Sunday, June 19, 2011

Getting Over That Pesky Plateau

​Ever get on a roll? You finally think you are doing great, losing a ton of weight, things are working out perfexcly and BAM all of a sudden you quit losing out of nowhere? One of the most common frustrations in weight loss is plateau despite the fact that you are following a smart plan and were doing good before. Before you get too discouraged, you should know that it's normal for weight loss to slow and even stall. and did  you know that plateaus are predictable?

First know that your metabolic rate changes as your weight changes, because less calories are being consumed as you lose your BMR has no real reason to increase. Your body's metabolic rate burns more fat the higher it is. So if it is at a lower rate because of a low calorie consumption it won't burn fat as efficiently. In order to burn fat successfully and break through a weight plateau, you need to create a high metabolic rate. The easiest way to do this is to fuel your body throughout the day. Eat small, more regular meals rather than the usual breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most people overeat at these intervals and that really doesn't help the body at all when it comes to metabolising food and burning fat.  Focus on eating healthy foods at regular intervals, with a small snack every three hours. These snacks must be healthy though! Eating burgers and chips will not do you any favours. They must be nutritious, healthy foods. You do not have to continue with this just do it long enough to boost your BMR and get over the plateau.

On top of eating regularly and healthily, exercise will also help you in your chances of success in losing weight by raising your metabolic rate. If you combine a good, steady diet with regular exercise you will be able to lose weight. Forget  diets that promise you can lose weight without doing any exercise at all. They might, and I do mean might, work for a short while, but, sure enough, you will hit the weight loss plateau and give up or try another diet. If you do this it may work for a few weeks as your body is "shocked" with the new diet but in the long term it will fail. Just a little exercise such as a brisk walk or pleasurable bike ride a few times a week will make the world of difference to your weight loss goals.

Don't forget that plateaus are predictable. Plateaus are predicatable because they are determined by that Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)**LINK**. The BMR is explained as the energy required to keep the heart pumping, lungs expanding, kidneys filtering and all other vital bodily functions going when the body is at rest and accounts for 60 to 70 percent of the calories you burn and depends. The BMR is based on body mass, so when weight-loss occurs, body mass goes down, and in turn so does ones BMR.
So hit a new and probably very annoying point of no loss how can you get past it?  Here are some steps to help get the numbers on the scale moving again in the right direction, DOWN.

  • Keep the faith. You may feel stuck, but you’re probably still losing weight, maybe just not enough to register on the scale. But Hey even dropping a third of a pound per week means that in a year, you’ll be down a whole 17 pounds and one pound means 52!
  • Avoid fuzzy math. It’s common to overestimate calories burned and underestimate calories eaten. Look for places where calories may hide—dressings, spreads, sauces, croutons, and condiments. Do you taste while cooking? Finish what the kids leave on their plates, or grab handfuls of nuts, chips or candy? Remember that for each pound you want to lose, you need to cut at least 3,500 calories a week and if you don’t want to eat less, to lose the same pound you’ll have to add about ten extra hours of brisk walking or an exercise like that.
  • Rev up your workout.  Increase the amount of time you exercise by an additional 15 to 30 minutes. You might also try increasing the intensity of your exercise, if you feel that's possible. Additional exercise will cause you to burn more calories.
  • Pack more activity into your day. Think outside the gym. Increase your general physical activity throughout the day by walking more and using your car less, or try doing more yardwork or vigorous spring cleaning. physical activity is particularly useful for moving beyond a plateau, because exercise both uses calories and builds muscle. The more muscle you have, the higher your BMR, which is why working out with weights or doing some kind of resistance training works. In fact, increasing your muscle mass as you lose body fat can compensate for the decline in BMR induced by weight loss.  
  • Up your protein quotient.  There is some evidence that shows that shifting fat and carbohydrate calories to protein calories may help preserve BMR during weight loss. But don’t overdo it! Twenty-percent of daily calories from protein is as high as you should go.
  • Trick Your Metabolism. Many fitness gurus claim that surprising your body with a change in diet, workout or both can jostle you out of a weight loss rut. The science is pretty thin here, but the advice is reasonable because variety can keep you interested. Change up your routine. If you are doing the same exercises over and over again, your body “knows” what to expect. It’s called “specificity of training”. 
  • Reboot and recharge.  If your motivation is flagging, write down all the reasons you originally wanted, and still want, to lose weight. Look at the list every day. Let friends and family know what you’re up to, and ask for their support.  Make a Vision Board with photos and words visualizing your successful body transformation.
  • Reconsider the skin you're in. A plateau is an opportunity to reassess whether further weight loss is worth all the work it will take and to reconsider whether you may, in truth, now be at a perfectly healthy weight and don't need to go any lower. If you do choose to stop where you are, turn your focus toward maintaining what you've achieved and keeping your body in good shape. Remember, eating well and being physically active are good for you. Do a little of both every day, and you will be a total success. 

Don't let a weight-loss plateau lead to an avalanche. If your efforts to get past a weight-loss plateau aren't working, talk with your doctor or a dietitian about other tactics you can try. You may also want to revisit your weight-loss goal. Maybe the weight you're striving for is unrealistic for you. If you've improved your diet and increased your exercise, you've already improved your health even without further weight loss. For those who are overweight or obese, even modest weight loss improves chronic health conditions related to being overweight. Whatever you do, don't revert back to your old eating and exercise habits. That may cause you to regain the weight that you've already lost.

Some other ways to get over a plateau include:

Intermittent fasting (IF)
For those that may not be familiar to the term, intermittent fasting is just taking times of fast (no food) and working them into your lifestyle. This can be either daily or a couple times a week (will get into that more below). Benefits include improving insulin resistance , weight loss, muscle gain, performance, recovery, anti-ageing and disease prevention, and giving the body a chance to do some internal cleaning , which can lead to improved immune function and overall health. Let’s first put this on the table: there is no one way to do Intermittent Fasting. The only real guideline is that, as always, the food you eat should be healthy.  In addition to the substantial health benefits, the simplicity and flexibility are what draw people to IF. I could easily come up with 10 different intermittent fasting protocols based on 10 people’s individual’s needs, lifestyle, exercise, goal, but I will keep it simple and give the the most frequent and basic options.

  • Daily Fasting: The Warrior Diet, Leangains, and Fast-5 approach.  Typically done every day and only giving the person a smaller eating window in which to get their calories. (for example, a 18hr daily fast would mean someone would only eat every day between the hours of Noon and 6pm). You will see varying times from 15-19 hours for daily fasting as seen with the types listed above.
  • Fasting 1-3x a week: This could also be called alternate day fasting/calorie restriction (for those doing it every other day). This is just fasting of usually longer periods 18-24 hours but only 1-3x a week. Many variations to play with here like the here like the Eat Stop Eat method (24 hr fasts 1-2x a week)
  • Early and Late: For some, this option is more easily managed than the condensed eating window. The day’s food intake and nutrients are balanced between an early meal and later afternoon/early evening meal.
  • Single Twenty-Four Fast: Most people choose to have a normal dinner and then fast until the following evening. Others choose to extend the fast until the following morning. For many people, this can be a weekly routine. Others may integrate it on a monthly basis or as an occasional event based on their sense of progress/plateau.
  • Alternating Day Fast for Week (or more): This approach is often credited with a deeper “cleansing” character. Some people do it once or twice a year. Others make a seasonal commitment. You can choose to drink only water or include teas/small amounts of juices during fasting days. On the alternate days, some people choose to eat normally, and some opt for reduced caloric intakes.

One tip: During your “window of eating,” however long or brief it is, don’t feel that you should eat more than you might be hungry for. It’s a unique opportunity to listen to your body’s signals. It also serves as a way to “prove” to your conscious brain that you can survive quite nicely on smaller amounts of food and that you don’t need to “make up” for those temporarily lost calories.

If what you are doing is NOT working for you, STOP, and rethink your approach. Intermittent fasting is just a tool to use and there are plenty of variables to be modified such as how often you IF, how big or small your eating window is (how long you fast), what are you macronutrient levels and total calories, what are your activity levels (as you may need to eat more on workout days), and more. Start slow and see what is working. You can always change something up and remember that in the end it is just a tool, and you may need to tweak it to make it for specifically for your lifestyle and needs.

Zig Zag Calories
The Zig-Zag method of weight loss is very simply: Eating more calories some days than you do on others. This may seem odd, but it works. You may gain a lot of water weight the first week but don’t worry it will come off in the first few days or week two. I recommend doing this for a month to get over the plateau and going back to a normal eating schedule.

THE PLAN - Start with your daily caloric maintenance. Design your plan around that number. Let’s say your daily caloric maintenance is 2,000 calories. Let’s also say that you want to lose 2 lbs per week. You’ll have to create a 7,000 calorie per week deficit (7,000 calories less than your weekly caloric maintenance). 3,500 of these will come from exercise, and 3,500 from nutrition. Subtract 500 from your daily caloric maintenance. This will take care of the nutritional deficit. Here is how you might create your 1,500 calorie per day Zig-Zag:

Monday: 1,500 calories
Tuesday: 1,800 calories
Wednesday: 1200 calories
Thursday: 1,800 calories
Friday: 1,200 calories
Saturday: 2,200 calories
Sunday: 1,200 calories

This averages just over 1,550 calories per day. Your body gets plenty of fuel during 3 days of the week. The body thinks nothing is wrong. In reality, you are creating a huge energetic deficit. You are losing 2 lbs per week.. I personally count calories, because I am so anal about the physics of weight control. You may want a simpler plan. Here are a other options for Zig-Zagging.

PALM AND FIST SIZED PORTIONS: Some of you may be familiar with this technique. Most of you are unaware this is a Zig-Zag. Using palm and fist sized portions is a very simple way of creating a zig-zag. This only works “well” if you eat different foods on different days. A fist size apple has fewer calories than does a fist size potato. A palm sized top round steak has more calories than does a palm size chicken breast. When you learn the “proper” method to determine what fist size and palm size is, this program can create an energetic deficit. Variety is “key” to this nutritional plan. For this method to be effective, you must understand what “palm size” and “fist size” is.

PORTION CONTROL: Using portion control is also quite simple once you get the hang of it. Take a 3 ounce chicken breast. It’s about 110 calories. A ½ cup portion of White Rice has about 150 calories. Simply increasing your portion sizes by “about” 20% gives you a high day. So, increase to 4 ounces of chicken breast and 2/3 cup of rice on a high day. You’ve increased your calories by 20%. Reduce it to 2 1/2 ounces of chicken and 1/3 cup of rice, and you’ve got a meal for a low day.

Regardless of your method, you have to remember your goal. You have to plan your life, and live your plan! Zig-Zagging can help you past rough spots like, Uncle Bob’s Bar-B-Que, or Aunt Irene’s Christmas Dinner. You simply adjust your weekly zig-zag to accommodate the larger meal.

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