Breaking a Weight Loss Plateau Without Lowering Calories
People in America are more obese now than ever before. According to a National Health and Examination Survey conducted by the National Institute of Health in 2009-2010, more than 2 out of every 3 adults in America are considered overweight or obese. From a strictly health perspective, people that are overweight are placed at a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer.
The most obvious way to lose weight is a caloric deficit in which your body is taking in less calories than it is expending in energy. However, there comes to a certain point in most people’s diet where they reach a weight loss plateau and do not want to lower calories any further.
These are some alternative measures that can be taken to improve the weight loss efficiency process. Keep in mind not all of the following measures will work for every single person but they may help break a weight loss plateau you currently have. The following are not “diets” but are adjustments to your existing diet that do not involve lowering calories any further.
Plateau Breaker #1 – Intermittent Fasting
For years people have preached eating every 3 hours to improve metabolism and prevent hunger. More recent studies have shown that eating several times per day has little to no effect on the weight loss process.
Intermittent fasting consists of shortening your overall eating window for the day. Generally the most common intermittent fasting period is an 8 hour window with a 16 hour fast (however this can be adjusted to shorten the window even further).
Let’s say your first meal is at 12:00pm and your last meal is finished by 8:00pm. When your body is in a fasted state for 16 hours it begins using its own fat reserves as energy until you break the fasted state.
There are also several other benefits to intermittent fasting. Studies taken among various “blue zones” (areas in the world people live longest) have shown that individuals that fast on a regular basis tend to live longer lives. This is due to the fact that your organs and internal systems have to perform less work compared to constantly eating several times a day (think of an old classic car that has been driven less miles and its motor still runs like it was new, same concept).
Although this method of eating may be difficult to get used to at first, eventually it helps simplify your day as you have to prepare less meals and will leave you more satiated as you are eating larger meals in a shorter time frame. Many people have reported dropping 10 pounds or more in a short time frame by simply incorporating intermittent fasting into their diet without dropping their calories.
Plateau Breaker #2 – Carb Cycling
This is another method of eating that may help shed bodyfat. Some individuals lose weight more effectively on higher fat, lower carb diets. Carb cycling involves adjusting your carbohydrate intake on various days which is particularly effective if your body is sensitive to carbohydrates (this may be determined through personal trial and error and also there are certain assessments that can be performed nowadays to test for carbohydrate sensitivity among other things).
There can be no carb days, low carb days, moderate carb days, and high carb days. I tend to keep things simpler and suggest following one of the following two approaches:
- Approach A – Stick to low to moderate carbs most days (.75g-1g per pound of bodyweight) and then once per week have a refeed day (which is a day where you increase calories slightly by increasing carbohydrates to 2g per pound of bodyweight)
- Approach B – Save higher carb days for heavy lifting days (e.g. legs, back, etc) and on other lifting days use moderate carbs, and go no carbs on rest days.
There is some trial and error involved in this as well, and there are no set rules to this you can adjust how you see best fit for your personal situation. If your overall training is affected negatively then increase carbohydrates. Find out what your body responds to best and incorporate accordingly into your diet.
People have preached that eating every 3 hours will improve metabolism. More recent studies have shown that eating several times per day has little to no effect on the weight loss process.
Plateau Breaker #3 – Carb Backloading
There is a lot of science behind carb backloading. It was first popularized by a physicist named John Kiefer, but that’s besides the point.
Carb backloading is started by first going on a no carb diet for approximately 10 days. During this time the body will eat up its fat stores and become accustomed to burning fat as its main source of energy, as opposed to carbohydrates.
Note: Typically carbohydrates are the first form of energy the body uses to burn, but carb backloading retrains your body to burn fat store before carbohydrates.
After this 10 day acclimation period, you begin incorporating carbohydrates back into your diet BUT only after periods of training for that particular day.
Take for example Bob. Throughout the day Bob eats nothing but lean meats and vegetables all day (yes vegetables have carbohydrates but some carbs from veggies won’t kill the process). Next, Bob trains in the afternoon, and then after his workout he consumes all of his carbohydrates (along with adequate protein of course).
Here’s the real fun part: the carb sources should be high on the glycemic index and can consist of simple carbohydrates. This means food historically regarded as “junk” such as ice cream, candy, etc., can be consumed during this timeframe until the person goes to bed.
Arnold Schwarzenegger practiced this back in the day, long before it was made popular. Arnold and his buddies used to go to diners and eat pies after working out, and stated that his body needed the pies (he was carb backloading without knowing it).
The carbohydrates, when used only post-workout, are said to fill a muscles’ depleted glucose stores helping them to look fuller. Post-workout carbs also aid in post-workout recovery.
Last year I tried this way of eating for a couple of months. I was able to remain lean while consuming more calories than I typically ate. Many individuals practicing carb backloading have reported similar results as well.
Time to Try These Fat Loss Methods
The methods described above may not work for everyone as people have different metabolic rates and respond differently to macronutrient levels. However, I have practiced each one of these methods and have found a certain level of success with each one.
They are not intended to replace a caloric deficit but may help you overcome weight loss plateaus. You can even combine some of them in some circumstances.
It all comes down to your individualized response to metabolic mechanisms within your body that can only be discovered through personal trial and error.
So next time you’re at a weight loss plateau and don’t feel like lowering your calories any further, try one of the above techniques for a few weeks. You may find that shocking the body and incorporating one or more of these techniques may help you drop those last few pounds you’ve been trying to drop over the last several weeks!
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