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Beat the Fat Loss Plateau
02 February 2014
In my past articles I pressed upon you the importance of getting started. I didn’t care what you did to start, or how perfect your program was when you began. I just wanted you to develop that all-important momentum.
Presumably you did ‘exactly’ what I told you, and now you’re beginning to enjoy the benefits of having a little less weight, a little more enjoy, and developed a routine around looking after your body.
But, I want to prepare you for the inevitable hurdles you’ll have to jump. Where things begin to get difficult is when you’re trying your best to do everything right, but nothing seems to be happening. This is what we call a plateau.
One thing that you need to know is that our bodies don’t like to change. They prefer to maintain their homeostatic (balanced) environment, and change threatens that, so they resist. You are going to have to expect plateaus. Not only expect them, but also embrace them, because they’re telling you that you’ve pushed your body to a state of discomfort, and that’s exactly what you needed to do in order to make progress!
So congratulations on doing a fantastic job thus far; now let’s work together in order to get past the plateau!
Step # 1 - Figure Out Exactly How Many Calories You’re Eating
Despite what some might say, the amount of calories you eat does matter. In 90-per-cent-plus of cases where I’ve seen a fat loss plateau, the individual simply needed to cut their caloric intake down in order to kick start progress again. The problem is that most people have no idea of how much they’re actually eating, and as a result believe they couldn’t possibly cut their calories any further.
My most recent case of this happening was a client participating in a 12-week challenge. She had done tremendously well (in fact she was leading the challenge at week 10), and we came to the point where I had emailed her my instructions of her changes for the final 2 weeks. Part of those recommendations was that she cut 200 calories/day from what she was currently eating.
Her response: ‘Are you kidding me? There’s no way I can cut any more calories from my diet!’
So I had her download the MyFitnessPal app, log everything that she was eating for four consecutive days, and she quickly came to the realization that the volume of avocado and nuts she ate a day was accounting for more than 700 extra calories. Halving the amount of both of these made the difference.
Point – if you don’t know what your numbers, it’s going to be hard to make adjustments to your plan.
Step # 2 - Figure Out How Much You Actually Move In A Day
Non-Exercise Physical Activity (NEPA) is highly underrated as a fitness and weight loss tool. It can account for anywhere up to 20-30 per cent of total calories burned, and if you’re not managing it, then you’re literally leaving a third of your calorie equation uncontrolled.
This is what you can do - buy a pedometer, and begin tracking your day-to-day movement. Track it for seven consecutive days, and then average it. That’s going to be your base from which to start.
I then want you to increase your base by five per cent per day, every day, for the next 14 days. At that point, increase it by another five per cent. You might need to put in a bit of an effort to get this extra activity done, but (wo)man up – your goals are too important to rest on excuses.
Step # 3 - Replace Some Of Your Carbohydrate And Fat Calories With Protein Calories
Protein is an essential macronutrient needed for any number of bodily functions; but perhaps it’s most notable function is its role in repairing damaged muscle tissue after training. Beyond these functions, protein is unique in that it’s the hardest macronutrient for the body to convert to body fat.
Knowing this allows us to use a high protein diet to enhance goals.
I like to set a protein target (usually anywhere from 2.2-2.5g per kg of total body weight a day) first and foremost, and then fill the rest of the individual’s calorie allowance with a split of the other two macronutrients. By doing this we’re able to get the most fat loss bang for caloric buck, as well as ensure that we don’t lose any precious lean muscle mass during the dieting process.
Pulling It Together
So now that you’ve tracked your food intake in the MyFitnesPal app (for at least three to five consecutive days) we need to assess whether or not your intake is truly too high.
Head over to the MyFitnessPal site, and enter you current details into their Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) calculator. Doing this will give you an estimated BMR from which we can get an idea of how many calories you should be eating per day.
BMR is the amount of calories that you’d burn in any given day if you did nothing but rest for the entire time. We, of course, know that you don’t rest all day long, and so would burn more calories than this calculator suggest. To account for this we’re going to have to multiply the figure that the calculator gave us by a factor of 1.3. For example, if the calculator gave you an estimated BMR of 1500 calories, we multiply this by 1.3 and your estimated daily calorie target becomes 1,950 cals.
Now compare the two numbers – the estimated daily calorie target from our calculations, and what your averaged daily calorie intake was from the app.
Did the one from the app exceed the estimated number? If it did then you need to find some calories within that daily food intake to cut from. Find 200 calories and cut that from your day-to-day intake for the next 14 days, and track how your progress goes.
After that, we definitely want to increase that daily activity by five per cent (according to the pedometer) by following the steps outlined in Step # 2.
Finally, go back to your logged food intakes in MyFitnessPal. Did your daily protein numbers reach or exceed 2.2g per kg of bodyweight on average? If it didn’t, then you need to make adjustments to hit that number by firstly increasing your intake of lean protein, but also by decreasing the calories that you eat from the fats and carbohydrate columns. Follow with your changes for at least 14 days and you’ll be amazed at how easy breaking a fat loss plateau is.
There you have it – 3 strategies that will instantly swing the calorie equation into your favour, and kick start your fat loss efforts. You’ve got the plan, now it’s time to execute it!