When it comes to fat loss, rarely is there a case when there doesnt need to be any adjustments made along the way.
For some this comes sooner than it does for others, and you may also see this come more often than it does for others.
I wrote a blog HERE going over how to make adjustments during a fat loss phase.
However, sometimes there aren’t any adjustments that need to be made and instead, you just need to take a break from trying to diet for fat loss for a period of time.
How come you can’t just diet for fat loss forever?
When you restrict your energy intake for long periods of time your body adapts to this amount of activity and the amount of food you are eating.
Essentially it finds ways to conserve energy to keep you alive (it doesnt know you are trying to lean out).
Many people will label this as a “damaged” metabolism. But it’s just adapted to what you are currently doing.
Read HERE about metabolic adaptation.
The key word is CURRENTLY. Once you start to increase your calorie intake again this adaptation goes away and then your body will adapt to having more energy around.
People get themselves into trouble when they diet for fat loss for extended periods of time.
This is why I am a big fan of periodizing nutrition goals for clients.
Read HERE about nutrition periodization.
When online clients are in a fat loss phase we are paying attention to not only their results (progress pics, bodyweight, measurements) but we are also paying close attention to their biofeedback.
Biofeedback would be things like stress, hunger, cravings, energy, mood, etc.
These are important measures that a lot of people dont pay attention to when going through a fat loss phase. They just focus on things like body weight, and this can get you into trouble.
In this blog, I want to go over how you can tell if it’s time to take a break from fat loss dieting.
This podcast HERE also dives into this.
Now let’s dive into some reasons why it may be time for you to take a break from fat loss dieting.
➡️How long they have been dieting?
If you have been dieting for more than 12-16 weeks at one time, it’s probably time to transition out of fat loss dieting temporarily.
As I mentioned earlier, your body will adapt to what you are currently doing to it.
So if you have gone low calorie and have been doing a ton of cardio and not seeing the results you want, then chances are it’s just a sign that your body needs a break from fat loss dieting, as it has adapted to that amount of energy coming and activity level.
There is nothing wrong with you.
This actually is a survival mechanism that helped us thousands of years ago when food was scarce, not so helpful now.
The longer you have been dieting and the steeper the deficit the more likely this is to happen to you.
This is why at the beginning of a fat loss phase we will have an end date in mind, you get yourself into trouble when you dont have an end date (or atleast a general timeframe).
➡️Extreme hunger levels
Hunger is going to be a part of the process, however, if it’s just so extreme you are having trouble sticking to your fat loss diet/the current calorie amount you need to lose fat, it may be time to take a break.
Hunger is going to make sticking to your calorie amount challenging, if it’s so bad that you can’t control it, you, unfortunately, are just going to have to take a break from fat loss dieting so you can start to bring more energy into the body (more calories).
In this blog HERE I dive into how hunger and cravings increase the longer you diet and the larger the calorie defect is.
➡️Fixation on food
If all you can think about is tasty foods and how you want to eat, it’s probably time to take a break from dieting for fat loss for a bit.
Fixating on food just sucks and it makes sticking to the current calorie amount needed for fat loss nearly impossible.
It really comes down to an adherence thing, if you are hungry and fixated on food, the current calorie amount needed to lose weight really becomes impossible to hit consistently.
Again this is just your body doing its thing that it was evolved to do. But it doesnt know that there is literally tasty food everywhere you look.
This is where our environment really makes losing fat challenging.
➡️Low energy levels
If you are feeling like you don’t want to do anything and just feel lethargic all of the time then you need to take a break.
I mean who wants to feel like crap all day long? Not fun and no way to live.
Since you dont have as much energy coming in, your body will downregulate energy elsewhere to conserve energy, again it’s a survival mechanism.
This is also your body telling you, “hey im not getting much energy, so other than essential tasks, we are going to cool it on doing stuff”.
Thousands of years ago this was a sign that food was scarce, not today.
Now, this doesnt mean the second that you feel low energy you should stop dieting for fat loss.
There is going to have to be a push from you, but if it starts to happen day after day and your quality of life is suffering, then it’s time to think about taking a break for a bit.
This is why I am a big fan of tracking steps for clients during fat loss phases, because your body will naturally lower its energy elsewhere and one area where it really compensates is your subconscious movement AKA your NEAT. Read HERE about the importance of NEAT.
By tracking steps this will help you negate some of that compensation.
➡️Poor training performance
If your training feels awful more times than not and you feel weak, it’s time to take a break from dieting.
Training plays a big role in improving your body, if this is suboptimal we can assume you won’t see optimal progress.
A lot of people underestimate the importance of training performance.
When you diet for fat loss, this will go down, so dont panic the second you feel this, but if this persists for a long time or it really suffers then it’s time to take a break.
➡️Low sex drive
If your sex life has tanked, it’s probably time to take a break from dieting. Do I need to say more here?
This probably happens because it’s a sign that you dont have enough energy coming in for reproduction.
Your body is like “ok there is no way we can make a child in this situation”.
This goes for both men and women.
The good news is that once you start eating more again you will see this come back.
I can speak to this personally, when I was dieting for prep and for my photoshoot my libido really went downhill towards the end of prep.
With this, how lean you are matters, and how large the energy deficit is.
With the little amount of energy you are bringing in, your body is going to focus on more dire bodily processes.
Reproduction is important, but there is always more time to do that.
If you arent around you cant reproduce so your body is going to prioritize keeping you around.
One more thing on this, I recently read “Burn” by Herman Ponzter and he brings up the point that as humans we live much longer than most other species so this gives us more time to reproduce, so in times of low energy intake our brain prioritizes those more essential processes over reproduction.
Whereas in species that have a short time to live (there for a shorter time to reproduce) this gets more priority during times of low energy availability.
If this is happening, you probably should take a break from dieting for fat loss. Clearly, your body is telling you aren’t in a good place, is pushing yourself to maybe get abs worth this?
This goes back to our last section, but for females, this is really your body telling you that you aren’t in a safe place to carry a baby.
You barely have enough energy for yourself, how can you possibly bring another human into this situation.
If you are trying to have a baby that probably isn’t the best time for a fat loss diet.
Poor sleep is going to make adherence very challenging.
Sleep is probably the most important thing you do each day, poor sleep will wreak havoc on pretty much everything in your life.
Read this blog HERE as I go over how a poor night of sleep can affect your body composition goals and what to do about them.
If you are at a plateau and you are noticing a few of these things then you probably don’t need to make any adjustments, you just need to take a break from dieting for fat loss.
A maintenance phase is what you need.
This is a period of time where we increase your calories to get rid of some of the nasty diet fatigue/adaptations that comes with dieting for fat loss. This is why with our online clients we work in phases for nutrition.
This way we work WITH your body instead of against it.
If you think you need a maintenance phase or have more questions on what a maintenance phase is, send me a message, id love to chat and help.
This podcast HERE also dives into this.
Lastly, if you want more guidance and structure to your nutrition or nutrition phases, fill out the link HERE for 1:1 online coaching and how I can help you.