This may be a little more on the advanced side. But, I promised that this would be about my journey and not just a collection of tips & tricks. So here it is: how to break a plateau with intermittent fasting and HIIT.
I’ve mentioned this before recently, but I’ve been dealing with a pretty nasty plateau for the last several weeks. Despite having a fairly intense workout routine and eating only 1,400 calories a day, I just couldn’t seem to break it. After doing a ton of research, here’s what I discovered:
Long-term weight loss
(like… more than 3 or 4 months in a row) can result in a metabolism that slows itself down to match your calorie-intake. (Even if you’re only eating a VERY small number of calories).
Doing a large amount of low-intensity cardio
Running can have the same affect. It works for a while, but your body will always attempt to achieve homeostasis (equilibrium). It will do everything it can to try to get itself in a position where it doesn’t need to burn fat. In the case of doing large amounts of low-intensity cardio, your body assumes that’s how things are going to be from now on. Put simply, it lowers your metabolism to compensate so that it doesn’t need to burn fat any longer.
As a result of these, your metabolism is no longer functioning normally, and it’s no longer “calories in, calories out.”.
The point is illustrated best by looking at your typical marathon runner in training. Mathematically speaking, they should be dead based on the amount of food/calories they consume and they amount of food/calories they burn. However, their body adjusts to the amount of work it’s expected to do and slows metabolism down to compensate. (This is why marathon runners often pack on a LOT of pounds once their race is over. It can take weeks, or even months, for the metabolism to return to normal levels).
I’ve been dealing with BOTH situations above. Now coming up on 14 straight months of relatively low-calorie eating (calorie intake getting progressively lower every few months, and now at crazy-low levels), combined with about 4 months of low-intensity cardio (running) 4 to 5 times a week.
The weight has completely stopped coming off. Despite the fact that the math says I should be in total starvation mode and the fat should be pouring off of me, it just wasn’t. I feel fine, I’m just not losing any weight.
There are several possible solutions to the problem. After a ton of research on the situation I’m facing, I’ve opted to make two big changes.
Regarding the cardio issue, I’ve started incorporating HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) into my runs. Basically, I run normally for about 4 minutes, and then increase to a full-on sprint for about 40 seconds. Wash, rinse, repeat. The idea is to get your heart-rate into anaerobic mode, then pull it back to “normal” as many times as possible. Studies actually show you can burn twice as many calories in the same amount of distance by running this way. (We’re keeping that metabolism from getting too comfortable!)
And regarding the effects of long-term dieting/weight loss causing the metabolism to slow down, I’ve decided to add intermittent fasting to my routine for a week or two, to see if it has any effect.
Intermittent Fasting isn’t as bad as it sounds. After studying how it works and the various approaches that can be taken, I settled on a 16-hour fast during every 24 hour period. Essentially, that means I am only allowed to eat food between noon and 8pm. (Or, put another way, I skip breakfast).
The idea is to give your metabolism long stretches of time with no food. That will force it to reach into your fat-stores during those long stretches. You’re tricking your body that has been functioning under the assumption that it’ll always have food available in the belly. I still eat the same number of calories as before, I just pack them into a slightly smaller period of time. A lot of people have reported very positive results by using this method of intermittent fasting.
I will keep you posted on the results! Wish me luck in finally breaking this plateau and finally… hopefully… smashing the 100-pounds-lost mark. (I’ve been so close, for so long, I can TASTE it!)