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How to run a Successful Maintenance Diet

During the bright, eventful summer months especially, it’s an ideal time to consider transitioning to a weight maintenance diet mindset for several reasons.

We’ll discuss these reasons, what exactly we mean by a ‘weight maintenance diet mindset’, and the details of pursuing a maintenance diet, in this blog.

Firstly, what is a maintenance diet?

Well if you don’t know much about maintenance diets — don’t worry, you’re not alone. 

Maintenance is often overlooked because it’s not as glamourous as losing fat, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an essential part of your fitness journey. If you are constantly aiming to eat in a calorie deficit to lose fat, you’ll find yourself feeling burnt out, plateauing, or even worse…regaining the fat you’ve worked hard to lose.

The good news? Running a maintenance stage between fat loss stages will give your body a chance to reset both mentally and physically. This means shaking off the fatigue that comes with more restrictive eating, and making sure you can maintain your progress and then drop body fat efficiently on a subsequent deficit stage (if you have more to lose). 

What is a post-diet maintenance stage? 

A maintenance stage is a period of maintaining your weight. Maintenance should happen right after dieting, and should last as long as needed until fatigue has reduced.

During this period, you will gradually increase your calorie intake up to a healthy baseline (somewhere around your pre-deficit intake). If you are finished losing weight, you will then maintain that healthy baseline indefinitely.

What are the main benefits of maintenance?

• Helps you maintain your weight loss—no more yo-yo dieting! 
• Increases appetite-suppressing hormones, thyroid hormone production, and metabolism. Which will not only make you feel better overall, but will help prevent weight loss plateaus. 
• Reduces appetite-stimulating hormones and psychological stress from dieting. 
• Helps your muscle and connective tissue recover from hard training. 
• Reduces an unhealthy relationship with food and compulsive eating tendencies

How do I run a successful maintenance diet? 

First off, a good maintenance starts with reasonable weight loss choices.

Weight loss diets should last 6-12 weeks (longer for those more experienced or have more body fat to lose). Keeping diets in this range decreases the chance of compulsive behavior around food and rebound weight gain.

Losing around 0.5-1.0% of your body weight per week is also your best bet for sustainable losses. This means losing ~1-2 lb per week if you weigh 200 lb, ~0.8-1.5 lb per week if you weigh 150 lb, and so on. 

Now a Few Important Points to Consider…

Ease into calorie increases: We know it can be tempting to start eating everything and anything, especially after a long weight loss stage, but you will want to take caution here. You are most prone to regaining weight just after ending a deficit stage.

Slow increases give your body time to recover from the side-effects of eating in a deficit so that you can handle more calories without regain.

Instead of going ‘all in’, start slowly adding food back. Depending on the size of the deficit, you can add about 200-500 calories to your daily intake every 2-4 weeks. You should do this until your calorie intake is close to what you were consuming before you started your fat loss diet.

Slowly reintroduce tastier food options: Tasty foods tend to make us crave more tasty foods – and since we’re more prone to overeating right after a weight loss diet, this can become a slippery slope.

If you reintroduce your favorite foods (like pizza, chips, cookies, etc.) slowly after about 2-4 weeks of maintenance, you will avoid slipping into compulsive eating behaviors or intense cravings.

Focus on eating more high-volume, low-calorie foods at the start of your maintenance phase (e.g. veggies, fruits, high fibre options). This helps deal with the hunger that lingers after a fat-loss diet. Add tastier, more calorically dense foods in moderation as your more intense hunger subsides.

Avoid the ‘all or nothing’ mentality: You do not have to eat every single treat you’ve been craving the moment your diet ends, and you shouldn’t!  

Do not rush the maintenance period: To help you keep your results and healthy eating habits, we advise you to run maintenance for at least the same duration (or a minimum of 1/3) of the previous deficit stage.

This means that after a 12-week deficit stage, you need at least four weeks of maintenance. 

Remember that having some food freedom in maintenance is essential to a balanced life and a full recovery from your weight loss diet.

Learn to enjoy the freedom of less restrictive eating and appreciate that this will support weight maintenance and further weight loss if desired, should you wish to pursue it down the line.