Here we would like to consider different but still related concepts – this is a complete break in the diet and the transition from the diet to the maintenance regime after its completion. By and large, the only difference between the two is duration. A complete break in the diet is a short period, usually 14 days, while a maintenance diet is a long-term thing; in fact, it is maintaining good eating habits forever. So, whenever we talk about a complete break in the diet, keep in mind that all this is also suitable for switching to the maintenance mode after the diet is completed. And when there are differences between them, we will clarify this.
Firstly, we want to immediately draw your attention to the fact that during a complete break, the weight often jumps by a kilo and a half. Especially if, after a low-carb diet, start to introduce carbohydrates into the diet. Although this can happen after a moderate carbohydrate (like Zone) or a high-carb diet, a small weight gain is not a cause for concern. It’s just glycogen (carbohydrates stored in the muscles) and water (carbohydrates are stored in the body in a wet form, binding water). Well, the increased amount of food also weighs somewhat, taking up a place in the body during processing.
We also want to say that a lot depends on the type of diet that you followed. Getting out of a low-carb diet should be completely different than dieting with moderate or high carbohydrate content. So do not be surprised that some of our recommendations will seem slightly fuzzy, although we still try to give an idea of the different options.
Planned and unplanned break
From time to time, inevitably, there are times when it becomes simply impossible to adhere to a diet. We will call this, quite logically, an unplanned break. For example, one guy found himself in a situation where he had to go snowboarding for ten days – when he was exactly in the middle of his diet.
He wanted to know how to keep to his diet during the rest, and we all told him not to fool around, but simply to go on to control portions, doing the best that is possible in the given circumstances. This is one example where you have to take an unplanned break in your diet, and we are sure you can come up with a lot of others.
But there are also situations where you should purposefully interrupt the diet for a while, and this is what we want to call a planned break in the diet. Here the question may arise, why should someone who had no problems with dieting take a steam bath with some interruptions. We will return to this later when we discuss the meaning and purpose of a break in the diet.
In the meantime, we just would like to clarify how long the diet should last until the moment when you should take a break (of course, if you do not have a situation of an unplanned break). As usual, the main criterion will be your percentage of fat, the slimmer you are, the less you should adhere to a diet without a break.
Diet category and diet duration without a break
- Continuous diet 4-6 weeks – 1-week break.
- Continuous diet 6-12 weeks – 2 weeks break.
- Continuous diet 12-16 weeks – 3 weeks break.
As with refeeds, please bear in mind that these are fairly average recommendations and there may be some fluctuations. Some, no matter how low their % of fat is, can go on a diet for a long time, continuing to burn fat quite successfully, while others find that after a short time on the diet their metabolism and everything else begins to junk. As always, accept the foregoing as recommendations; it is not necessary to perceive it as an immutable and absolute truth.
Controlled and uncontrolled break
As far as we know, in the study that we mentioned earlier, the researchers did not prescribe what exactly and how much there is during the planned break in the diet. In any case, no matter what they do there, but they do not gain much (if at all) weight and do not completely lose control over food intake. We already mentioned some reasons why, as it seems to us, this happened, and we’re not going to slurp this question again
And we remembered this because many who find themselves in a situation where they have to take a break fall into the trap, which was mentioned in part about free meals and refeeds, they jump from one extreme (the strictest diet) to the other (checking, how much garbage they can push into the stomach). This is very similar to how most people act upon completing a diet. Having decided that the diet is over, they return to old (usually bad) eating habits and immediately gain all the lost weight again and maybe a little more. In general, if you are not worried about the opportunity to gain a ton (or all) of the lost weight or fat during the break (or at the end of the diet), we, of course, cannot stop you. But we want to assure you that this approach is not our favorite method of organizing diet breaks.
A break can be organized as anti-crisis measures, non-rigid control, in which you approximately follow your current diet, but without total obsession. Even if you eat “as you should” (that is, as prescribed by your current diet) most of the day, and in the evening you have something like a daily free meal, you will still be in a much better situation than those who eat whatever for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is a pretty decent option, and many are quite capable of successfully doing this.
We recall, this approach requires a fundamental review of your attitude to diet. If you belong to the type of people who believe that you need to follow a diet at 100%, and everything that is less than 100% means that you are eating junk food, then perhaps it’s time to understand how destructive such an attitude is. If you can, introduce a way of thinking in which you do everything possible, and this is enough, even if life does not allow you to achieve perfection, so you win in the long run.
But we are based on the premise that such a “free” style of a flexible approach to diet is not suitable for everyone; some need more structured freedom (no matter how contradictory it sounds). So for those who would like more control, we offer certain recommendations for organizing a complete break and switching to a maintenance mode after the diet is completed.
Interaction of planned / unplanned and supervised / uncontrolled interruptions
Perhaps it should be said that the fact of whether a diet break is planned or not can determine whether it will be controlled or uncontrolled. For example, remember our snowboarder from: the chances are high that during his vacation, he is unlikely to be able to properly control the food.
The same applies to any vacation or weekend, with parties and similar situations that occur all the time. Such situations are not very good for controlling nutrition, although the information that we will present here can be used to try to limit the negative consequences. Of course, the most important aspect of this is that sooner or later, the situation leading to an unplanned break in the diet will end. Without losing a long-term perspective, it is quite possible to return to a diet, lose weight gained during the rest period, and continue moving towards the goal.
And if you make the planned break in the diet a part of the whole process, then there is a good chance that it will be easier for you to control food intake, since, at this moment, you most likely will not be on vacation or on the weekend.
So why bother with a diet break?
If we forget that the division into psychology and physiology is rather arbitrary, then we can say that a break in the diet is needed to achieve both psychological and physiological goals. Psychological is quite simple to understand: dividing the diet into many small stages, while maintaining nutrition control in the long run, is less likely that you will lose control and abandon the diet. This is due to our basic premise – by developing a more flexible approach to nutrition and a vision of the future in matters of weight loss, you increase your chances of long-term success.
As for physiological reasons, even with the best diet, including free meals and structured refeeds in the schedule, the body adapts anyway, and the moment comes when the weight loss practically stops. This occurs as a result of the interaction of factors such as leptin and other hormones that signal to the brain to slow down the burning of fat, affect the thyroid gland, the activity of the nervous system, and so on.
Increasing calorie content, we raise the level of leptin (and normalize the rest of the hormones), and metabolism begins to recover, which helps increase the efficiency of the next phase of the diet. But, again, the goal is to establish metabolism and at the same time not gain all that is lost, or even more. However, even if you pick up a kilo during a two-week break in the diet compared to what you had to lose during your diet, this is a drop in the bucket. In addition, if this kilogram allowed you to burn fat more quickly after returning to a diet, then it was more than worth it.
A small digression about the slowdown in metabolic rate
There are many reasons why dietary metabolism slows down, we can influence some of them, but not others. A factor that is absolutely impossible to influence is weight reduction in itself. The light body burns fewer calories, both during rest and during daytime activity and training, so weight loss is one of the main factors responsible for reducing daily calorie needs. You can do nothing about this except to gain the weight back. We have a great material concerning training and particularly cardio on an empty stomach.
Although there is one completely idiotic way (it is strange that no one has mentioned it before) – wear a vest with weighting materials or a laden backpack in order to slightly compensate for weight loss. This will not affect calorie burning at rest, but you will spend more calories in the course of daily activity, and, probably, it will help to partially compensate for the reduction in calorie needs due to weight loss.
But there is an additional factor that contributes to the slowdown of metabolism. This is adaptation. It causes a greater slowdown in metabolism than would cause a simple weight loss. Let’s say we expect the metabolic rate to drop by 150 calories for every 5 pounds of weight lost. But when we measure the actual metabolic rate, it turns out that it has changed by 250 calories per day. These extra 100 calories are due to that same adaptation.
What is it caused by? For the most part – hormonal changes occur during the diet: the level of leptin, insulin, thyroid hormones, and activity of the nervous system. One of the main goals of a complete break in the diet is to “reset” all these hormones (to one degree or another) in order to try to correct the reduction in calorie needs caused by adaptation. This will make your diet more effective after you reduce calorie intake again.