Losing weight is one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally draining feats an individual can undertake in life. Depending on how much fat you have to lose, you could be dieting anywhere from a few weeks to over a year.
For many, that sounds as pleasant as a weekly root canal from their dentist. While adherence to one’s diet is paramount for successful long term weight loss, new research indicates it might benefit you to take some time off from dieting every now and then.
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The Weight Loss Study
Published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers from the University of Tasmania in Australia sought to investigate methods to enhance weight loss success based on individual’s eating patterns. The team analyzed the diets of 51 obese men over a four month period.
For the purposes of the study, the men were split into two groups:
- The first group cut ⅓ of their calories for all four months of the trial.
- The second group followed the same diet, but did so on a two week on / two week off protocol for the duration of the four months.
At the conclusion of the trial, researchers analyzed the data and observed that the group following the intermittent dieting protocol (2 on, 2 off) lost 50% more weight than those who dieting non-stop for the four months. Furthermore, those taking the 2 week break also dropped more body fat than the steady dieters.
Unfortunately, six months after the study’s conclusion, both groups of men regained their weight. Still, the intermittent dieters were roughly 18 pounds lighter than the continuous group of dieters on average.
Explanation of This Study
How is it that the on-again, off-again dieters were able to lose more weight during the trial, when common fitness advice is to never deviate from your fat loss diet? Researchers hypothesize it has to do with the manner in which dieting can affect various biological processes in the body.
Co-author of the study, Nuala Byrne said:
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. This "famine reaction," a survival mechanism which helped humans to survive as a species when food supply was inconsistent in millennia past, is now contributing to our growing waistlines when the food supply is readily available.
Essentially, when dieting for prolonged periods of time, your body adapts to the decreased caloric intake and downshifts your metabolism as a survival mechanism of sorts. This can lead to weight loss plateaus, and the inevitable frustration and hopeless feeling that comes with stalled weight loss. Taking breaks in a sense may prevent or “trick” your body so that it doesn’t get used to one chronically lowered calorie intake and downshift your metabolic rate.
It seems that the "breaks" from dieting we have used in this study may be critical to the success of this approach. While further investigations are needed around this intermittent dieting approach, findings from this study provide preliminary support for the model as a superior alternative to continuous dieting for weight loss.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is all the rage right now in the dieting world, but is intermittent dieting the “next big thing” to overcome the masses? How do you structure your own fat loss diet cycles?
Leave a comment down below with your thoughts.