Don’t worry, I hear you… sometimes the fat loss just seems to stop or slow down drastically without any apparent reason as to why.
And no I am not here to tell you to eat less and train more. Quite the contrary actually, in this article we are going to discuss how you can eat more to lose more and also one other factor you need to be aware of if your primary goal is fat loss.
So let’s remove the confusion and implement these 3 key strategies to ensure fat loss continues and your goals can be achieved more efficiently.
1. Vary Your Caloric Intake
When we consume food, our body relies on an automated feedback system that is designed to send signals back to the control centre telling it we are either full or still in need of more food. The two major stimulatory feedback systems involved in this are the stretch reflex of the Vagus nerve in the stomach in response to food volume and the release of Leptin, which is known as the satiety hormone.
During caloric restriction, Leptin levels begin to drop while a simultaneous increase in ghrelin, which is the appetite stimulating hormone, starts to rise. As a result of this, we are hungrier more frequently and satisfied less.
Thanks for nothing body!
Now, it would be nice to simply just load your stomach with high volume low calorie vegetables in an effort to stretch the Vagus nerve in your stomach, which in theory could shut down hunger, and it does have some premise, however, unfortunately, Leptin and its feedback system win on a hierarchical scale.
So here is the issue with Leptin
When Leptin levels drop, your body recognises that it is being asked to break down stored energy (fat) and instead of allowing this to happen, it does its utmost best to reduce your metabolic rate in order to save itself from death due to starvation. So not only are you now having to deal with the hunger of low calories, but your body is also slowing down how fast your body burns calories as well.
Because of this, it is critically important that caloric intake is never completely stagnant for extended periods of time, as this will help minimise metabolic homoeostasis, whereby the body becomes less efficient at burning fuel on a daily basis.
Keeping your caloric intake idle is a sure fast way to also have your fat loss idle too.
While still focusing on maintaining a weekly caloric deficit, change your daily caloric intake up from week to week and make it more variable to avoid excessive metabolic down-regulation. By having high, medium or low caloric intake days in a variable fashion, your metabolic rate is less likely to become as inefficient.
2. Refeed Regularly
Following on from Leptin and its reduced circulatory levels during a caloric deficit, the goal for long-term dieting should be to try and ‘trick’ or maintain metabolic health as best as possible.
While changing up your daily caloric intake is a good start and is also a fantastic way to reduce the monotony of dieting, during long-term deficits and especially in individuals with very low body fat, allocating in regular, specifically high carbohydrate days, is critically important in regulating metabolism.
Moreover, the frequency, length and caloric intake of a refeed become quite important…
A refeed should follow the below principles:
- Calories at or just above theoretical maintenance
- Fats kept lower
- Protein kept moderate
- Remaining calories allocated to carbohydrates
A simple way to achieve this is to multiply your body weight by an allocated multiplier to reach maintenance calories.
- For females: Multiply your bodyweight (kg) by 28-30
- For males: Multiply your bodyweight (kg) by 32-34
As this will be close to your maintenance calories, an easy way to give a base level of macronutrients is to then allocate the following percentages to each one.
While following these percentages is by no means optimal, they will at least allow you to get a sufficient amount of carbohydrates in, which will help by both refuelling your depleted energy stores and enhance performance, but more importantly, being at maintenance calories with high carbohydrates creates the most metabolically stimulating environment you can achieve.
But that’s not where refeeds end - Yay, more food!!
In order to maximise metabolic re-stimulation, it is suggested that the longer you diet and the lower your body fat reaches, the more frequent you need to refeed and similarly, to achieve the most optimal effect, you need to refeed for 2 consecutive days at maintenance calories to achieve metabolic improvement.
Aim to have a double day refeed once every few weeks if your deficit calories and macronutrients have been on point and then the closer you get to your goal physique, the more frequent you can have them.
3. Move more
This one is pretty straightforward but it needs to be said…
When you diet, the same negative feedback loop that is initiated in a phase of caloric restriction shuts down your subconscious activity and consequently you may find yourself burning far fewer calories from non-specific exercise on a daily basis.
Without even knowing it, you can cancel out your calorie restriction by moving less…
Make a conscious effort to walk more, stand when you're working if you can from time to time and don’t become lazy in your day-to-day activities. The more active you are, the more calories you will burn and the more linear your results will be.
Moving more is also great for mindset!
While dieting may seem like a simple process, the internal workings of your physical, psychological and emotional machinery do their best to make it harder. By making yourself aware of these workings, however, you can offset the level in which they affect your fat loss quite significantly.
Now, this article is not here to say its ok for you to binge regularly or to micromanage your diet so much that you become OCD about calories or macronutrients, that’s the last thing I want. Instead, this article is a small insight into understanding what you can do from a physical and dietary standpoint to ensure your physical, mental and even social health are looked after during a dieting phase.
Finally, find a diet set up that is comfortable for you to organise time wisely, that offers you the flavours of food you enjoy and set out some variability in both your food type intake but also the amount you eat as well.
A simple 2-day refeed once ever 2-3 weeks is a great way to get both a physical and a mental break and following this dietary breakdown will help you achieve far better long-term results.