So your goal is to lose some fat, huh? That’s a great thing. So first off, when we start a diet to lose fat, we need to be in a calorie deficit in order to lose. Meaning, we need to eat fewer calories than we are burning over the course of the week.
Usually, when people begin a diet and do this, they lose a decent amount of weight for the first few weeks, but along the way, they can hit a plateau.
Now I would only consider it a plateau if you haven’t lost any weight for two weeks for a man, and for four weeks for a woman—due to their cycle, as water retention can mask fat loss.
So if that’s the case, there are a few things that can be done to break the plateau and keep the fat loss moving.
Step 1: Start tracking your calories if you aren’t already.
There are many apps that can be used to track what you eat daily. This can be a little tedious at first but it is the most accurate way to measure how much we’re eating. The majority of people underestimate how many calories they eat and overestimate how many calories they burn so an app can help solve that equation and get a more accurate count. So, measuring and tracking your food is number one.
Step 2: Eat out less.
When we eat out, no matter what we order, there will always be more calories in the food as opposed to if we were to cook the same thing at home. This is due to extra oils, butter, and sauces that restaurants use to cook and flavor the food more. By eating out less, you can track calories more accurately and save on calories.
Step 3: Do one of two things. Either drop your calories slightly or you can add in a bit more activity.
Either one of these will create a calorie deficit if you aren’t already in one from the above. There is a catch, however, as more exercise can cause more hunger and make it more difficult for you to stick to your calorie intake.
So you do have to take that into account.
If the exercise is making you hungry and causing you to overeat, then you might want to either lower the intensity such as by walking or just drop calories a bit.
It’s easier to not eat 300 calories than it is to burn 300 calories.
Step 4: As mentioned above, be patient before you make changes as cortisol (the stress hormone), and water retention can mask fat loss.
This pertains especially to women. Due to a woman’s menstrual cycle, it’s more accurate to look at the scale and body measurements over a month as opposed to a week or two, as your cycle can affect water retention and skew your numbers.
This can be deceiving for a woman and give her a sense of failure when the numbers do not actually represent her fat loss, but rather, show water retention due to her cycle.
Therefore women should measure their progress and look at their numbers over a full month before making any adjustments to their fat loss program. Or at least, two weeks depending.
Men, two weeks is a good amount of time for you.
Step 5: Lastly, if you have been dieting for a while, such as for 8 – 12 weeks, your body might need a diet break or something called a “refeed.”
A diet break is taking usually a week or two off of dieting and raising your calories to lower stress on the body and mind and up-regulate your metabolism and hormones.
A refeed does a similar thing but is done for anywhere from one to three days depending. These give the person a little stress relief mentally and physically.
There you go. Those are five steps that can be done to break through your fat loss plateau.
Nick Andrus has been a professional fitness coach for 6 years. He holds two back-to-back CIF championships, going 50-0 for two seasons, and two 1st Place wins in physique competitions. He lives in Pasadena, CA, where he’s currently training for an IronMan World Championship.