How Break Fat Loss Plateaus

How To Break Fat Loss Plateaus

When it comes to fat loss we have been lead to believe it is a straight line towards your ideal body. Just change how you eat, sleep and exercise to look like the cover model, right ?  

Changing how you eat,sleep and exercise will absolutely lead to initial fat loss, but adjustments will need to be made.

At some point fat loss will stall, and what worked previously will no longer work. At this point it is time to make changes, not abandon ship altogether. Fat loss is a zig zag for most, not a straight line.

In response to stalls in fat loss many people begin to feel frustration and desperation. When you feel this way it is easy to look at common advice to just diet harder and exercise more.

Because a moderate amount of something works well doesn’t mean that more is better, this can apply to exercise and caloric deficits as well.

 

Basics First

When it comes to reducing food intake the body is intelligent, and attempts to keep energy balanced. Less calories in means less calories out.

This translates into a slowing of the metabolism, and less fat being burned. Instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater and running to the next diet, we are going to tinker in the margins and make some smart modifications.

Here are some areas I have people get honest about where they are currently are:

  • Eating too few or too many calories  

  • Not getting adequate protein intake

  • The amount of stress in your life (sleep, calories and exercise can all be stressors)

  • The amount of sleep you are getting consistently (8-9 hours, black room)

  • Lifting heavy and sprinting a few times a week

  • Frustration with fat loss and scale obsession

  • Track your food intake for a few days and double check your numbers

  • Daily non training activity (walking,hiking, mobility, yoga)

  • Stress reduction practice

After looking the above areas over, and being honest about where you are at if there is one you are not currently doing work on that before adopting the habits later in the post. The above areas will need to be addressed before moving forward.

For those who have a check mark next to each area above I am going to give some basic recommendations on where to start to help you get back on the fat loss train.

I do not know what will work for you you individually so you will have to tinker and see what fits, and what doesn’t. I am here to offer the ideas and what has worked for my clients.

Do not try to adopt all these habits at once, that is going to be another added stress. Pick a few that seem like they fit and work on them until fat loss picks up again.

Zig Zag Calories:I know it seems counterintuitive to increase the calories, but when you have been in a caloric deficit for a long period of time the body adapts to burn fewer calories, because less are coming in.

Start increasing your calories by 100 the first week. Next Week bump up the calories by another 50-150 calories making sure that you're not gaining significant weight.

You should  begin to progressively lower calories again after 8-12  weeks of more calories, or if fat loss begins again.

Protein Priority: With the increased activity and training your need for protein will also increase. Most people do well in the one gram per pound of bodyweight.

A simple action step is to have 1-2 palm sized portions of protein at each meal. An added benefit is that protein is a high satiety food keeping you feeling fuller for longer.

Protein also requires more energy for the breakdown and absorption than fats and carbohydrates, this is known as the thermic effect.

Chew  Your Calories: Look at what you are putting in your coffee, alcoholic drinks per week or the green smoothie you are drinking three times a week.

Calories that we drink add up very quickly without us realizing it. This includes the green juices from health food stores, look at the calories, sugar and carbs it contain. When anyone is looking to reduce body fat or break a plateau I have them chew all their calories. Simple and easy!

Carbs post workout: I’m not talking about the doughnut and ice cream pints you see on instagram. A few potatoes, sweet potatoes, taro or a bowl of fruit post workout will help with recovery , but also by lowering cortisol you will be able to burn a little more body fat.

I would encourage someone to increase post workout carbs by 25-30 grams until you notice progress again. Everyone has a different tolerance to carbohydrates and a great guide to help is Mark’s Daily Apple carb curve.

Take A Deload Week: Instead of being completely inactive for this deload week I like to see folks walking 45-60 minutes a day or going for a few hikes.

Get outside, play and have fun! Dedicate 15-20 minutes to mobility and restoration. This would be a time to address any nagging injuries or mobility issues. Take the dog for an extra walk every day or decide you are finally going to learn slack lining.

Relax : Stress is a true killer of both building muscle and losing fat. Start by dedicating 5-10 minutes to some form of stress reduction. This could be a morning walk, yoga, or meditating.

There is a great guided meditation app for the iphone named Head Space that takes about 10 minutes and is perfect for beginners.

Make Sleep A Priority: 8-9 hours in a pitch black and mildly cold room. Guard it religiously and develop a routine around it. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep read my post on ways to improve your sleep.

Avoid Chronic Cardio: I’m not talking about a few short 20-30 minute recovery runs, but the folks who slog away on the treadmill for 60+ minutes in an attempt to burn more calories.

While you will burn calories you are also pumping out the stress hormone cortisol which causes fluid retention and inflammation.

This long distance running will also dramatically increase appetite, especially for those denser carbs that you burn running.

Sprints: Once you have returned from your deload week begin incorporating 1-2 sprint sessions per week. These are ideally done on the same day as a weight training session.

You can hit a track, hill, rower, exercise bike or prowler for these sprint sessions. They should be 30 seconds of all out max effort combined with active rest for about one minute. Start with 5-7 rounds of sprints per session and increase as you adapt.

Consider Intermittent Fasting: Intermittent fasting (IF) does not work well for everyone, however there many folks  that it seems to kick start their fat loss.

IF is purposely engaging in periods where no calories are consumed and eating your food within a certain time frame. It can be especially helpful for those who are stuck in a fat loss plateau.

There are a number of methods to choose from but most include not eating for a period of 16-24 hours. This time includes when you are asleep.

Typically people stop eating after dinner  around 8pm and go to sleep.When you wake instead of eating breakfast have coffee or tea and eat for the first meal of the day at lunch.

This would be the normal 16-18 hour fast. Other folks go a full 24 hours without eating, this could be a 2pm Tuesday to 2pm Wednesday fast that allows you to fast for 24 hours, but still eat every day

Closing Thoughts

The above tips are a great start for anyone who has a good start on fat loss but it has since hit a wall with fat loss.

Remember that the common idea that you are not working hard enough and need to restrict calories further and exercise more, not only doesn’t work but can wreck your metabolism as well.

By slowing down the metabolism it will make breaking your next fat loss plateau even more difficult.

Instead choose to tinker in the margins and make sure your body is nourished and healthy enough to begin losing fat again.

Once someone approaches their ideal body composition it will require a lot more work and exact science to hit certain marks.

Before you get too down on yourself for not being as lean as you want ask if you have been putting in the work to get there ?

If not, realize that fat loss is not always easy and like anything worth while take consistency and dedication. To achieve sustainable fat loss you need to adopt sustainable habits to get you there.  

Why Do We Need Protein ?


There is a lot of debate in the nutrition world about  the importance of carbohydrates and fats in the diet, people go to great extents to avoid both.

There is a general agreement by everyone that protein is necessary though. When it comes to losing fat and building muscle the general recommendation is  to eat more protein, and it is a generally helpful strategy.

How much should we be consuming daily is another question with a lot of different opinions and recommendations.

With this post I am going further than the typical “build muscle and burn fat” by upping your protein intake explanation.

The goal is to look into role that protein plays in a healthy diet and what we gain besides bigger muscles and flatter stomachs by consuming adequate amounts.

Protein: The Macronutrient Golden Boy

Before we start the nitty gritty of protein, lets lay down some background on what protein is and how it works in the body.

Protein along with fats and carbohydrates  are macronutrients meaning that they are needed by the body in larger amounts. I would also throw water in this category because it is truly essential to our bodies.

Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients meaning that they are needed in smaller quantities than the macronutrients. Both macronutrients and micronutrients are essential, but macronutrients are needed in larger amounts.

Protein is found in the largest concentration in many animal products such as beef, chicken, eggs and dairy. It can be found in much smaller concentrations in other foods such as vegetables, nuts/seeds and fruit.

All proteins are made up of twenty different amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.When we consume proteins they are broken down into amino acids and polypeptides.

When we break down these proteins to amino acids and polypeptides they are absorbed through the small intestine and enter the bloodstream to be transported and formed into new proteins and used around the body for various purposes.

Jobs Of Protein

These newly formed  proteins make up organs, nerves,  bones, muscles, nails, hair and flesh, but are also pivotal ingredients in enzymes, hemoglobin, hormones and antibodies as well.  

Enzymes: Protein molecules that are the managers and stimulus for all biochemical reactions in the body.

Hemoglobin: specially designed red blood cells that deliver oxygen around the body

Hormones: protein molecules that are messengers and coordinate our metabolism, and almost every function in our body.

Antibodies: proteins that are used in the immune system to help us fight infections and other diseases.

Now we know that protein is largely responsible for much more than just tissue regrowth and repair, lets look at what the building blocks of protein amino acids contribute to in the body.

Amino acids are responsible for neurotransmitters, hormones, muscles (your heart is a muscle ), digestion and transport of nutrients between cells.

Essential Vs. Non Essential

All proteins we consume  are a combination of twenty amino acids, think building blocks linked together. Of these twenty amino acids our body can  produce eleven of them on its own making them non essential.

The other nine amino acids the body can not produce and must be obtained from the diet, which makes them essential amino acids.

For muscle tissue, organ and bone repair to happen the nine essential amino acids have to be  provided from complete sources of protein in the diet.

Complete protein containing the ten essential amino acids is is mandatory for optimal health.We require a certain amount of protein and amino acids because they have so many important roles in the body.

Quality Over Quantity  

There are other factors to consider when consuming protein that go beyond how many grams you are consuming. When it comes to protein there are three criteria that help determine the quality of a protein.

  • Amino Acid Profile: Complete proteins are important because they contain all the essential amino acids that our body cannot manufacture. Incomplete proteins lack one or more of the essential amino acids. Without the presence of all the necessary amino acids, protein synthesis (cells generating new proteins) comes to a stop.

 

  • Bioavailability: The protein content doesn’t matter if you cannot properly digest and absorb proteins. Anti nutrients commonly found in grains, soy, legumes and brown rice  prevent you adequately breaking down and absorbing the protein by as much as fifty percent (Note: If you are willing to soak and sprout legumes some of the anti nutrient effect can be mitigated)

 

  • Toxicity: Some proteins are more likely to trigger an immune or allergic reaction. All true allergies are actually an immune response to a protein.

The foods that meet the above criteria and contain the largest concentration of complete proteins  are going to be from animal sources in the form of seafood, chicken, red meat , eggs and dairy for those who tolerate it.

Trying to Fill The Gap

There are other sources of protein that compare to animal products in terms of overall  grams, but when using the criteria above fall short.

Take for example grains and legumes, they seem to have a good amount of protein, yet they lack the complete amino acid profile and have poor bioavailability due to anti-nutrients that prevent digestion.

Combining foods such as rice and beans is a better option than separately consuming them, but they still fall short on the amino acid profile.

To get adequate protein from a rice and beans combination you will need to consume large amounts. The problem with this strategy is you will get more starch than protein causing blood sugar surges and fat storage in the long term.

Because of the indigestible fiber some folks with compromised digestion don’t tolerate large quantities of legumes in the diet.

I think variety is necessary, and both plant and animal proteins are important to health. We should strive to get protein from both animal and plant sources. 

Protein Recycling  

Not all the proteins in your body have come from what you've eaten today, or even this week. Because the body is such an efficient machine we have a built in protein recycling mechanism.

We use old proteins that aren’t in demand anymore to help build new proteins that the body has a demand for. Some of the amino acids that are in your muscles could have once been a digestive enzyme or a part of another muscle in the body that was recycled, such as the heart.

Your Context To Consider

This is where the plot only gets  thicker, there are too many considerations and factors that go into giving a blanket statement or recommendation of how much protein to consume.

Lets take a look at some of the considerations that should shape your protein consumption:

  • Goals: What you are trying to accomplish will shape your protein needs. If you are trying to recover from intense exercise and gain muscle mass your protein needs will be higher than someone who is obese and sedentary looking to lose weight.
     

  • Activity Levels: Someone who works in a manual labor job for eight hours a day or an elite athlete will have different protein needs than an office worker who spends all day sitting at a desk.
     

  • Genetics: We are all bio individuals with a unique fingerprint and genes. Our genetics  will determine how we metabolize and react to certain foods that we eat.
     

  • Health: The body has different needs in different physiological states. A pregnant woman woman compared to a person with  thyroid problems will both have different needs based on their health. Just like someone who already has kidney damage probably should not embark on a high protein diet, while an elite athlete might benefit from a high protein diet.
     

  • Climate/Season: During different seasons of the year we crave different foods. We also have different foods available based on the season and region  that you are living in.


The above factors need to be considered when thinking about the protein level that will be appropriate for you.That being said there are a few different ways to calculate the amount of protein you should aim to get daily.

Play With The Numbers  

There are no hard and fast recommendations that are accepted across the board by everyone. These ways of calculating protein intake do have wide margins and a number of factors to consider.

Chances are the best way for you to find your personal protein need is to play around with these numbers and see how you look, feel and perform with more or less protein in your diet.

  • The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) set by The Institute of Medicine says based on lean body mass and the number of calories you are eating protein should make up 10%-35% of your diet. This range does leave lots of room for variables, but no real way to determine where you fall on that range.
     

  • 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight or 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight per day.This is a good range for those that are sedentary or not interested in gaining muscle mass, and at no health risk of health issues threatening lean body mass.
     

  • Those who are highly active and looking to retain or build muscle mass  benefit from more protein in the diet . 0.9-1.3 gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day for these highly active individuals would be appropriate.
     

  • Elite athletes or bodybuilders can go even higher consuming 1.5 grams +  of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day to meet their needs for exercise and recovery.
     

  • Dieters or those looking to lose fat will need to be in a caloric deficit to accomplish this. Those  looking for fat loss would do better to consume more protein. The range appropriate for this is from 0.7 -1.0 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.

Protein is vitally important to our skin, nails, bones, hair, muscle mass, hormone production, neurotransmitters and overall health.

We are made up of over fifty thousand different proteins that contribute to our structure from head to toe, and everything in between. What is still up in the air is the recommendation of how much protein to consume.

Something to keep in mind is to not force consumption of protein. There are going to be days where you crave less protein because you need less, and days where you crave more.

We have built in mechanisms that regulate our craving for protein based on our needs. Let your cravings guide how much you will eat. Be smart about it and listen to your body.

I have yet to see a formula that accounts for the complexity of the human body and takes all the necessary factors into consideration.

The above recommendations are a good place to start, but not a strict recommendation. As always, experiment and  tweak how much protein you’re consuming based on whether you are reaching your goals or not.

If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health or fat loss goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained. I’ll be there every step of the way to support and keep you accountable.  

Get on a Strategy Call with me to Discover how to achieve your health or fat loss goals, and make them yours to keep this time around.

Whether you decide to work with me or not I can guarantee you will leave this call with more knowledge on how to achieve your goals.

 

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