math in between.

Skip binge eating

Just because you are on a break that does not mean that you are allowed to binge eating. Instead, try to eat until you feel that you are no longer hungry. Eating slowly and practicing mindful eating still can be quite a lot helpful regarding your current state. Just listen to your body when it says that it is time to stop.

Keeping your food choices similar

A diet break is not the best time to introduce radical changes in your diet. Instead, you are recommended to keep eating the foods that you usually eat on a daily basis, but increasing the calorie intake of course. It is not that you are not allowed to try a new recipe, of course, however, you are still recommended to use the usual ingredients that you do while doing so.

Conclusion

Losing weight is not an easy thing to do. Going to the gym, keeping to a calorie deficit, counting your calories, and everything else that is needed to be done in order for a healthy weight loss does have a certain impact on your body and mind. That is where a diet break comes in handy. Not only does a diet break to improve your mood, relax your body and mind, it also allows you to take a long needed pause before you come back stronger and better than ever before.

References

(1) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170918222235.htm
(2) https://www.gains.af/blog/diet-breaks
(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28925405
(4) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1038/oby.2003.43
(5) https://rippedbody.com/diet-break/
(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17212793

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