A fat loss plateau means you are not seeing change and development in your body composition goals.
Remember fat loss and weight loss are not synonymous. Your weight can remain the same as you lose fat and gain muscle. Be sure to weigh once a week, take photos once a week to compare with your starting photos, and take measurements every 6 weeks. All of these measurements help to determine if you are in a plateau.
If you are, don’t panic! Plateaus are a normal part of any health and fitness journey. The idea that “normal weight loss” means losing 1-2 pounds per week every week from the day you start until you reach your goal weight is a fantasy. The reality is that most people will have dips, then plateaus, as our body reaches set points that we have to adjust for.
Fat loss can plateau for TWO different reasons:
- Your metabolism has downregulated to adapt to the lower caloric intake (metabolic adaptation).
- You’re not being consistent with hitting your macros (or your steps, sleep, etc.).
To determine which reason you fall under, ask yourself… When is the last time I hit my macros 7 days out of 7 for the week? When is the last time I hit a couple 7/7s in a row? Do I consistently hit my macros 13 days out of 14? Do I consistently walk 7-10K steps a day? This blog by Coach Kristi is a great read about auditing your consistency.
When fat loss plateaus, there are three possible basic strategies to use to try to push through it. Whether you fall under Reason 1 or Reason 2 determines which strategy is right for you.
Strategy 1: Eat less or move more.
This is what everyone thinks they should do to lose more fat – cut their calories further and further or exercise more and more – but it is OFTEN not the best answer.
You should NOT try to eat less if:
-You’re not already consistent with hitting your macros an average of 13 days out of every 14
-Your biofeedback is poor (i.e. you feel tired, hungry, no appetite, moody, unmotivated, sluggish in the gym, etc)
-You are already undereating
-You have been dieting for a long time
-You have found dieting in the past unsustainable
-You are still working on consistently rocking the basics of health and nutrition (macros, veggies, 25+ grams of fiber, 7-10K steps a day, 7-9 hours of sleep, drinking half your bodyweight in ounces)
You COULD try cutting calories further IF you have been consistent AND your biofeedback is in a good place. That means your energy, mood, performance, etc., is all positive and you’re feeling great overall. In this case, moving the deficit further is a viable choice that may make sense for you.
If you do decide to push the deficit further and your body continues to resist despite continued consistency over time, then it’s time for Strategy #2.
Strategy 2: Eat more.
Eating more can mean a few different things:
- You might increase your food intake to get you to a deficit you can adhere to. If you go over your macros every week when your macros are set to 1800 calories, then decreasing your calories to 1600 calories is NOT the answer. Consistency is the KEY to seeing progress. The most magical macro numbers we can give you are the ones you will hit every single day, week after week after week. More food can often help to make hitting your macros sustainable over time, which will lead to more progress. If you have a coach at Stay Fit Mom, our goal is to feed you As Much As Possible while also supporting your fat loss goals.
- You might take a refeed day to stimulate your metabolism. Refeeds are one controlled higher calorie day (typically higher carb and slightly lower fat) your coach might assign you to take during your week. ONLY take a refeed day if you hit your macros all other days of the week. If you are planning on a refeed Tuesday, but you miss your macros Monday, then cancel your refeed for the week and stick with your normal numbers. When you take a refeed, be sure to take careful note of your biofeedback that day and the following 1-2 days. Does your energy improve, do you sleep better, do you feel better in the gym? This is useful information for your coach to use moving forward.
- You might reverse your macros all the way up to maintenance for a diet break. Fat loss stages can be exhausting mentally and physically. Reversing your calories up and taking a break allows you time to recover from that diet fatigue. Your body can recover from the stress inherent in a caloric deficit, and you can focus on your health and on feeling great energywise, sleepwise, and so on. You can also prioritize building the basic habits of nutrition and health that will serve you once you are ready to cut again: fiber, veggies, water, sleep, steps, meal planning/prepping, etc. Once you are in a better place psychologically and physiologically from the benefits of eating plenty of food, you can dive into a fat loss stage again with renewed energy to move past the plateau.
Strategy 3: Stay the course and be patient!
You don’t necessarily have to do anything different with your macros. Staying the course is a great option as well!
If your consistency is not in that 13/14 range yet, staying the course is a great option.
If you haven’t been focusing on fiber, water, steps, sleep, etc., then staying the course with your macros while dialing in on those basic habits is a great option.
Even if you are doing everything right, staying the same is still often a great option.
While a drastic change or flashy “fix” is more exciting, often what we really need is more patience, time, and continued consistency.
It is inevitable that you will experience plateaus in your journey. That doesn’t mean macros isn’t working anymore. It means you need to increase consistency or your body is settling into a new equilibrium and you need to switch calories up, treat your body to a diet break and spend time at maintenance calories, and/or keep doing exactly what you’re doing and push through it.