Youre in a fat loss phase and everything is going great, your weight is trending down week to week, youre looking better, and feeling great.
But then all of a sudden things slow down and your weight is fluctuating from day to day or it hasnt gone down for a few weeks.
What do you do now?
Do you make adjustments? Do you stay the course? You also might ask yourself if fat loss is even for you.
These are things that go through everyones head when dieting for fat loss.
I get it though, it can be confusing.
You want to make sure the hard work and sacrifices you are putting in are working.
And then to top it off, you want results now.
For me personally, in the past I would make adjustments when I didn’t need to or I would make to many changes at once when I ran into a plateau.
This all led to a ton of confusion.
In this blog I want to share with you how to make adjustments based on my experience and working with hundreds of clients when you run into a fat loss plateau.
Once you read this, you will have the tools and knowledge available to make sure you are headed in the right direction, and if things slow down you will know how to make the necessary adjustments OR just stay the course.
Day to day difference
Lets say you have been seeing your weight trend down day to day, but then you have that one weigh in where it goes up a few pounds.
You think, “this doesnt make sense, I followed my macros to a T, how could I have gained weight?”
Before we move on, I do want to point out that its important to take your bodyweight atleast 2-3x per week.
We have all clients weigh in atleast 2-3x per week, first thing in the morning, post bathroom, pre food and drink.
This sets us up for the most consistent results from day to day and it shows you how your body weight (water weight usually) can fluctuate from day to day.
So lets say it spikes up one day, should you make any adjustments?
If you’re up 2.1lbs from the day before or your weigh in from a few days ago, I can GUARANTEE you that you did not gain any body fat. It just doesn’t happen that fast.
Chances are you might be a little more stressed, maybe you didn’t go to the bathroom, maybe you ate a little more food than normal yesterday, maybe you ate later at night, maybe you had saltier foods than normal and you drank a little extra water because of it.
The point is, your bodyweight can fluctuate greatly from day to day, so any adjustment made based on seeing a fluctuation from one weigh in to the next is a TERRIBLE idea.
The only thing you should do is stay the course. Any change of the plan because of is going to cause confusion and is an overreaction.
With online clients, we take the average weight for the week and match it up with previous weekly average weights.
Average for the week= 227.3
We are looking for TRENDS overtime, not what happens from day to day.
Week to week difference
Lets say you see that you didn’t lose any weight from one week to the next. What do you do now?
There are two common scenarios here:
- You are only weighing in one time per week and comparing the two weighs in (remember there can be a large variation from one weigh in to the next). As I stated earlier, you need to be taking your weight multiple times per week to get a better idea of what is actually going on. If you weigh in Wednesday one week and your weight is 230 and then you weigh in Monday the next and your weight is 232, you CANNOT assume you gained 2lbs of body fat.
Yes your bodyweight is up two pounds, BUT there is a lot that could be going on.
Any change at this point is probably an overreaction and not based on good data.
Just to reiterate this again, you need to be taking your weight multiple times per week, especially if you are prone to overreacting to what the scale says.
The other scenario…
- Lets say you do take your weight 2-3x per week, but the average is up slightly from the week before, most people would assume they are stuck and need to make changes, but just like there is day to day fluctuations, there can be week to week fluctuations that don’t tell us the big picture.
At this point you need to be honest with yourself, how adherent were you? Did you grab a few extra bites throughout the week? Did you not track as diligently as you have been?
If that’s the case, you need to fix those first before making an adjustments to your calories or cardio.
Lets say you were actually adherent. Do you make any adjustments?
MAYBE, but you should probably just stick with the calorie/macros you have been doing, and continue to do the same amount of cardio.
Unfortunately fat loss/weight loss is not linear. There are ups and down, but we want to see what the trend is over time. In this case that trend is seeing your weight go down over time, maybe not day to day or week to week, but over time its needs to be going down.
Time and time again I have seen clients who have not had their weekly average weight go down from the previous week, but then they continue doing what they have been doing and then the following week it goes down, sometimes by a good amount.
This is sometimes called the “whoosh effect.”
This is a lot like the meme where the person is searching for diamonds, and they decide to stop, but if they would have just gone a little further they would’ve gotten the diamonds.
One week of your weight not going down is not a plateau. Stay the course.
This could also be a good time to make sure you are tracking correctly. Check out this BLOG to make sure you aren’t making these common tracking mistakes.
2 weeks of no change
Now lets say you have been staying adherent to your cardio amount, tracking all your macros and calories, but then 2 weeks go by and your weekly average weight has stalled or slightly gone up.
Again if you look back and see that you haven’t been adherent to either your cardio protocol or calorie protocol then you need to first fix that before making any changes. Or check your tracking mentioned just a bit ago.
Your problem isn’t the cardio amount or the calorie amount its your adherence to the plan.
But if you are adherent (again be honest with yourself here), now you can look at making some changes.
- Drop calories slightly.
If you have seen your weight loss plateau for two weeks, you can make a small drop in calories. I would aim for around 5-10% of your current caloric intake. If you are eating 2,000 calories then decreasing by 100 to 200 calories would be your option.
Ideally you would take these calories away via carbohydrates.
Lets say you are eating 2,000 calories, you would then go to:
1,800 or 1,900 calories per day. Your protein intake would stay the same, but you would decrease via carbohydrates or fats. Preferably carbohydrates.
The biggest thing here is avoiding dropping your calories significantly. Anything more than 5-10% is a bit too risky.
If you are already doing a fair amount of cardio and don’t have time to do more, then decreasing calories can be a good option for you.
Or if you are just ok with eating less overall.
- Increase cardio slightly.
If you feel like you are already eating fairly low calorie and are having trouble sticking with the plan because your calories are so low then increasing your cardio might be a good route for you.
With clients we focus on steps for their cardio. If a client is doing 8,000 steps per day, and they have plateaued for two plus weeks and they decide that increasing cardio is good for them, then we would increase steps by 1,000-2,000 per day.
Again the goal here is to avoid a large change. You don’t want to be doing 8,000 steps per day and then when you plateau you go crazy and double your step count. That’s too big of a change.
- Mixture of both.
You can also do a mixture of both, although I try to avoid this so we can see which one plays a bigger role for that client. Instead we usually focus on either increasing cardio or decreasing calories.
If you decide you would like to increase both, then look at making a smaller change to each.
For example with our client doing 2,000 calories and 8,000 steps, we add 1,000 steps and take away 100 calories.
- Stay the course
Lastly, you can stay the course. I have seen this happen multiple times where we didn’t make a change after two weeks and stuck with the process and then after two weeks they saw a significant decrease the following week. Again a reminder to check your tracking of food.
I think this is very individual, some clients seems to get stuck for a few weeks and then see a big decrease, whereas some need to make a change after two weeks otherwise they are just spinning our wheels.
If this is your first time having to deal with this, I would lean towards making small changes if you want to see the weight come off. For some clients they need to see results in order to stay compliant.
BUT if you are ok with being patient and don’t have a time sensitive goal, then sticking with it could be a good option for you.
3 weeks with no change.
Lets say its been 3 weeks and there has been no change, then its time to make some adjustments.
You would use the same formula from above to make that change.
Chances are if you have gone 3 weeks without a change in the weekly average weight then your body has adapted to that caloric amount and cardio amount.
Read HERE to learn more about metabolic adaptation.
Some people see more metabolic adaptation than others, its very individual.
What if you make an adjustment and then need to make another down the line?
You would just follow this same formula.
At some point you will only be able to do so much cardio and bring your calories so low.
This is why we only work in 6-16 week fat loss phases with clients.
At some point you have to bring your calories back up.
Listen HERE to learn about reverse dieting and how to manage the post diet period.
If you are interested in nutrition periodization, here are two blogs for you to read:
There will be a plateau at some time, but its all about how you handle that plateau, and the other big thing is to ensure that you don’t make an overreaction.
If you need help with setting up a long term fat loss plan, fill out the link here and lets get to work.