Have you ever found yourself trapped in an ending cycle of following a low calorie diet without seeing any results? It can be incredibly frustrating. Many people can relate to this struggle. If you've been sticking to 1100 calories per day for a period of time and still haven't been able to shed any fat, know that you're not alone.
Most of us approach weight loss with an equation in mind – if we consume calories than we burn we'll lose weight. However things don't always work out as planned. Sometimes we may conclude that our metabolism has slowed down due to factors like age or genetics.. The reality is more intricate.
When you consistently maintain a calorie deficit over a period your body starts making adjustments. These adjustments impact hormones related to metabolism and appetite;
- Thyroid hormone levels decrease, leading to a metabolic rate.
- Leptin levels decrease as well which contributes to both a reduced metabolic rate and increased feelings of hunger.
- Ghrelin levels increase, intensifying hunger signals.
- Insulin levels decrease, potentially increasing hunger cravings while also posing a threat to muscle retention.
- Testosterone levels may also decrease for men potentially affecting muscle retention and reproductive health.
So if you're experiencing difficulties with your low calorie diet despite sticking within your range remember that there are hormonal factors at play that could be hindering your progress. Reducing estradiol levels can have effects on bone health and women's reproductive health. Increased cortisol levels can cause water retention, reduced leptin activity and potential muscle retention issues. This issue goes beyond just metabolic adaptation; it involves a set of adjustments that impact energy expenditure, appetite, reproductive function and the balance between anabolism and catabolism.
So how do we overcome this plateau?
The first step is to increase your caloric intake to reach your maintenance level, which is also known as Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). You can calculate this by using a TDEE calculator and providing information such as your height, age, weight and activity level. For individuals who have been in a calorie deficit of over 500 calories for more than six months it is recommended to spend 6-8 weeks at the maintenance level. This allows your body's hormones to readjust and restores metabolic function.
Even if you still have weight to lose, taking a break from dieting can be beneficial both physically and mentally. However keep in mind that as you lose weight your maintenance level (TDEE) will decrease.
Here's an important tip; If you have been on a low calorie diet for a time you may want to try adjusting your macronutrient ratio to focus more on protein around 40%. You can then adjust the remaining macronutrients (fats and carbs) based on your preferences. If you feel more hungry it might be suitable to have a carbohydrate ratio. On the other hand if your hunger isn't as strong a higher fat ratio might work better for you. In case you struggle to meet your calorie intake consider adding a tablespoon of olive oil or coconut oil to your protein shake. This will help increase your fat intake without making you feel overly full.
Once you have reached your maintenance level and spent some time there you can gradually reduce calories again. Continue with your weight loss journey. The aim is to eat as much as possible while still losing body fat. Whenever making calorie reductions make sure they come from carbohydrates and fats while maintaining an intake of protein in order to preserve muscle mass.
The main point here is that a phase focused on loss should be seen as that – a phase – rather than an extended state. Keeping yourself in restriction for prolonged periods can negatively affect metabolism and hormones. If you have been in a 500 calorie deficit or more for over 16 weeks, without experiencing changes it's worth considering taking a short term break from dieting or transitioning into a longer period of maintenance.
Keep in mind that although losing fat can improve your health it's important to be cautious about long term calorie restriction as it can have effects on your metabolism and hormones.
When you're starting your journey to lose fat you may want to consider a strategy where you spend five days in a calorie deficit and two days in maintenance. This approach can help you achieve your goals efficiently.