There’s nothing more frustrating than reducing your calories, upping your cardio, and you have everything else on point but the scale isn’t budging and the tape measure gives you the same readings.
You’ve been going at it for weeks, months, and it feels like an eternity — and you feel like you’re beginning to waste your time.
At this point, many people say “screw it” and simply throw in the towel, only to return to their bad habits.
And I’ve been here before — believe me — but you need to keep plugging away at it — believe me.
Be not alarmed, because there are things you can do.
While I would advocate for you to continue losing weight at a steady pace at the highest daily caloric intake possible and without half-killing yourself every time you do cardio, the failure to continue to shift poundage indicates that you need to increase your caloric deficit as your body strives to reach homeostasis.
1) It is time to reduce calories.
When you’ve plateaud hard and have no other recourse other than to increase your caloric deficit, you should lower your caloric intake.
But it doesn’t have to be a drastic drop.
You can continue to eat many of your current food choices — just either not as much or as frequently.
Actually, you don’t need to drop your calories by more than 100-200 calories.
Try swapping out some red meat for white meat, fish, or less fatty protein sources.
Add more fibrous raw vegetables instead of carb sources.
It shouldn’t be that demanding either — as it is only 25-50g of carbs a day, which really isn’t all that much.
Evaluate whether you’ve continued to lose weight and if that doesn’t work try…
2) Increasing your daily cardio.
Again, it doesn’t have to be anything drastic.
You don’t have to add another hour of uphill walking or an additional game of tennis a day.
It just needs to be a little more.
And that can be an extra 1,000 steps a day or another 5-15 minutes of anaerobic/aerobic cardio.
It’s really up to you as to how you make up that extra cardio.
The goal is to give yourself wriggle room for if you plateau again in the future.
Imagine being on 1,800 calories and 2 hours cardio a day with another 20lb to lose — but you’ve plateaud.
What do you do then?
Do you now do 2.5 hours of cardio?
Reduce calories to 1,600?
How will your workouts fare now?
Why not be at 2,600 calories a day and 1 hour uphill walking 3-4 times a week instead?
Which do you think is more comfortable?
If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.
If you’re consistently losing fat at a comfortable caloric intake, why lower your calories?
Imagine how crappy you’ll feel: no libido, no energy, no patience, crankiness, shoddy work productivity, muscle wastage, etc, etc.
Sometimes you could need a pick-me-up, which is why you should try to…
3) Build Muscle and Drink My magic homemade fat-burning potion.
It’s quick and easy to make and I swear by it.
Not only will the green tea give you energy, the L-Theanine can also help relax you to offset cortisol build-up and offset the jitteriness some caffeine-sensitive individuals may experience.
Furthermore, the potion contains several ingredients than can help improve insulin sensitivity.
Drinking my homemade fat-burning potion or black coffee contains caffeine which is a stimulant and can help you be more active when you’re in a caloric deficit.
It’s not the caffeine itself, per se, that directly burns the fat; but it’s the extra movement from the energy it gives that helps you to get into a further deficit.
Remember, the activity which burns the most calories is being alive.
If you’re a lifter with 5 years experience under your belt and around 30lb of gained lean tissue, your base metabolic rate may increase by 600-900 calories a day just by keeping the extra tissue.
Let’s take the bottom end of that daily caloric increase for the above lifter’s metabolic rate. At 3,100 calories a day just to maintain his mass, he would have to exercise vigorously for like 6-7 hours just to burn that off.
Muscle mass is metabolically expensive — think about the pro-bodybuilders that put away 4000-5000 calories a day without gaining an ounce of fat and who sometimes keep cardio to a minimum.
And yes, you can absolutely gain muscle in a deficit, providing you’re not starving yourself and you consume a reasonable amount of protein.
4) The Refeed
Some people at lower body fat percentages might struggle to lower calories safely any further.
Imagine: an athlete at 1,800 calories a day has plateaud prematurely — what does he do?
If your body has slowed right down, you can try having a day or a planned day every week where you up your calories or your carb intake to refill the muscles with glycogen.
The spike in insulin levels and the jolt to the metabolism can almost jumpstart your diet if progress has stagnated.
I would sometimes find that I would in fact visibly lose fat after a planned cheat meal or day.
5) The Restructure
However, the refeed may only be a temporary fix and a total overhaul, restructuring of one’s diet might be needed.
Say you’ve been dieting to cut fat for a few months. You’ve cut your calories and upped your cardio gradually.
Eventually, you’re in the situation where you cannot lower your calories anymore without feeling like utter garbage and you barely have any energy to complete your cardio.
You’re still several pounds away from your goal, but the scale doesn’t budge.
What do you do?
Well, you’ll have to restructure your diet and take a step backwards.
This doesn’t mean eating an excessive amount of calories, but to increase your calories to the point where you’re in a mild deficit from your estimated base metabolic rate.
Decrease the amount of cardio you’re doing or even take a short break.
Stay at your new mild caloric deficit for a few weeks, keeping an eye on the scale to ensure that there are no drastic weight fluctuations.
And don’t be disheartened if you gain a couple of pounds.
In the long run, this method is far more beneficial than stripping off tons of hard-earned muscle mass and losing barely any fat by punishing yourself by more extreme dieting.
Presuming you’ve either leveled off weight-wise or even dropped some poundage, continue your gradual cut from there, taking the time to reevaluate whether another restructure is needed in the future.