Q: I hit a plateau. I initially lost 34 pounds and want to lose 10-15 more. I have been working out like crazy doing Beach Bodies Insanity Workout. I eat between 1400-1600 calories a day and I eat pretty healthy, but I stopped losing weight three weeks ago. How do I get moving again?
A: Finishing the last leg of your journey to your ideal shape can be the most difficult, but it doesn’t have to be.
As most of you know, hitting a plateau is a pretty common occurrence in the fitness community. Sometimes it’s caused by a poor exercise program and other times by a poor nutrition plan. In this case I think nutrition is the culprit.
One of the most common mistakes made by individuals trying to get to their ideal shape is being in calorie deficit for long periods of time. Your body is very efficient and wants more than anything to keep you alive. When you put your body into calorie restriction, it thinks it is starving and the hormones in your body respond by trying to maintain fat stores.
There is a specific hormone called leptin whose function is to communicate your nutrition status to your body and brain. After a period of time of dieting, leptin levels fall dramatically, telling your brain and body it needs more nutrition even though you have plenty of fat (nutrition) stored. Your body then goes to work to decrease the number of calories it burns each day, in order to be able to hang on to as much fat as possible in case the nutrition situation gets worse. The result is decreased thyroid function and skyrocketing cortisol levels. On top of that, since muscle burns so many calories (50 calories per pound a day), your body goes to work shedding as much muscle as possible to more efficiently keep fat stores. Hence the diet-induced plateau.
So what is the solution?
Convince your body it isn’t starving and get your leptin levels up!
How do you do that?
Take at least one day a week and increase your caloric intake beyond your daily requirement. This instantly increases leptin levels and the body responds by giving in to the “calorie in, calorie out” model. The greater that deficit, the more body fat you are going to lose if you do it correctly. You don’t want to lose muscle in the process.
Keeping your hormones in balance by taking in extra calories once a week will allow your body to give up more energy (fat) to rebuild and grow lean muscle mass. Body for Life was the initial creator of this strategy and it was later improved by Joel Marion through his Cheat Your Way Thin Manual and his more aggressive program Xtreme Fat Loss Diet. The cheat day concept from a healthy eating perspective has yielded the best results with our clients. We have modified the eating program slightly for our clients.
We preach consistently at AskFitnessCoach that you must shorten the time you are in calorie restriction as much as possible. The effects of long periods of calorie restriction can be horrible on your metabolism. Anyone using calorie restriction to get to their ideal shape should have a very strong maintenance plan in place to prevent yo-yo dieting.
Disclaimer: we are affiliates of all these programs just in case you decide to buy one of them.