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  1. #1
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    The dreaded plateau

    So I'm getting a little bit frustrated. I've searched the forum and I know there are other topics/discussions on these sorts of issues, but I figured I would reach out and see if the collective here at BF can help me assess my situation and provide some insight and suggestions on my personal weight loss situation.

    I started a diet January 1. Well, I started earlier, but I have statistics from an online tool my company uses to track these sorts of things starting in January.

    I'm roughly 5'10" and 26 years old.

    January 1 I was 248 pounds, 32% body fat. If I am understanding that correctly, its about 79lbs of body fat.

    The first 4 months, I basically just dieted, with a few stints on the treadmill. I knew I would hit a plateau with just this method, so i wanted to get there, then add heavy workouts.

    April/May I had dropped to 225 pounds, 27% body fat. 60lbs of body fat for a loss of 23 pounds, 19 of which were fat. Good, right?

    Being somewhat stuck there, I knew I had hit a plateau. So this is where cycling came in. I bought a bike, and hit the road. I'm averaging roughly 100 miles a week (when not adding in a century here or there.)

    Fast forward another 4 months, and I've managed to drop ONLY 11 pounds in those 4 months, and reduced my body fat to only 24.5%. Total loss 34lbs, 27lbs of body fat.

    Now I understand I'm building muscles in the legs, etc.. but shouldn't I see a steeper body fat % drop? 11 pounds despite diet+exercise in 4 months.

    Is the 7lbs of muscle lost so far really affecting my caloric needs? I've tried to limit myself to 1700 calories + exercise loss. Last night I did a fast paced 22 mile ride (21.5mph). I figured around 700 calories.

    Are there things I'm not considering? So I really need to add some sort of weight training? I enjoy cycling immensely, so it's easy. And while I have a gym available, it's not something I ever enjoyed and I know its going to be hard to do.

    Any help would be appreciated. I hope this also helps anyone else who might be facing the same sort of issues.

  2. #2
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    Really you should look at it this way in 8 months you have lost 1/3 of your body fat. Did it take you 8 months to gain that 1/3 of body fat? It is coming off you should be happy. It takes time. Adding weight training has been shown to result in greater weight loss. Besides that cycling you should try to switch up your cardio you used to hit the treadmill hit it again. look at the 1700 calories you are eating where are they coming from? could the proportion be changed?

  3. #3
    Clyde - Grinder Kamala's Avatar
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    Definitely add weight training. Switching up/adding other forms of cardio is only going to help. Your body is engineered to do things as efficiently as possible, so if you aren't shocking it on a consistent basis, you're going to plateau/stagnate. Are your biking miles all relatively similar from week to week? Add more hill-climbing or some quick-burst high heartrate intervals (or both).

  4. #4
    Senior Member exile's Avatar
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    Has your diet changed with the weight loss as well? Have the Macro proportions changed or are you simply reducing calories?

    How often do you increase the intensity?

    At certain points your body becomes acclimated to whatever you are doing. In essence it becomes more efficient. At some point the amount of calories that you used to support weight loss will stop working to the same degree. What you can do is change the amount of calories again (either increase of decrease) or change the content of those calories (percentage of Protein, Carbs, and/or Fat). You can also change when those calories are consumed.

    A similar thing happens with exercise. You become acclimated to whatever form you are doing. You can try to increase the mileage or maintain the mileage but decrease the time it takes (increase intensity). Also doing other exercises stresses different parts of your body that you don't normally do. You can try to conquer hills or improve your best time if you enjoy cycling.

    Basically add some variety and see how things go.
    Last edited by exile; 08-19-10 at 05:25 PM. Reason: spelling
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by bosoxmrkn View Post
    So I'm getting a little bit frustrated. I've searched the forum and I know there are other topics/discussions on these sorts of issues, but I figured I would reach out and see if the collective here at BF can help me assess my situation and provide some insight and suggestions on my personal weight loss situation.

    I started a diet January 1. Well, I started earlier, but I have statistics from an online tool my company uses to track these sorts of things starting in January.

    I'm roughly 5'10" and 26 years old.

    January 1 I was 248 pounds, 32% body fat. If I am understanding that correctly, its about 79lbs of body fat.

    The first 4 months, I basically just dieted, with a few stints on the treadmill. I knew I would hit a plateau with just this method, so i wanted to get there, then add heavy workouts.

    April/May I had dropped to 225 pounds, 27% body fat. 60lbs of body fat for a loss of 23 pounds, 19 of which were fat. Good, right?

    Being somewhat stuck there, I knew I had hit a plateau. So this is where cycling came in. I bought a bike, and hit the road. I'm averaging roughly 100 miles a week (when not adding in a century here or there.)

    Fast forward another 4 months, and I've managed to drop ONLY 11 pounds in those 4 months, and reduced my body fat to only 24.5%. Total loss 34lbs, 27lbs of body fat.

    Now I understand I'm building muscles in the legs, etc.. but shouldn't I see a steeper body fat % drop? 11 pounds despite diet+exercise in 4 months.

    Is the 7lbs of muscle lost so far really affecting my caloric needs? I've tried to limit myself to 1700 calories + exercise loss. Last night I did a fast paced 22 mile ride (21.5mph). I figured around 700 calories.

    Are there things I'm not considering? So I really need to add some sort of weight training? I enjoy cycling immensely, so it's easy. And while I have a gym available, it's not something I ever enjoyed and I know its going to be hard to do.

    Any help would be appreciated. I hope this also helps anyone else who might be facing the same sort of issues.
    First of all, that's a seriously fast ride - even if there's no stop signs or hills on the course. When I go out hard (and no matter how hard I go, I can't average 20+ mph for an hour), I am starved afterwards - diet be damned. And if I'm training hard, I don't lose much weight - because my appetite gets revved up. Maybe you have more self discipline, or your metabolism is different, but double check your calorie intake. And also how exactly are you measuring exercise calories used? That's a tricky one, and in my experience most methods short of a power meter overestimate the calories burned, some by a lot.

    The basic rule is that if you take in less calories than you use, you will lose weight. It's unavoidable. There are complications (nothing is ever that simple) around the types of food that are providing the calories, but the basic rule holds.

    The second point is that ideally you don't want to lose more than a pound or two a week - more than that, and studies have shown that it will rarely be sustainable. You're not far off that pound a week rate - keep at it and be patient.

    JB

    Edit: I don't count calories, because I know I won't stick to it anyway. Instead I follow a few simple precepts:

    beverages: one cup of coffee with some milk in the morning, then just water or unsweetened iced tea. No juice, no soda, a beer or glass of wine once a week or so. Cuts a huge number of empty calories right out of most diets.

    portion control: I try to stop eating while I'm still a little hungry. After about 15 minutes, that last feeling of still being hungry disappears.

    balanced diet: I dont' track where the calories come from, but try to be sure I have fruit and or veggies at every meal. Breakfast is oatmeal or yogurt, some kind of fruit, maybe an egg. Lunch and dinner are dominated by veggies, with what seem (to most american standards) small portions of meat and rice, potatoes or pasta. Meat is limited to 6 oz. or so, and red meat is limited to twice a week. I also eliminated salad dressings (read the label on some of them for a real shock on the number of calories), and have gotten used to using just balsamic vinegar, sometimes with a dash of olive oil, as a dressing.

    snacks: nuts, carrot sticks, fruit

    Eating like this, I haven't lost a lot of weight but I feel much better and my % body fat has dropped 4 points. I have to believe the weight loss will follow.

    One more edit: I missed the thing about losing muscle. I doubt you've lost much if any muscle. My guess is that you were retaining water for the first measurement, so some of what you've lost so far is water weight.
    Last edited by jonathanb715; 08-19-10 at 04:28 PM.
    "Poor Reverend Hamilton! He worked so hard, got a mountain named after him and now all anyone wants to do is complain about his backside!" Overheard while climbing Mt. Hamilton

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  6. #6
    Bulky Bullet Sayre Kulp's Avatar
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    I've had to shake my way out of more than one plateau so far over the past few months. What helps is remembering that you need to mix it up. You need to throw yourself a high calorie day every now and again to make your body think it has a surplus of food available. It will adjust and begin to burn at a higher metabolic rate. Then you can taper it back down and continue to enjoy the loss.

    Also, you mention plenty of cardio, but I understand weight training isn't really part of your system yet? It really helps when it comes to weight loss. Some people get concerned when I tell them to do weight training as part of their program. Because muscle weighs more than fat and they'd be gaining muscle, blah, blah, blah. That's true, but your body also burns a massive amount of calories and fat in order to build said muscle. Plus, you can take advantage of the "afterburn" effect as your metabolic rate will stay elevated following your weight sessions. Frankly, if it's not your thing, you don't need to spend a lot of time on it. I ride almost everyday, so I know my legs are in pretty good shape. I tend to hit the gym 2-3 times per week and I focus on my arms, shoulders, and back.

    Whatever you do, remember that we as humans are creatures of habit. Our bodies are quite marvelous at adapting to what we throw at it. If you only give it limited calories and tell it to ride 25 miles every day, eventually it will become very efficient at doing just that. You need to mix it up and keep your body constantly adapting. That's how you will get it to keep constantly losing.

    Best of luck, and don't sell short the work you've already done!

    Cheers!
    "Obstacles don't like me very much. I make them look bad."

  7. #7
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    sayre great job on the weight loss bet that two is going to feel great.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonathanb715 View Post
    First of all, that's a seriously fast ride - even if there's no stop signs or hills on the course. When I go out hard (and no matter how hard I go, I can't average 20+ mph for an hour), I am starved afterwards - diet be damned. And if I'm training hard, I don't lose much weight - because my appetite gets revved up. Maybe you have more self discipline, or your metabolism is different, but double check your calorie intake. And also how exactly are you measuring exercise calories used? That's a tricky one, and in my experience most methods short of a power meter overestimate the calories burned, some by a lot.
    I'm always a lot hungrier after long rides, too. Much less so if I eat every hour, give or take, along the ride. While I don't have a sweet tooth, I've been known to toss a few chocolates in my saddle bag, and have one after climbing a big hill, to replenish some of the energy I just used, and so that my body gets calories and a bit of fat coming in, to get me through the next three hours 'til I get home. I try to eat somewhat sensibly, but also to eat a lot. Even if it's just three hours on the bike, at 600 to 700 kCal per hour, I don't want my body to decide it's starving and turn off the metabolism.

    Also, what kind of bike are you riding? When I had a mountain bike with a front shock absorber fork, I'd average about 8 mph going around the lake; with better gearing and a more aerodynamic position on a cross bike, plus lots of work on my part, I brought this up to 17 mph so far. Which is a lot more impressive in feet per second.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  9. #9
    Senior Member mtalinm's Avatar
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    my first six months of cycling I did 1000 miles and only lost 10 pounds. I was really griping about it, but someone on this board pointed out that 1000 miles is only about 50,000 calories for someone of my weight, and that's only about 50k / 3500 = 14 pounds ASSUMING THAT EVERYTHING ELSE STAYED THE SAME.

    well, I knew it wasn't staying the same. I was eating more because biking made me hungrier. so then I was happy to lose 10#.

    as I've gotten fitter, I've found myself less hungry after riding. that said, long / intense rides still make me ravenous - after my first centuryI was starving for 2 days.

    so now I try to focus on a lot of commuting - about 25 miles per day. that burns 1200 or so calories, and I try to limit my intake. I have a spreadsheet that tracks

    1. daily weight
    2. basal metabolic rate (calculated from daily weight, though it doesn't change much)
    3. calories consumed - need to write this down as the day goes on
    4. calories burned cycling

    that tells me basically how much I should have lost. I find that the scale agrees almost perfectly with the net calories burned.

    good luck to you!
    Trek Domane 4.5 (commute/distance), Specialized Roubaix (climber), Xootr Swift (winter/travel), Trek Soho (around town)

  10. #10
    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    I'd be careful about putting so much faith in your body fat numbers unless they're being calculated by immersion weighing. At the time we got our electronic scale that measures body fat percentages, the general consensus was that their body fat results can fluctuate all over the place depending on things as seemingly innocuous as your level of hydration. I think it's a good tool to use long-term, but I'd put more faith in the combination of plain old body weight and how your clothes fit. Of course, if someone's weighing you in the pool, that's a different matter. That's supposed to be accurate.

    BTW, if anyone knows whether electronic scales have gotten better, or more accurate, at this measurement, please let me know. It might be time for us to get a new one.
    Last edited by CraigB; 08-20-10 at 07:16 AM.
    Craig in Indy

  11. #11
    Senior Member Pfishingruven's Avatar
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    What are you eating and when? When I hit my plateaus, I switched up the type of foods and the composition of the food I was eating(for example, hit a plateau and then cut back on carbs and unnecessary sugars and went from 0 loss in a weeks time to 4lbs the following week). I try to eat 5-6 meals daily with breakfast the biggest meal of the day and then spread the calories out along the rest of the day.

    It certainly is possible that you are building muscle and replacing the fat(they weigh the same). Have you taken measurements, such as your waist or chest? Any changes? I agree, that you really need to strength train. Something I learned just this month...nutrition/diet and strength training are the 2 most important things when it comes to health and fitness. Cardio is important as well, but is only a small sliver of the pie!

    Good luck!

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