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Cheat days might be the key to diet success, study claims

Pass the pepperoni

Olivia Petter
Wednesday 20 September 2017 16:12 BST
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Taking “breaks” in your diet regime might help you lose more weight in the long run, a new study from the University of Tasmania has found.

By embracing “cheat days” or taking a more lenient approach to dieting at the weekend, you could give yourself the psychological motivation to continue with your stricter regime the rest of the time.

That’s not to say that there aren’t physical benefits too.

Lead author Nuala Byrne suggests that partaking in diet resting periods helps to combat adaptive thermogenesis, which previous studies have proven “creates the ideal situation for weight regain” after dieters have lost initial weight.

This process is largely prompted by the body’s deprivation of the hormone leptin, a satiety hormone which helps to regulate our energy levels when we’re hungry.

It is invariably low for those on restrictive diet regimes and puts the body into starvation mode, whereby the metabolism slows and it holds onto more calories than normal as a survival method.

The Australian researchers concluded that dieters should attempt to rebalance their caloric requirements once they’ve slimmed down in order to sustain their weight loss and prevent adaptive thermogenesis from having a strong effect on them.

They suggested partaking in two week long periods of dieting and “breaking” to manage this balance.

The theory was carried out on 51 obese males, who were split into two groups: continuous dieters and intermittent dieters.

The continuous group were given food that surmounted to two-thirds of the calories they needed in order to maintain their weight, which was adjusted as weight loss occurred over a 16 week period.

The intermittent group underwent the same caloric deprivation (two thirds) but in two week intervals with “rest weeks” in-between where participants would consume more calories. This continued for 30 weeks so both groups endured the same 16 week period of dieting in total.

The intermittent dieters lost more weight and body fat than the continuous dieters.

What’s more, their weight loss was sustained, with an average of 18 pounds more weight shaved off than the continuous group six months later.

"It seems that the 'breaks' from dieting we have used in this study may be critical to the success of this approach,” said Byrne.

"While further investigations are needed around this intermittent dieting approach, findings from this study provide preliminary support for the model as a superior alternative to continuous dieting for weight loss," she explained.

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