Hitting a weight loss plateau is frustrating. It can be enough to make you quit on your goals.
But the thing is, you’re not alone–almost everyone plateaus at one point in time or another in their fitness journey.
Weight loss plateaus are said to occur when you stop losing weight after an extended period of sustained weight loss. Plateaus may last for several weeks to months. They may also be a sign that your body is acclimatized to working with a lower weight, which requires you to change your weight loss strategy to break through it.
Plateaus often indicate a slowdown in your metabolism. And for you to lose more weight, you need to operate on a caloric deficit. This basically means burning more calories than you consume.
If your metabolism is indeed slowing down, it means you burn fewer calories at rest. This makes it equally challenging to burn more calories and lose more weight than you eat if you don’t make changes right away.
Here are the primary ways your dietary habits and metabolism might be causing your weight loss progress to plateau:
- Not consuming enough calories. Running on a caloric deficit for too long may cause metabolic changes that may lead to plateauing. If you follow a low-calorie diet, your body reflexively slows down your metabolism to regulate energy levels and prevent you from starving to protect the body from losing too much. This may be an issue when you’re trying to lose weight.
- Portion control issues. The body also releases hormones to boost your appetite while losing weight. This leads to intense cravings and urges to eat more food as your body manages your weight. The additional pangs of hunger might make it harder for individuals to control their portion sizes. Therefore, it’s necessary to eat foods that help you feel more satisfied longer (without the extra calories.)
- Lack of sufficient activity. Suppose you spend most of your time sitting in front of a computer. In that case, you’re almost certainly burning fewer calories than you think–even if you work out regularly.
- Loss of muscle mass. You lose more than just calories and body fat when you lose weight. You also lose lean muscle mass and other tissue. Maintaining muscles requires nutrition. Therefore the right amount of calories and protein will help keep them firing away and working. Losing lean muscle mass may interfere with your metabolism and lead to a weight loss plateau.
- Insufficient protein intake. Protein is necessary to keep muscle mass while losing weight. Ensure you get enough protein from animal or vegetable sources to help preserve your gains and keep your metabolic rate high.
- Hormonal imbalances and medical conditions. Hormonal imbalances and changes brought on by certain medical conditions may interfere with weight loss. In particular, metabolic illnesses such as thyroid disease, among others, are known to cause weight gain. Individuals taking steroids or birth control pills might also experience some changes in weight gain.
7 Strategies to Break Through the Weight Loss Plateau
Weight loss plateaus can be frustrating and challenging, but there is no shortage of methods you can try to overcome. Here are seven strategies you can try to implement if you feel like your gains have plateaued.
Watch what you eat (and keep track of it)
Journaling what you eat helps you become more conscious of your dietary habits and food intake. We tend to underestimate the effects of our nutritional habits. Sometimes, excessive condiments and uncontrolled portion sizes may add up to the calorie count of foods without us even noticing it. A food journal will help you determine whether your food and beverage choices are helping you stick to your long-term weight loss goals.
Strive for caloric balance
Managing your caloric intake to avoid overeating or undereating and tweaking it slightly can help you get through a plateau. Feel free to tinker with the number of calories you consume if you’re stuck in a weight loss plateau. Try to see the effects of eating with a caloric deficit for several days. Then, try to follow it up with a day following your ideal caloric intake might help.
Lift weights and get fit
Resistance training, high-intensity interval training, and other strength training activities may help add lean muscle mass and burn excess fat long after your last repetition.
Strength training has been proven to promote a healthy metabolism that contributes to weight loss and better cardiovascular health.
Boost your protein intake
Protein is a building block of muscle mass and promotes healthy muscle gain. That’s why eating more of it is beneficial for building muscle mass after workouts and maintaining healthy muscle tissue. Try to eat one gram of protein per day for each pound of your total body weight to ensure a steady supply of protein to nourish your muscles. Lean protein options include fish, chicken, lean red meat, legumes, beans, or nuts. Try to have one of these lean protein sources in every meal.
Reduce alcohol consumption
The odd beer or cocktail can add up calories over time. Worse, most people don’t stop at one or two drinks. Therefore, alcoholic beverages might be one of the sneaky culprits causing you to plateau with your weight loss goals.
Moreover, alcohol reduces inhibitions, which might result in a loss of discipline. It’s easy to overdo the calories and bust a caloric deficit when you’re looking for the perfect midnight snack to finish off a long night of drinking.
Pursue other goals outside weight loss
Weight loss plateaus are normal. But it can be easy to lose motivation and end up being discouraged when the gains slow down to a trickle. Pursuing other non-fitness-related goals can help you stay motivated through the tough times. Try to hit small goals such as exercising for 15 minutes a day, getting at least eight hours every night, meditating for 30 minutes every day, or trying to drink 8 glasses of water in a day.
Try to incorporate more movement in your routine rather than sitting
Sitting is the new smoking. Therefore, even moving just a little more throughout the day helps burn excess fat and reduces the time you remain sedentary. Instead of sitting, why not stand for a few moments every other hour? Standing for a total of six hours a day may result in an additional six pounds of weight loss over a year–without even doing so much as to get an expensive gym membership. Some movement is better than nothing, and a little goes a long way in promoting long-term healthy weight loss.