Dealing With The Mysteries of Weight Loss Plateaus
One of the greatest mysteries that exist in nutrition is the plateau. How can you possible start out so strong, only to fizzle out and seem as though you’re doing nothing only a few short weeks later?
I get it.
But, the body is designed to adapt and survive and one of the ways it does that is through alterations in our metabolism to function just as good on fewer calories as it did on much, much more.
The Pivot Point
MOST people default to lowering their calorie intake even more than they had at the start of the program. This can help….but, it may not be the best strategy either.
Others will frantically increase their exercise- I see you guy in the gym with the sauna suit on who’s been on that elliptical for the past 3 hours. An adjustment in exercise frequency, duration, volume, or intensity could help….but, it may not be the best strategy.
The third thing you have to evaluate when deciding what route to go is asking yourself what you enjoy and what’s doable? Remember, “optimal” is only best if it’s “practical”. It’s important to strike a balance between them.
So, if crazy drops in calories aren’t in order and picking up a sweat suit on Amazon isn’t the answer; what’s left?
Steps? Yep. Good, old-fashioned moving about more in your day. I’ve seen this time and time again with clients who work with the Valley to Peak 1-on-1 coaching program. They get stuck, don’t feel like reducing calories, and/or don’t have the time (or interest) in increasing activity, so we have them focus on simply increasing their steps.
One client in particular increased his steps by a modest 2-4,000 steps per day (about 15-20 minutes of walking). When I started to notice this trend, here was my reply/analysis for him:
“There’s no question this is playing a factor in the progress you’re continuing to see. And, in my opinion, the steps alone become a huge piece of the puzzle the leaner a guy gets.
Weight falls off pretty quick in the beginning stages. But, as we get leaner, it gets more and more challenging.”
What’s Actually Happening?
I put together a few slides (and a post you can find right chea!) that outlines this really well.
As we lose weight, even the SAME volume of exercise is less effective. There’s really 2 main reasons why this happens:
You’re simply more efficient. The body adapts and is able to do the same work more effectively. This means calorie conservation as a mechanism of survival. This is also why it’s SUPER important to add variety to our workouts by manipulating one of the main variables (intensity, volume, etc.).
You weigh less. Period. It requires less gas for an 18-wheeler to make a 1,000 mile journey with an empty load than it does to make that same journey with a load full of cement bricks. We’re the same. Your body doesn’t use near as many calories to propel the 225lb Tom as it did the 260lb Tom.
Now, that can admittedly sound defeating, but don’t let the need for work be masked as impossible. It’s still quite possible. We just have to shift and restructure our goals.
The graph shows the SAME basic calorie needs. But, as we add more activity in, the TOTAL need jumps up.
This works inversely as well. We can target the same calorie goals to keep the weight going in the direction we want (down for your), but add IN some activity to create a LARGER deficit than what had previously been achieved.
Now, contrary to popular belief, this does not have to be a murder session of CrossFit. It can be with additional aforementioned steps during the day, an extra day of planned exercise, a Saturday working in the yard vs sitting on the couch, etc. I’ve seen people accomplish some pretty amazing things by adding in yoga 3x/week alone..
Now, for guys like me who love to eat, this is a GREAT strategy to NOT drop calories more while also propelling you over that hurdle of a plateau.
This article just begins to scratch the surface of the complex issues involved with weight loss plateaus, but DOES show that it doesn’t take drastic and dramatic actions to keep you in alignment with your ultimate goals.
Does any of this sound familiar in your own journey? If so, shoot me a message! I’d love to hear from you, more about your journey, and how I can help!