It’s been reported that approximately one third of people who lose weight on a diet will regain more weight than they originally lost.

Therefore, it’s been highlighted that we don’t necessarily have a weight loss problem; we have a weight maintenance problem.

In the overweight and obese, this is largely down to the obesogenic environment, eating habits, activity levels etc.

Healthy weight individuals such as athletes also restrict calories in attempt to drop body fat in order to maximise their leanness and power to weight ratio.

This however can come at a cost. I.e. dieting can make the lean fatter in the long run.

Generally speaking, the leaner you become, the more at risk you are at regaining body fat…here’s the rationale outlined by Jacquet et al, 2020:

1) When lean individuals diet, they are at risk of losing muscle mass alongside fat mass.

2) The leaner they become, the greater their desire to eat. This is known as hyperphagia.

3) Hyperphagia is driven by the depletion of fat mass and muscle mass. i.e. starvation.

4) Therefore, this strong desire to eat is an attempt to recover lost muscle mass and fat mass stores.

5) Interestingly, body fat is restored more quickly than muscle mass.

6) Since hyperphagia is also driven by muscle mass depletion (loss), the increased desire to eat persists after the complete recovery of fat stores until 100% of muscle mass is also restored.

7) During this time, body fat continues to accumulate. This term is known as body fat overshooting.

8) Since there’s a desynchronization between fat mass recovery and muscle mass recovery, it’s suggested that body fat overshooting is a prerequisite that enables full muscle mass recovery and is driven by hyperphagia. This is also known as collateral fattening.
Okay, so that’s pretty deep! However, there’s a silver lining to this (I think).

This concept of body fat overshooting was mainly derived from semi-starvation based studies where the calorie deficits were huge, they weren’t weight training and didn’t have adequate protein in their diet. I.e. they created the perfect storm for muscle mass loss and subsequently collateral fattening.

Therefore, a simplistic solution is to ensure that muscle mass retention strategies are in full effect. If healthy weight athletes need to get leaner, they may be able to offset this process from happening.

By all means, hyperhpagia will still occur when body fat percentage is low, but it will at least be more manageable IF muscle mass loss is kept to a minimal.

Finally, ATHLETES DO NOT HAVE TO BE SHREDDED – PLEASE DO NOT THINK THAT YOU HAVE TO BE.

Athletes can however take their performance to the next level when their body composition (muscle mass and fat mass) supports their sport and playing position – This is different for everyone.

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