In part 1 of this series, we discussed a number of mechanisms by which metabolic adaptation occurs during weight loss and how this sets an individual up for body fat overshooting.
However, all hope is not lost. There are a number of potential ways to combat metabolic adaptation during dieting and also minimize re-gain during the post-diet period. Very little research has been done on these techniques; however, this article will provide discussion from application that requires further scientific study.
Can metabolic adaptation be minimized?
As coaches and competitors we use a number of methods in an attempt to minimize metabolic adaptation while dieting:
- Refeeds – A day where calorie intake is raised closer to maintenance (typically through carbohydrate). There is not strong evidence this has a large effect on metabolic rate and weight loss; however, it may help improve acute workout performance and provide a mental break.
- Small Caloric Adjustments – Plateaus are a normal part of the weight loss process. When they occur a decrease in caloric intake and/or increase in activity is needed to keep the individual in an energy deficit and losing weight. However, oftentimes only a small caloric adjustment is necessary to re-start weight loss. This also leaves the individual more room to work with metabolically if/when a future plateau occurs.
- Diet Breaks – A period of 1-3 weeks where caloric intake is increased to around maintenance. This provides a mental break and helps to normalize hormone levels and metabolic rate so that an individual can continue loss once they drop back into a caloric deficit.
- Mini-Reverse Diet – This is a process similar to a diet break; however, the period is extended to 1-2 months at which time an individual works food up similar to a reverse diet (described below).
- Others – Approaches such as carbohydrate cycling where a different caloric intake is consumed each day of the week, stacking multiple refeed days back to back with a longer period of time between refeeds, cheat meals/days, and a number of other approaches are commonly utilized. To date, the efficacy of these approaches (and approaches to minimize metabolic adaptation in general) have not been determined and much more research is needed on these techniques.
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