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What is a diet break ?
A diet break is, as the name tells, a controlled break from dieting where calories (with an emphasis on carbohydrates) are brought to an estimated caloric maintenance for a period of time that goes from 10 to 14 days, in order to reverse metabolic adaptations that occur when dieting.
"The Full Diet Break" is a strategy used to continue losing fat and get leaner during a dieting phase, overcoming fat loss plateaus that occur after months spent dieting. Its benefits are physiological but also psychological: thanks to the increased amount of food, which leads to a better performance in the gym, increased energy expenditure (EE), increased Non-exercising activity thermogenesis (NEAT), better mood, better quality of sleep, better recovery, less overall stress etc.
Its frequency depends mostly on leanness and the time spent dieting, meaning that the leaner you are, the more frequent diet breaks you will need.
Body fat % (men) Diet Break Frequency
<10% every 4-6 weeks 10-15% every 6-8 weeks 15-25% every 10-12 weeks >25% every 12-16 weeks
Women add 7-8%
What to expect when implementing Diet Breaks
Three are the oucomes.
1. Your weight might go up due to the increased amount of food, replenishment of muscle glycogen stores, water weight. None or maybe just a little bit of the weight gain is going to be stored fat, which is going to come off once getting back into a caloric deficit anyway.
2. Your weight could stabilize and stay there where it is.
3. You could experience a big drop in weight on the first days thanks to the increased carbohydrates that decrease cortisol levels, causing water weight loss. http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/of-whooshes-and-squishy-fat.html
Diet Breaks and Leptin
The adipose tissue (fat) produces a hormone called Leptin, which tells your brain how much you're eating and what your bodyfat is, regulating your caloric expenditure. When dieting bodyfat is reduced, therefore less Leptin is produced. This decreases overall energy expenditure, NEAT, making you burn less calories & plateau due to the decreased energy output.
More Leptin = more energy & more bodyfat Less Leptin = less energy & less bodyfat
The purpose of the Diet Break is to reverse Leptin downregulation by increasing total calories and especially carbohydrates (which is the only macronutrient that has a positive impact on it), increase energy expenditure, and get back to dieting with a recovered hormonal profile.