The last leg of a diet can be brutally difficult. You're training hard and eating clean, but your body is being stubborn and your fat levels seem to be stuck just a few percentage points above where you want to be. It's frustrating — your belly is clinging on to those last 10 pounds like a dog with a bone.
Is there anything that can be done to kick things off and get the fat moving again? The short answer is "yes" — try one (or more) of the following:
1. Fasted Cardio
The theory is simple — when you exercise on an empty stomach your body has no carbohydrate to access for fuel, so it has to tap into your fat stores. The trick is to take things easy so you don't end up losing strength and hard-won lean muscle mass. If you go too hard in a fasted state, your ability to do high-intensity work will be diminished and it will all be for nought.
Go for 3-5 fasted cardio sessions per week just before breakfast. Limit them to 20-25 minutes, and keep the pace at 55-65% max heart rate all the way through. If you're breathing so heavily that you couldn't hold a conversation, you're going too hard. If you start getting dizzy, stop right away and slow things down even more the next day. This is one of those situations where less is definitely more.
2. Increase Your Calories
Yes, you read that right. If you're down to your last 10 pounds of body fat, then chances are you've been training and dieting for a while now. Your increased fitness levels and muscle mass demand more daily calories, so if you've been eating less and less to try and shift the last of the weight, you've probably dropped your food intake too low.
It might sound counterintuitive, but try adding a few hundred calories per day on top of what you're currently eating. For best effect, zigzag your calories so that you eat more on training days to maximise performance in the gym, and less on recovery days to maximise fat loss. Try this for a couple of weeks — if you feel stronger during training, then you're probably on the right track.
3. Remember the FITT Rule
Given enough time and repetition, your body will adapt to any exercise and become more efficient at it (i.e. you'll use less and less energy to perform the same amount of work). To break through your plateau, try modifying the frequency, intensity, type or time (FITT) of your workouts. Here's how that might look:
- Frequency: Go from 5 training sessions per week to 3, or vice-versa.
- Intensity: Do 5-rep sets with heavy weights instead of 12-rep sets with moderate weights; do HIIT instead of long, steady-state cardio sessions.
- Type: Try full-body exercises instead of isolated movements; jump on the rowing machine instead of going for a run.
- Time: Shorten or lengthen your training sessions; try working out earlier or later in the day to see if you perform better at certain times.
Mix up your workouts and keep your body guessing, and the last of that stubborn body fat should eventually start to drop off.
Want more expert advice to get you in the shape of your life? Request a free consultation here at our Personal Training Studio in Ranelagh and we'll help you get started.