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Taking a break from dieting may help weight loss

May 22, 2020 3 min read

Taking a break from dieting may help weight loss

If you’ve ever been on a weight loss journey, you know that it can be a difficult journey at times. Whether you’ve been working towards reaching a healthy weight range, leaning out for a body building competition, or even making weight for a sports competition, your are probably no stranger to the dreaded weight plateau. Plateaus can be frustrating. You feel like you are doing all of the right things, but the number on the scales just wont shift! It turns out that avoiding continuous dieting may be the key to losing weight and keeping the kilos off. Learn about how a diet break can help you lose weight.

What is a diet break?

A diet break can take one of two forms. For body builders or those dropping weight temporarily to make weight for a competition, it may take the form of a cheat meal or a single day per week with a higher calorie intake. For those on a longer and more significant weight loss journey, a diet break might be a period of a week or two where you raise your calorie intake.

The School of Health Sciences researchers revealed that taking a two-week break during dieting may improve weight loss. The study, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia, looked at the body’s natural ‘famine reaction’ to prolonged dieting and how it effected weight loss for men.

How can a diet break help weight loss?

Data to come out of recent study by a team at the University of Tasmania showed that a two-week break during dieting may improve weight loss. The study looked at the body’s metabolic adaptation to prolonged dieting and how it effected weight loss in men.

The study consisted of two groups, both took part in a 16-week diet which cut calorie intake by one third. One group maintained the diet continuously for 16 weeks straight. The second group dieted for two weeks, then broke from the diet for two weeks. During the ‘diet break’ they ate as much as needed to keep their weight stable. They repeated this cycle for 30 weeks in total to ensure 16 weeks of dieting.

Those in the diet break group lost more weight and also gained less weight after the trial finished. On they lost 8 kg more than the continuous diet group, six months after the end of the diet.

Head of UTAS of Health Sciences, Professor Nuala Byrne said dieting altered a series of biological processes in the body. This leads to slower weight loss, and possibly weight gain.

“When we reduce our energy (food) intake during dieting, resting metabolism decreases to a greater extent than expected; a phenomenon termed ‘adaptive thermogenesis’ — making weight loss harder to achieve”

Professor Nuala Byrne

This adaptation is a survival mechanism which helped humans to survive as a species when food supply was inconsistent in millennia past. However it us now contributing to our growing waistlines when the food supply is readily available.

There is a growing body of research which has shown that diets which use one to seven day periods of complete or partial fasting alternated with ad libitum food intake, are not more effective for weight loss than conventional continuous dieting.

If you would like to check out the study for yourself you can find it here.

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Sally Mitchell

Sally Mitchell (BSc, MHumNut) is a scientist, university qualified nutritionist and VPA staff member. She brings a nerdy love of numbers, data, and science wit her to VPA. Her favourite VPA product is coffee Breakfast Shake. She enjoys powerlifting and running but, sadly, does both poorly.

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