Explaining Plateaus

Options
I hit my first "plateau" in 8 weeks (-0.3lbs, -0.2% body fat, no measuring tape improvements). My last plateau was easily explained away by water retention--my hydration level was unusual and I knew why.

Many plateaus can be explained by--

1. Water retention (sodium fluctuation, periods) - I stay fairly close to 2300mg/day sodium. I've weighed daily so this isn't a one-day swing, and thankfully I've never had the joy of a period. ;)

2. Calorie overestimation - I averaged 1,800 net calories and 2,100 actual calories per day vs. my estimated total daily energy expenditure of 3,300 calories

3. Lower BMR due to weight loss - I recomputed my TDEE this week. I ate better than last week (done with my burger experiment) and last week I lost 3.1lbs.

What biological process explains the remaining plateaus?

Are the remaining plateaus as simple as compounding errors (nutrition labels are accurate +/- 10%, the best heart rate monitors are accurate +/- 10%, we introduce error when we estimate how many cashews are in the restaurant salad we ate sans dressing, etc.. and statistically, sometimes all these compounding errors must work out against us once every few months?

Replies

  • CA_Underdog
    CA_Underdog Posts: 733 Member
    Options
    :sad: I'm going to go wallow in my spin class. :tongue:
  • SezxyStef
    SezxyStef Posts: 15,268 Member
    Options
    define plateau?

    Not losing weight for a couple days/weeks is not a plateau.

    An actual plateau is at least 4-6 weeks without weight loss...and those are explained very simply...

    If you haven't lost weight in 6 weeks it's because you are eating at maitenance...
  • _Waffle_
    _Waffle_ Posts: 13,049 Member
    Options
    define plateau?

    4138508_orig.jpg?0
    An actual plateau is at least 4-6 weeks without weight loss...and those are explained very simply...
    True, I wouldn't say that 1 month with no change was a plateau.
  • CA_Underdog
    CA_Underdog Posts: 733 Member
    Options
    define plateau?
    Waffle's diagram describes it well, but we can define a "plateau" as a period of minimum or no weight loss. In my case, this was a one week period. Call it a mini-plateau or a micro-plateau if you prefer.

    The point is the explaining of, rather than the naming of, things. Why does this happen?

    (Beyond the most common explanations which I address and reject in my first post. I also proposed what I see as the most likely explanation--that error bars in nutrition labels and heart rate monitors and estimations when a food scale is unavailable occasionally compound in the most unfavorable way, but am curious if anyone has alternate theories, perhaps supported by science or medicine.)
  • CA_Underdog
    CA_Underdog Posts: 733 Member
    Options
    Bump!
  • lindsey1979
    lindsey1979 Posts: 2,395 Member
    Options
    I don't think you're fully appreciating how much water retention plays into this -- and that it's not so easily controlled by sodium levels. Yes, sodium plays a role, but it's not the only thing that results in water retention. For example, prolonged calorie restriction and/or prolonged strenuous exercise can increase cortisol and stress hormones, which often leads to water retention. That's one of the ideas behind calorie and/or carb cycling -- to avoid or minimize the stress response hormones so that weight loss is more linear or isn't masked by excess water retention.

    Or the amount of carbs can greatly change your water retention. Same with muscle repair -- if you're lifting heavy, muscles will pull in water in their repair process. Or if you're using creatine, that causes water retention too.

    I haven't seen any detailed explanation for why it happens exactly, but just that it's commonly seen in extended weight loss --- that it occurs in non-linear patterns. And that's why it also is usually necessary to look at trends over longer periods of time rather than days or just a couple of weeks. Lyle McDonald has his whole squishy fat idea and that's the most plausible explanation I've seen, but I haven't seen anything definitively.

    http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/of-whooshes-and-squishy-fat.html
  • SezxyStef
    SezxyStef Posts: 15,268 Member
    Options
    define plateau?
    Waffle's diagram describes it well, but we can define a "plateau" as a period of minimum or no weight loss. In my case, this was a one week period. Call it a mini-plateau or a micro-plateau if you prefer.

    The point is the explaining of, rather than the naming of, things. Why does this happen?

    (Beyond the most common explanations which I address and reject in my first post. I also proposed what I see as the most likely explanation--that error bars in nutrition labels and heart rate monitors and estimations when a food scale is unavailable occasionally compound in the most unfavorable way, but am curious if anyone has alternate theories, perhaps supported by science or medicine.)

    I sitll wouldn't call that a plateau...even a mini one...going one week without weight loss is common.

    It happens because your body is not mechanical and you can't make it do something...

    As lindsey said water retention does weird things...even stress plays a part with raising cortisol levels which make water retention happen which masks weight loss...

    I have personally gone 3 weeks without "losing" weight according to the scale then I would whoosh 2-3lbs...not a big deal it happens...
  • Iwishyouwell
    Iwishyouwell Posts: 1,888 Member
    Options
    Dieting Plateau = Eating more than you think
  • vismal
    vismal Posts: 2,463 Member
    Options
    One week is utterly meaningless. It's not a plateau at all. Give it at least 2 more. Don't even think twice about it at this point.
  • wild_wild_life
    wild_wild_life Posts: 1,334 Member
    Options
    Names do matter, to make sure we are all talking about the same thing. One week can't be considered a plateau so can't be thought about the same way. The point is, if you lose weight consistently for 5 weeks and then stop losing for a week or two, don't worry about it, don't change anything, don't do anything.

    As for real plateaus, I would add to your list the fact that evidence suggests RMR decreases in calorie-restricted individuals more than what can be accounted for in loss of mass alone.

    http://fampra.oxfordjournals.org/content/16/2/196.full (among others)
  • Bucklebeak
    Bucklebeak Posts: 16 Member
    Options
    I don't think you're fully appreciating how much water retention plays into this -- and that it's not so easily controlled by sodium levels. Yes, sodium plays a role, but it's not the only thing that results in water retention. For example, prolonged calorie restriction and/or prolonged strenuous exercise can increase cortisol and stress hormones, which often leads to water retention. That's one of the ideas behind calorie and/or carb cycling -- to avoid or minimize the stress response hormones so that weight loss is more linear or isn't masked by excess water retention.

    Or the amount of carbs can greatly change your water retention. Same with muscle repair -- if you're lifting heavy, muscles will pull in water in their repair process. Or if you're using creatine, that causes water retention too.

    I haven't seen any detailed explanation for why it happens exactly, but just that it's commonly seen in extended weight loss --- that it occurs in non-linear patterns. And that's why it also is usually necessary to look at trends over longer periods of time rather than days or just a couple of weeks. Lyle McDonald has his whole squishy fat idea and that's the most plausible explanation I've seen, but I haven't seen anything definitively.

    http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/of-whooshes-and-squishy-fat.html

    Cheers for the article link, interesting!
  • CA_Underdog
    CA_Underdog Posts: 733 Member
    Options
    Lots of interesting ideas--calorie cycling, whooshing water, exercise hydration, "the obstacle is the path"--and ultimately, whomever figures this out will win a Nobel prize. ;)

    It was frustrating for a moment, but I believe I'm on the right path in every respect (1300 calories below tdee, daly exercise). Hopefully, this week my body cooperates!