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Athlete Diet Breaks

Diet breaks can be a good thing.

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Pasta from an athlete diet

If you have any athletic-minded clients who are following a rigid athlete diet, you can tell them that letting off the gas for a short time may do their bodies and minds some good.

An investigation published in PLOS ONE looked at male and female resistance-trained athletes who had completed 3 months of intermittent energy restriction. When they took a 1-week “diet break” that involved increasing calorie intake (mainly from carbohydrates) to “weight maintenance” levels, they experienced an increase in fat-free mass (muscle) and resting energy expenditure.

There was also a measurable increase in leg muscular endurance, where the quadriceps and hamstrings performed better following the diet break on a maximum-effort 25-repetition weight test.

Also worth noting is that participants reported lower sensations of hunger, less irritability and increased mental alertness and satisfaction after “cheating” on their typically restrictive athlete diet.

See also: Carbs for Athletes

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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