By Level 3 Personal Trainer: Sean O’Shea
When fat loss is your goal, one of the most important phases that NEVER gets any airtime (but it should) is the MAINTENANCE PHASE!
We’re forever talking about the most exciting, advanced, fastest or effective fat loss methods. Whether it’s nutrition or training, knowing what to do to lose the weight the fastest is definitely the sexiest topic is in the fat loss realm.
No matter what the approach, one big missing piece of the puzzle is what you plan to do once it’s all over.
Here’s a REALLY sad statistic:
Nearly 60% of successful dieters will regain the weight they lost (and some) once they finish their diet.
Personally, I think that’s even generous! Even those that don’t gain it back completely, gain a large portion of that back. I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider that successful!
Why would anyone go to the trouble and effort of losing fat and reaching their goals, with the intention to just re-gain it back straight after!
Now, personally, I believe a large reason for weight re-gain is due to the approach people choose to lose the weight to begin with (i.e. crash dieting, massive nutritional overhauls they may not be ready for, etc.). But for the sake of this article let’s assume that you’ve chosen the right approach. One that encourages a balance of the foods you love, with large healthy contributions from whole, nutrient dense sources.
One strategy we like to utilise at Performance PT, is the use of the Maintenance Phase. Maintenance phases (or diet breaks) are focused periods of training and nutrition where your aim is to essentially stay the same.
Crazy right? Why would you go to the effort of monitoring your food and training, just to stay the same?
Hear me out for a second…
After a several months of dieting, you can expect each of the following to some degree:
- Your metabolism will be slower
- You’ll be hungry (really hungry for some)!
- You’re going to crave super tasty foods!
- You might find it hard to get motivated to train
You may LOOK like a lean, mean machine, but you’re prime for fat storage!
At the end of a successful phase of fat loss, look to implement several months at ‘maintenance’. A dedicated period of time in which you look to eat enough calories to maintain your body weight. Not continue to lose or gain, but to fuel your body with the required energy to maintain itself, and function properly. This will not only help to negate some of the above effects, but when done correctly, should allow your body to recognise the LEAN YOU, and the NEW YOU!
GUIDELINES FOR MAINTENANCE:
- Gradually increase calories while monitoring your body composition/weight. If you’re still losing weight, eat some more food.
- Keep this process kicking along for 1-3 months post fat loss diet, then move onto your next goal (e.g. grow some muscle, lose some more fat, or simply maintain the new you!)
- Expect weight fluctuations! When first bringing food back in, expect to see the scales bump up a little. THIS IS ALL GOOD! Between the extra stored carbohydrates, water and other nutrients, weight will fluctuate! If you’re doing everything right, it will come back down again. Ride it out and enjoy the extra food.
- Don’t let the scales be your measure of self-confidence and self-worth. It’s a number! Use it objectively and intelligently.
- As always, look for large amounts of healthy, whole food sources, but don’t deprive yourself. Enjoy the balance of the foods you love, with the foods that encourage optimal health.
If you enjoy this topic, I’d recommend checking out Renaissance Woman: Fat loss, muscle growth and performance through scientific eating. One of the best resources available on the topic. The writers Dr Jennifer Case, Dr. Melissa David and Dr. Mike Israetel cover much of what I’ve spoken about at length in this brilliant resource.