What To Know About Part-Time Diets

Alternating your eating patterns on a weekly or bi-weekly basis could make a positive difference with weight management.

To lose weight, you have to burn off more calories than you take in. You can do this, in part, by making certain eating pattern changes. One potential eating pattern to consider is taking a break from dieting every few weeks, known as a part-time diet or intermittent energy restriction (IER).

Remember to consult with a dietitian before changing how and what you eat. They can offer guidance on safely and effectively managing healthy eating patterns.

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Benefits of Part-Time Diets

Research is limited on part-time dieting, which can sometimes be referred to as intermittent dieting or intermittent energy restriction. However, this type of diet has shown some promise when it comes to health aspects like weight management.

Can Help With Weight Loss

One study found that participants with obesity who dieted continuously for 16 weeks lost less weight overall—20 pounds versus 31—than those whose diets followed a two-weeks-on/two-weeks-off cycle for 30 weeks. The continuous dieters also lost less body fat than those in the intermittent group.

The intermittent dieters also kept more of their weight off for the long term, specifically six months after their diets had ended. The on-and-off group had maintained the most total weight loss since the start of the study—about 24 pounds versus only about seven.

May Be Beneficial for Appetite and Satiety

Researchers completed another study on resistant-trained athletes of all genders. The athletes had engaged in IER for 12 weeks and were given a one-week diet break. During the break, the athletes were allowed to eat more carbohydrates.

After the diet break, participants said they were less hungry and reported lower levels of how much they perceived they could consume. At the same time, the athletes indicated feeling fuller and more satisfied following the break.

The study also found the athletes gained additional benefits, such as:

Potential Downsides

Though there are some positives about part-time dieting, possible downsides exist.

Everyone Might Not Benefit

More studies would be necessary to determine the effectiveness of part-time diets on a large, more generalized scale. Many studies on part-time diets have been small, including less than 40 participants, and the groups studied have been limited to certain populations.

They May Not Give Better Results Than Continuous Diets

Some articles have pointed out that IER or intermittent fasting diets—programs that alternate no-holds-barred eating with several days of very little or no food—don’t seem to work better than continuous, steady dieting.

Your Diet-Break Appetite Could Affect Your Progress

Taking a break from dieting could lead to an abnormally large appetite and overeating. Ghrelin, a hunger hormone that helps regulate appetite, can increase to the level it was before any calorie restriction. As a result, a person may want to eat more because the body feels less satisfied.

That's why calorie counting can be important during non-diet weeks. For example, in the International Journal of Obesity study, participants didn't just eat whatever they wanted; they ate only what they needed to maintain a stable weight.

A Quick Review

Part-time dieting alternates between periods of calorie restriction and non-restriction that last for one to two weeks at a time. This type of dieting can be beneficial in helping you lose weight or improve your appetite. However, the diet has possible downsides, as some of the results have been limited to certain individuals. Still, if you want to try a part-time diet, consult a dietitian to determine if it's a good option for you.

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4 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Byrne NM, Sainsbury A, King NA, Hills AP, Wood RE. Intermittent energy restriction improves weight loss efficiency in obese men: the MATADOR studyInt J Obes. 2018;42(2):129-138. doi:10.1038/ijo.2017.206

  2. Peos JJ, Helms ER, Fournier PA, Krieger J, Sainsbury A. A 1-week diet break improves muscle endurance during an intermittent dieting regime in adult athletes: A pre-specified secondary analysis of the ICECAP trial. Harnish C, ed. PLoS ONE. 2021;16(2):e0247292. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0247292

  3. Harris L, McGarty A, Hutchison L, Ells L, Hankey C. Short-term intermittent energy restriction interventions for weight management: a systematic review and meta-analysisObesity Reviews. 2018;19(1):1-13. doi:10.1111/obr.12593

  4. Tacad DKM, Tovar AP, Richardson CE, et al. Satiety associated with calorie restriction and time-restricted feeding: peripheral hormonesAdvances in Nutrition. 2022;13(3):792-820. doi:10.1093/advances/nmac014

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