By Tom Venuto
A weight loss plateau often occurs because the difference between energy intake and energy expenditure gradually balances. The human body must restore energy balance in order to survive.Our body needs these natural physiological mechanisms to help maintain energy balance relatively quickly.
The Process of a Weight Loss Plateau
In order to lose weight, we need to create a negative energy balance or a calorie deficit, this is fact. The number of calories we cut from our intake needs to be sufficient enough in order to see some results fairly quickly. If we begin a new diet by cutting our calorie intake by about 500 per day we 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 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. Ever noticed how we can no longer eat those big meals we once used to eat before dieting?
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. This process was ideal many years ago when our ancestors roamed the land. We need to view any long-term weight loss in different stages.
Secondary Effects of a Plateau; We Burn Less Calories
As the body becomes progressively lighter, less calories are burned during movements, therefore 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!
Limit the effects of the Weight Loss Plateau!
The facts above means it is vital that dieters begin by reducing calorie intake slowly, this limits the loss of lean weight and helps keep metabolism high during dieting. Also, any exercise done within the first 10 – 15 workouts 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 gain weight again.
Tom’s Burn The Fat eBook has an entire chapter devoted to breaking plateaus including a long checklist of fat loss plateau-breaking strategies (chapter 4). Chapter 12 explains the calorie and carb cycling strategy. You can pick up a copy at: www.BurnTheFat.com