So here’s the thing: dieting is stressful. Anyone who has successfully dieted down and been in a calorie deficit for a prolonged period of time will testify to that. It’s stressful both mentally and physically. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help lessen the stress. Our goal for this article is to explain what a diet break entails, how to know if you need one, and how they benefit you.
What happens to your body when you diet?
Many things happen when a person restricts calories. The most obvious is that you lose weight, but there is more that happens both physiologically and psychologically. Physiologically speaking, when you restrict calories for a prolonged period of time, you see a reduction in certain hormones and an increase in others. Dopamine and serotonin, for example, end up taking a dive after a while. You’ve probably heard of these as the “feel good hormones.” That’s true – these hormones do make you feel good. When these hormones are reduced, we start to feel more lethargic, less enthusiastic, more blah. Every client who has dieted for a long time has, at one point or another, gone to their coach and described feeling like sh*t. They’ve lost their motivation, they feel discouraged and sometimes even a bit depressed. Let’s also not forget one of the biggest and most aggravating parts of dieting: you feel hungry as f*ck! Again, dieting is hard. The body does not like to be deprived of calories, it likes to be fed.
And then you plateau!
Of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the dreaded plateau. The scientific term for a weight loss plateau is “metabolic adaptation.” Before your eyes glaze over, all you need to know is that it simply refers to the body adapting and adjusting over time to the reduced calories you are providing it. When a person is in a calorie deficit, there is an imbalance of energy intake (food) and energy output (being alive). The body seeks to balance this out again, and it does so by shedding weight so that the intake and output are once again equal. When this balance exists, weight remains stagnant, hence the plateau. Normally, to bust through the plateau, you would decrease your calories to create an imbalance again. However, there comes a point when it becomes unhealthy to reduce calories further. Energy levels become extremely low, you lose strength, and the body is deficient in nutrients. This is the perfect opportunity for a diet break.
Why are diet breaks so great?
Having mentioned everything we just mentioned, it should be clear how a diet break will benefit you. It will serve as a physical break for you, allowing you to feel more energetic in the gym and gain some strength back. Additionally, it gives you a tremendous mental break, increasing those “feel good” hormones and improving your mood. The hunger hormone, ghrelin, also decreases during a diet break. And the best benefit? You get to eat more food!
So how do I do a diet break?
One of the most important things to know before taking a diet break is that it’s not a free-for-all. During a diet break, coaches purposefully calculate your calories and macros to maintenance levels. In other words, we set your numbers to a particular range which will allow you to maintain your current weight. You still have to eat within the confines of your numbers, because you don’t want to undo the hard work you’ve done during your deficit. If you don’t have a coach, you’ll have to calculate your numbers and hold yourself accountable. For most people, two weeks allows ample time to see some strength come back in the gym, see an increase in muscle glycogen, and improve overall mood and energy levels. By the end of those 2 weeks, most of our clients are happy to get back to cutting. They have a rejuvenated sense of optimism and an eagerness to get back to the grind.
Building lifelong habits.
Now we come to the most important part: the rest of your life. As coaches, how do we help our clients the most? At Macros Inc. we want to give you the knowledge, skills, and tools to manage your weight for the rest of your life. So how do we do that with a diet break? Doing a diet break gives you time to practice eating at maintenance during your cutting phase. Doing this while working with a coach gives you the accountability to not go off the rails and undo the hard work you’ve done so far. We teach you how much food you require in order to reach your personal goals, whether that’s losing weight, maintaining your new weight once you’ve lost some, or building muscle. If we can impart enough knowledge on a client so that he/she leaves with an understanding of the caloric nature of food, it will serve that individual for the rest of his/her life, because there will be an understanding that wasn’t there before – an understanding of the energy balance and therefore how to successfully manage your weight forever.
As always, if you want to learn more about diet breaks or you just want to gain a better understanding of food and how to manage your weight, join our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/macrosincgroup
Hope to see you there!