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Fitness & Health

01st May 2018

Just three days of dieting per week is enough to get ripped, research finds

Alex Roberts

Dropping calories for just 3 days a week is enough to lose weight while sustaining performance, according to a new study.

Shredding stubborn body fat is generally a matter of calories in versus calories out. If you consume more calories than you burn off, you will gain weight – and on the flip side, consuming fewer calories than burned off will lead to weight loss.

Sticking to a diet is the tricky part, however, and losing motivation can put a spanner in the works of any hard-earned progress.

While this simple science is generally accepted, constantly cutting back on calories can slow your metabolism and leave you stuck in a rut. For instance, hormones such as leptin and ghrelin are depleted by prolonged energy restriction.

This has caused an issue in fitness: the importance of calorie restriction is clear, but long cutbacks can slow your progress – so what should you do?

Thankfully, a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition has the answers, and outlines how to structure a successful diet. The key is intermittent restriction (not to be confused with intermittent fasting). It turns out that as little as three days’ dieting each week is enough to blast away belly fat, while maintaining physical performance levels.

Instead of constantly cutting back on your food intake, researchers recommend splitting up your week in the following way:

  • Four days of maintenance calories (the figure needed to maintain current weight)
    Example: Monday/Wednesday/Friday/Sunday
  • Three alternate days of 33% fewer calories (which takes you into a slight deficit)
    Example: Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday

Conducted by a team of Spanish scientists, this study had participants follow the above plan for 6 weeks. Not only did they lose a significant amount of body fat, but performance levels also increased. This method of eating is also more sustainable – and the easier a diet is to adhere to, the more likely it is to succeed.