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When it comes to nutrition periodization for fat loss, the most important thing is overcoming the increased metabolic efficiency which occurs in response to prolonged caloric restriction.
Increased metabolic efficiency means that the body becomes more efficient at conserving energy, so your previous caloric intake and activity level is no longer yielding the same level of fat loss. Over time, it is not uncommon for weight loss to slow down to a complete craw.
This is where we need to take measures to increase our activity level, reduce our calories further, or both.
However, if you try to increase your activity level too much or reduce your calories too drastically, you will likely experience the onset of metabolic adaptations much sooner, and you are more likely to rebound.
As a result, you want to use a more sensible periodized approach to reducing you caloric intake and/or increasing your activity level.
Here are 5 of our top tips to help with nutrition periodization for losing fat.
Starting with a smaller deficit of around 15-20% of your predicted maintenance gives you more wiggle room to drop calories further when you hit a plateau. If you start with a very large deficit right away, you may lose weight faster in the beginning but then you will hit a wall faster. Once you hit a plateau you have nowhere left to go. You also risk greater lean tissue loss by using a more aggressive deficit.
Tracking your daily steps allows you to monitor your spontaneous physical activity, which typically drops off substantially with prolonged dieting. This way you can maintain or even increase you daily steps count as you get further into your diet. We typically like starting out clients on 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day and titrating up every couple of weeks. That is because as you lose weight, you will burn less energy for same number of steps.
Biofeedback markers such as your energy level, hunger, cravings, and libido are good indicators if you are staring to crash, which suggests that you might need to reduce your deficit or consider taking a diet break. However, if you plateau with weigh loss but your biofeedback markers are in check, then it is safe to increase activity level or reduce calories further.
HVR is a measure of your heart rate variability which you can track with smart wearable devices such as an Apple watch or an Oura ring. Heart rate variability refers to the difference in time intervals between heart beats. HRV is a good indicator of the amount of stress your system is under which can be used to adjust your training load. A low heart rate variability generally indicates that the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system is dominant, which can indicate that your body is under stress. HRV tracking can be particularly useful when used in conjunction with monitoring your biofeedback markers.
The final tip for effective nutrition periodization is periodic 1-2 week diet breaks, when incorporated every 3-6 weeks, may help improve weight loss efficiency by mitigating negative metabolic adaptations. Increased weight loss efficiency means that you can lose more weight for the time that you spend in a deficit. However, it is worth noting that because you are also spending time out of the deficit when incorporating diet breaks, the overall weight loss may be slower. The main benefit though, is that you can end your diet on a higher caloric intake, since you generally don’t need to drop calories as aggressively, which means that you are less likely to rebound in weight.