What is the most common complaint among dieticians everywhere?
Simple: do not lose weight.
They feel like they are doing everything right and following all the rules, but the scales blink every morning with the same sinister, mocking number.
You have probably experienced this yourself.
In fact, you can rely on it.
Fortunately, human metabolism is incredibly complex, but breaking through weight and fat loss plateaus is not.
Basically, you have to widen the gap between energy in and energy out, but there is art and science to do it right.
If you screw it up, you can run into all kinds of problems, including hunger and cravings, lethargy, and muscle wasting. Even worse, you run the risk of regaining all of the weight you've lost.
However, if you do it correctly, the needle will move again quickly and painlessly.
And you will learn that in this article.
Let's start at number one.
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What is a weight loss plateau?
You have reached a real weight loss plateau if you haven't lost weight in at least two weeks. This confirms that you are no longer losing fat.
For example, if I'm aiming for 0.5 to 1 pound of fat loss per week, changing the scale after a week of diet is not necessarily a cause for concern – I could have lost that pound of fat but accidentally kept a little water, or maybe mine was Bowel movements are not as regular for a few days.
However, no change in body weight after two weeks of diet tells me that I am probably stuck and that fat loss has either slowed down or stopped completely.
Many people do not know that this is completely normal when cutting. Weight loss plateaus can also be expected if you know what you are doing.
It doesn't matter how long you've been on a diet, how carefully you're tracking your calories, or how consistent you're exercising – almost everyone gets stuck at least once or twice during their cuts.
The more fat you lose and become leaner, the more likely you are to hit a plateau.
For example, dieting and weightlifting alone can't get you below 9-10% body fat – I need to add a few cardio sessions to my regimen to get leaner. Then the next plateau for me is 8%. If I want to go deeper, I have to increase my cardio to 4 days a week.
I also need to consistently reduce my calorie intake throughout the process.
Everyone I've trained and helped in other ways has experienced the same phenomenon, but the details vary.
I know some rare men who can get less than 10% body fat without cardio (and women who can get below 20%), but most people can't break through these barriers without a very strict diet and regular cardio routine.
Summary: A weight loss plateau is when you have not lost weight for at least two weeks. The more fat you lose and become leaner, the more likely you are to hit a plateau.
How to break through a weight loss plateau
* cracks ankle *
Now for the fun part.
The first step in breaking through a weight loss plateau is to make sure that you accurately measure and record the calories you eat and drink.
In this article you will learn how:
How to correctly count calories for effortless weight loss
You also need to make sure that you don't "cheat" your diet too much. For more information, see this article:
Are You Making These 5 Cheat Meal Mistakes?
If you're new to the diet, you're probably just stuck because you're wrong in counting your calories or cheating too much. If you fix these errors, you can lose weight again.
However, if it isn't, it's time to do one of two things:
- ISS less
- Move more
Many people choose number 1 straight away because it is "easier" to eat less than exercise, but I do not recommend any further calorie restriction as a standard choice.
Instead, I recommend getting the most out of your workout first as this will allow you to speed up your fat loss during the process fend off the negative side effects associated with a diet.
In short, I would rather you exercise more before you eat less, as this will produce better results in the long run.
There is no clear scientific answer to how much exercise you can do during a diet before it becomes unhealthy and counterproductive, but it is more than many people think.
I've worked and talked to thousands of people, and I've learned the following:
You can do 4 to 5 hours of weight lifting and 1.5 to 2 hours of cardio a week (HIIT or otherwise) to maximize fat loss and minimize unwanted side effects.
I therefore recommend that you work as an upper limit on cutting before further reducing your calories.
What happens if you exceed these numbers and exercise even more?
The body of some people is particularly resilient and tolerates more exercise, but in my experience, many do not. If you go much further, you're more likely to struggle with hunger and cravings, poor sleep quality, low energy levels, and bad mood.
What should you do now if you exercise as much as possible and don't lose weight?
Well, this usually happens for one of two reasons:
1. Fat loss is obscured by fluctuations in water weight or bowel movements.
The water retention can vary greatly when cutting. Sometimes you can walk two or even three weeks without losing weight and suddenly lose several pounds overnight by frequent urination (bodybuilders with the "whoosh effect" are often talked about).
This night "flush" often occurs after a "fraudulent meal" or a diet break, as an increase in calories (and especially carbohydrates) can significantly lower cortisol levels, which in turn reduces water retention.
Stool retention can also play a trick on you, obscuring both weight and fat loss by increasing body weight and bloating.
For this reason, it is wise to wait two or three weeks before reducing your calories when you have reached your training limit and your weight or fat loss has stalled.
The best way to deal with the unpredictability of water retention is to weigh yourself naked every day in the morning and then average the results every two weeks.
Although short-term peaks in water, carbohydrates, or sodium can make it appear that you are not losing fat daily or even weekly, if you don't lose weight every two weeks on average, you need to adjust your diet or exercise plan.
2. Fat loss has slowed to creep due to the natural metabolic changes that occur when cutting.
Over time, what started as a 20 or 25 percent calorie deficit can go back to a much smaller one that no longer leads to significant fat loss.
This article will tell you more about why this happens and how to deal with it:
"Metabolic Damage" and "Starvation Mode", debunked by science
Assuming you are not facing the first scenario (water retention or irregular bowel movements), the only way to lose weight is to eat less.
However, the key is to do this gradually and not drastically.
In particular, you should reduce your daily caloric intake by 100 calories every 14 days by reducing your carbohydrate intake (don't reduce your protein or fat). In most cases, this is enough to drain the fat without serious side effects.
How long you can go on doing this (and how low you can lower your calorie intake) depends on your body. A good rule of thumb, however, is to stop calorie reduction when you have reached about 90 percent of your basal metabolic rate (BMR). .
And then don't stay there for more than a few weeks before you finish the cut.
What should you do if you have been slightly below your BMR for a few weeks but still have not reached the desired body fat percentage?
Return your calories to your approximate total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) for four to six weeks to give your body a break from the diet, and then start cutting again.
And to be very clear: During this "reverse diet" period you not only want to see no further weight loss, but also a slight weight gain due to the increased water and glycogen retention.
Summary: To break through weight loss plateaus, do 4 to 5 hours of weight lifting and 1.5 to 2 hours of cardio per week. Once this doesn't produce any results, reduce your daily calorie intake by 100 calories every two weeks by reducing your carbohydrates.
The conclusion on weight loss plateaus
Weight loss plateaus are not something to be afraid of or worry about.
They are an inevitable result of proper diet and can be easily defeated by making minor adjustments to your eating and training plans and keeping the course.
It boils down to:
- First, make sure you are actually on a weight loss plateau by weighing yourself daily and averaging your weight every two weeks.
- Next, you need to make sure you measure and record everything you eat and drink, and don't make major fraud mistakes.
- Next, exercise at most until you do 4 to 5 hours of weight lifting and 1.5 to 2 hours of cardio a week.
- Once this doesn't produce any results, reduce your daily caloric intake by 100 calories every 14 days by reducing your carbohydrate intake (don't reduce your protein or fat).
- Stop reducing calories when you have reached about 90 percent of your BMR.
- If you've been eating under your BMR for more than two weeks and still haven't reached your desired body fat percentage, return your calories to your total daily energy expenditure for four to six weeks so your body can normalize again.
Do that and you shouldn't have any problems breaking through weight loss plateaus.
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+ Scientific references
- Beloved A, Maher MM, Gerace L., Gutin B., Heymsfield SB, Hashim SA. Effects of strength or aerobic training on body composition, metabolism at rest and the maximum oxygen consumption in overweight diets. At J Clin Nutr. 1997; 66 (3): 557-5. 563. doi: 10.1093 / ajcn / 66.3.557
- Gleeson M, Blannin AK, Walsh NP, Bishop NC, Clark AM. Influence of low-carbohydrate and high-carbohydrate diets on plasma glutamine and the circulating leukocyte reactions on physical activity. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 1998; 8 (1): 49-4. 59. doi: 10.1123 / ijsn.8.1.49
- Tomiyama AJ, Mann T., Vinas D., Hunger JM, Dejager J., Taylor SE. A low-calorie diet increases cortisol. Psychosome Med. 2010; 72 (4): 357-7. 364. doi: 10.1097 / PSY.0b013e3181d9523c
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