Question:

About 7 months ago, I weighed about 200 pounds with little to muscle at all. I decided to start working out heavily and I completely revamped my diet, cutting out most fats and carbs, and keeping my protein intake very high. It is important to mention that I am a vegetarian, so most of my protein comes from dairy products such as Greek yogurt and eggs. I kept my calorie count below 1,700 and saw some immediate effects for about 3 months. After the 3 months, I decided I wanted to put on some muscle as well as lose body fat. I started to eat a bit more increasing my daily protein intake to 180 grams, and eating about 2,000 calories. I also gained a good bit of muscle in the beginning but after 4 months, I am in a stalemate. My body fat percentage won’t seem to decrease, and I am gaining muscle at a very slow rate. However, I am increasing my strength as I consistently add more weights to my workouts. Should I try a new diet plan, or just stick with my current one and eventually get over my plateau? 

– Krishna

Answer:

As you have discovered, plateaus are tricky, Krishna. Perhaps your current diet has run its course, as your stalemate has lasted 4 months. You describe your recent intake as about 2000 calories with 180 grams protein, mostly from dairy. The missing details may offer opportunity for improvement.  

  • How much fiber are you consuming? The goal is at least 25 grams daily, which you are likely not achieving on a self-imposed carbohydrate restriction. 
  • Are added sugars comprising more than 10% of your calories? They are easily absorbed and metabolized into fat. Many smoothies have sherbet or fruit syrups contributing to refined sugar intake. 
  • Do you eat when you are not hungry just to stay on schedule? Listening to your body’s signals and responding appropriately may mean not pushing 2,000 calories. 
  • Are you eating close to bedtime? Those calories are easily stored since you don’t effectively burn them while sleeping. 

If your main goal is strength and muscle development, stay the course. But if you primarily want to lose weight, consider focusing on some details other than protein & calorie quantity. 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.


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