Hello again and let’s dive back into our monster 3-part series on manipulating steps for fat loss!
Part 1 focused on why we should manipulate steps when dieting, but today we are going to focus on when to manipulate steps. This sounds simple enough, but when you look closely, you’ll realise you’ve got a few key considerations to make.
Now, as stated in part 1, we want to view steps as a tool or card we can play during a dieting phase. This is why prescribing a step target to our clients is typically a wise idea.
But when should we alter our step targets and how often? Do we even need to alter our steps? As is often the case, it depends!
So, in the case of manipulating steps during the dieting process, we can do it any point and the timing options are:
1/ When starting the diet
2/ During the diet
Let’s now focus a bit more closely on both of these considerations.
Step Increases When STARTING the Diet
The decision as to whether we should immediately alter a client’s step target or not when they start dieting revolves around the below considerations:
1/ what is the desired rate of fat loss per week?
2/ what are the client’s preferences and context?
3/ what protocols should achieve the desired fat loss rate, which also suit the client?
Now, when starting a diet you can alter energy balance numerous ways, but a calorie decrease should always be the key variable you prioritise. Whilst strategically eating less food is never fun, a drop in energy intake allows you to more easily create a sufficient calorie deficit to achieve a good rate of fat loss.
Plus, eating less doesn’t have the same time cost involved as adding increasingly more activity. Yet, you could also use a combo approach to your initial dieting protocols, whereby you alter energy balance on both sides of the equation too.
So, whilst you don’t have to increase a client’s step target when beginning a diet, you can. The key is factoring in the client and their needs. For some people wanting to lose at a faster rate, a small initial step target increase could have value, yet for others it may not be needed yet.
Step Increases DURING the Diet
Now, if there’s just one thing you want to take away from this blog post, it’s this:
The returns from your initial dieting strategy will usually start decreasing in time.
So, what once worked to achieve a good rate of fat loss, eventually will not produce the same progress as before. This is why eventually we will likely have to make some strategy changes, to keep fat loss progress going, even if they are small.
But why? Because of metabolic adaption!
Metabolic adaption is a normal and inevitable response to alterations in energy balance. In simple terms, metabolic adaptation is our bodies response to fuel scarcity, whereby it adapts to better conserve fuel and ensure we stay alive!
Without metabolic adaption, we would just keep losing until there was nothing left…
Whilst some degree of metabolic adaptation is inevitable over a longer duration dieting phase, to what degree it occurs and when will vary wildly between people.
So, to counter metabolic adaption, we can make strategy changes when needed. This can help preserve our desired fat loss rates if a slowdown is occurring or about to, or to kick start loss rates after a plateau.
This is why increasing our daily step target during a diet can be important! Because it adds more energy output and can help to somewhat counter metabolic adaptation, in particular NEAT levels.
“NEAT” stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. It refers to the energy expenditure from non-exercise activity and small movements like talking, fidgeting, standing, walking etc.
Crucially, NEAT is the most adaptive component of our metabolism. So, NEAT levels can fluctuate wildly with alterations in energy balance. During a dieting phase, NEAT can reduce as our body aims to conserve energy, so we burn less calories throughout the day.
Trexler, E.T., Smith-Ryan, A.E. & Norton, L.E. Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 11, 7 (2014).
By making a strategy changes, we are aiming to counter metabolic adaption and keep losing well over time. This is why progressive step increases can be a simple but effective way to aid continued dieting success and counter metabolism and NEAT decreases.
So, we’ve now covered the why and when regarding step manipulation for fat loss. Stay tuned for part 3 on our final article in this blog series on steps, as we will shift gears to the how to manipulate steps.
This will help to bring it all together and give you a great understanding of the process to aid success with your clients.
Thanks for reading,