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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Why have I stopped losing weight?

    I have been on a well balanced diet of 1200 calories per day, getting about 60% protein, 30% carbs and 10% fats. I work out 6 days a week doing high intensity training for 45 minutes and I have lost 8 kg. Recently my weight loss has slowed down as I was doing roughly 1kg a week now it's between 500-800g or none at all. Why the sudden drop?
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    James Kuhn

    Nutritionist, Sports Scientist

    James Kuhn is an Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) who is passionate about nutrition’s role in body composition, sports performance and health. His belief is that a … View Profile

    First off, great effort on dropping 8 kg.

    The short anwser is that the energy deficit you created may no longer be significant enough for the same rate of loss. BUT it also may just be other factors that are masking true fat loss which is why scale weight isn't the be all end all measurment.

    There are a number of potential reasons for the reduction in weight loss and without further details it's going to be hard to narrow it down.

    Are you male or female? How much do you weigh? Previous energy consumption levels? How long have you been dieting...etc. are all important factors.

    Unfortunately weight loss is very rarely linear and a number of different variables can effect the number on the scale day to day /week to week. For instance it's not uncommon for individuals to stall for a period of time and then wake up to a large drop in bodyweight. This is usually related to water retention which can be caused by electrolyte imbalances, hormones, stress etc. This also means that water retention can mask any fat loss that may be occuring.

    Another potential cause may be adaptive thermogenesis. Unfortunately as we've evolved our bodies have become quite adept at resisting weight loss because it sees it as a threat to survival.

    So the body notices that energy consumption isn't meeting energy needs and starts to make certain adaptions to close that gap. This includes :

    • increased mitochondrial efficiency ( you use less calories for the same atp production)
    • decreased energy expenditure (metabolic rate)
    • Elevations in hormones that promote catabolism and hunger, decreased hormones that promote anabolism, energy expenditure, and satiety 

    All in all it results in it being harder to lose weight. So over the course of the diet you should expect weight loss to slow and even to hit plateaus.

    It's likely that the the larger the energy deficit, the more pronounced these effects are.

    This is why long term sustainable approaches are advocated and that when weight loss begins to stall, make modest, conservative adjustments to increase the energy deficit, and approach the diet in a step-wise fashion with incremental, periodic adjustments. More on this can be found here:

     https://healthyeatinghub.com.au/stimulate-dont-annihilate-moderation-is-the-key-to-healthy-weight-loss/

    I'd be hesistant to reduce energy intake much lower because your quite low already however this also depends on how accurate your tracking methods are.

    Also as a side note 10% fats of a 1200 cal diet is quite low remembering that fats are an essential nutrient for health. 60% Protein is also reasonably high for someone following a a low calorie diet. Yes protein needs rise when in an energy deficit but unless your a large male with a reasonable amount of lean body mass I can't see needs being that high, and if you are a large male I would be questioning why calories are so low in the first place.

    It may be worth considering decreasing protein slightly and increasing fats, remebering that total energy intake has the biggest effect on fat loss.

    My advice would be to not do anything to drastic at this point. Depending on how long you've been dieting and how long your weightloss has stalled I would sit tight and give the body some time.

  • Chris Fonda

    Dietitian, Nutritionist, Sports Dietitian

    As an Accredited Sports Dietitian, APD and athlete (springboard diver), Chris has both professional and personal experience in sport at the sub-elite and elite level.Chris … View Profile

    I think James has hit the nail on the head. You certainly aren't consuming enough energy to support your exercise and weight loss requirements. You also should NEVER continue on a 1200kcal day in, day out. You need to learn how to adjust your energy intake with your energy expenditure to support your training goals and ensure you continue to lose weight.

    Your macronutrient intake is also all over the place. 30% of your 1200kcal intake from carbohydrate foods is too low (<100g/day) and one reason why you may have dropped 1kg per week initially may not in fact be from body fat but, from muscle carbohydrate and water stores. You see when we eat carbohydrate containing foods, our body stores it in both our liver and muscle as glycogen. For every gram of glucose stored as glycogen, we use 2-3 grams of water to help store it. When we break down our muscle glycogen which fuels our exercise, we also release this water. 

    10% of your 1200kcal intake from fat is also VERY VERY low and not recommended. Fat is essential in the diet and we need to make sure we meet our essential fatty acid targets every day or we risk missing out on important nutrients and ill health. The key is getting the right mix and amounts of fat to assist with weight loss and this is where an Accredited Sports Dietitian can come in handy.

    Long periods with low energy availability (LEA) can affect your overall health. We sports dietitians call it relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S). In females, low energy availability can affect menstrural function leading to amenhorrea and poor bone health. For men, it can affect testosterone levels.

    I would highly recommend you seek advice from an Accredited Sports Dietitian. A fantastic website is https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/#find-sports-dietitian

    C

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