Buff Bridal Tips | Weight Loss Plateau
What is weight loss plateau?
A weight loss plateau is when there the difference between the energy intake and the energy expenditure eventually starts to balance out. The body has to restore energy balance in order to survive. If we all just continued to lose weight, then we would not be able to continue to survive as we would not have the energy to do much of anything!
Our body needs these natural physiological mechanisms to help maintain energy balance relatively quickly. That's why at a certain point in your diet and exercise regime, you will notice that you have stopped losing weight.
How A Weight Loss Plateau is Reached
In order to lose weight, you will need to create a negative energy balance (that is a calorie deficit). Simply put, you need to cut the number of calories from your intake. So if you begin a new diet by cutting your calorie intake by about 500 cal per day you will lose weight over the course of a week or two.
During a calorie deficit our body still requires the same amount of energy thus, it starts using up the protein energy stores to make up for this 500 calorie deficit. However, as our body inevitably uses up extra proteins for energy AND to maintain normal protein synthesis, we end up with a net loss of total protein. This results in a gradual loss of lean muscle, and this is the start of a lowered metabolism.
In fact, protein (muscle) loss may go unnoticed when looking in the mirror because the body will take it from other, less priority areas and not just from our skeletal muscles. The stomach is a classic area where protein is broken down for use, as there's less need for a large stomach capacity because we have lowered our food intake. So it seems you have a slimmer abdomen area.
That sounds good, doesn't it? But not really. Read on what a decreased metabolic rate does to you.
A Decreased Metabolic Rate
The initial weight loss slows down as the body progressively loses further lean mass, this continues until the point where a calorie deficit is so minute that it no longer has any effect on fat loss. Our metabolism has decreased and we have reached that dreaded weight loss plateau. What it means is our body has gradually adapted to match our new energy intake, and we now require less energy to maintain the new weight. And we cannot seem to lose any more weight.
Second Effect of Weight Loss Plateau: We Burn Less Calories
As the body becomes lighter, less calories are burned during exercise so the overall energy expenditure also reduces.
The reduction in lean mass and the lowered energy expenditure both help restore energy balance from any initial reduction in calorie intake, and can even slow progress from the extra exercise sessions often undertaken when attempting to lose weight.
The bottom line is the initial 500 calories per day reduction, no longer continues to be effective for losing further weight because the body no longer recognizes that there is a calorie deficit. There will always be an adaptation to match any lowered calorie intake simply because the body needs to conserve energy for survival.
So What Can You Do About Weight Loss Plateau?
The facts above means it is vital that dieters begin by reducing calorie intake slowly. This will help limit the loss of muscles and helps keep metabolism high during dieting. Also, any exercise done within the first 10 - 15 minutes needs to be light and for longer durations to enable the energy system to adapt to the change by "switching its gear" into fat burning mode!
If calories are cut too much too soon the body is forced to burn more and more protein especially when glycogen (carbohydrate) stores run low. This seriously lowers the metabolism and dieters hit a period where they just cannot lose any more weight "the weight loss plateau", then when they give up and go back to the old eating habits the body shoots back into a positive energy balance, which causes many dieters to regain more weight!
Dieters can also break away from a diet, maybe for a week, in order to re-stimulate the metabolism by providing essential proteins and energy to build back. Once hormonal influences are stabilized, a calorie deficit can be reintroduced in order to shock the body into fat burning mode.
It will obviously mean no fat loss during the "break" period, but doing so can help increase fat loss when you go back to the calorie deficit diet plan.