Surely there must be something that can be done?
Unfortunately, the usual responses to these plateaus are to eat fewer calories in hopes of shocking the body into burning fat. This is on top of an already calorie restricted diet. The other way is to change or increase your exercise program. But, are these smart changes and for that matter….is a plateau an inevitable part of losing weight or can they be avoided all together?
Let’s look at why this happens and the 4 Keys you must know to prevent a weight loss plateau.
When someone goes on a diet and they begin to eat less than they were, then of course weight begins to fall off. Depending on what you are eating and how much, you will be losing a percentage of weight from; water, fat and muscle. The capacity to lose almost all fat and preserve lean muscle mass is hugely important and is discussed in a different article. For now let’s focus on plateaus.
Likewise, if someone begins to exercise or increases their exercise or energy expenditure then again they begin to burn calories.
So, we know in a simplistic way that calories in/eaten – calories out/energy used = calorie deficiency and weight loss. …..if you are eating less than you are burning.
But, what we also see in the human body is a continual and perpetual attempt to minimize body functions and activities. Said a different way, your body is inherently lazy, it tries to be as efficient as it can so it can use the least amount of energy possible in it’s functions.
When you start eating less you put yourself into an energy deficit. Your body needs more energy than you are supplying it with (eating), so your body starts to metabolize fat and release energy from your bodies storage shed (fat cells).
So what happens with plateaus?
Your body, being efficient (or lazy depending on how you want to look at it) starts decreasing it’s metabolism to meet the new amount of food or energy being supplied. It is trying to become efficient in energy needs to the point where it no longer needs extra from the storage shed.
Unfortunately when you go on a diet, you of course want your metabolism to speed up but your body is trying to slow it down so it can hold onto it’s storage (fat) shed and learn to be comfortable using only the calories that you are supplying it with. So your weight loss slows and stalls.
Here are some things that you should avoid because it is an easy way to reach a plateau, really fast.
- Eating too few calories. More of a deficit is not better.
- Not exercising.
- Not eating often enough.
- Only doing cardio for exercise.
- Not eating enough protein in your diet.
Key #1) Diet Habituation: Is the process of eating a diet with a designed calorie deficit and reaping diminishing returns from that deficit. Said another way….eating less than your body requires consistently but seeing the benefits from that calorie restriction become less and less until finally it plateaus.
Here are some solutions….
- Eat enough calories to keep your metabolism turned on. More on this in a minute in Key #2.
- Exercise – get your body and metabolism moving
- Eat an ample amount of protein – it speeds up your metabolism and preserves and makes lean muscle.
- And most importantly….Key #2
Here is how not to do it…
…a cheat day. You hear of diets that recommend a day off, eating what ever you want. One day a week of unlimited calories, it’s not healthy and if you have read our other articles you know why it is completely counterintuitive to making health and a lean, fit body…a lifestyle.
Key #3) Exercise habituation – is the process in humans where there is a decrease in response to exercise after repeated exposure to that same exercise over a duration of time.
Let me give you an example; if you walk 3 miles a day and that is a struggle for you. Then you will benefit from the exercise at first, but when you get to a certain level of fitness, then your body will start to minimize its effort to walk that distance. It will become so efficient that your benefits will practically disappear. Your body will stop improving and that applies both for weight loss and cardiovascular health.
Why? Well, that leads us into the last key.
Key #4) Muscle confusion – is the process of continually changing the stress (exercise) to the muscular system to maximize gains, cardiovascular health and lean muscle growth.
You have got to challenge your body and change up your Exercise routines every 4-6 weeks!
Have you ever heard the definition of insanity…”doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” It doesn’t happen!
Apply these simple changes and remember the 4 keys to avoid the dreaded Plateaus of weight loss.
Yours in health and weight loss,