Winter is wrapping up and the warm weather is around the corner. That means before you know it there is going to be a lot of skin out there for the world to see.
Since we planned ahead for this, we started dieting after New Year’s. Things were going good in January, but then Valentine’s Day hit and the stupid scale stopped moving.
That my friends is a fat loss plateau.
Frustration sets in.
You feel like you’ll never get the aesthetic physique you envisioned.
You tell yourself that you need to do more cardio.
So you add in more cardio but then something ridiculous happens. You gain weight! WTF?!?
Despite the bleak outlook on your version of the Summer of George there is hope for you. I’ll show you what to focus on and you can rest easy that cardio is not the answer. Break out the Speedo because we are going all out this summer.
YOUR EFFICIENT BODY
Ask 10 people how to break through a weight loss plateau and at least 9 will say do more cardio. To that, I would hit them on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.
While it seems to make sense that adding more cardio would burn more calories and in turn make you skinnier – the body doesn’t see it that way.
The body sees it like this: excess calories are being used, not a lot of fuel around (food), time to make this activity more efficient. And just like that your body’s miles per gallon just hit hybrid status.
This oversimplification is called metabolic adaptation. Everyone is against your fat loss goals even your body.
Now before we go further, let’s define cardio. For the purpose of this article cardio is steady state running/jogging/walking where your heart rate stays right in the fat burning zone. Or I like to call it…boredom.
I crap on this type of cardio a lot because it is given more credit than it is due. It is good for your heart and to build up your lung capacity but the cost is a lot more than the benefit in my opinion. I’d rather do something I enjoy than spend 20-30 minutes on a treadmill. I can get the same benefits from supersetting exercises or pushing a sled. Both of which have been proven to be 100% and 68% more awesome than steady state cardio, respectively. It’s science.
The reason you gained a few pounds while upping your cardio goes back to the old saying “Working up an appetite.” By expending energy on cardio your body needs more food. But, and this is a big but, cardio does not give you the muscle damage to warrant more food like lifting weights will. There is no need to repair the muscles with running, you are more or less just expending energy.
THE PYRAMID OF FAT LOSS
To think the battle against your muffin top is based solely on more activity would be setting yourself up to do endless cardio and in turn; hating life.
Let’s not hate life, let’s look at the factors that will give you better results than an extra 30 minutes of cardio.
In our hypothetical fat loss pyramid, nutrition is the base. 95% of the time this is the one pissing on your fat loss parade.
Stop me if you’ve said either one of these before.
“I eat healthy.”
“My eating isn’t the problem.”
If you’ve said either of those and don’t have a six pack then you are a liar, liar pants on fire.
If you still think your eating is “on point” let me ask you…Do you eat until you’re stuffed?
If so, then you aren’t eating for fat loss. BOOM!
Eating to lose fat requires above all else, a calorie deficit. You need to be burning more than you’re taking in. But only slightly in a deficit. Too much and that metabolic adaptation will jack up your metabolism faster than you can put down that piece of lettuce.
Chances are if you are dieting then you are in a calorie deficit. Sprinkling more cardio will throw you further into a deficit essentially halting your fat loss. Your better bet is to up your calories.
Yes, I said it. Eat more.
Up your calories by 100-200 calories per day for a week. So if you were eating 1800 calories, up it to 1900-2000 calories for one week. I’d bet my last 50 cents you’ll see a drop in the scale that week despite eating more.
The sweet spot for fat loss is 11-12 calories per pound of body weight. In this range you are in a calorie deficit and you don’t have to do anything out of the ordinary if you already go to the gym.
Are you sleeping your 6-8 hours a night? Not getting enough sleep throws your body all out of whack.
Being overtired causes you to crave carbs and all the delightful treats that expand your waistline. Your willpower to avoid these just isn’t there when you are tired.
Also, factor in a lack of quality sleep throws your hormones all over the place and you really don’t stand a shot in losing fat. Looking to keep or make gainz while trying to lose fat? Testosterone and growth hormone, both essential for muscle growth, are released while you sleep.
Long story short, prioritize more sleep.
Work, kids, second job, spouses and working out all do their part to give you more stress to deal with. All this stress causes an elevation in cortisol.
While good for working out, cortisol is not good when you aren’t. Cortisol in the right environment (working out) makes fat for fuel more accessible. Cortisol any other time causes fat to be stored.
To help yourself get through the fat loss plateau you need to find a way to deal with the stress in your life.
I make lists. Whenever I feel over whelmed I list out all the stuff I need to do and prioritize them. That simple act takes me from 11 to a calm, cool and collected 3.
Other things you can try:
Martial Arts Classes
Anything that is constructive and causes your mind to be present is A-OK.
Alcohol or free basing cocaine not so much.
The top of the pyramid is your workout. This is a last ditch effort. Odds are the first couple of levels will take care of your problem. Just in case you have everything else dialed in, then adjust your workout.
This could be adding more weight to the bar.
Switching up your workout if you’ve been doing the same thing for a while.
Adding exercises like lunges or pushing a sled.
Adding things to weight lifting will give you more bang for your buck. Breaking down the muscle through weight lifting creates a calorie deficit for far longer than 30 minutes of cardio. We are talking up to 47.5 hours longer!
Even Helen Keller can see weight lifting is better than cardio for fat loss.
Before I leave you, remember when you are stuck at a fat loss plateau check yourself in the following order:
Going the other way will lead to frustration and more aggravation.
If you know someone who could benefit from this article, please share it on Facebook or Twitter. 2 out of 3 people are obese today, let’s start a change.