February 4, 2023

Filipino Guardian

Sentinels of Filipino Free Press

How to break a weight loss plateau

It’s impossible to say for sure based on the information you’ve provided, but one potential problem is that you may be overly strict with your diet – a mistake when trying to get lean. The problem with continuously keeping calories below a maintenance level is that your body senses hunger, which sets off a chain of hormonal events that lead to a weight loss plateau. This is triggered by a hormone called leptin, which acts as a “fat thermostat” in your body. Leptin responds to both reduced food intake and a reduction in body fat. When either or both of these occur, leptin sends a signal to the brain that ultimately causes a reduction in your metabolism and increased hunger. The end result: Fat loss stagnates or even increases.

To maximize fat loss, schedule a regularly scheduled “refeed” day. Think of the refeed as a cheat day where you can eat anything you want, including sugary and/or fatty foods. Go ahead and order a pizza. Visit your favorite fast food restaurant. Eat chocolate cake or ice cream. Within reason, there should be no restrictions.

Now you’re probably saying, “C’mon Brad, how can increasing my calorie intake for a day help me lose weight?” Simple. Refeeding has a positive impact on leptin levels and the results of this are visible almost immediately after the refeed. Although leptin’s primary function is to control the long-term maintenance of body fat levels, it also plays a role in monitoring short-term changes in food intake. While leptin itself does not cause meal abortions, it does act locally in the stomach, increasing during periods of overfeeding and decreasing during periods of underfeeding. Thus, by increasing food intake from time to time, you are “tricking” your body into thinking that it is not starving, thereby mitigating any drop in leptin production. The metabolism gets going again and the feeling of hunger subsides. A win win situation!

In order to increase the positive effect on leptin, it is advisable to consume a good portion of calories from carbohydrate-based foods (especially non-fibrous starches) during the refeed. Glucose, the component of starch, has been shown to increase leptin production much more than fatty foods. Pasta, rice, bread, pancakes and other starches are excellent choices for recovery. Even simple sugars like cookies and cakes are fine. This is one of the few instances where high GI foods are actually desirable.

The refeed tag also has clear psychological benefits. After several months of withdrawal, most people develop excessive cravings for “forbidden” foods. Combined with the feeling of hunger induced by leptin and other hormones, they eventually go into a feeding frenzy and eat everything in sight. With the refeed, this will no longer be a problem. Knowing that you can satisfy your cravings on a regular basis is usually enough to maintain dietary compliance over the long term.

Ideally, you should limit the total calories in your refeed to around 150 percent of your regular diet. If your diet calls for 1,400 calories per day, don’t eat more than about 2,100 calories. This gives you plenty of leeway to satisfy cravings and boost leptin production while keeping caloric intake within reasonable limits. Although a little planned overindulgence is desirable, eating large amounts of food is detrimental to body composition.

For most people, a once-a-week refill is all it takes to re-regulate leptin. With low body fat levels, however, it can be beneficial to schedule refeeds even more frequently. You see, the lower your body fat percentage, the more your body tries to resist additional weight loss by shutting down leptin production. So if your body fat drops below about 12 percent, you may need to top up every five to six days to see further results.

Regardless of the frequency, it’s important to make your refeed day a regular event. Don’t let cheating become a habit. You need to be strict about your diet and make your refeed a planned event. Think of it as a reward for your discipline, something to look forward to.

Bottom Line: Eat on a strict diet six days a week and re-eat on the seventh day. See how your body is reacting and make adjustments accordingly. In a short time you will break this weight loss plateau and drop your body fat percentage to the lowest possible level.