Intermittent Dieting for Weight Loss
Studies show intermittent dieting can increase weight loss, in comparison to continual dieting.
Good news for dieters, it seems that taking a break from dieting or intermittent is better for weight loss. This concept seems completely crazy, but the according to the latest study in the International Journal of Obesity, continuous dieting is not the best method for losing weight. Part of the difficulty in losing weight is that the body responds to dieting through a series of biological changes that prevent further weight loss. Some of the metabolic consequences of dieting include a reduction in lean muscle mass, a decrease in metabolic rate, decreased thyroid activity, and increases in the appetite-stimulating hormone leptin. Researchers found that taking a 2-week break from dieting resulted in enhanced weight loss and led to a lesser decrease in metabolism than a continuous diet.
The lead investigator Professor Byre from the study was quoted as saying, “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.”
This reduction in “adaptive thermogenesis” leads to a markedly reduced efficiency of weight loss. As anyone has ever dieted knows, it is increasingly harder to keep losing weight on a calorie restricted diet, due to a decrease in metabolism that occurs with dieting. The researchers thought that a 2:2 ratio of dieting to normal caloric restriction could offset the reduction in metabolism.
During the study, two groups of participants took part in a 16-week diet, which cut calorie intake by one-third. One group maintained the diet continuously for 16 weeks, while the other maintained the diet for two weeks. They then broke from the diet for two weeks eating simply to keep their weight stable, and repeated this cycle for 30 weeks in total to ensure 16 weeks of dieting. The total calories were the same for both groups of dieters.
Those in the cyclic diet group not only lost more weight but also gained less weight after the study was finished. The cyclic diet group maintained an average weight loss of 16 pounds more than the continuous diet group, six months after the end of the diet. The intermittent dieting group lost approximately 35 percent of their body fat. One of the other interesting findings was that the intermittent dieting group had less of a decrease in Resting Energy Expenditure compared to the continuous dieting group. The intermittent dieting group had a decrease in REE by 52 percent, whereas the continuous dieting group had a 67 percent decrease in REE after the intervention and the follow-up phase, respectively.
As you can see, the continuous dieter’s group regained 17 percent of the body fat they had lost. So much, in fact, that the previously significant difference to their baseline body fat levels was no longer significant at the 6-months follow-up. The subjects on the cyclic diet, on the other hand, maintained 100 percent of their body fat loss over the course of the 6-month follow-up. It seems that the ‘breaks’ from dieting we have used in this study may be critical to the success of this approach.
The study is a breakthrough for dieters because it suggests that staying on a diet continuously is not the best way to lose weight. Altering your calories seems to be a superior way of losing weight, in comparison to continuous dieting.
If you are dieting, be sure to enjoy Protein Rush when cutting carbs. If you’re becoming bored or feel indifferent when it comes to your dieting, feel free to follow any of our recipes that we have featured on our page to add some changes and protein-packed nutrients to your day!
N M Byrne, A Sainsbury, N A King, A P Hills, R E Wood. Intermittent energy restriction improves weight loss efficiency in obese men—The MATADOR study. International Journal of Obesity, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2017.206