But there are ways to effectively mitigate how much fatigue that you build up, and this is exactly what diet periodization is designed to do.
I’ve long been at the belief that you should make your journey towards a lean and muscular physique as easy and enjoyable as possible. In fact, as cliché at it might sound, getting the physique should add value to your life and not the other way around.
And in order to get the physique without giving up on living a normal life in the process, you must make sure that both mental and physical diet fatigue are reduced as much as possible, so that you’re not putting your nose to the grindstone just to return back to your previous body fat percentage once you’re done.
The first thing you should do is to set up your calorie deficit based on your body fat percentage. I discussed how to do this completely in this post.
Again, here’s the calculator you can use to estimate your body fat percentage.
Step 2 – Recount your calorie deficit to fit your low days and maintenance days.
Okay, so example time:
Let’s say that Tom starts at ~18 body fat and are eating at a calorie intake that will have him lose 0.7 kg of fat per week. Based on Tom’s body weight and daily activity this intake would be 2350 calories per day.
You can find out how to set up your calorie intake here.
Now, since Tom will start with 1 refeed day, he needs to figure out how many calories he should eat on his 6 low days and 1 maintenance day.
He does this by first counting his daily calorie intake into his weekly calorie intake:
2350 x 7 = 16464 calories per week.
Next he needs to subtract his weekly total with 1 maintenance day (refeed). Tom’s maintenance are 3050 calories:
16464 – 3050 = 13414 calories
Finally, he divides these remaining calories with his remaining 6 days:
13414 / 6 = 2235 calories
Tom should eat 2235 calories on his low days and 3050 calories on his maintenance day.
This way he will still lose 0.7 kg of fat per week, while getting the psychological benefits of having 1 refeed day per week.
Step 3 – As you get leaner reduce your calorie deficit simply by taking one more refeed day accordingly to your “new” body fat percentage.
Okay, so after 4 weeks, Tom reaches 15 % body fat. If he were to continue losing 0.7 kg of fat per week, he would be at a much higher risk of getting high levels of diet fatigue, caused by losing body weight to fast at a lower body fat percentage. Tom needs to reduce his calorie deficit.
Now, instead of reducing his calorie deficit by eating less on all of his days, Tom’s smart and wants the positive benefits on metabolism, glycogen replenishment and hormonal balance. Tom gets all of this simply by adding another refeed day at maintenance next to his already existing refeed.
As you might have realized is that Tom just reduced his calorie deficit, while he also simultaneously reversed a lot of the negative physical effects caused by the diet, all while he get 2 whole days in a row to enjoy more food, awesome right? All Tom have to do now is repeat this process each time he’s getting into a new “body fat percent bracket”.
This is the power of diet periodization through refeeds. In fact, it’s the most powerful strategy of all.
Because it will reduce your calorie deficit slowly over time until you’re at a point where you’re close to maintenance calories while also being lean at the same time, which means that staying lean will be very easy once you get there.
Okay, so refeeds was the first part of diet periodization that’ll make fat loss easier, let’s look at the second part, which is diet breaks:
Why You Should Use Diet Breaks
Diet breaks are, as opposed to refeeds, when you take longer time off from dieting, typically one week or more.
The concept of diet breaks isn’t that important for people going from a fat or “normal” body fat percentage (15-20%+) to a lean body fat percentage (10-12%)
No, it’s more important for bodybuilders and physique athletes that go far below their natural set-point, which would be below 7-8% body fat.
With that said though, diet breaks can still be useful in some situations for people “just” looking to reach 10 % body fat as well. If you for some reason trains a lot, do tons of cardio, or if you have a stressful lifestyle, then diet breaks will likely be beneficial for you, and here’s why:
As I’ve mentioned a lot in this post so far, if you want to avoid diet fatigue you must make sure that you’re recovering throughout your fat loss phase. And if you’re training a lot, doing tons of cardio, or are very stressed daily, then you will put a lot of additional external stress on your body that further increases your recovery needs.
So, what might eventually happen, even if you have the strategic refeed system outlined above in place, is that you’re no longer able to recover anyway.
When this happen, you might start to feel tired and lethargic which both consciously and subconsciously reduces your daily activity, and you end up with a slowed down TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). This is what people refer to when they say “crashed metabolism”.
What typically ends up happen when someone reaches a “crashed metabolism” is that they retain a lot of water from the stress caused by not being recovered. Which makes the scale stand still, or even increase, while they also look worse in the mirror as well, all from increased water retention under the skin.
Furthermore, some people loses their sleep quality and quantity, because the increased stress they experience.
Now, if any of these things would happen to you, DON’T reduce calories further!
Reducing calories even further because you feel bad, your scale weight is stuck or because you’re retaining water, is like adding gasoline to the fire.
What you should do is take at least one week of diet break. I know that this sounds contradictory to the goal, but I’ve actually seen people start to lose fat again while they’re in the diet break eating at maintenance calories.
This happens simply because they’re now able to recover, they get enough energy in to support their lifestyle and training again. Then as they come back to the calorie deficit after the break, they lose weight at the correct speed, feeling recovered and are in a great mood ready to crush it again.
Using diet periodization is an extremely powerful way to set up your fat loss phase to easier achieve a ripped physique.
Slowing down your fat loss as you’re getting leaner with the help of structured refeeds is extremely helpful.
And having diet breaks ready as a back up if you’re finding yourself unable to recover, works perfectly as a safety net to always bounce you back into fat loss mode if needed.
Diet periodization is an advanced strategy that works very well. Now, in order to take full advantage of it you first need to learn how to set up your diet correctly. My complete dieting guide covers this in depth, make sure you read it by pressing the button bellow: