Three Unexpected Reasons
for Weight Loss Plateaus
Few aspects of weight loss are as frustrating as when the changes you’ve seen on the scale begin to slow down, and then seemingly stop altogether. If this sounds familiar, you may be experiencing a weight loss plateau.
Some reasons for slowed weight loss are obvious, such as when healthier diet and exercise choices begin to give way to old, less healthful habits. But it can be hard to identify the reasons for a weight loss plateau when you stick to the healthy lifestyle changes that have already helped you lose weight.
Here are three reasons for running into an unexpected weight loss plateau, along with simple strategies to help get the scale moving again.
1. You’re over your target for calories.
It’s clear that excess calories can slow your weight loss progress. However, it can be difficult to estimate how many calories you consume and expend in a day. Research suggests that most people, including trained healthcare professionals, tend to overestimate calories burned through exercise and underestimate calories consumed in food (1, 2). Even if you carefully keep track with a food journal or phone app, or wear an activity tracker, these methods can only provide a general estimate and are often much less accurate than you might expect (3).
A more practical approach is to look closely at your everyday habits and consider what potential impact they might have on your goals. For example, little “extras” such as sugar and cream in your morning coffee, or absent-minded snacking while you’re cooking a meal can really add up over the course of a day. A closer look at these habits might be what you need to get the scale moving again.
2. You’ve become too fit for your workout.
If your weight loss progress has stalled despite your consistent effort at the gym, it might be time to look at your exercise routine. As you become increasingly fit from the hard work you’re putting in, it’s essential that you adjust your workout routine so that it continues to challenge you.
This idea is captured by what fitness experts call the “overload principle” of training. Essentially, the principle is that when an exercise is below a minimum level of intensity, it doesn’t challenge the body enough to result in any change (4). The level of intensity you need to get results from your workout depends on your current level of fitness. As your level of fitness improves, you need to change your workout in order to keep seeing results. It can be as simple as continuing to increase the amount of weight you lift, or trying a new type of workout.
3. You’ve been skimping on sleep.
Many of us fail to get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, research suggests that inadequate sleep could be interfering with weight loss success. Large, population-based studies consistently find a link between poor sleep quality and higher body weights (5). Some of the effects of poor sleep, such as changes in hormone balance, appetite regulation, and metabolism may explain the relationship between too little sleep and weight gain (6-8).
If your goal is weight loss, make sleep a priority. Start with simple changes in your routine such as avoiding caffeine late in the day, sticking to a consistent schedule, and limiting late-night screen time to help your body wind down at the end of the day. Adding a quality melatonin supplement to your evening routine is another step that can help prime your body for a restful, complete night’s sleep.
Making a few small changes might be all you need to get past a plateau. Identifying the cause of a weight loss plateau is key. While weight loss plateaus can be a frustrating part of the weight loss journey, they shouldn’t discourage you from reaching your goals.
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Miller MA & Cappuccio FP. Inflammation, sleep, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Curr Vasc Pharmacol. 2007 Apr; 5(2):93-102.
Why You Can Still Lose Weight
with Chocolate and Coffee
While it sounds too good to be true, research continues to suggest coffee and chocolate can be useful weight-management tools. Yes, you read that right!
Two of your (and arguably everyone’s) most craved and beloved foods might actually be able to help you lose a few pounds—if you work them into your diet the right way.
Both of these foods have been given a bad rap in the past. But accumulating evidence finds that regularly enjoying these two foods, while not directly causing weight loss, are indeed associated with a lower body weight.
Chocolate as a Weight-Management Tool
Not all chocolate products will do. The most widely available versions aren’t really chocolate at all but are little more than chocolate-flavored candies—low-quality, calorie-dense, sugar-laden treats that are often combined with an array of artificial ingredients and out-of-control portions.
The better chocolates are rich in cocoa, have fewer calories and grams of sugar, and can be consumed in a portion-controlled manner. These chocolates can serve as an effective weight-loss tool.
One study found that as part of a calorie-restricted diet, chocolate consumption spread throughout the day (totaling about 150 calories) helped to curb cravings, leading to the consumption of fewer calories overall, and in turn, weight loss (1).
In another study, researchers analyzed the diets of more than 1,000 healthy men and women and found that frequent chocolate consumption was associated with a lower body mass index (BMI) compared to those who rarely ate chocolate (2).
Again, quality and portion control are key when selecting chocolates to aid in weight loss. For example, at 60 calories per square, IsaDelight® chocolates stand out among other kinds of chocolate—packed with feel-good ingredients like green tea while leaving out any artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners.
Coffee as a Calorie-Free Beverage
Coffee has faced a lot of criticism in the past, but in the constantly developing world of nutrition research, newer studies have re-evaluated older findings in light of new information.
Many of the early studies that painted coffee in a negative light failed to account for external factors, such as the sugars, syrups, and trans fat-laden creamers that are often added to coffee. And while coffee may have been seen as unhealthy in the past, new evidence from carefully controlled studies indicates that the potential benefits of coffee outweigh previously suggested drawbacks (3).
Newer studies also suggest that moderate coffee consumption can have positive effects on body weight management although the reasons are not well understood (4-5).
For starters, the caffeine in coffee can give people a boost in metabolism and energy that could lead to greater calories burned during the day. Researchers found that after drinking a 16-ounce mug of coffee, study participants experienced a modest increase in metabolic rate that lasted for over three hours (4).
In a separate study that explored the habits of people who have successfully maintained weight loss, researchers found that drinking coffee was associated with keeping off the excess pounds (5). The effect may have been due to coffee being a calorie-free beverage that replaces other high-calorie options.
Another possibility is that coffee consumption prior to exercise has been shown to improve performance, which can lead to more efficient workouts and the potential for greater amounts of calories burned during weight loss (6).
Now before you go grab a large mocha with extra whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and a chocolate-coated candy bar, think again. These are packed with extra sugar, fat, and calories and can derail your weight-loss efforts altogether.
On the other hand, there’s definitely no problem making room in a weight-loss regimen for treating yourself to a moderate amount of quality chocolate and a few cups of coffee.
Piehowski KE, Preston AG, Miller DL, Nickols-Richardson SM. A reduced-calorie dietary pattern including a daily sweet snack promotes body weight reduction and body composition improvements in premenopausal women who are overweight and obese: a pilot study. J Am Diet Assoc 2011;111:1198-203.
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Fat Loss While You Sleep
“Sticky fat” is a great name for the last ten pounds of fat that refuse to leave the building. Often they stick out from the belly or atop the hip bones. But, in many folk who hit a plateau in weight loss, there’s a lot more fat deep inside plumping them up like a goose… You can’t see it, because it`s visceral fat distributed around the liver and kidneys, intestines and reproductive system.
Visceral fat is even stickier. Working with top modeling agencies to solve this problem, we know that starvation diets are never the answer. Starvation strips your facial fat before touching sticky or visceral fat. Starvation creates that gaunt, pale, vampire face, the face that likely started the Goth craze.
So starving is useless for models who depend on their looks for a living. We had to develop some special techniques to remove the fat while saving the face. Together with decent proteins, such as IsaLean® Shake or IsaLean® PRO Shake, and a full complement of micro-nutrients everyday, they have boosted many a modeling career.
The most important strategy is thermogenesis, the creation of heat. It occurs mainly through a mechanism called brown-adipose-tissue (BAT), which permits production of heat directly from bodyfat without going through the energy cycle or being burned in muscular activity (1). That is, you can lose body fat without moving a muscle, even while you sleep.
Usual weight loss programs do not activate BAT. Just the opposite. If you go on sudden food restriction, the body automatically turns down heat production, and energy, as a defense mechanism to conserve its fat. That’s why strict dieters generally feel cold and tired.
Scientists used to think that thermogenesis would not work for everyone, because, unlike bears and some other mammals, humans cannot hibernate. A hibernating bear for example, can lose 300 pounds of fat while it sleeps, as its body converts fat directly to BAT, which then creates the heat required to keep it from freezing over the winter.
We're not as efficient as bears at activating BAT. Nevertheless, recent technology has allowed us to measure human BAT. The body of a 40-year-old man or woman can make sufficient BAT to provide 15 percent of their total energy, and get it all from body fat (2).
There are four steps to activating BAT and thermogenesis, and you need follow all of them carefully to succeed.
The first and most important is melatonin, the hormone that turns on in the brain for your sleep cycle.
Melatonin has long proven beneficial in treatment of the metabolic syndrome and diabetes, but until recently we didn’t know exactly why. Now we do. No accident that the bear turns on copious melatonin to activate BAT during the sleep of hibernation. In bears and humans, melatonin acts to convert white body fat to BAT and heat (3).
After about age 20, melatonin declines the human body. By age 40, it has declined by half. You can get some melatonin from almonds, sunflower seeds, coriander, cardamom, and mustard greens. Unless you eat a lot of them, however, it is insufficient to activate BAT (4). The alternative is supplementary melatonin. But most melatonin pills are deactivated by digestive acids in the gut and first pass through the liver. A liquid melatonin spray such as Sleep Support & Renewal spray is much better. It is quickly absorbed in the mouth and easily passes through the blood/brain barrier to targets in the brain.
For stubborn fat loss we have used up to 10 milligrams (mg) of liquid melatonin taken last thing every night. Some folk sleep too soundly on that much and wake groggy. So, if you use it, start with one to three mgs and work up. Don’t miss a day or the body will strongly turn off BAT. Then you are two days behind.
Here are essential sleeping criteria for melatonin use for fat loss. Inadequate sleep disrupts BAT activity. So get sufficient sleep, seven to eight hours. Sleep cool, which encourages heat production. And sleep dark which optimizes melatonin release.
Using you cell phone or computer in bed is a special no-no as the wavelength of light used to backlight these devices effectively turns off your melatonin rhythm (5). Now, however, you can get an app called “f-lux,” which changes the backlight so it does not affect melatonin.
3. Morning Thermogenesis
It is essential to continue the thermogenesis and fat loss when you wake up in the morning. A strong cup of Arabica coffee on an empty stomach continues thermogenesis and burns body fat through the BAT mechanism for up to four hours afterwards (6).
The chemicals called catechins in green tea, especially epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), are likely more effective than caffeine (6,7). Isagenix Coffee contains Arabica beans and green tea and is available in organic or premium grind. The Brain Boost & Renewal supplement, designed for use in the morning, is a good source of EGCG. For sticky fat loss, we supplement with EGCG every day. An e+™ Shot, which contains caffeine extracted from green tea and yerba mate is about equivalent to the caffeine in a strong cup of coffee. The e+ Shot can be used during the day with no side-effects.
In a recent controlled study, two groups of, healthy men used a moderate reduced calorie diet, plus tea for 12 weeks. One group had green tea extract added to the tea to yield high levels of EGCG. The group consuming this tea lost an average of 5.4 pounds of body fat, approximately twice the loss of the control group. Much of the loss was visceral fat from the belly (7).
4. Omega-3s for All-Day Thermogenesis
To turn on thermogenesis, the body has to produce proteins called Uncoupling-Proteins (UCPs) which uncouple the use of oxygen from the production of ATP (our energy molecule). The oxygen can then go direct to production of heat by mixing with and burning the BAT you have activated. But, whenever it’s visceral fat it is under threat, the body turns UCPs way down.
Recent research shows that high levels of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, from marine sources, strongly turn up the UCPs again (8). We use up to four grams daily. IsaOmega is a great source. As with every nutritional supplement, start low and slow. Spread out use with each meal during the day to aid digestion.
1. Melatonin. Up to three sprays of Sleep Support and Renewal every night.
2. Sleeping. Cool, dark, and seven to eight hours.
3. Caffeine. Or EGCG each morning, or both.
4. EPA and DHA. Four grams of each spread throughout the day.
Thermogenesis for life and a lot more health benefits besides. If you can look from the front and see your spine, you’ve gone a bit too far.
About the Author...
Dr. Michael Colgan is a world-renowned research scientist, leading expert in the inhibition of aging, and a member of the Isagenix Science Advisory Board. Dr. Colgan has provided nutrition, training and anti-aging programs to more than 11,000 athletes, including many Olympians. He is director of his eponymous Colgan Institute, a consulting, educational and research facility concerned with the effects of nutrition and exercise on athletic performance, along with prevention of chronic degenerative disease, and prevention of degeneration of the brain. Dr Colgan’s sports articles are published on his blog www.drmichaelcolgan.com.
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