How Long Should Your Client Be in a Dieting Phase?

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Written by Master Coach, Jade Mckee

How long should your client be in a dieting phase?Well, that depends! There are so many factors that go into answering this question. It is also a question that will require a very INDIVIDUALIZED response- depending on your particular client, their nutrition and training history, their metabolic type, their goals, their current body composition, etc.

Do they have a goal to compete?
Are they working in a hypertrophy phase, but need to do a mini-cut to reduce their body fat?
Do they have 30+kg of excess body fat to lose?What is their CURRENT body composition?
Are you after RAPID fat loss, or a steady, more maintainable rate of loss?
The list goes on…

So, how do you decide? Let’s go over a few examples!

If your client is working to gain muscle in a caloric surplus, but their body fat is creeping up a little bit too high:
You might want to do a quick, in and out mini-cut. This will be an aggressive cut between 3-6 weeks in length. A higher caloric deficit will be implemented for rapid weight loss – with the aim to reduce body fat levels to a more acceptable level, before continuing back into a surplus again.

If your client is a competitor:
The length of their dieting phase may depend on their current body composition, the division they plan to compete in, and also on their genetics. Your client may spend anywhere from 6 weeks to 20 weeks in a deficit, slowly chiselling away at their physique for the stage.

If your client has come to you for a transformation:
Whether it be a wedding, a photoshoot, or another special event, 12 weeks will get them an amazing transformation.

If your client is overweight or obese:
This is when you might need a more extended time line. You may need to work with them over 6 months, or even a year! What you NEED to keep in mind is, periodization of your client’s nutrition program when in a fat loss phase is crucial!

When you are working with a client in a deficit you DO NOT want to linearly progress fat loss continuously for more than 6-8 weeks. Doing so can put your client at a risk of severe negative adaptation occurring with their metabolism, such as:

  • Reduction in Basal Metabolic Rate
  • Reduction in NEAT (Non-Activity Adaptive Thermogenesis)
  • Loss of Lean Body Mass
  • Hormone disregulation

To mitigate the negative adaptations, diet breaks and refeeds WILL need to be incorporated at regular intervals throughout the dieting phase. These can be planned, but may need to be adjusted on an individualized basis. As every client will respond differently to being in a caloric deficit, you will need to continuously monitor their biofeedback, and make adjustments as necessary.

You will therefore need to account for this extra time in the dieting phase, as the longer your client spends OUT of a deficit, the longer it will take them to reach their goals.

Want to learn how to specifically prescribe diet plans for fat loss, when to refeed, when to diet break and the science behind it all?
Sign up for Dr Layne Norton’s Ultimate Physique Bundle! This incredible bundle includes the Science of Nutrition & Training the Physique Athlete online courses! Enrol now!

Baker, P. & Norton, L. (2019) Fat Loss Forever. Biolayne.Dr Layne Norton – Training the Physique Athlete (2020) Clean Health Fitness Institute Fundamentals of Program Design (2020) Clean Health Fitness Institute Performance Nutrition Coaching Level 1 (2020) Clean Health Fitness Institute

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