Make or Break; How Long Should Your Fat Loss Phase Last?*

Monday, 10 April 2017, By Alex Campbell

"9 weeks", you say to yourself.

"If I lose one kilogram a week for 9 weeks, that'll put me almost halfway towards my long-term goal; dropping 20kg."

Some quick math ensues.

"That's basically two months for 9, let's call it 10kg. Times two, I should be at my goal weight in four months! Awesome!"

 

I love you, and I support you 100%, but I want you to take a step back for a second. That timeline means you have to lose 1kg each week, like clockwork. Which means you must be on point with your diet and training, 100% of the time, no days off, for 4 months straight.

 

Is it do-able? Yes.

Is it hard? Also yes, most definitely!

 

Whilst we may like to think of ourselves as possessing an iron will, four months (or any decent span of time needed to accomplish a big goal) is a long time, with plenty of opportunities for 'Life' to happen while you're staying 100% to your diet and training. That's not to say it can't be done, but it will be difficult. By God, I know I struggle with keeping 100% committed for that amount of time!

 

"So what are you suggesting, I give up? That sounds suspiciously 'anti-personal trainer', if I say so myself."

 

Not at all! What I am suggesting though, is a 'Diet Break'.

 

"A Diet Break? Go on…"

 

A Diet Break is a programmed period, strategically inserted into your plan towards your long-term goal, that is focussed on maintaining your weight (and therefore your energy balance, a.k.a. 'calories in VS. calories out') to give you a mental break from pushing your body towards fat loss, as well as help boost your metabolism. The overall goal is to allow you to have long term adherence when you are actively following macronutrients, without sacrificing the results you've achieved thus far, ensuring steady progress towards your long-term goal. Also keep in mind we're using the term "Diet" mindfully, as ultimately we want your habit changes to be life long, but these initial phases often feel like a diet as they require a fair few habits to be rewired as well as significant and focused attention to detail.

"I think I can embrace this idea of a Diet Break. How would it work? Can I stop following my plan whenever I feel like it and eat whatever? Please say yes."

 

Unfortunately not (though I'm sure you already knew that!). A Diet Break typically works best after achieving a short-term goal (for example if you lose that 9kg in 9 weeks we spoke of earlier!). Once you've hit that stepping stone towards your long-term goal, you would take 1-2 weeks (it can be longer but isn't advised, as it's easy to lose momentum, and thus motivation, with an extended break) off your plan, slightly decrease some of your exercise (not all!) and give yourself some time to reset before continuing on towards your long-term goal.

 

With your nutrition:

  • Find what amount of food you can maintain your weight at and revert to eating that amount, rather than eating what allows you to lose weight. At Vision, we can determine how much food this is by choosing a 'Maintenance' program in your Goal Session with your Trainer!
  • If you instead eat the amount of food that allows you to lose weight and choose to maintain your weight by drinking alcohol, this will give you the extra calories but will not fill you up, and can easily lead to you gaining excess fat during your Diet Break, which we don't want. You have been warned!
  • Your metabolism adapts to what you throw at it. If you eat less to lose weight, it'll eventually adapt to that and reach a 'set point' where that is the new maintenance. Thus, adding in a Diet Break for 1-2 weeks helps to reduce that adaptation, allowing you to stay one step ahead of your metabolism to hit your goals.

With your training:

  • As a rule of thumb, reduce your cardio amount by one quarter/one third of what you are currently doing. If you're doing three hours of cardio a week, do two instead.
  • Maintain your weight training sessions, both in frequency and intensity. We want to preserve your lean body mass during this period.
  • Keep in mind all of this detail can be accurately prescribed in a Goals Session with your trainer, so no need to leave it up to guess work and chance!

"That sounds good to me. Four months sounds like a long time, plus I've got so many events coming up…"

 

Diet Breaks can also be used around social events, to allow you to prioritise what you'd like some leeway with while working towards your goal. As much fun as 'energy in, energy out' can be, keeping balance is vital to enjoying life and not becoming a soulless, weight losing robot (speaking from experience).

 

If you feel you're becoming overly attached to the number on the scales, this may be hard. It requires faith in the process, and going into it with the knowledge that your scale weight won't go down for that period of time.

Long term though, it can be the key to your success. Give it a shot.

*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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