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Minimal Weight Loss Despite a LARGE Deficit?

Hello Coach, hope you are doing well. I am writing this as I am in my 5th week of dieting and so far it has been the weirdest one!

This is not my first cut, actually, I 've had successfully cut down to 10% bodyfat 4 times before so I am pretty familiar with my maintenance calories and I usually use the same food over and over.

I am short, 5 ft 7 and I weigh 166 lbs at about 16% bodyfat. I am currently eating an average of 1900 calories daily, 320 min of cardio weekly, 3 weight training sessions, and 6000 steps daily. With this, I was able to lose a pitiful 0.65 lbs/week with minimal waist and hip measurement reduction which I thought was strange as I normally lose up to 2 lbs doing this.

Do you guys have any idea if this has to do with water retention or my metabolism is severely adapted?

Thank you :slight_smile:

How old are you?

With your body stats, that amount of physical activity and the number of calories you’re eating I’m guessing you’ve got both water retention and metabolic adaptation going on.

How big of a bite did you take out of your maintenance calories at the start of your new cutting cycle? If you’re aiming to lose more than 1% of your bodyweight per week with your calculated calorie deficit, then you’re probably going to hard. Unless you do something like a blitz approach for a maximum of 4 weeks (which is definitely not advisable for everyone), I would always recommend staying between 0.5-1% of bodyweight loss per week on a fat loss cycle ranging anywhere from 8-12 weeks. Also, the leaner you get the closer you’re going to pull that number towards 0.5% or even 0.25% once you get under 12%.

What’s the quality of your diet? If you got a lot of processed foods in there on top of being in a caloric deficit and you don’t counter this with enough fruits, vegetables, grains and healthy fats (minimize omega 6, prioritize omega 3 and 9) to get in those vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, you might experience increased inflammation and hold more water in your body. That does not mean you can’t get lean on processed food. You can, but because of inflammation in the gut it might take longer for you to see your progress underneath all that water. As long as you’re in a deficit, you’re still losing tissue but the scale and the water retention make it seem like you’re not losing weight.

One of my mentors actually performed an experiment on one of his healthier clients to prove that’s it’s possible to get shredded on crap food alone. He got him lean in 8 weeks on a single ingredient diet: donuts. Off course this is not a diet you want to replicate or even use long term because you inevitably will run into problems sooner or later due to nutrient deficiencies and sky high amounts of inflammation. After the 8 weeks were over, his client immediately got pulled back on his usual nutritional regimen and was taking additional supplements to get his blood markers back to healthy levels. But it does prove that being in a caloric deficit and staying in a caloric deficit consistently is the main driver of weight loss. Notice that I use the word weight loss, not fat loss. His client did lose some fat, but because of the donut diet, he also lost muscle tissue and lots of water. You have to take these factors into account.

Anyway, if you start off your new cycle by dropping your calories too low and bumping up your activity to fast, you create a deficit that’s too big. This increases physical stress and upregulates cortisol output. Cortisol is not a bad thing. We need it to wake up and perform during the day but only in acute elevations. If cortisol becomes chronically elevated, your metabolic rate eventually goes down and causes metabolic adaptations (depending on how lean you are and how big of a deficit you’re in this can be anywhere from 3 to 12 weeks). Cortisol also increases the activity of aldosterone and vasopressin, two hormones that increase water retention especially in the ab, hips and waist region.

A little water retention down the road is completely normal, but as you are progressing and keeping track of your weekly bodyweight average, you should be able to see a bigger difference in scale weight over the course of 2-3 weeks max. When this doesn’t happen, you can try multiple things: use refeeds one day per week, go back to maintenance for a week and reevaluate your progress from there, decrease you cardio sessions a bit or decrease your food intake even further. When you decide to decrease your caloric intake, monitor changes in body composition and body weight closely. If there’s still nothing happening and you tracked everything to the T, than you definitely need to go back to maintenance for a couple weeks and start again with a smaller deficit after.

Also, how good is you sleep quality? Bad or suboptimal sleep, especially bad deep sleep, is not good for body composition because sleep affects every system in your body. When you consistently experience bad sleep, your cortisol levels go up and your immune system is weakened. This makes you hold more water as explained above and it’s a bad recipe for muscle maintenance and muscle growth. So, prioritize sleep hygiene and become a boss at sleep. You body will thank you for it. If you want more info on this subject, visit one of my threads were I talk about optimizing sleep.

Lastly, it’s important to manage stress levels. Not only the psychological form, the physical form as well. All that training on top of a caloric deficit, stress from work, relationships, finances etc. becomes very taxing on the body. Since you succesfully dieted down to 10% multiple times, I’m guessing you have protocols for this or you just don’t experience a lot of stress in your life.

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That is true , my sleep quality is as bad as it gets, I usually wake up 5-6 times during the night so I never really get any deep sleep, I can’t recall the last time I slept for more than 3 hours straight even when using ZMA. Only thing that improved that is using antihistamines but man do they make me feel groggy the next day, so I gave up on them.
However, the sleep issue has always been here and I was literally losing up to 2 lbs under these numbers, maybe as you said there is also an aliment that I am currently using causing me inflammation, I suspect the basmati rice as it is my first time using it instead of white rice.

Well, that’s clearly something you can improve on. Keep in mind that your recovery capacities decrease as you age. Sleep debt eventually catches up to you, even if it hasn’t caused you much trouble in the past. I’m nearly 30 years old and if I tried to do the protocols I was doing at age 22, my body would shut down on me real fast. Back then I was able to pretty much recover from everything I was doing, even when I was already doing 6 hours of daily physical activity for school (I have a bachelors degree in physical education), training 6 days a week for 2 hours per session, going out 3-4 times a week and paying no attention to sleep hygiene at all.

The point I’m trying to make is that everything slows down as you age and as a consequence it becomes necessary to pay more attention to all the lifestyle factors that affect your physical and mental fitness. Sleep, nutrition, stress management and training variables being the most important ones imo.

Switching from white to basmati rice probably will not be the reason mate. It could be, but the chances of that switch causing heaps of inflammation would be slim. Anyway, an easy way to find out which foods are inflammatory for you, is to take a closer look at irregularities in your bathroom visits. If you are normally doing the number 2 once or twice daily and all of a sudden that number decreases or increases, then likely you might have eaten something that’s caused that irregularity. If you’ve eaten something new and you either get diarrhea or you can’t shit for days, you know that new food might have caused it. It is a matter or trial and error, getting to know your body.

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I will try to remove all unusual food for the next week and stick to the basic chicken, eggs, tuna , potatoes, veggies and fruits model and see what’s up. hope fully that will push the scale a bit.