If you’ve ever dieted, you probably already know that the last 10 lbs can be the hardest to lose. Being on a diet for an extended period of time can actually slow down your metabolic rate. Your body starts to think that you are starving yourself, and instead of just dropping those last few pounds, it holds on to them for dear life!
While losing the final 10 is challenging, it’s not impossible. A change in your training combined with a few dietary adjustments can trick your body into burning fat until you reach your goal. Here are eight nutritional strategies to help you get there:
1. Eat Small Meals. Your total calories for the day need to be broken up into five or six small meals of roughly equal calories. This will ensure your blood sugar levels remain at a low level and keep insulin levels minimized, which means your metabolism and fat burning can remain elevated.
2. Eat At Regular Intervals. Eat every 2 to 3 hours throughout the day. Small meals keep cortisol, the catabolic stress hormone, level reduced. In addition, it keeps your metabolism elevated throughout the day.
3. Eat Protein With Every Meal. Every meal needs to contain protein, which will provide your muscles with a constant flow of the amino acids needed to build muscle and fuel recovery. (More muscle = higher metabolism). Protein also has a thermic effect—it takes energy and requires several metabolic processes to breakdown and utilize the nutrient. In fact, it actually takes more energy to burn protein than it does carbohydrates, which have the same caloric value!
4. Drink Plenty Of Water. Staying hydrated is extremely important to ensure your body and metabolism are optimized. Also, a slight dip in hydration will cause your workouts to suffer, as you will be unable to train as intensely as you would like. Aim for 4 to 6L of water daily.
5. Check Your Macronutrient Ratios. A calorie deficit can cause weight loss, but a change in your macronutrients can shift your body into fat burning mode while preserving muscle tissue. Try a low carbohydrate, high protein, moderate fat diet. A macronutrient ratio of 50% protein, 10-20% carbohydrates and 30-40% fats can switch your body from using carbs as its primary energy to using fat as fuel while preserving your hard-earned muscle.
6. Try A Re-Load Day. If you have been following the same diet for a while, the body begins to shut-off certain hormones that can trigger fat loss, including the hunger hormone leptin. When leptin levels are low, the metabolism can grind to a halt. The best way to increase leptin is by feeding it carbohydrates, as it responds to blood glucose levels. Try taking one day per week, or every few weeks depending on your body, and re-loading it with a higher carbohydrate day. This is particular effective if you have been following a low carbohydrate diet (20 – 30% daily calories from carbs) for an extended period of time. On the re-load days, follow a macronutrient ratio of 50-60% carbohydrates, 30-40% protein and 10% fat. On your re-load days, the carbs should be mostly complex, but a few simple carbs are acceptable too.
7. Avoid Eating Starchy Carbs and Fats Together. Reserve your starchy carbohydrates for morning, pre-workout and post-workout meals. Eat your fats in the afternoon and evening meals. This will help speed the digestion of your protein and carbohydrates when you need them most (breaking an overnight fast and fueling training/recovery). Fats will help keep you full and your blood sugar stable during the meals without starchy carbs.
8. Reduce Your Calories. If you have completely stopped losing weight and you’re consuming 1800 or more calories, reduce your daily intake by 250 calories. If after two weeks, you are still not dropping any weight, reduce your daily calories down by another 100 calories. Never drop below 1200 calories. Remember a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day for one week is equal to 3500 calories or 1 pound of fat. This calorie deficit can come from a combination of energy put in (diet) and energy expended out (exercise).