PT on the Net Research

Fat Loss Plateau


My client’s goal is fat loss. Although he has experienced great success, he has currently hit a plateau. Stats are: 52 years old; 104 kg; 32 percent body fat; low fat, low sugar diet; four to five small meals/day comprising protein and carbs; one to two litres water per day; four to five gym sessions per week, alternating weights and cardio. He is a professional person who is highly motivated, but I just can’t seem to get his waist measurement reduced. Is there something I’m missing, or can you suggest nutritional changes I could implement?


Being that your client has hit a plateau, you may want to consider changing his nutritional and exercise program. If the program is properly adjusted as the body changes, your client should see results every three to four weeks. Sticking to the same routine will cause the body to adapt, leading to a plateau. If you have been steadily altering his program and he is still not changing, be sure to consult with him regarding his diet. Underreporting calories, consciously or unconsciously, is the most common reason for body fat reduction plateaus. The New England Journal of Medicine published studies indicating that obese subjects underreport calories by 40 to 47 percent, while people of normal weight underreport calories by 20 percent. Thus, if your client is indulging in small amounts of extra food, he will negate the extra energy that was expended through the exercise program.

When making changes to your client’s program, be sure to design it based on his lifestyle. If your client is exercising realistically, he will make positive life changes. However, by overdoing the exercise component, your client will make quick changes that will not be maintained in the long run. (Exercising for an hour a day is not realistic for all people.) Be sure your client has the ability to maintain his fitness program.

Thoroughly review the three main causes for a plateau.

Wrong Protocol for the Goal

Go over all fitness components:

  1. Food intake – incorrect calories, incorrect percentage of macronutrients leading to unsatiated or under-energized clients
  2. Cardiorespiratory – incorrect recommendation, too much, too little
  3. Supplementation – too much (wasting money), too little (wasting lean tissue)
  4. Resistance training – too much too soon, incorrect exercises for the goal


  1. The non-compliance can be conscious or subconscious (many clients do not recognize their non compliance). Humans simply eat too much and move too little. We eat what we want and do not eat what we need.
  2. Check food history for the following:
    • Underreporting calories
    • Wrong percentage of macronutrients
    • Picking and snacking
    • Portion sizes
    • Daily activities (meetings, social gatherings, etc.)

The remedy for non compliance includes the following:

  1. Identify if they are doing something wrong and go over all parts of the fitness program, making corrections when necessary.
  2. When a client reaches a plateau, document his/her maintenance calories (the amount of calories it takes to maintain weight/fat/lean body mass). Once maintenance is identified, make adjustments to food and/or workload. After three weeks, if no progress is made, you can conclude that your client is NON-COMPLIANT.

Physiological Adaptation to the Workload

  1. Generally, exercise has only a transient, positive effect on metabolism. Therefore, you must change the mode of exercise frequently. Exercises must be safe, as well as challenging.

Please remember, programming is an art. The above are just suggestions/ideas for you to explore and apply. Keep asking questions and search for the answers. This methodology will keep clients from seeking alternative solutions that are not based on science. Good luck!