Dieting not working? Hit a plateau?
Updated: Mar 2, 2020
Well.. there are a few reasons this could be!
Firstly – for the purposes of this blog I am going to focus on fat loss as the main goal. (if you are after muscle gain – this is all still relevant!)
To start let’s simplify some nutritional information for you (now remember – I am not a nutritionist or dietician, but what I am is a good researcher and know well documented case study findings when I see them)
How the energy you consume each day is utilised by your body (TDEE):
Now what do all these fancy letters mean:
TDEE: Total Daily Energy Expenditure (total amount of calories you burn erry single day)
BMR: Basal metabolic rate, basically the absolute minimum amount of energy your body needs in order to function daily (like if you were to netflix all day long, this is what you would burn) NOTE: this is the LARGEST contributor to energy use, using approximately 70% of all energy each day.
NEAT: Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, meaning the energy you burn with your daily movements (NOT intentional exercise) so you know the old; park two blocks away from work, take the stairs instead of the elevator… even clicking your pen or annoyingly bouncing your leg while you’re at your desk – this is NEAT. NOTE: this is the second largest contributor to daily energy use
TEF: Thermogenic Effect on Food, the energy that it costs your body to chew, swallow, digest, store and use the food you eat. Interestingly, protein requires the most amount of energy to process of all macronutrients. That's right folks - eating BURNS calories!
EAT: Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. THIS is your intentional exercise, your gym sessions, your runs, mountain climbing etc. NOTE: This contributes the smallest amount at only ~5% of your daily energy use.
NREE: Non Resting Energy Expenditure & REE: Resting Energy Expenditure (ie. energy it costs to do the things (non resting) as well as when you're not doing the things (resting)) - Double bracket ftw
Now what does all this mean???
Obviously it would make sense to try to increase some of these areas, no? And considering how little your actual intentional exercise contributes, it would make more sense to try to increase the larger areas? So how do we do that?
I’m so glad you asked.. read on!
How to increase your BMR – Utilising a decent strength training program and adhering to it long term can increase you BMR through the growth of lean muscle mass. Muscles require up tp 150% more energy to exist while at rest. So, the more muscle mass we have, the more energy our bodies require at rest! Woo Hoo!
How to increase your NEAT – Do all those things I mentioned above! Park your car a few blocks away from work (just allow for it in your time, I don’t want to be to blame for you losing your job!). Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator (and don’t get me started on the moving walkways in airports, ffs), get a stand up desk at work, or at least take a heap of bathroom breaks to get moving! Basically anything that is going to have you moving in your day to day life more – do that!
How to increase your TEF – When we eat food, it requires energy to chew, digest and store or use that energy (wut!). Protein has been shown to require more energy to process than carbs or fats (Protein uses 30% of the energy consumed just to process the rest of it!). So basically – focus on your protein consumption at every meal and you’ll be getting the best bang for your buck (protein coincidentally also has less calories per gram than fats, and the same as carbs, but WILL result in a higher feeling of satisfaction!)
Now there are a couple of other issues that can occur when trying to lose weight – and this is where it gets tricky. Your body can and will adapt to a calorie deficit over time (a long time). Meaning your BMR will reduce (your body is built to want a certain amount of fat on it – it doesn’t care that you can’t see your abs), so it will reduce your BMR to ensure there is enough energy for the needs of your organs etc.
Additionally, eating less calories leads to a lower TEF; less calories to eat, less calories required to burn them – makes sense!
You may also find your NEAT goes down, I mean, you’re hungry, tired, low energy and probably a bit sore if you’ve been training, that’s enough to lower anyones motivation to stop parking a few blocks away from work!
Take home messages (the part you'll be tested on - the important bits):
Get your strength training in, build lean muscle mass!
Create a small, manageable but satisfying calorie deficit. If you find your energy levels are waaay too low, increase your calories a smidge.
A too large deficit will only cause you problems – studies show that after long periods of intense dieting, metabolic adaptations occur, meaning your BMR slows (among other things) and it takes a while to speed up afterwards – your body is built to preserve fat, so it will try to gain more fat back! A large deficit will also lead to poor performance and recovery (not to mention injury risk)
HAVE PATIENCE!! These things take time, and what’s the rush anyway – strength training is fun AF plus in the long run you get to eat more!!
Focus on your protein consumption! (protein is also shown to have a greater rate of satiety, meaning you’re less likely to get the munchies after dinner)
Find yourself a good coach, with a good program and good supportive likeminded people around and do yourself a favour! (OMG that sounds so much like Pegasus Strength – what a coincidence). Also there are approximately 1 zillion other benefits to strength training.