I want to pull my hair everytime I overhear someone say that people reach a fat loss plateau because they are gaining muscle and muscle weighs more than fat. While this is true – this little known fact has been misconstrued over and over again because people want to believe that they are not losing weight because they are gaining muscle.
First, I’m a firm advocate of taking your body fat measurements as an added assessment of your progress besides your weight. You can read more about this topic in this post –>
“3 Reasons Why the BMI is obsolete”. In short, measuring your body fat gives you a more accurate idea of whether your losing or gaining fat and losing or gaining muscle mass.
So, what can you do when you reach a fat loss plateau?
It all goes down to your calorie deficit. Despite all the hype on fat loss, new fitness equipments, diet pills, fad diets, etc., fat loss only occurs when you are spending more calories than you are consuming – a very basic principle yet it is also very powerful.
Below, you will read about 2 simple guidelines that would be perfect for people who have been doing structured workouts and who have a good idea of their daily calorie intake. If you’re not one of those people, don’t despair. Read all the way to the end and I have a few suggestions for you as well.
#1 Increase Your Physical Activity
For people who have a structured exercise routine, increasing physical activity just might be the answer to create a deeper calorie deficit. For instance, I do my kettlebell training 3 times a week and perform some type of light activity on my light days. In order to burn more calories than I am eating without changing my calorie intake, I can add 2 additional days in which I can do high intensity intervals on the treadmill or at the local park. I can do these intervals either on my days off or at the end of my kettlebell training. Either way, adding the intervals would not likely impair me for my actual workouts but, in the end, I will be burning more calories than usual.
Besides burning more calories, increasing and adding a different type of physical activity will add variety to the stress that is place on your body. By doing this, you are sort of putting your body into “shock” and giving it a nice surprise to boost your metabolism. Every now and then, your body needs a different type of activity because it is an efficient system that can adapt to stress especially if that stress is exercise.
If you decide to add your extra activity on your off days, you will also take advantage of the effect called, “Excess Post Oxygen Consumption or EPOC.” Basically, after the stress caused by any form of physical activity, EPOC is the body’s response to bring your body back to where is was before the exercise – this stage is called “homeostasis” which means everything is on the “same, stable condition.” In order to do this, your body needs to use your body’s “stored energy” to restore your normal bodily functions which will increase your metabolism and, ultimately, the calories you burn.
#2 Reduce Your Food Portions
So, nothing has changed in your diet. You’ve been keeping it “clean.” How come you’re still not losing weight? I would suggest doing #1 first and see what happens. If after you’ve increased your physical activity and you reached a plateau again or your body fat measurements are still not moving then, it’s time to look at your nutrition.
At some point, even people who have developed a healthy eating lifestyle or whose nutrition does not deviate much from healthy eating (i.e. eat the right foods, know how many calories are in each meal, eat a balanced diet of protein, carbs, and fat etc.) will reach a fat loss plateau.
One reason why this happens is: they are no longer in a calorie deficit. Ok, let me explain by giving an example from my own experience. When I initially calculated by calorie deficit at 130 lbs, I was eating 1,690 (130 lbs x 13 – for simplicity purposes) calories per day. But, once I lost some weight and I’m down to 117 lbs, this calorie deficit requirement also goes down to 1,521 (117 lbs x 13) calories per day. So, if I kept eating as if I was still 130 lbs, my calorie deficit obviously gets smaller to the point that I’m eating closer to maintenance.
So, if this sounds like your situation, it might be time to calculate your calorie deficit again. You can do that by going –> here.
If you’re not the calorie counting type, you can simply reduce your food portions. For example, if you’re used to eating 1 cup of brown rice, reduce it to 1/2 a cup. If you eat a small snack at night, it might be good to take that out for a little bit. These are simple ways to cut your calories without being too obsessive compulsive with calorie counting.
#3 Start a workout and nutrition log
This is the tip for those who don’t follow structured workouts or don’t have a good idea of their calorie intake. There’s really no easy way to put this – you’ve got to find a structured workout and at least have an idea about the calorie contents in food. These logs are a way for you to track your progress or drawbacks because if you have a record of what you did, you will be able to tweak certain parts of it in order to generate change (then, do #1 and #2).
Finding structured workouts is not difficult these days. Besides Turbulence Training, there are many web sites out there that give away free workouts that are effective for fat loss. So, there’s really no excuse to scratch your head at the gym anymore because you’re wondering which exercise to do next (been there, done that, never going back).
As far as nutrition goes, Sparkpeople.com is a great place to find healthy recipes, count your calories, and keep a log of your nutrition. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you to count calories all the time (I don’t like to do it either) but it is the only way to develop a keen sense of the calorie contents in foods. Once you’re familiar with this, you won’t have to do it at all if you don’t want to.
Fat loss is not easy but it can be simple. There is a learning curve in this journey but if you educate yourself and follow the right advice, you will be ahead of the game and you will save yourself a lot of headache and frustrations in the long run. I always say that the “hard way” is usually not the easiest way but its probably the shortest, most effective way to getting results.