Your fitness journey has been chugging along on full throttle so far. You’re just a few kilos away from flaunting the perfectly chiseled 6 pack physique.
But then – tragedy strikes!
Suddenly, out of nowhere, your body decides to press the brakes and your weight loss comes crashing to a halt. No matter what you do or how hard you try, you just can’t seem to turn your fat-burning machine back on!
This, my friends, is the dreaded “Fat Loss Plateau”.
It’s the body’s way of subtly giving you the middle finger and saying- “Look! I have had enough of your dieting crap. I am not going to listen to you anymore!”
All your dreams are dashed and you decide to kiss that dream of having a ripped body good-bye.
But fear not! There is a way out.
First things first: you need to understand why you’ve hit a plateau before you can learn how to overcome it.
Why do you hit a Fat Loss Plateau?
Our path to fat loss begins with establishing a calorie deficit in our diet. ”Eat less, move more”, you know the drill. Do this and the scale starts tipping to the left. But by doing this, we are telling our body to move out of its comfort zone and honestly, who likes that? Our body certainly doesn’t and tries putting up a fight.
As those kilos drop, our metabolic rate goes down as well in response to the reduced caloric intake. Sometimes, it reduces to the point where you are no longer able to lose weight despite being on very low calories. This may appear counter-intuitive but beyond a point, you can’t lose weight by continually reducing your caloric intake. (For a more detailed explanation as to why fat loss plateaus occur, you can go through this post by Abel –)
How to deal with Fat Loss Plateaus
Now that we know why a fat loss plateau occurs, let’s look at how to get out of one!
- Recalculate your caloric requirement :
In other words, hit the reset button.
The first thing you need to do when you hit a fat loss plateau is to re-assess your caloric intake. When our body weight reduces, our caloric needs decrease as well. So you have to decrease your caloric intake to create a meaningful caloric deficit.
A lot of people use their starting weight as the base figure for calculating how many calories to reduce. But over time, as your weight reduces, the initial caloric deficit may no longer be sufficient and you would have to recalculate this figure. Remember, as your weight reduces, your metabolic rate also goes down so periodic resets and recalculations are essential!
Cutting calories by 100-200 kcal a day usually does the trick and your fat loss should start up again.
But what if your calories are already very low and you don’t want to reduce them further? Here’s where the other strategies come in.
- Carb Cycling:
Carb cycling is a dieting strategy wherein you alter your carbohydrate intake on a daily basis. The high carb days are used for refilling the glycogen stores and the low carb days help boost the fat burning rate. This MAY help your fat loss process get revved up again. (Know more about carb cycling here-https://www.fitmag.in/carb-cycling/)
- Manage stress levels:
Due to extended periods of dieting, our bodies can experience increased stress levels. Our sleep cycles could also get disturbed. Increased stress leads to an elevation of our cortisol levels causing our bodies to hold water weight.
The result: the scale doesn’t budge.
The solution: Try getting at least 8 hours of sleep per day and manage your stress levels at work.
- Diet Breaks:
This is one of the best ways to cope with fat loss plateaus.
A diet break is exactly what it sounds like: take a break from your diet. But a break from your diet doesn’t mean unlimited pizzas and ice-cream! You still need to watch what you eat.
On a diet break, we usually go up to our maintenance calories or even a bit higher (~ 5-10%) for about 10-14 days to reverse the metabolic adaptations that occur during a diet. And don’t worry about the scales – that little bit of water weight will vanish as soon as you restart your diet.
The last strategy is a refeed or planned over-eating days. And yes, you can fit some ice cream in here if you want to!
Just as on a diet break, it is generally recommended to go slightly above maintenance on your refeed days as well. But apart from giving you a break from the dieting stress and the monotony of a long-pursued diet, it doesn’t do much to your metabolic rate. Rather, it gives you a mental boost which just might be enough to get you started again. (To know more on refeeds, check out this article – https://www.fitmag.in/refeed-the-overeating-trick/)
A plateau does not spell end of the world! All that hard work and dedication that you’d shown for weeks, maybe even months, need not go down the drain. With a few smart strategies, you can get back in the game and achieve your fitness goals in no time.
Author credits – Sandeepak Ghosh