How is your fat loss going?
So you started a diet a few weeks ago…
You eat “clean”; meat, chicken, fish and veggies. Healthy fats in controlled portions and you don’t touch any carbs, the devil’s product.
Although you responded very well initially, nowadays you are struggling to get results.
You found that the first week you dropped quite a bit of weight and clothes were fitting looser. Second week you got results again but to a little lesser extent.
But now the results have really slowed down. You are losing motivation because of this. You are sticking to the diet plan but it seems that it is not working anymore. As a result you don’t even feel like going to the gym anymore. What’s the point since you are not losing weight, right? And now you are putting on weight as well.
Is there a solution?
Well fortunately, yes there is!
Let’s break fat loss down so it becomes easier to understand.
First of all, the drop in body weight is not a very indicative measure in terms of what is happening inside your body. For example, we don’t know if you are putting muscle on, which will show as an increase in weight on the scales, however this is good weight, consisting of active metabolic tissue that actually helps you burn fat.
The way to find this out is to perform a body composition test. There are several such tests available, including measuring skinfolds, as well as using fancy technologies like bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA) and dual x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA).1
Skinfold analysis is routinely performed by personal trainers at commercial gyms. The limitation of this method is that there is a lot of interindividual variability between different assessors as well as human error emerging due to the choice of site of pinch and the manual pulling of the skin.2
BIA, is performed by machines, but it still requires the assessor to place electrodes (unless if a TANITA scale is used) and this also introduces human error.
DEXA is considered the gold standard of commercially available body composition methods. Only, water immersion is ranked higher, and this is solely found in laboratory environments and strictly used for experiments. The only limitation of this method is the hydration status, as water is considered lean mass. Thus, a dehydrated person would appear as having a higher BF%. This is to be taken into consideration when testing during different periods of the year, humidity status, menstrual stage for females, oedema and other water-affecting medical conditions etc. In that sense, choosing a reliable clinic with experts in their profession ensures accuracy, precision, reliability and credibility of the results. In addition, a reputable clinic will ensure that the machine is calibrated on a regular basis.
Now back to fat loss,
As explained, that number on the scale does not really say much.
Probably a more reliable measure would be to just assess the results by using the mirror and by how the clothes fit.
Taking the above into consideration it is not a surprise that initially you experienced a big drop in weight that slowed down gradually.
What most likely has happened is that the initial weight loss occurred due to the liver and intramuscular glycogen store depletion. This is usually the case when one is following one of the popular fad diets of our era that condemn carbs and preach to just eat protein and fat.
A gram of glycogen retains three grams of water.3 So say you have lost 250g of glycogen, this would result in a kilogram of body weight lost.
The rate of glycogen depletion is also much faster than the rate of fat store burning, and thus the kinetics of the rapid initial loss point towards that as well.
It is not of surprise that as you get discouraged from not progressing although following the diet plan. Some of you may decide to stop activities (e.g. gym) and end up putting on weight that was lost and sometimes add more to it, an effect known as “yo-yo”.
So what is the solution?
You may have guessed it already…
Follow a healthy, balanced diet plan followed by a healthy balanced training regime.
Weight training not only burns calories directly while performing the exercise (like cardio activity does) but it also burns calories indirectly, even when you are resting, via promoting increases in basal metabolic rate (BMR).
Ideally, you should be doing a combination of aerobic (cardio) and anaerobic (weight training or high-intensity-interval-training) activity ensuring both direct as well as indirect calorie burning, while promoting fitness and general health.
Aerobic activity will also increase adrenaline levels4,5 (a hormone implicated in fat loss) complementing anaerobic activity that will raise the levels of beta-adrenergic receptors (the receptor this hormone binds to, to mediate its effects).6
You should also be following a balanced diet plan that does not exclude any major food groups. Carbs are not bad for you! In fact, certain cells of the body, such as red blood cells, certain brain cells and kidney cells, cannot survive without simple carbohydrates, such as glucose. Moreover carbohydrates increase the metabolic rate as opposed to using fat as fuel. The thermic effect (how much the body temperature is raised) when burning 1g of carbohydrates is higher to that when the body burns 1g of fat.7
It is therefore not surprising that the metabolic rate slows down when one of these FAD diets is followed.
Take away message is that maintaining a balanced diet such as for e.g. the Mediterranean one and an active lifestyle is key. If you are unsure what a balanced diet, or proper exercise regime is like, contact us to book an appointment with one our accredited practicing dietitians or exercise physiologists at Nutrigenius that can guide you to attain your goal in a fast and healthy manner!
The Nutrigenius Team
1. Wells JC, Fewtrell MS. Measuring body composition. Arch Dis Child. 2006;91(7):612‐617. doi:10.1136/adc.2005.085522
2. Duren DL, Sherwood RJ, Czerwinski SA, et al. Body composition methods: comparisons and interpretation. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2008;2(6):1139‐1146. doi:10.1177/193229680800200623
3. Fernández-Elías VE, Ortega JF, Nelson RK, Mora-Rodriguez R. Relationship between muscle water and glycogen recovery after prolonged exercise in the heat in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015;115(9):1919‐1926. doi:10.1007/s00421-015-3175-z
4. Zouhal H, Jacob C, Delamarche P, Gratas-Delamarche A. Catecholamines and the effects of exercise, training and gender. Sports Med. 2008;38(5):401‐423. doi:10.2165/00007256-200838050-00004
5. Kjaer M. Adrenal medulla and exercise training. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1998;77(3):195‐199. doi:10.1007/s004210050321
6. Butler J, Kelly JG, O’Malley K, Pidgeon F. Beta-adrenoceptor adaptation to acute exercise. J Physiol. 1983;344:113‐117. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.1983.sp014927
7. Schwartz RS, Ravussin E, Massari M, O’Connell M, Robbins DC. The thermic effect of carbohydrate versus fat feeding in man. Metabolism. 1985;34(3):285‐293. doi:10.1016/0026-0495(85)90014-9