How To Make Macro Adjustments When You Stall

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If you’re on Leangains, and you’re lucky, you’ll never have to do an adjustment to your macronutrient numbers.

But most of us aren’t that lucky.

Many people, when starting, realize they will need to lose 50+ pounds to get to where they want to be.

Which could take upwards of a year or more, if done the right way.

Remember, the best diet is one that can be complied on FOREVER.

So, no worries; simply set your macros, get your workout right, and forget about it.

The weight will come off eventually.  Promise.

But every once in awhile, the fat loss stalls.

Firstly, this is natural and normal.  We are going to be objective instead of subjective.  Proactive instead of reactive.  We are NOT going to start doing cardio or go extremely low-fat or combine some 24-hour fasts to speed up fat loss.

We are going to be smart when we make adjustments.

So, when does an adjustment become necessary?  A few things we need to get straight first.

 

CRITERIA FOR MAKING A MACRO ADJUSTMENT

1.  You must be hitting your macros consistently.

This is the biggest piece to this.  If you set your numbers intelligently, but you aren’t following them, then what’s the point of changing them?

Now, you don’t have to be obsessive as hell.  You can track using whatever methods you wish.  But you must be tracking.  And you must be consistent.

This means drinking as well.  You *can* drink, moderately, a night or two per week and still make awesome progress.

But your drinking must be consistent as well!  (weird, right?)

You can’t drink a case of Heineken one week and nothing the next week.  That’s not consistent.

If you’re not consistent with your diet and macros, read this article.  Tighten up.  Give it a month before you make any rash decisions.

2.  You must be stalled in weight loss AND in body measurements – BOTH.

Hopefully, when you’re tracking your progress, you’re taking measurements.  Whether those measurements are in 143 places, or in 6 as I have my clients do, you need to track body measurements.

The scale is a deceitful bitch.

It can vary and swing wildly based on the day of the week, the time of the day, the meal you just ate, the water you just drank, or the dump you just deposited.  Not to be crude……

Don’t.  Trust.  The.  Scale.

The scale is more trustworthy long term.  Take a look a month later at the scale weight.  But on a daily or even week-to-week basis, the scale sucks.

Your waist measurement is much more effective at gauging progress.

I’ve even told a few (somewhat) obsessive clients to ditch the scale completely.

If your waist is going down, you’re losing fat.  And that’s that.

In order to make adjustments, both scale weight AND waist measurement must be stagnant.

 

3.  You must have “waited out the woosh”.

Fat loss is not linear over time.

You will have weeks where you lose bunches, and weeks where you lose none.

You will often find that fat loss “catches up” in a phenomenon known as a “woosh”.  Here’s a phenomenal article by Lyle McDonald, nutritional genius, on “wooshes” and what they are, if you’re interested in them.

The best part:

It’s awesome when it happens!

Take an example of John.

John weighs 195.0 pounds.
His fat loss target is 1 pound per week.

Here is his weight, on a week-to-week basis, in pounds:

 

Week 1:  195.0
Week 2:  194.7
Week 3:  193.0
Week 4:  192.8
Week 5:  191.0

 

Notice how between a few of the weeks, his weight loss is very small.  This might frustrate John.  He might be tempted to adjust his macros, call his coach, or start jogging.

But also notice how each time,
the weight loss “catches up” the following week?

Look at things in AT LEAST two week, sometimes three or four week increments.

Are you, on average, losing what you’re setting out to lose?

Then no adjustments necessary.  Continue the course.

And wooshes are seriously fun.  You’re stagnant, you’re bummed, you’re waiting, and then all of a sudden *BOOM*!  You’re 6 pounds lighter.

And you can relax a bit.

Also, in order to be as accurate as possible, we need to be sure to weigh ourselves at the same time and in the same conditions.  This is done best the morning AFTER your second rest day in a row.  For most, that’s Monday morning.  If your schedule varies, then this may change.

But weigh yourself after you pee/defecate, and before you consume ANYTHING.

For a truly accurate scale weight, take your weight in this fashion every morning.  After 7 days, take the average and call it your “weekly weight”.

That’s  tad obsessive, though.

But it IS more accurate………..

 

4.  You have already troubleshooted the “other” factors.

Things like sleep, stress levels, active recovery, etc.

If those things are creeping into your daily life, it could be hindering progress and fat loss.

Make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours minimum.  Be sure you’re not stressing.  Relax.  You’ll get lean.  I promise.

After you’ve taken care of all of those?  There’s one other thing you should take a look at:

Macronutrient ratios

Do an analysis.  Find out the percentage of protein/carbs/fat calories in your diet.

Most people lose weight best with those percentages around 40/20/40.

The leaner will *probably* do better with a few more carb percentage points.

The fatter will *probably* do better with a few more fat percentage points.

But if your deficit has been created, and those percentage points are off, it could be a big difference.

Before you lower your calories, try tinkering with your ratios.  It’s often all you need.

Makes the argument “calories are all that matters”
completely invalid, right?

So, you’ve hit all that criteria, and you’ve stalled.

You’re consistently hitting macros, you’re stalled in both weight AND measurements, you’ve waited out the woosh, and you tried tinkering with your macro percentages.

You’ve met the criteria.

So, let’s do an adjustment.

 

HOW TO MAKE A MACRO ADJUSTMENT

In order to make a macro adjustment, in a nutshell, you take your overall calories and subtract somewhere between 5-10% from fats and carbs in a 1:1 ratio, when available.

The HIGHER your calculated intake is, the LOWER that percentage should be.  And vice versa.

If you have a daily intake of 3,000 calories per day, 5% of that number is 150.  

If we subtract that many calories, on average, from each day, that decreases our weekly consumption by 1,050 calories (150 x 7).

That should be enough to get the scale moving in the right direction.

However, if your daily intake is only 1,400 calories, 5% of that number is only 70.  Which only gives us 490 (70 x 7) less calories for the week.

That probably won’t cut it.

If you take 10% of 1,400, though, that’s 140 calories per day, which is 980 (140 x 7) calories per week.  And you’re good.

That’s why dieting sucks for women and short dudes.

Now, the 1:1 ratio.

If you’re one of my clients, I have set your carbs at “0” on rest days with instructions to eat lots of green, leafy, colorful veggies.

This means, technically, my clients eat carbs on rest days.  We just don’t want anything sugary or starchy on those days, so we just call it “0” and don’t worry about it.

What this means for a macro adjustment is that on training days, you will take the calories from fat AND carbs in that 1:1 ratio.

But on rest days, you will take from fat only since carbs aren’t available.

 

 

Example:

John is stalled.
He meets all of the criteria.

 

His current macros:

Training Days:  200p/200c/50f
Total cals:  2,050

Rest Days:  200p/0c/100f
Total cals:  1,500

 

John eats 2,050 calories on training days.
He is going to subtract 8% of those calories
for his adjustment.

8% of 2,050 (0.08 x 2,050) = 164 calories.

He will take them in a 1:1 ratio of carbs and fat.

164/2 = 82

There are 4 calories in each carb gram.
82/4 ~ 20 grams of carbs subtracted.

There are 9 calories in each fat gram.
82/9 ~ 9 grams of fat subtracted.
Round to 10 for counting ease.

 

John’s new macro numbers for training days,
after subtracting those amounts, are:
200p/180c/40f.
 

Time for rest days. 

John eats 1,500 calories on rest days.
He is going to take 8% of those calories
for his adjustment.

8% of 1,500 (0.08 x 1,500) = 120 calories.

Since his carb number on rest days is already “0”,
we will take those calories entirely from fat.

There are 9 calories in each gram of fat.
120/9 ~ 13 grams of fat subtracted.
Round to 15 for counting ease.

John’s new macro numbers for rest days,
after subtracting these amounts, are:
200p/0c/85f.
 

And that’s that.

Take a look at those caloric shifts:

They are relatively small.

 

Macros:

Training Days –>   200p/200c/50f  (old) —>  200p/180c/40f  (new)

Rest Days ——->  200p/0c/100f  (old) —>  200p/0c/85f  (new)

 

Total calories:

Training —>  2,050 (old) —> 1,880 (new)

Rest——–>  1,500 (old)  —> 1,365 (new)

 

The difference in those macro and calorie numbers is pretty small.  

Think about it.  On a daily basis, you’re talking about a pat of butter here and a quarter cup of rice there.  You’re not talking huge, major changes.

In actuality, if you keep your lunches constant and you make the adjustment to your dinners only, which is what makes the most sense, you won’t even notice the difference.  You shouldn’t.  It’s minute.

But those small adjustments should be all that’s needed.  They provide an additional caloric deficit of 1,050 calories per week.  Which should be enough to get that scale number looking better.

This should also show you the power
of hitting your macros right on the head.

If this small, practically unnoticeable adjustment is all that’s needed to speed up fat loss……………

……..than if you OVER consume by that amount, it’s all that’s needed for stalls.

Be sure you’re hitting those macros, friends.

If you make enough adjustments, it might become necessary to take those additional calories completely from your training days due to rest day caloric intake getting too small.  We never want to dip below 1 gram of protein per pound of LBM, and eventually it might become necessary to do just that.

In that case, find your overall, total weekly calories and take your percentage from that number.  And then use the 1:1 ratio process as described.

 

DIET BREAKS

I’ve been asked a lot about diet breaks and my thoughts.  Some people love them.

In my opinion, they seem to be better psychologically than physiologically.

If you *need* one or you’ll go ballistic, then go for it.

But you need to eat AT MAINTENANCE, so keep that in mind.

If you need help in figuring out how to “switch to maintenance”, it’s covered in this post.  Good luck.

Sometimes you hear we should “eat to our hunger” and that will be close enough to maintenance.

In a perfect world, we all could do just that……..which would make sense……….

But isn’t that what all got us into trouble in the first place?

Eating to our hunger can be dangerous.  I need to consume >2,000 calories in a sitting before I even begin to feel full.

And that’s eating rice, potatoes, and chicken.  With shitty, processed junk the caloric intake would be even higher.

Let me make this recommendation before I would ever make a diet break recommendation:

When you start your journey, make sure your deficit isn’t too high.

Ever seen one of those tables with the various upper limits of fat loss possibilities based on body fat percentage?

There’s one right here (scroll down) if you want to take a peek.

Those scales often say if you’re 30% body fat, you can lose up to 2.5 pounds of fat weekly until muscle gets tapped into.  Which is true……….buuuuuuut……….

Let’s look at 2 scenarios.

Scenario 1:

Bob weighs 300 pounds,
is 30% body fat
and has a maintenance
of 3,000 calories per day.

He starts his journey,
and sets his fat loss goal
at 2.5 pounds per week, the maximum.

2.5 pounds x 3,500 calories in 1 pound =
8,750 calories under maintenance, weekly,
to achieve his goal.

Bob’s maintenance is 21,000 calories per week. (3,000 x 7)

21,000 – 8,750 = 12,250 calories per week.

12,250 calories / 7 days = 1,750 calories per day, on average.

 

Which is a prescription for a shit ton of weight loss.

And a very small allotment of calories.

Considering Leangains calls for calorie cycling, Bob might have rest days which are around 1,200 calories.

Insane for a dude his size.

Look what happens if, over time, his fat loss stalls and he needs to make an adjustment:

 

He will need to take 10%
to make any damage at all.

1,750 – 175 (10% of 1,750) =
His new caloric intake is 1,575 calories per day, on average.

That intake is low enough to make anyone binge.

Even the most hefty clients of mine get a weight loss goal of no more than 1.5-1.6 pounds of weight loss per week.  It’s way more sustainable.

Scenario #2:

Bob decides to shoot for
1.5 pounds per week of fat loss instead of 2.5.

1.5 pounds x 3,500 calories in a pound =
5,250 calories under maintenance.

21,000 (Bob’s weekly maintenance) – 5,250 (Bob’s desired deficit) =
15,750 calories per week.

15,750 / 7 = 2,250 calories, on average, per day.

If Bob stalls out and needs to adjust,

firstly since he’s eating more, he can take LESS of a percentage.

Let’s go with an 8% reduction in calories.
A 10% reduction isn’t necessary

since he has more calories to work with.

2,250 – 180 (8% of 2,250) =
2,070 calories per day, on average.

 

Bob got to take LESS of a percentage
of his overall calories
and got MORE of a deficit
in the second scenario.

Bob probably won’t need another adjustment.  But if he does, he can make one EASILY since his diet has a higher caloric intake overall.

Not only that, but after the SECOND ADJUSTMENT of 8%, he’s still at 2,070 – 165 (8% of 2,070) = 1,905 calories per day on average.

Which, after TWO ADJUSTMENTS, is more calories than he started with in Scenario 1.

Bob will lean out all the way
without having to take a diet break
if he uses scenario number two.
Win-win-win.

The moral of this small anecdoate?  Choose your fat loss targets wisely.  Don’t try to rush it.  Make this a lifestyle choice, not a quick fix for a trip to the beach.  If you trust in the process and allow time to do its thing, you’ll succeed.

If you’re not willing to make this a lifestyle choice, stop reading and go try NutriSystem.  And come back when you fall off the wagon.

A few other, random thoughts………..

1.  Make sure you use the criteria provided.  And only that.

Do you meet all of the criteria set out?  Then go for it.  Make a diet adjustment.

But if not, then follow the advice given.  Tighten up first.   Ensure consistency.  Take measurements.  Be patient and wait out the “wooshes”.

2.  Don’t make irrational decisions.

Irrational decisions almost always come in the form of going extremely low carb, adding days of HIIT or cardio, adding a fourth training day, adding in 24-hour fasts, etc.

I only see one reason why a 24-hour fast makes sense:

You’re a stubborn ox
who must train in a 4-day split,
so you only have 3 rest days per week.

With only 3 rest days per week, they must be VERY low calorie.

So, you eat one meal, dinner, so you’re at least full for one meal.

This is so suboptimal it’s not even funny.

If you’re trying to lose weight, 3 days is plenty.  Let your diet dictate your waistline.  Use your training sessions to preserve or increase strength.  And 3 times per week is optimal for strength gain/retention while actively attempting to lose weight.

Of all the clients I’ve worked with, I have NEVER seen a person with a four day split drop down to three days using the RPT format…………and not get better results.

Not one.

Now, some of those clients refused to give up old habits.  And stuck with the four day split, even after I told them it isn’t optimal.

To each their own.

If you want optimal gym performance, you have your answer.  3 > 4

3.  Hire a coach.

Almost all powerlifters and bodybuilders hire a coach.  Because we all make stupid decisions as humans.  We are irrational creatures.  Sometimes it helps to hire someone to take all the guesswork out of it.

I am not exempt from this stupid thinking.  I can’t count all the dumbass, irrational, stupid things I’ve done both with food and with training.

Nearly every time, I wasn’t being objective, I was being subjective.  And the results showed.

Have a plan in place and execute the plan.  Adjust as necessary if you meet the criteria provided.  If you can’t do that, hire someone to do it for you.

Here’s a link to a guy who might be able to help you with your thought process.

I’m sure you’ve got some questions.  And are wondering some things.

Go ahead and put your comments and concerns in the box below.

If I think I can help, I will.  If I can’t, I won’t.  But I’ll at least give you my thoughts.

Hopefully you find this information helpful.

 

Happy Dieting!

-Jason

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