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Better weight loss results with intermittent low-calorie diet

It's easier to lose weight if you do it in steps. Go on a diet for two weeks, then eat as many kilocalories as your body burns for the next two weeks, and then go back to dieting for two weeks - and so on. Australian nutritionists at the University of Tasmania have published the results of a study in the International Journal of Obesity. Intermittent calorie reduction results in more fat loss without muscle mass being affected.

The researchers divided fifty obese men into two groups. Both groups were put on a low-calorie diet, which provided about two-thirds of the energy that the men burned.

Half of the men were placed in the control group [CON]. They dieted for 16 consecutive weeks.

The other half were put in the experimental group [Intermittent group; INT]. They dieted in steps, or intermittently, which meant they followed a low-calorie diet for two weeks, then ate exactly the amount of calories they burned. They repeated this cycle eight times.

The men were given their food by the researchers, so that the amounts they got were measured down to the last gram.

The men in the intermittent group lost fifty percent more weight than the men in the control group.

Better weight loss results with intermittent low-calorie diet

Better weight loss results with intermittent low-calorie diet

The extra kilograms that the intermittent group lost were all body fat.

Once the experiment stopped both groups put on some weight, but the control group gained twice as much fat as the intermittent group.

Intermittent dieting resulted in less reduction in energy burning [the resting energy expenditure] than regular dieting. The researchers were unable to work out exactly why this was the case.

Better weight loss results with intermittent low-calorie diet

"Intermittent energy restriction, delivered as alternating 2-week blocks of energy restriction and energy balance, resulted in greater weight loss (fat loss) without greater loss of fat free mass, attenuation of the reduction in resting energy expenditure, and superior weight loss retention after 6 months, compared with an equivalent 'dose' of continuous energy restriction," the researchers summarised.

"While adaptive reductions in resting energy expenditure were attenuated using this 2:2 intermittent energy restriction approach, it is possible that greater weight loss in the intermittent group may also be due to reduced compensation in other energetic functions such as the thermic effect of food and activity energy expenditure."

"Additionally, there is the need to investigate the effectiveness of this dietary approach when individuals are not provided meals in a tightly controlled metabolic study."

"Therefore, while additional work is needed to further investigate the mechanistic bases for this novel intermittent approach, these findings provide preliminary support for the model as a superior alternative to continuous energy restriction."

Int J Obes (Lond). 2017 Aug 17. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2017.206. [Epub ahead of print].

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