A Brief Guide For Diet Periodization For Long Term Fat Loss: If you’ve been struggling with fat loss for awhile, assuming you don’t have any underlying medical conditions that’s keeping you from naturally losing weight, this might be your solution.
Health is more important now than ever before. People are looking up ways to stay in shape and healthy while they remain in quarantine.
Before this pandemic, many of us including myself, took our health for granted. Now we see people stepping up to the plate, gathering information and doing their best to apply it to their daily lives for better health.
We see stats that mention rigorous exercise is essential to battling disease. We also see that people who have conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, etc are all at higher risk of complications from Coronavirus, flu, etc.
With that being said, at this point in time it’s fertile ground for pushing information that will benefit people seeking reliable health and fitness guidance.
It’s this very reason why I decided to finally do a write up of the importance of “diet periodization.”
The fitness industry for the most part is superficial. The allure of six pack abs, low body fat all year round and the hype of supplements are too much to ignore.
Instagram is full of people who post booty and ab shots then include a link in their bio of their “guide to 6 pack abs in 30 days or less.”
Then we have the “personal trainers” that have individuals do copious amounts of cardio, quarter squats as well as consume cookie cutter “meal plans.”
Diet Periodization is one of those key components that remain a mystery.
These days it seems as thought trainers are getting use to the fact that counting calories by way of macronutrients are essential for reaching their clients weight loss goals.
They’re getting use to promoting the concept of calories in vs calories out(CICO). But the problem is that while many people who understand how CICO can be manipulated to lose weight, they’re still left in the dark when it comes to keeping the weight off.
It is this very reason why I choose to do a write up on diet periodization.
A Brief Review Of The Basics
Before we go into the nitty gritty of diet periodization, let’s rewind and address the basics of nutrition with regard to weight loss and weight gain.
When it comes to setting any goals with respect to our fitness goals, there is a hierarchy that needs to be considered.
The best way to visualize this hierarchy is by looking at Dr. Eric Helms Muscle and Strength Pyramid below.
Behavior & Lifestyle
The first thing we need to look at is the psychological fact involved which our whole fitness journey is predicated on. Needless to say, if you’re screwed up here, you’re bound to fail.
Behavior and lifestyle is going to have a huge impact on our ability to implement diet periodization because it takes a certain amount of discipline to begin and sustain the prescribed diet breaks at their maintenance levels via macronutrient breakdowns.
The psychological implications behind behavior and lifestyle also dictates our ability to effectively deploy will power against the menus that come our way at family cookouts and restaurants during bodybuilding prep(if you’re into that kind of stuff).
Another thing that isn’t talked about enough is sleep. We need adequate amounts of sleep or this whole pyramid is obsolete. Not getting enough sleep screws up our metabolism.
Next, our base, our foundation for all of our fitness goals is energy balance. This is the most fundamental quantitative aspect of this whole thing. If you’re not getting your energy balance or CICO, in order from jump street, you can forget the whole thing. Everyday will collapse under the weight of the above structures.
In other words, if you’re energy balance is not in order relative to your goals, you can forget your macronutrient breakdown, then you can forget your micronutrient requirements, nutrient timing and supplements.
I also want to quickly note that the further away from energy balance we move, the less important these aspects are.
For example, worrying about supplementation before energy balance is simply “putting the cart before the horse.”
Many of us in the early days of the fitness craze absolutely loved our supplements. We loved our protein powders, creatine and anything else that truly didn’t matter.
Next, we have our macronutrients. Once we’ve dialed in our caloric intake, we breakdown our intake via macronutrients. This is what will dictates our body composition.
What do I mean by body composition? Quite simply, I mean our muscle to fat ratio.
We care about our macronutrient breakdown because we want to achieve our goal physique at our preferred body mass index or more accurately, our fat free mass index.
Lets take a deeper look at why this is appealing to us.
A man who is 5’11” 200 pounds with a body fat percent of 13% is going to look different than a man who is 5’11” 200 pounds with a body fat percent of 21%.
This is a product of diet, exercise and macro nutrient profile or breakdown.
Many people ignore macronutrient breakdown while getting the caloric intake via CICO correct relative to their weight loos goals. This is how people end up looking like deflated balloons aka skinny fat when they aren’t focusing on setting up their macronutrient profile.
So, when cutting weight, it is advisable to have a higher protein intake than when on a “bulk” as you want to preserve muscle tissue. You’ll end up looking better and feeling better about yourself when you follow the proper protocols for dialing in macros.
I’m not going to get into any specifics here about each case. I’ve written extensively about them in the articles below:
And I specifically go into fat loss below:
Next up we have micronutrients. These are you water and fat soluble vitamins and minerals.
I won’t spend too much time here either because I’m not too crazy about them unless you are cutting weight.
When you’re cutting weight, you’re restricting calories, when you restrict calories you also restrict nutrients. This is where supplementation with multi vitamins comes in.
But if you’re on a “bulk” you don’t need to worry as much because if you’re getting 80% of your calories from nutritious whole foods, you’ll be good to go.
Next we have nutrient timing. Now if you had ask me if I believed in nutrient timing at all a few years ago, I would have told you that it’s all rubbish. I’m one of those people who don’t think that nutrient timing is all that important with the exception of protein powder intake.
I heard from “Thomas Delauer” that protein powder intake before training has some benefits.
Other than that, I’m not too crazy about it nutrient timing.
Consume your meals how you see fit(no pun intended) just so long as you’re hitting your macros. That is unless you’re prepping for a show. That’s another story and my articles aren’t for the aspiring competitive body builders.
I also want to add that when you’re cutting, it’s advisable to break your calories up into 3-5 meals per day. This way you’ll “trick” yourself into thinking you’re consuming more meals/calories than you really are.
Supplementation is at the tippy top of the pyramid. It is the least important aspect of nutrition.
If nutrition was a house, energy balance and macronutrients would be the foundation. Micronutrients would be the interior design, plumbing, electricity and the supplementation would be the paint of the exterior portion of the house.
The house is fine and serves its purpose without paint. You’re fine without supplements just so long as you’re getting your macros in.
When you’re cutting you might need a protein powder supplement to hit your protein requirements but that’s about it. And I wouldn’t even count protein as a supplement. It’s more like food in my eyes.
Supplements like creatine and caffeine are great for performance maintenance if you’ve just come off a long shift and need a boost.
All the other crap don’t waste your money on!
I want to cap this section off by further emphasizing the psychological aspect, behavior and lifestyle.
If you want all of these concepts to gel properly, you need to be finding ways to maximize your ADHERENCE.
Adherence is important because it is the very thing that will keep you on track. Your ability to adhere to your meal plans, macro breakdown, etc will directly influence your results and therefore your motivation.
People ask me about motivation all the time. But what they fail to realize is that motivation is easily self generated by STICKING TO THE PLAN.
There’s nothing more motivating than being consistent and seeing results. When you adhere, you stay consistent, when you stay consistent you see results, when you see results you get motivated and then you adhere some more; the cycle continues!
What Is Diet Periodization?
Now! Let’s talk about diet periodization, shall we?
As I mentioned before this is the key ingredient that dictates sustainable fat loss. It is also a mystery to the masses because it is not so obvious. It’s also counter intuitive in some areas.
The mystery is instigated by occurrences in lack of weight loss progress that seem like they shouldn’t be. They spawn questions such as:
“Why would we need to take a diet break when we haven’t reached our goal weight yet?”
“Why am I not losing weight when I’m not eating much?”
“Why am I gaining weight despite barely eating throughout the day?”
Diet periodization is the process of taking prescribed “diet breaks” during your cutting phase in order to offset metabolic adaptations and encourage sustained fat loss.
(There’s an ectomorph/hardgainer version of this that i’ll address later.)
I said a mouthful there. Let’s break the definition down. And we will do this by asking ourselves:
“Why do we need diet periodization?”
We need diet periodization for a few reasons:
- To offset metabolic adaptions—Metabolic adaptations(within the scope of caloric restriction) is the body’s way to keep you alive during times of perceived famine. When we restrict calories for an extended period of time, our body goes into starvation mode. The body slows down the metabolism, we then, by definition end up in a caloric surplus, then we end up gaining weight. The body does this by slowing down or eliminating certain functions that require energy in order to conserve energy. This in turn causes us to store that energy as far. For example, we see this with the former contestants on “The Biggest Loser.” On the show “The Biggest Loser,” the contestants restrict calories, sometimes in extreme, abrupt ways, for extended periods of time. They ended up losing the weight but after the show ended they would gain the weight back and then some! This is what happens when we restrict calories without diet periodization. When we take diet breaks, we re-assure our bodies that we aren’t starving. We are then able to continue sustained fat loss progress.
- To Avoid Diet Fatigue—Once again i emphasis the psychological aspect of dieting. When we restrict calories for long periods of time we have to be careful as to not succumb to diet fatigue. This is where our will Power depreciates the further into dieting we go. A great way to offset this is with a diet break of some sort. It doesn’t even have to be that long. It can be a short refeed which we will get into in the coming sections.
How To Implement Diet Periodization?
Now that we know what diet periodization is and why we use it, let’s talk about how to deploy diet periodization.
Once you’ve had your caloric intake via macro nutrient break down accounted for, as well as the other details of micro nutrients, supplementation, etc, you want to track your weight loss progress for the next 4-6 weeks.
If all is well, you’ll be steadily losing weight week after week. You’ll be keeping track of how many weeks go by until you hit the 4-6 week mark.
You can use your body fat percentage as a cue to set your rate of weight loss. So if you’re at a high body fat percentage, you can afford to cut weight at a quicker rate.
If your body fat percentage is getting on the low side, you should probably slow it down a bit and be a little more lenient with your rate of weight loss via caloric restriction.
Now it’s time to take a diet break for the next WEEK(5-7 days or so).
Taking a diet break is simple. All you have to do is consume at caloric maintenance. This means that if you choose to take a diet break at week 6 and you weigh 176 pounds and stand at 5’9”, you’ll be consuming 2,780 calories for the week of your diet break.
You’ll also be dialing back your cardio by about 50%.
The whole point being it will give your body as break. You’ll probably gain 1 or 2 pounds during this week but that’s ok. It’s all for the greater good.
You’ll be offsetting or avoiding any metabolic adaptations. In the coming weeks you’ll be able to successfully sustain fat loss.
You can also do smaller diet breaks called “refeeds” that last about 1-2 days. You eat at maintenance and reduce physical activity so that your body and your mind can recover from extend caloric restriction.
My personal preference is to diet for 4-6 weeks then take a break rather than do small refeeds because knowing me, I’d probably make a habit out of those refeed days.
Diet Periodization For Hardgainers?
Personally, I’ve taken diet breaks while bulking. I’m not sure if that’s a thing that people do within the fitness community as hardgainers but I did it for the express reason that I was tired of eating.
As a hardgainer, you have to be driving food constantly. If you don’t, you won’t grow. Simple as that.
When I was bulking up, I would take a week or so off from counting calories and just let my appetite do the work.
I didn’t really have to track my calories because my consumption was always at or just below maintenance, nothing that would zap my “gains.”
Alright so that’s pretty much it. Let’s recap.
“What is diet periodization?” Diet periodization is the process of taking prescribed “diet breaks” during your cutting phase in order to offset metabolic adaptations and encourage sustained fat loss.
“Why do we utilize diet periodization?” To avoid metabolic adaptations and to avoid diet fatigue.
“How long do diet breaks last?” You can take a 5-7 days diet break or a 1-2 day refeed at caloric maintenance.
That pretty much sums it up.
Remember the basics, first and foremost or none of this will have any context.
If you have been struggling with fat loss for awhile, assuming you don’t have any underlying medical conditions that’s keeping you from naturally losing weight, this might be your solution.
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