All fat loss journeys start off the same way — you’re steadily dropping pounds each week and all you’ve really done is cut back on the amount of “bad” foods you’ve been eating all the time. The number on the scale keeps falling and weight loss seems all too easy. All of a sudden after a few weeks of enjoying this “effortless weight loss” everything comes to a grinding halt — the scale number stopped going down, you’re not losing fat anymore, and you’re wondering what in the world possibly went wrong!
Technically speaking, you’ve done absolutely nothing “wrong”, but you have hit the inevitable weight loss plateau, just like millions of other people have during their own fat loss journey. While that might not seem comforting in the least bit, then maybe this will — plateaus were meant to be BROKEN, and with these five tips, you’ll have a number of ways to break through your plateau and re-ignite your fat loss once again!
5 Ways to Shatter Weight Loss Plateaus
The reason you’ve hit a weight loss plateau is that unfortunately your metabolic rate slows down as you lose more and more weight. The simple truth is that your body uses a certain number of calories to maintain your original starting weight. As you lose weight, your body carries less mass, and in response, your metabolism downshifts to accommodate the reduced caloric demand. Research shows that for every pound of weight you lose, you’re burning 6.8 fewer calories on average. 
To compensate for your lower energy needs, you’ll have to recalculate your macros and caloric needs each day. A good guideline to follow when dieting is to re-evaluate your caloric needs every few weeks as the weight continues to drop, and in all likelihood, you’ll have to reduce calories further to continue losing weight.
However it’s important to not drop calories too far, too fast as that could lead to another fat loss plateau. That brings us to the next plateau buster, which can be used in lieu of or in tandem with reducing calories.
Increase Exercise Intensity or Frequency
If you don’t want to drop calories any further or are so low that you can’t really afford to lower your calories, another option to restart fat loss is to increase the intensity and / or frequency of your exercise routine. Remember, weight loss comes down to calories in versus calories out. By increasing your caloric burn each day through exercise, you’ll rev up your metabolism sparking new fat loss.
Calorie cycling is a style of eating where you alternate between high and low-calorie intakes for different days of the week. This method of eating is especially useful when trying to burn those “last five pounds” and often only used when all other plateau-busting measures have been exhausted. By alternating your daily intake, you’re preventing your body’s metabolism from getting too accustomed to a set intake, and thereby stopping your by from lowering its metabolic rate and instilling a weight loss plateau. In other words, think of calorie cycling as “metabolic confusion” for your body. By constantly changing things up, your body never really adapts to one set intake.
Dieting is a stressful enterprise, and sometimes, it gets a bit too much for even the most even-keeled individuals. When you’re stressed, you increase production of the stress hormone cortisol, which can trigger food cravings like you wouldn’t believe. On top of that having chronically elevated cortisol levels can promote fat gain, especially in women, and make it incredibly difficult to build or maintain muscle mass. [2,3]
Therefore, finding ways to reduce or control stress is essential to maintaining steady weight loss. If you find you’ve been at a plateau for over 2 weeks, consider re-evaluating your situation in life. Are you more stressed than usual? Are there other factors outside of dieting stressing you out?
If so, find ways to work around or improve the factors causing you stress, and once they’re addressed, watch the fat loss continue on at a steady pace!
Take a break
As strange as this may sound, sometimes your body and mind just need a break and “reset.” Dieting for prolonged periods of time is taxing to your body and mind, and no amount of tip or trick will break the weight loss plateau.
If you’ve tried everything else and still can’t figure things out, try eating back at maintenance calories for a week or two, then restart your diet eating at a caloric deficit and you’ll be surprised to find out that weight loss has started all over again. Sometimes, the body just needs a break from the stresses of dieting to readjust, reset, and reignite its fat burning mechanisms.
- Schwartz A, Doucet E. Relative changes in resting energy expenditure during weight loss: a systematic review. Obes Rev. 2010;11(7):531-547. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2009.00654.x.
- Moyer AE, Rodin J, Grilo CM, Cummings N, Larson LM, Rebuffe-Scrive M. Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Obes Res. 1994;2(3):255-262.
- Warne JP. Shaping the stress response: interplay of palatable food choices, glucocorticoids, insulin and abdominal obesity. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2009;300(1-2):137-146. doi:10.1016/j.mce.2008.09.036.
There comes a time in every person’s life no matter how hard they train, how well they eat, or how genetically-gifted they may be, when they need to lose weight, or more specifically fat. But, what gets lost in the fat loss frenzy is the fact there are two types of fat in the human body.
When people typically think of losing fat, they’re almost always referring to subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous means “under the skin” and it’s the type of fat that’s all over your body directly under your skin. It’s the type of fat that’s part your unwanted jiggles and unsightly wiggles when moving. Subcutaneous fat is the fat discussed when bulking, cutting, and recomping. But, there is an even more insidious fat that resides deep down in our bodies, that brings much more severe consequences that just a squishy figure.
We’re talking about visceral fat.
Visceral Fat 101
Visceral fat is the fat that’s stored around the organs primarily located in the abdominal cavity, i.e. the liver, pancreas, and intestines. Whereas you can see, touch, and even pinch subcutaneous fat, visceral fat is a silent killer that lines beneath the abdominal wall, making it harder to see and even tougher to burn off. And while subcutaneous fat might give you a lackluster physique, it’s not nearly as life-threatening as visceral fat is. In fact, high amounts of visceral fat are associated with increased risks of developing heart disease, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and dyslipidemia.[1,2,3]
Science has yet to uncover the reason visceral fat is so much more harmful than subcutaneous fat, but one theory that’s gaining traction is that visceral fat release fatty acids and pro-inflammatory compounds into portal vein, where these compounds enter the liver. This “infects” the blood and causes problems with steatosis (adipose degeneration) and insulin resistance, which leads to further health complications.
How to Lose Visceral Fat
While visceral fat sounds like pretty scary stuff, fortunately, research has shown that it responds pretty well to standard protocols used to burn off unwanted subcutaneous fat.[5,6,7] Some of the ways you can limit or reduce visceral fat accumulation on your body is:
- Remove all trans fats from your diet
- Lift Weights
- Perform High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
- Limit alcohol (i.e. no heavy drinking or “binges”)
- Reduce stress (cortisol)
- Get sufficient sleep each night
You can also enhance your body’s fat burning abilities by using the right supplements, such as Steel Core™ features proven ingredients such as Grains of Paradise (Aframum melegueta) (Paradoxine®) which is a spice belonging to the ginger family that stimulates brown adipose tissue, boosting metabolism and increasing thermogenesis while decreasing visceral fat in the lower abdomen.
Fat, no matter which kinds, isn’t just ugly, it’s downright detrimental to your health. The good news, is that it’s relatively easy to lose. All you have to do is put in the work, in the form of proper diet, exercise, and recovery and you can limit the amount of fat on your body and promote a leaner, stronger physique and a better quality of life!
- Klein S, Fontana L, Young VL, et al. Absence of an effect of liposuction on insulin action and risk factors for coronary heart disease. N Engl J Med. 2004;350(25):2549-2557. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa033179.
- Hamdy O, Porramatikul S, Al-Ozairi E. Metabolic obesity: the paradox between visceral and subcutaneous fat. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2006;2(4):367-373.
- Matsuzawa Y, Shimomura I, Nakamura T, Keno Y, Kotani K, Tokunaga K. Pathophysiology and pathogenesis of visceral fat obesity. Obes Res. 1995;3 Suppl 2:187S-194S.
- Rytka JM, Wueest S, Schoenle EJ, Konrad D. The Portal Theory Supported by Venous Drainage–Selective Fat Transplantation. Diabetes. 2011;60(1):56-63. doi:10.2337/db10-0697.
- Rice T, Hong Y, Perusse L, et al. Total body fat and abdominal visceral fat response to exercise training in the HERITAGE Family Study: evidence for major locus but no multifactorial effects. Metabolism. 1999;48(10):1278-1286.
- Dutheil F, Lac G, Lesourd B, et al. Different modalities of exercise to reduce visceral fat mass and cardiovascular risk in metabolic syndrome: the RESOLVE randomized trial. Int J Cardiol. 2013;168(4):3634-3642. doi:10.1016/j.ijcard.2013.05.012.
- Irving BA, Davis CK, Brock DW, et al. Effect of exercise training intensity on abdominal visceral fat and body composition. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 2008;40(11):1863-1872. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181801d40.
There is an endless debate going around the fitness community about which form of cardiovascular training is superior – High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Low Intensity Steady State (LISS). Proponents on both sides of the aisle aggressively defend their style of cardio as the best.
We’re here to explain the differences between the two, and which form you should be using to maximize your gains in the gym.
Low Intensity Steady State (LISS)
Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) is a low-intensity cardio workout usually calling for 30 to 60 minutes of exercising at approximately 60% of your maximum heart rate, a.k.a. Your “fat burning” zone. Advocates of LISS promote the idea that training in this manner promotes greater fat burning, increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles, and accelerates recovery.
The advantages of LISS is that it’s safer for out of shape trainees and comes with less strain on your joints, ligaments and connective tissue, and therefore a lower risk of injury. Additionally, LISS is easy to do basically anywhere. You can go walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or if you’re at the gym, you can use the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike.
The downsides to LISS is that it’s incredibly time-consuming and something your body adapts to overtime, meaning that in order to get the same calorie burn from it, you’ll have to eventually increase the amount of LISS that you do. Plus, when dieting, LISS is more catabolic as opposed to high intensity interval training
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a more demanding form of cardio training that alternates between periods of all-out maximum effort and low-to-moderate effort. Maximum effort intervals generally fall between 10-45 seconds, while the low-to-moderate “rest” intervals last between 30-60 seconds. These rest periods allow for complete replenishment of the Adenosine Triphosphate-Creatine Phosphate (ATP-CP) system.
The advantages to HIIT is that it’s incredibly time-efficient and great for not only stimulating muscle fibers in a similar manner as to that of weightlifting, but also enhances muscle building and preserves muscle better during periods of dieting. Compared to LISS, you’ll experience a greater metabolic boost for longer periods of time and burn a lot of calories for very little time.
The disadvantages to HIIT is that you cannot perform it every day like LISS. It’s simply too taxing to your body and CNS and can inhibit recovery and muscle-building if done too often. Moreover, not everyone is in good enough physical or cardiovascular condition to handle HIIT and there’s a greater risk of injury too., by doing high intensity work you are activating muscle fibers and anytime you activate muscle fibers you are primed for growth
Which Form is Superior?
Generally speaking, there isn’t one “best” form of cardio for all populations. Both have their place in a proper muscle-building, fat-shredding training program. HIIT is superior for fat loss and muscle retention during dieting and saves a lot of time. LISS is a great “alternative” to use in between resistance training sessions and HIIT session to still get some extra calorie burn without impairing CNS and muscle recovery. Plus, it’s also good from increasing blood flow to previously worked muscles and is an ideal form of “active recovery” to be used on rest days.
In the end, a combination of both HIIT and LISS can be used to promote body re-composition. How you blend the two ultimately boils down to your individual training and recovery capacity as well as your nutrition and performance / physique goals.
In an ideal world, all the calories you eat on a daily basis would go to purely building muscle. Unfortunately for most people the calories you do eat each day lead to some muscle gain, and some fat gain too.
On the flip side when it comes to dieting, you’d preserve all of your lean muscle mass and lose only fat. Again, this isn’t an ideal world, and you’re bound to lose a bit of muscle when you diet, though there are certain things you can do (such as eating a high protein diet) that can mitigate the muscle loses while dieting.
The calories you do eat, or more specifically, the carbohydrates, you’re consuming aren’t going all towards building muscle, some are being used to increase your fat stores as well.
We’ve got some tips and tricks on how to manipulate your body’s partitioning of carbohydrates and other important macronutrients so that next time bulking season hits, you can maximize muscle growth while minimizing fat gains.
Carbohydrate Partitioning 101
Carbohydrate partitioning is the physiological process by which the body decides what to do with the energy you obtain from the carbs you eat. Basically, where does your body “put” the carbs you’re eating following meal time.
When you eat (fats, proteins, carbs), the calories from those foods are either immediately used for energy or stored for later use. Ideally, you’d prefer those nutrients be used to fuel performance and / or muscle growth rather than build up fat reserves. Genetics play a large role in how your body partitions nutrients, as well the interactions between the brain, CNS, liver, gut, and muscles. These interactions are governed by the various hormones in your body and the associated signals they send to each part of the body. The most important of all these hormones is insulin.
Going back to our ideal world, we’d prefer to have high insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle and low (or poor) insulin sensitivity in fat cells, which would drive more calories into muscle and less towards fat. This is especially important when trying to bulk or gain muscle. Conversely when dieting, we’d want to be a little insulin resistant.
Several factors go into controlling insulin sensitivity, and a large part of that is genetics, for better or worse. While there’s nothing you can really do about your genetics, there are a few other tricks you can utilize to enhance your body’s insulin sensitivity, setting the stage for maximum muscle gain and fat loss.
Ways to Enhance Carbohydrate Partitioning
Intense exercise is by far one of the best ways you can enhance insulin sensitivity. Muscular contractions improve insulin sensitivity, as does being glycogen depleted, which occurs as a result of exhaustive exercise. For this reason, timing the bulk of your carbohydrate intake around your training window (pre, intra, and post workout) can do wonders for your natural carb partitioning abilities. Muscular contraction itself improves insulin sensitivity, facilitating glucose uptake into the cell.
Just be sure the rest of the day to limit your starchy / sugary carb intake and focus more of fats, proteins, and fibrous veggies so you still hit your macros.
Optimize your Fat Intake
Inflammation negatively impacts insulin sensitivity, and is a key indicator of obesity and type 2 diabetes. The average person’s diet overly emphasizes omega-6 fatty acids and lacks omega-3 fatty acids (found primarily in fish). Such a gross imbalance of these essential fatty acids leads to a chronic inflammatory state, which torpedoes your insulin sensitivity and leading to a host of other health issues, mentioned previously. In fact, it’s believed that the average person has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 20:1, when ideally it should be 1:1.
To start restoring some balance to your life invest in a high quality fish oil supplement and start eating cold water fish like Wild Alaskan Salmon, Albacore Tuna or Mackerel more frequently.
Being stressed all the time elevates cortisol levels and wreaks havoc on your autonomic nervous systems (ANS). Without getting into the nitty gritty, when your ANS is out of whack, there is an imbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems which leads to fatigue, high blood pressure, disrupted sleep, increased protein breakdown, and insulin resistance. None of these are good for optimizing insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle.
By chilling out and de-stressing, you promote optimal function of the ANS and promote a healthier insulin response across your body.
Supplement Ingredients to Enhance Carbohydrate Partitioning
After you’ve put the other tips from this list into action, you can invest in a nutrient-partitioning supplement that enhances your body’s nutrient intake and protein turnover, such as Steel Core™.
Ingredients such as Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) helps shift glucose into muscles and away from fat cells, increasing energy and reducing stored fat. ALA, when consumed with Carbohydrates, will partition those carbohydrates to muscle tissue and away from fat tissue. The distribution of nutrients towards muscle and away from fat either maintains or increases lean muscle and decreases body fat.
Spend any time talking to trainers at the gym or browsing the aisles of your local supplement shop, and you’ll hear recommendations from numerous people stating how vital BCAAs are to your training. The problem is, you have no clue what a BCAA is, or what it really does.
Sit back and take a deep breath, you haven’t missed out on any gains or gained any fat by not using them during your workout, but you could be missing out on some key muscle-building and recovery benefits by not using them while training. That’s where this no-nonsense guide to BCAAs comes in handy.
After reading this, you’ll know all the ins and outs of BCAAs and what they can do for you!
What are BCAA’s?
In the body, there are 20 amino acids used to synthesize proteins. String enough of these proteins together and you build muscle. The 20 amino acids can be grouped into two categories: essential or non-essential. Essential amino acids (EAAs) are the nine amino acids must be consumed through the diet, since the body cannot produce them. Non-essential amino acids are ones which the body can synthesize.
BCAAs, short for branched-chain amino acids, are a special subgroup of essential amino acid comprised of leucine, isoleucine and valine. The BCAAs get their name from the unique “branch”-like structure they possess. Together, the three BCAAs account for roughly 35% of your muscle mass, which is part of the reason why they’re so important!
BCAAs can be found in whole foods, particularly animal protein, of which dairy and meat are the most plentiful.
What do BCAAs do?
Due to their unique structure, the BCAAs can perform a rather neat “trick” in the body. Basically, rather than get sent to the liver for processing, the BCAAs are sent directly to your muscles where they are oxidized (“broken down”) for use as energy during ATP production. The BCAAs are converted into glucose, pyruvate, and various other intermediates required by the body, where they increase the availability of carbohydrates and protect muscles against exercise-induced catabolism (muscle breakdown).
Perhaps even more important than providing energy to your muscles, is the fact that BCAAs stimulate muscle protein synthesis (muscle growth). So, not only are these three mighty amino acids great for preserving your muscles while dieting and training, they also help your muscles to grow bigger and stronger!
You’re probably thinking that you should be consuming BCAAs all the time, well, that’s not ideal either, as your body needs all 9 essential amino acids in order to build proteins, and consuming only the three BCAAs would mean you’re lacking in 6 other important amino acids. Plus, the other EAAs compete for the same receptors in your body as the BCAAs, so if you’re overloading on the BCAAs, you’re essentially bottlenecking your muscle building abilities.
It is important to maintain a steady stream of amino acids before, during, and after training though, as this provides the energy your muscles need to perform as well as prevent muscle loss and enhance muscle repair and growth.
When to use BCAAs?
BCAAs are most important to use for hard-training athletes who may be at risk for catabolism due to the intense nature of their workouts or those following a very low calorie diet. This essentially breaks down to three classes:
- Resistance-Training (Weightlifters): Resistance training is the key to getting bigger and stronger, but to do so requires you to breakdown your muscles so that they repair and grow. Using BCAAs before, during, and after your training provides the energy your muscles need to perform as well as stave off excessive catabolism, which could lead to significant muscle breakdown, i.e. lost gains.
- Endurance Athletes: Endurance athletes train for hours on end without getting in any form of nutrition, setting them up massive muscle loss. But, consuming some form of BCAA supplement while training prevents this breakdown and helps preserve lean muscle mass.
- Dieters: During periods of reduced calorie intake, your body is at an increased risk for muscle loss. In an effort to make up for the lack of calories you’re consuming, the body will cannibalize itself to get the required energy it needs to keep functioning. Consuming BCAAs (and ample protein) while dieting staves off catabolism, and ensures that you’re only losing fat and not muscle.
- Stimulates muscle protein synthesis
- Increases lean mass
- Prevents catabolism
- Improves endurance
- Enhances mental performance
- Accelerates recovery
- Reduces soreness
BCAAs are absolutely essential for optimal performance and muscle growth. Without these three amino acids, your ability to build muscle will be severely limited. But, with BCAAs by your side, your performance, growth, and recovery will be better than ever before.
- Md. Monirujjaman and Afroza Ferdouse, “Metabolic and Physiological Roles of Branched-Chain Amino Acids,” Advances in Molecular Biology, vol. 2014, Article ID 364976, 6 pages, 2014. doi:10.1155/2014/364976
- Blomstrand E, Ek S, Newsholme EA. Influence of ingesting a solution of branched-chain amino acids on plasma and muscle concentrations of amino acids during prolonged submaximal exercise. Nutrition. 1996;12(7-8):485-490.
- Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012;9:20. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-20.
- Blomstrand, P. et.al. “Administration of Branched-Chain Amino Acids During Sustained Exercise – Effects on Performance and On Plasma Concentration of Some Amino Acids.” European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology (1991), 83-88, Accessed November 20, 2014, doi: 10.1007/BF00235174
We’ve all heard the saying a calorie is a calorie. While that might be true, you can make foods work for your body instead of against it, by choosing the right ones. Paired with a proper muscle-building training program, the following 10 foods will help reduce your appetite, break down stored fat, prevent fat storage, and enhance your body’s ability to burn fat for fuel.
Grab your bag of popcorn, sit back, relax and take a look at these top 10 foods that fight fat and get you lean and mean!
Top 10 Foods
What?! A carbohydrate at the top of the list?!
You bet! We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again — carbs are NOT the enemy. Aside from being downright tasty, carbs can also help you lose weight. In fact, research shows that consuming three or more servings per day of whole grains (i.e. oats) led subjects to have 10% less belly fat than another group who consumed the same amount of calories from processed white carbs.
2. Cayenne Pepper
Ready to really burn your taste buds and belly fat?
Cayenne pepper is loaded with capsaicin, the spicy compound that gives chiles their tongue-numbing qualities. Studies show that daily consumption of capsaicin increases abdominal fat loss, boost metabolism, and decreases appetite. So pile on the red pepper if you’re looking to blast fat for good!
Avocados are packed full of belly-filling fiber and stress-combatting Vitamin B6. It’s also loaded with healthy monounsaturated fats, which prevent your body from storing fat around your belly and down-regulate the activity of certain fat genes.
Combine avocado with jalapenos (which are packed with capsaicin) and a squeeze of fresh lime to make guacamole and have the perfect fat loss snack!
It’s pretty well understood that protein builds muscle. The more muscle you have on your body, the higher your metabolism, and the greater ability your body has to burn fat fast.
Wild salmon is one of the healthiest sources of muscle-building protein. It’s also loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which combat inflammation, support healthy joints, and fuel fat burning.
Consumed around the world for thousands of years, tea isn’t just a delicious, satisfying, and tasty beverage; it can also be a powerful ally in the war on fat. Tea is packed with polyphenols that stimulate lipolysis (the breakdown of fat) and inhibit adipogenesis (creation of new fat). Some research even points to tea’s ability to reduce appetite via increasing levels of the hormone CCK (cholecystokinin).
Berries are nature’s wonder-fruit; they’re packed with polyphenols, antioxidant, and fiber. Berries improve blood flow, and aid fat burning due to an antioxidant, known as resveratrol, that’s been shown to convert harmful white fat cells into brown fat, which can be burned for energy.
Eggs are loaded with choline, a prominent fat-burning compound that deactivates genes responsible for belly fat storage They’re also packed full of protein and make the foundation of any great muscle-building breakfast.
Eating eggs also lowers ghrelin response, which makes you less hungry in the hours after a meal, and supports your fat loss diet efforts to consume fewer calories each day!
High in protein and belly-filling fiber, beans are another great slow carb that not only taste great, but also help maintain a slim waistline. Beans are packed full of insoluble and soluble fiber which promote good bacteria growth and enhance your ability to burn fat for fuel. Research notes that for every additional 10g of fiber eaten per day, subjects carried considerably less belly fat.
9. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is convenient and tasty muscle-building snack offering over 20g of protein per 80z serving. It’s also packed with calcium and vitamin D, which reduce cortisol, a stress hormone that promotes fat storage. Mix Greek yogurt with a serving of berries to make the perfect pre or post workout snack to enhance muscle growth, blunt cortisol, and torch belly fat.
10. Dark Chocolate
Can chocolate really help you lose weight? According to research conducted at Louisiana State University, YES!
Dark chocolate is fermented in our gut leading to increased production of butyrate, a fatty acid that promotes fat burning and inhibits inflammation. Adding chocolate to fruit can boost butyrate production and release, leading to even greater fat burning. Just make sure to get a chocolate with at least 70% cacao content, these varieties are highest the in important fat-fighting polyphenols.
Losing weight isn’t easy, and sometimes it can seem downright impossible. But it doesn’t have to be. It might take a little (or a lot) of work on your part to start eating a little better or exercising a little harder. But in the end, the small sacrifices you make on the front end will pay HUGE dividends on the back end.