What to do when your fat loss has hit a plateau?
Weight loss or gain, comes down to the simple equation of energy in vs energy out.
If you are wanting to lose weight you must be in a calorie deficit.
Calories in < Calories out
Same as those wanting to increase weight should be in a calorie surplus.
Calories in > Calories out.
If your desired fat loss has hit a bit of a plateau; by this I mean that you haven’t seen any progress for 7-10days; then it may be necessary to change things up a little bit, increasing your calorie deficit to kickstart any changes once again. BUT don’t be too hasty and implement different methods all at one go. Fat loss isn’t one steady line on a chart, it has its ups and downs so you want to think of these methods as tools within your own personalised tool box, using each one only as and when necessary to get the best results. None of them are superior to the other, it is whatever works for you. Some people may prefer increasing their exercise rather than eating less, others may just need to walk that extra 5000 steps per day in order to see a bit of a change. Health and Fitness is personal to you, the main factor in your success will be ADHERENCE; can you stick consistently to a plan for any period of time.
(Please note how I have used the term ‘fat loss plateau’. You shouldn’t be 100% focused on the results on the scale, read my blog post here on why not!
There are 3 key ways in which you can increase your caloric deficit:
1)Increase NEAT activity
2)Eat Less Calories
Increase your NEAT activity.
NEAT stands for ‘Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis’; basically everything you do during the day which is not targeted exercise. This could be walking up stairs, hoovering, mowing the lawn, fidgeting etc, all of these activities still burn calories as they require some form of energy to carry out. Research has suggested that one simple way to increase your calorie expenditure is to increase your NEAT on a daily basis. For active individuals it can account for up to 50% of daily calorie expenditure but for the more sedentary it can be as low as 15%. If you are one of those at the lower end then there is plenty of room for improvement!
This could be as simple as tracking your step count and aiming for a certain number per day, I find this especially useful for people who have a desk job and spend most of the day sitting down. You can get one of the activity trackers such as a Fitbit or a Polar watch to do this, but now most phones have a step count on them so just use that as a guideline.
- Park your car further away from work than normal so you have to walk that extra bit further each day. Better still, if your journey is less than 10 minutes walk the whole way.
- Take the stairs instead of the escalator or lift
- Clean your house more often!
- If you are feeling peckish on an evening and usually turn to the kitchen cupboards, make the point of putting on your trainers and going outside for a 20minute walk around the block. chances are you will feel better and your cravings will subside by the time you get back. Even better would be to plug a podcast or audio book in and learn/zone out whilst you do so.
- I have said in the past about having a big bottle of water on your desk to increase your h2o consumption, but if you are very sedentary make the point of only having a small glass so that you need to get up and down multiple times per day to refill it.
- Set an alarm on your phone to go off every hour and get up and stretch your legs for a few minutes.
- Instead of having lunch at your desk and browsing facebook, get up and outside.
- Fidget more!
These may all seem like really simple suggestions but it will be amazing how they add up throughout the day and then throughout the week, before you know it you will be burning 100s more calories without even realising it.
Eat Less Calories
I preach that everything you do should be sustainable and enjoyable, you shouldn’t have to cut out everything which you love; but sometimes small sacrifices do have to be made in order to see results and make progress.
One way of increasing your calorie deficit is to decrease the amount of calories you are consuming from food. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to decrease the amount of food which you are eating, it is all about being savvy with your choices. Try and choose more voluminous food rather than calorie dense items. One of the best ways to do this is increasing the amount of vegetables and salad which you are eating. There is nothing worse than finishing a meal and still not feeling full. I absolutely hate it, especially if you are hungry and have been looking forward to a meal all day. My favourite voluminous foods include lettuce, courgette, spinach and cucumber. All of these foods are low in calories (but also high in nutrients and vitamins!) and they will fill you up. So start replacing some of the more calorie dense foods in your meals and bulk them out with foods that I have mentioned! If you like pasta, half the quantity you are having and add in some courgetti; if you like rice, half the quantity and use cauliflower rice to make up the rest. Add lettuce and spinach to everything!!!
Trying to reduce the amount of calories you are eating also doesn’t mean that you have to start tracking everything you eat and counting every calorie which enters your mouth, there are other ways of monitoring it. It could be as simple as halving your usual portion of rice at dinner (as mentioned above!); skipping dessert; swapping your mid morning chocolate bar to some carrot sticks; halting the amount of sugar in your tea or avoiding it altogether; stopping grazing whilst you are cooking; stop picking at the leftovers on your children’s plates. All these little habits will add up over the course of the week and it may be one of the reasons why you aren’t seeing progress as quickly as you expect.
If you have tried both of the above and nothing is happening still, then it may be time to start tracking what you are eating accurately. As humans we have a tendency to underestimate the amount which we are putting into our mouths, just look at the programme ‘Secret Eaters’. We sometimes get so into the habit of grabbing a biscuit, taking an extra spoonful of peanut butter or ‘just’ a handful of nuts as we pass through the kitchen, that it has just become the norm and we forget that we have done it. All these little things add up. So maybe try tracking your intake for a week or so just to see where you are at and be honest with yourself! Just being accountable in itself may make you stop having that extra spoonful of ice cream! From here you will be able to make any adjustments to your macro and calorie intake and get yourself back on track once again.
If tracking calories and macros is new to you then it may be worth looking for some advice before heading into it blind. If this is you then I can help out, just drop me a message.
Knowing what to eat and eating the right thing is hard. I know. I am human too, and as most of you know enjoy ice cream and chocolate, a lot. Going to the gym and doing exercise is the easy 2-5 hours of the week, the remaining 160 odd hours you have enjoy your life is the difficult bit. But get your nutrition in check and results will come.
As I mentioned just above, the 2-5hours you spend in the gym each week can be the easy part of your fitness journey, but not if you are confused about what exercise you should be doing, you are haphazardly using every machine in the gym like a whirlwind, or your workouts have simply become a little bit stale. There are a few methods which I advise you take a look at in order to increase your caloric output.
No, you don’t need to be killing yourself in the gym for hours on end every day of the week, #teamnodaysoff. But, in order to see progress you need to be increasing stimulus to progress. This could mean upping the number of sessions which you are doing each week, increasing the time which you are there, or increasing the intensity of your sessions.
I love weight training, and think it should form the basis of every workout programme, however there is a place for cardio, especially if you are trying to lose fat. So cardio wise, you could hop on a piece of equipment for an extra 15minutes at the end of your lifting session and perform some steady state cardio, elevating your heart rate but keeping at a manageable level. Maybe try and add a spin class or body pump class in once a week. Try some form of HIIT training or intervals. I used to prefer HIIT rather than steady state, for the simple fact that it got it over with quicker. But choose whichever method you prefer, if you don’t mind being on the cross trainer for 20minutes whilst watching a youtube video, then go for it. If you would rather blast yourself with intervals on the rower, then go for it.
Take a critical look at your resistance training routine and see if it is really challenging you, if not, seek advice and look to potentially change it up. If you are wanting to see some muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth basically) research strongly suggests you should be hitting body parts at least twice a week. So if you are still stuck in the same routine of Chest = Monday, Shoulders = Tuesday etc etc, it is worth looking at switching things up to maybe an upper/lower body part split, a push/pull/legs split or just a full body routine multiple times per week. It will all depend on what time you have available, plus personal preference.
Are you tracking your workouts or just going into the gym with no plan and jumping from machine to machine, trying to remember what sort of weight you lifted last time and for as many reps as it takes to feel tired/fail? There is a better way. Get a notebook and start writing things down. You need to be implementing progressive overload over time in order to see changes. This means, increasing the number or reps you are doing on a certain weight; increasing the number of sets or increasing the amount of weight lifted on a particular exercise. If you cant remember from one week to the next what you have done then you will struggle to see any sort of progress. Some sort of structure and plan to your workout will in all likeliness increase your motivation per session as you look to improve each time, this in itself will lead to better adherence and consistency. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing that they are getting stronger and improving each week? By focusing on these types of behavioural goals, chances are the outcome goals (such as fat loss) will follow suit and fall in to place also.
There are lots of ways of programming your training, there is no one correct way. Once again it is all about adherence and therefore personal preference, I could give you the most perfect programme in the world of a mix of resistance and cardio training which would see you achieving your goals, but if you don’t enjoy it or it is not attainable and will not fit into your lifestyle, then you are not going to be consistent and stick to it.
Consistency = results.
So there you have it, the three methods for breaking through a fat loss plateau. Like I mentioned at the very beginning, don’t think that you need to implement everything which I have spoken about all at once. Be selective, keep some tools back as inevitably you will hit another plateau at some time further down the line and you want to have some tools available to use.
If you have any questions regarding anything which I have spoken about then don’t hesitate to get in touch. I write these posts in order to try and be helpful and provide you with a little bit of knowledge to apply to your own lives and fitness journeys, so hopefully they are doing so. If there is anything else you would like me to write about then I am open to suggestions, chances are that if you are experiencing a problem or have a query then somebody else is also in the very same position!
Until next time. Stay sassy.
Love Abi xxx