Understanding The Effects Of Dieting
Very few people achieve long-term weight loss success. In fact, there’s a chance you will regain the weight loss from your last diet…
If you are reading this you can probably relate.
While you may blame yourself, it’s not entirely your fault.
You see, there are powerful hormonal and metabolic alterations witnessed during a diet which will make it almost impossible to lose weight and KEEP IT OFF! If you aren’t using calorie cycling, carb cycling and strategic refeeds your chances of long-term weight loss success are slim.
In short, your body will do everything in its power to maintain your current weight … after all, your body is a survival machine.
In this article I’m going to break down this massive (but relatively unknown issue) known as metabolic adaptations. Best of all, I’m going to give you my advanced research proven strategies that are 10 years ahead of the weight loss industry! Here we go…
Dieting will generally elicit fat loss. Simple enough. However, when we disrupt homeostasis - the body’s method of keeping internal stability – we bring about both positive and negative effects.
This is simply how the body works. Push one pathway long enough, the body fights back. This is why it’s crucial to NOT be consistently dieting.
Yes, we need to spend time under-eating to generate fat loss. But when we spend an extended amount of time dieting our body reacts, and adverse effects happen.
Long-term weight loss success
Firstly, let’s take a look at the positive effects of dieting:
Improved fat oxidation – When dieting our body will oxidise stored body fat as energy.
Improved insulin/leptin sensitivity – Insulin and leptin are our two key hormones that regulate food intake and energy balance. A diet resulting in lowered body fat levels leads to improved insulin and leptin sensitivity, which is what we want. The leaner the individual, the more optimal our sensitivity levels.
Decreased inflammation – Body fat is an endocrine organ which secretes its own hormones. This includes leptin, aromatase and cytokines. Cytokines are pro-inflammatory hormones, and the more body fat we have the more they’re secreted. When we drop body fat, we have less cytokine expression which equals less inflammation.
We want to maximise the positive effects of dieting. However, it’s also important to recognise the negative effects in order to get the best results.
These negative effects include:
Sub-optimal nitrogen balance – Nitrogen balance is the relationship between muscle protein synthesis (anabolism) and muscle protein breakdown (catabolism). In periods of overfeeding we successfully favour muscle protein synthesis, which is why eating more calories (surplus) can enhance our ability to put on muscle mass. However, when dieting, this changes to muscle protein breakdown. This results in higher rates of muscle loss.
Decreased metabolic rate – The longer we diet, the more our ‘calories/energy out’ component of energy balance is compromised. This is due to metabolic rate dropping, which primarily comes from thyroid levels decreasing. The thyroid is the key regulator of our metabolic rate, and is generally down regulated by low calories, low carbohydrates and stress.
Increased hunger cravings – Leptin is our key hormone which regulates satiety. Leptin has an inverse relationship with our hunger hormone ghrelin. If leptin lowers, this allows for ghrelin levels to rise and drive up hunger. Low satiety and high hunger levels are not our friend when trying to drop body fat levels.
Decreased libido – When dieting, our androgens drop. Androgens are our sex hormones. Sex drive is the least of our body’s concerns when trying to preserve energy. When testosterone lowers, this allows for estrogen to rise. Not a great place for a male looking to optimise their body composition.
As you can see, there are a number of negative effects that come from dieting. What we need to do is manage how long we spend in a diet phase. We want to maximise the positive effects, whilst minimising the negatives.
So, how do we do this? I like to use a combination of diet breaks and various cyclical nutritional strategies. This slows down the adverse effects of under-eating. Here are a few simple strategies:
Diet breaks -This is when we increase our calories and place them at our calculated baseline. Baseline is where our body does not gain or lose weight. This is what we call our ‘maintenance’ calories. A diet break involves driving up carbohydrates and should last anywhere from 3- 14 days, with the goal of restoring the negative metabolic adaptations of dieting. This helps raise our leptin and thyroid levels, which then directly raises metabolic rate. This is crucial for aiding the ‘calories out’ component of energy balance.
Not always dieting – Negative metabolic effects begin to rise dramatically around the 4–6 weeks mark for leaner individuals. For people with higher body fat levels, the negative effects can hold off up to 8–12 weeks. This is why for leaner individuals my approach is never always dieting. I consistently bring my clients out of a dieting phase over the course of their training.
Carb Cycling – A cyclical nutritional system which I use with more advanced clients who are prone to negative metabolic adaptations. It involves 10 days dieting, followed by 3 days of driving up calories to baseline – primarily through increased carbohydrates. The 10 days are centred around fat loss, whilst the 3 days are focused on restoring hormones. The 3-day diet breaks ensure leptin, thyroid and metabolic rate stay elevated. 3 days is the minimum amount of time required to restore. A 1-day ‘refeed’ will spike leptin and thyroid levels initially, but those hormones will drop fast. 3 days will ensure these stay at a high level for a period of time.
This is why cyclical nutritional strategies and planned diet breaks work so well. It allows us to slow down the fat loss process temporarily, which enables a greater rate of fat loss for the days we are dieting.
For every positive effect we create, we bring about a negative effect. The real key is having the ability to make the most of the positives, whilst doing everything we can to minimise the negative effects.
After all, weight loss and a healthy lifestyle change MUST be sustainable and enjoyable.
The 30 Day Challenge I’ve created to help as many people as possible achieve long-term success, all I ask is that you give it your best, follow the guide in the group and share the results with me.
If someone else could benefit, please share this with them.