T Nation

Go Off Diet to Bust Plateau?

I have been very consistent with my diet for the past two months but unfortunately I hit a plateau (2 weeks without loosing ANY weight). This weekend through Tuesday I went off my diet - not BAD off my diet but at least one bad meal per day. I didn’t miss any workouts, but I expected myself to gain some weight or at least stagnate…but I lost 2 lbs.

Is this a common thing? Does this mean I’m restricting myself two much?

For the record, I’m maintaining a diet of 2000c - 2400c per day with around 200g/protein, 100g/carbohydrates, and 100g/fat per day (give or take). When I went off my diet, my calories were in the 3000-3300 range with my macros weighing heavier towards carbohydrates. I currently weigh about 220 (235 starting weight) consisting of 28%+ body fat.

Another thing…when I miss a workout for one reason or another I tend to come back significantly stronger than before. By significantly stronger I mean that I usually add more weight than normal to my big lifts (dl/squat/bench)

Obviously I’m gaining some muscle mass since I’m consistently adding weight to the bar. However I cannot believe the plateau is a result of gaining as much muscle mass as fat mass I’m losing.

Check out Joel Marion’s “Cheat to Lose” diet. I think he has some info about this phenomenon.

At 220, 2000 cals is a little low. I would say for your weight, 3000 is a decent fat loss range, So I’m not surprised after a few 3000 cal days your body decided it could shed some fat it wanted to hold onto.

As far as coming back stronger, I think that’s normal after an extra day of rest. Also, if that day of rest coincided with a higher cal day, that might have helped as well.

cueball

Thanks, I’ll check it out.

I’m beginning to think that my body doesn’t respond as well as others to low carb diets. I may try to up the carbs a bit and lower the fat and see if that improves my fat loss.

Marion’s book I believe comments on the occasional cheat meal raises your body leptins level and makes it easier to mobilize fat for use. If leptin levels get too low the body thinks it is starving and won’t give up any of its energy stores.

[quote]Stuyou wrote:

I’m beginning to think that my body doesn’t respond as well as others to low carb diets. I may try to up the carbs a bit and lower the fat and see if that improves my fat loss.[/quote]

I discovered this for myself as well. At least now you know.

[quote]CthruPants wrote:
I discovered this for myself as well. At least now you know.[/quote]

…and knowing if half the battle.

[quote]Stuyou wrote:
Thanks, I’ll check it out.

I’m beginning to think that my body doesn’t respond as well as others to low carb diets. I may try to up the carbs a bit and lower the fat and see if that improves my fat loss.[/quote]

This is true for me as well. I have carefully documented it with detailed food logs and body comp measurements. If I drop carbs too low, I lose muscle. If I raise fat too high, I gain fat. If my calories are too low, I lose muscle and maintain or even gain fat. (!) If I cheat, I tend to drop a bunch of fat. Each time it happens, I can hardly believe it.

[quote]andersons wrote:
Stuyou wrote:
Thanks, I’ll check it out.

I’m beginning to think that my body doesn’t respond as well as others to low carb diets. I may try to up the carbs a bit and lower the fat and see if that improves my fat loss.

This is true for me as well. I have carefully documented it with detailed food logs and body comp measurements. If I drop carbs too low, I lose muscle. If I raise fat too high, I gain fat. If my calories are too low, I lose muscle and maintain or even gain fat. (!) If I cheat, I tend to drop a bunch of fat. Each time it happens, I can hardly believe it.

[/quote]

You respond well to ESW don’t you?

Rough guidelines to dieting:
Keep your diet as low as you find tolerable and when you notice: (a) a decrease in gym performance, (b) a stagnation in scale weight and mirror appearance, © both a and b… then it’s time to have a calorie spike day.

[quote]cueball wrote:
At 220, 2000 cals is a little low. I would say for your weight, 3000 is a decent fat loss range, So I’m not surprised after a few 3000 cal days your body decided it could shed some fat it wanted to hold onto.
cueball[/quote]

Keep in mind that at least 65lbs of my weight is fat. I would agree with you that I need a 3000 cal diet if I had a significant amount of muscle to maintain…but I don’t.

I had my metabolic rate tested a few months ago and my rmr is 2400 calories. I conservatively try to hit around 2200 calories assuming that I may be underestimating the calories - nothing is exact. That being said, I am fulfilling my rmr and my excess calories come from my daily activity. Since I jockey a desk all day, the only significant activity for my day is at the gym.

However, I’m not arguing with you at all…you are probably correct. I am going to try to “cycle” my carbs and calories and see where that takes me. My plan is to still maintain my current diet during the week and up my carbs (+100 - 150) and calories (+400 - 600) a bit on the weekends. I’ll re-assess in a few weeks.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this plan? Anyone have experience in dropping fat using a cycling approach like this?

[quote]ovalpline wrote:
Rough guidelines to dieting:
Keep your diet as low as you find tolerable and when you notice: (a) a decrease in gym performance, (b) a stagnation in scale weight and mirror appearance, © both a and b… then it’s time to have a calorie spike day.[/quote]

This is so simple it’s beautiful.

[quote]Stuyou wrote:
cueball wrote:
At 220, 2000 cals is a little low. I would say for your weight, 3000 is a decent fat loss range, So I’m not surprised after a few 3000 cal days your body decided it could shed some fat it wanted to hold onto.
cueball

Keep in mind that at least 65lbs of my weight is fat. I would agree with you that I need a 3000 cal diet if I had a significant amount of muscle to maintain…but I don’t.

I had my metabolic rate tested a few months ago and my rmr is 2400 calories. I conservatively try to hit around 2200 calories assuming that I may be underestimating the calories - nothing is exact. That being said, I am fulfilling my rmr and my excess calories come from my daily activity. Since I jockey a desk all day, the only significant activity for my day is at the gym.

However, I’m not arguing with you at all…you are probably correct. I am going to try to “cycle” my carbs and calories and see where that takes me. My plan is to still maintain my current diet during the week and up my carbs (+100 - 150) and calories (+400 - 600) a bit on the weekends. I’ll re-assess in a few weeks.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this plan? Anyone have experience in dropping fat using a cycling approach like this?
[/quote]

I would say that with your body composition, reducing your carb intake and and replacing those calories with healthy fats might be a better way to go. Upping carbs by 150g a day is quite a jump. I don’t consume that many in a day and I have between 50g and 75g peri-workout.

cueball

[quote]cueball wrote:
I would say that with your body composition, reducing your carb intake and and replacing those calories with healthy fats might be a better way to go. Upping carbs by 150g a day is quite a jump. I don’t consume that many in a day and I have between 50g and 75g peri-workout.

cueball

[/quote]

I am already getting 800 cal from protein, 400 cal from carbs, and 900 cals from fats (give or take).

I understand that you really can’t absorb more than your weight in protein grams so I don’t want to up my protein. I am already getting 40% of my calories from fats (olive oil, peanut oil, some butter, eggs, natty pb, etc). By upping my carbs I would balance out my diet a bit more - that’s the theory anyway.

Should I go the other route and reduce my carbs even more?

As I have said before, I don’t think I respond to reduced carbs as well as other people.

This works for some people. I wish it fucking worked for me. When I go off-plan it complete screws me up.

I’ve been pondering having a ‘cheat day’ (I always feel like a fat housewife when I use the term, for some reason)today, but haven’t decided if I want to go through with it or not. I’ve been dieting squeaky clean for the past month, but things seem to be slower than when I wasn’t restricting my carbs so much. I suppose I could derail for just today, for science, but it seems like it would ruin my clean-run, which I don’t like.

It feels like mental weakness, but I only really want to do it to further my fat loss. I’m not sure what that means, as far as self-control goes…

[quote]ovalpline wrote:
Rough guidelines to dieting:
Keep your diet as low as you find tolerable and when you notice: (a) a decrease in gym performance, (b) a stagnation in scale weight and mirror appearance, © both a and b… then it’s time to have a calorie spike day.[/quote]

Oh come on, that makes way too much sense for people to follow :wink:

[quote]Stuyou wrote:

I have been very consistent with my diet for the past two months but unfortunately I hit a plateau (2 weeks without loosing ANY weight). This weekend through Tuesday I went off my diet - not BAD off my diet but at least one bad meal per day. I didn’t miss any workouts, but I expected myself to gain some weight or at least stagnate…but I lost 2 lbs.

Is this a common thing? Does this mean I’m restricting myself two much? [/quote]

I don’t know how common, but this always happens to me. Not even the plateaus, but the exaggerated fat loss after a cheat day or meal that has a lot more fat and a lot more carbs than the other meals on my diet.

I also find that I do better on a moderate carb, moderate fat diet instead of the low-carb, high-fat diet. Probably around 40-30-30, basically a Zone diet. I don’t lose the huge 8 or 10 pounds that some V-dieters report early on, but I consistently drop 2-3 pounds of fat per week without losing muscle. I am bound and determined not to lose muscle as it’s very hard to come by, for me.

Also, if I plateau for a week, I tweak things by

  • raising calories (my first choice; usually works miracles)
  • space meals closer together in the morning
  • check food choices

Reluctantly I also may try more cardio as I get closer to my target level of leanness, but I fear losing muscle.

I’ve also been reading some interested stuff about carb cycling like Dave Tate is doing. It sounds a lot like what works for me, but with a systematic approach whereas I am just playing it by ear, having learned what works for me so far by trial and error.

Sometimes I wonder if the pendulum has swung too far away from carbs around here.

Two things to check or tweak:

  • recovery time: maybe you will benefit from more in general
  • carbs: did the increased strength coincide with more carb consumption as well as the extra rest?

I certainly can attest to this. A week or two ago I was actually going up in weight despite having the stomach flu and keeping calories between 1400 on off days, and 2100 on training days AND while only consuming oranges as carbs on my carb up day. This was all on the Anabolic Diet mind you.

I switched to Rob Faigan’s style of eating, which is AD style except for a single high carb meal every 3rd and 4th day. After incorporating that, I’ve begin to drop weight again faster than ever.