Hey, STRONG friends, popping in with a Beauty of Strength fam bam question that came through on my weekly Weight Room Wednesday Q&A.
So, a STRONG friend asked, “How often or when should you take a diet break? For how long?
Let’s start with…
What is a diet break?
Taking a break from dieting and eating at a maintenance calorie level for a period of time.
What happens when you take a break:
It helps to minimize metabolism adaptations, such as the slowing down of your metabolism, maintaining more muscle mass, improves adherence & training performance, and it will give you a psychological break from being in a caloric deficit (restriction).
When you diet for very long periods of time, your metabolism down-regulates and adjusts to the low calories that you are dieting on, in doing so, the body recognizes this as our new maintenance calories. This is not what you want, because I don’t know about you, I don’t want to live on low calories.
So, STRONG friend, take a break! There is no rush. There is no finish line – I know this might seem like a long route, but it’s the sustainable route. Fitness, health, and nutrition is a journey, not a destination.
Here are a few signs that tend to pop up when it’s time to take a diet break:
- You can’t remember a time when you weren’t on a diet.
- Progress has slowed down. Your calories are already too low to drop them any further.
- Lack of compliance! You can’t seem to stick with it. A few days here and there with periods of overeating, then returning back to the deficit over and over again.
- Not sleeping well, and your libido is off.
- Low energy – you’re very exhausted all the time.
- Your training sessions are suffering. Performance in the gym and life is sucking! Your strength and fitness are low. You don’t feel like training, and you love it!
- Hunger & Cravings are high! You may frequently be overeating or binging. You can’t stop thinking about food. All your thoughts are about food and when you can eat next.
- You’re mentally fatigued.
- You’re beyond moody.
Some other reasons to consider taking a break from a diet break aka caloric deficit:
- During the holidays.
- High-stress times in your life – like life happening (COVID, divorce a layoff, financial troubles, an illness, injury, to name a few).
- Please note dieting is a form of stress to the body!
For how long/how often should you take a diet break, that kinda depends too:
- A great place to start is to take a 1-2 week break every 3-6 weeks.
- You can also take a 1-week break every 2 weeks or a 1-week break every 4 weeks.
- Another option is after a 3-month stint of a calorie deficit, you can take 1-3 months diet break.
- It just depends on what works best for you and how long you have been freaking dieting!
- As often as you need to keep adherence high and to keep the weight off for the long haul.
Another factor is to consider how long you have been dieting overall. Your maintenance phase can be determined by how long and how big of a caloric deficit you were in. Again, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be living on poverty macros forever – and don’t ever start your fat loss phase on the lowest calories. No Bueno! There are complications to that, as I mentioned above!
Furthermore, if you have to go that low with your calories, then that is a true sign to get out of a fat-loss phase and raise your calories to an ample amount. Hang out there once you get to a high amount of calories to cut from. You always want to be cutting (calorie deficit) on as many calories as possible while losing fat!
Where should my calories be during the diet break:
During the diet break, you’re gonna want to raise your calories to maintenance levels. Take your current body weight and multiply by 15. Don’t go back to your original maintenance calories when you started your deficit. If you like to do that, you should start a Reverse Diet.
Another option if you aren’t tracking your macros, you can increase your portion sizes.
After the maintenance period that you decide on, you can return back to a fat-loss phase and repeat the cycle until you have reached your goal, or until you’re ready to move into a reverse diet/building phase!
The number 1 way to lose fat and keep it off is to lose it slowly – then, it will be sustainable. You’ll lose more fat overall, and it will be sustainable for the long haul. And, when you’re in a caloric deficit, be patient, be consistent, and lastly, get in out of the deficit, don’t stay in deficit without breaks, and move into muscle-building phases.
You can’t just keep lowering your calories lower and lower or spending year after year chasing fat loss. That will end in a disaster. So, I hope this blog helps you, and you take the advice. You’ll mind, body, and soul will be better for it. Get out of the extremes.
If you haven’t approached your fat loss with sustainability or you don’t know where to start, check out my blog, Stop White-Knuckling Your Way Through Your Diet: A Better Approach to Fat Loss!
If you would like support and accountability on your fat loss journey, and you want it to be sustainable for the long haul, consider booking a STRONGER You Connection. On the Connection Call, we will take a look at what’s going well and what is not. We will address where you want to BE with your fitness and your health journey AND HOW TO GET THERE SUSTAINABLY.
Any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org