A diet break is a period when you stop actively dieting. It's around 14 days when you deliberately take yourself out of a calorie deficit and eat at your maintenance calories.
The diet break is different from going over your diet calories because it's intentionally planned into your diet period, and you're still controlling your caloric intake.
Why Would You Use A Diet Break?
If you have a lot of weight to lose and you're going to be dieting for an extended time, it can make the process more enjoyable to include breaks. The longer you're going to be dieting, the more useful a diet break can be.
After you've been dieting a while, your body gets used to lower calorie intakes. It is called metabolic adaption. As a result, sometimes you stop losing weight at that stage. It wouldn't be wise to reduce your calorie intake or increase your energy expenditure any further than you already have, but you may succeed with a diet break. According to research by MATADOR, diet breaks can reduce the effect of metabolic adaption, and improves long term compliance with a diet
The psychological benefits of diet breaks - especially when there's a lot of weight to lose - give the dieter some "light at the end of the tunnel". When there's a clear endpoint, it becomes easier to stick with your calorie target in the now and get better results. Adherence is essential in the maintenance of weight loss long term, and you also have a valuable opportunity to "practice" living at your maintenance calories.
The physiological benefits relate to how your energy levels drop when you've been in a deficit for a long time. You have less energy to exercise, and your endocrine system can be altered in long-term dieting. When you take a diet break, you can train harder because you have more calories to use.
Depending on what you're training for, taking a diet break can help your body to let go of water it was holding on to during the diet. For some people who have aesthetic goals, this can be useful if appropriately timed.
The obvious drawback of using a diet break might be that it could take longer to reach your goal weight. But that's only compared to consistently being able to adhere to a diet.
If you don't have much weight to lose, though, or you're dieting for a specific time - such as a holiday, it might not be practical or desirable for you to implement a diet break. But if you are on a mid or long-term body transformation plan, well-scheduled diet breaks can help you achieve better success.
How Do You Implement A Diet Break?
The first consideration is how frequently you want to take breaks. Too often, and progress will slow, and you may become discouraged. Too infrequently, and you might struggle to comply with your diet long term. A general rule of thumb when considering how often to take diet breaks relates to your body fat.
Once you've decided when to take a break, you'll need to increase your calories to the maintenance level. You won't be consuming the same amount during each diet break, because that depends on your actual weight. Each time you take a diet break, you'll need to re-calculate your maintenance calories.
How To Get Back On Track?
Diet breaks are temporary measures used to help you go the extra mile on your diet. Eventually, you're going to have to transition back to your calorie deficit until you're at your goal weight. The diet break will be a planned part of the diet, so once you decide that this is the right step for you, it can be helpful to factor it into your calendar.
Know that while you're on a break, you're likely to gain weight - especially if you aren't tracking your maintenance calories. That's okay and to be expected. Once your 14 day diet break period is up, schedule a return to the diet. Making sure you're prepared for the return to dieting will help get back on schedule.
Whether or not you should take a diet break depends on a few factors: how much weight you want to lose, for how long you are planning to be on a diet, and whether or not you have the self-discipline to get back on track as scheduled.
A well-planned diet break can have incredible benefits on your body transformation goals and your sense of well-being during the process. Still, it also requires self-discipline and accurate calorie calculations. If you need help with the latter, feel free to reach out!