Weight cycling

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Yo-yo cycle

Weight cycling, also known as yo-yo dieting, is the repeated loss and gain of weight, resembling the up-down motion of a yo-yo. The purpose of the temporary weight loss the yo-yo diet delivers is to lure the dieting into the illusion of success, but due to the nature of the diet, they are impossible to sustain, therefore the dieter gives up, often due to hunger or discomfort, and gains the weight back. The dieter then seeks to lose the regained weight, and the cycle begins again. Other individuals cycle weight deliberately in service of bodybuilding or athletic goals. Weight cycling contributes to increased risk of later obesity, due to repeated signals being sent to the body signalling that it's in starvation mode; therefore it learns to be better and better at storing fat, and increases the strain on vital organs, likely promoting cardiometabolic disease.[1][2][3]



The reasons for yo-yo dieting are varied but often include embarking upon a hypocaloric diet too extreme to maintain. At first the dieter may experience elation at the thought of weight loss and pride in their self-control for resisting certain foods, e.g. junk food, desserts, and sweets. Over time, however, the limits imposed by such extreme diets cause effects such as depression or fatigue that make the diet impossible to sustain. Ultimately, the dieter reverts to their old eating habits, now with the added emotional effects of failing to lose weight by the restrictive diet. Such an emotional state leads many people to eating more than they would have before dieting, especially the 'forbidden' foods e.g. junk food, desserts, and sweets, causing them to rapidly regain weight.[4]


In some sports where an athlete's weight is important, such as those that use weight classes or aesthetics, it is common for athletes to engage in weight cycling.[1] Weight cycling is common among competitive combat sports athletes,[5] including minors.[6] In bodybuilding and strength sports, weight cycling is often used as a way to take advantage of the increased ability to gain muscle while in a caloric surplus [7] by cyclically going through periods of intentional weight gain, followed by a period of weight loss to prevent excessive body fat accumulation.


The process of regaining weight and especially body fat is further promoted by the high metabolic plasticity of skeletal muscle. The Summermatter cycle[8] explains how skeletal muscle persistently reduces energy expenditure during dieting. In addition, food restriction increases physical activity which further supports body weight loss initially. Such weight regain in the form of preferential catch-up-fat is well documented after weight loss due to malnutrition, cancer, septic shock or AIDS and thus constitutes a general phenomenon related to weight loss.[8]

Health effects[edit]

Weight cycling certainly has negative health effects from repeated strain on the body, confusing the metabolism, and stress on vital organs.[1]

A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis found that "Body-weight fluctuation was associated with higher mortality due to all causes and CVD and a higher morbidity of CVD and hypertension."[9]

A 2019 review found that self-reported weight cycling was correlated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer.[10] Weight cycling is also correlated with kidney cancer, independently of whether the person is overweight.[11]

A 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis found that "weight cycling was a strong independent predictor of new-onset diabetes".[12]

Weight cycling is also associated with poorer mental health.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Miles‐Chan, Jennifer L.; Isacco, Laurie (2021). "Weight cycling practices in sport: A risk factor for later obesity?". Obesity Reviews. 22 (S2): e13188. doi:10.1111/obr.13188. PMID 33372395. S2CID 229715170.
  2. ^ Montani, Jean-Pierre; Schutz, Yves; Dulloo, Abdul G. (2015). "Dieting and weight cycling as risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases: who is really at risk?: Weight cycling and cardiometabolic risks". Obesity Reviews. 16: 7–18. doi:10.1111/obr.12251. PMID 25614199. S2CID 30821753.
  3. ^ Mehta, Tapan; Smith, Daniel L.; Muhammad, Josh; Casazza, Krista (2014). "Impact of weight cycling on risk of morbidity and mortality: Weight cycling and mortality risk". Obesity Reviews. 15 (11): 870–881. doi:10.1111/obr.12222. PMC 4205264. PMID 25263568.
  4. ^ Amigo, I.; Fernandez, C. (2007). "Effects of diets and their role in weight control". Psychology, Health & Medicine. 12 (3): 312–327. doi:10.1080/13548500600621545. PMID 17510902. S2CID 19290926.
  5. ^ Matthews, Joseph J.; Stanhope, Edward N.; Godwin, Mark S.; Holmes, Matthew E.J.; Artioli, Guilherme G. (2019). "The Magnitude of Rapid Weight Loss and Rapid Weight Gain in Combat Sport Athletes Preparing for Competition: A Systematic Review" (PDF). International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 29 (4): 441–452. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.2018-0165. PMID 30299200. S2CID 52943060.
  6. ^ Lakicevic, Nemanja; Matthews, Joseph J.; Artioli, Guilherme G.; Paoli, Antonio; Roklicer, Roberto; Trivic, Tatjana; Bianco, Antonino; Drid, Patrik (2022). "Patterns of weight cycling in youth Olympic combat sports: a systematic review". Journal of Eating Disorders. 10 (1): 75. doi:10.1186/s40337-022-00595-w. PMC 9131524. PMID 35614520. S2CID 249049707.
  7. ^ Aragorn, Alan A.; Schoenfeld, Brad. (2020). "Magnitude and Composition of the Energy Surplus for Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: Implications for Bodybuilding and Physique Athletes". Strength and Conditioning Journal. 42 (5): 79–86. doi:10.1519/SSC.0000000000000539. S2CID 213376888.
  8. ^ a b Summermatter, Serge; C. Handschin (November 2012). "PGC-1α and exercise in the control of body weight". International Journal of Obesity. 36 (11): 1428–1435. doi:10.1038/ijo.2012.12. PMID 22290535.
  9. ^ Zou, Huajie; Yin, Ping; Liu, Liegang; Liu, Wenhua; Zhang, Zeqing; Yang, Yan; Li, Wenjun; Zong, Qunchuan; Yu, Xuefeng (2019). "Body-Weight Fluctuation Was Associated With Increased Risk for Cardiovascular Disease, All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis". Frontiers in Endocrinology. 10: 728. doi:10.3389/fendo.2019.00728. PMC 6856014. PMID 31787929.
  10. ^ Zhang, Xiaochen; Rhoades, Jennifer; Caan, Bette J; Cohn, David E; Salani, Ritu; Noria, Sabrena; Suarez, Adrian A; Paskett, Electra D; Felix, Ashley S (2019). "Intentional weight loss, weight cycling, and endometrial cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis". International Journal of Gynecologic Cancer. 29 (9): 1361–1371. doi:10.1136/ijgc-2019-000728. PMC 6832748. PMID 31451560.
  11. ^ Lee, Dong Hoon; Keum, NaNa; Rezende, Leandro F. M.; Tabung, Fred K.; Hong, SungEun; Giovannucci, Edward L. (2021). "Association between weight cycling and risk of kidney cancer: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis of observational studies". Cancer Causes & Control. 32 (9): 1029–1038. doi:10.1007/s10552-021-01455-9. PMID 34089471. S2CID 235346460.
  12. ^ Zou, Huajie; Yin, Ping; Liu, Liegang; Duan, Wu; Li, Pu; Yang, Yan; Li, Wenjun; Zong, Qunchuan; Yu, Xuefeng (2021). "Association between weight cycling and risk of developing diabetes in adults: A systematic review and meta‐analysis". Journal of Diabetes Investigation. 12 (4): 625–632. doi:10.1111/jdi.13380. PMC 8015818. PMID 32745374. S2CID 225509897.
  13. ^ Hankey, Catherine (2022). "Weight Loss Maintenance and Weight Cycling". Clinical Obesity in Adults and Children (1 ed.). Wiley. pp. 306–313. ISBN 978-1-119-69527-1.