Hitting a weight loss plateau is incredibly frustrating and psychologically feels as if you’ve hit a brick wall. When you’re doing everything right, but you just can’t seem to lose any weight, it’s easy to give up. After all, you gave it your best shot. But giving up on your goal isn’t the solution.
The truth is, weight loss plateaus are just part of the weight loss process. Some weeks you’ll lose a lot more weight than you expected, some weeks it’s all going to plan and sometimes the number on the scale just wont budge.
Reasons You’ve Hit a Weight Loss Plateau
Hitting a weight loss plateau can be due to several factors:
- You need fewer calories – because you’ve lost weight. The less you weigh, the fewer calories your body needs to function. This means you have to re-calculate your calorie needs and may have to reduce your calorie intake accordingly. For example, a moderately active 27-year-old woman might need about 2000 calories to meet her normal calorie needs. However, if she loses 20lbs, she requires about 100 calories less.
- Slower metabolism. Losing muscle (common during weight loss) slows metabolism. Also, when you’ve been dieting for a while your body adapts to your lower calorie (i.e. energy) intake and becomes more efficient at using energy. That means your metabolism slows down and you burn fewer calories, which means that you’ll lose less, or no, weight.
- Your body has adapted. When you’ve been following the same exercise routine for a while, your body also learns and adapts, and becomes better and more efficient at performing those exercise moves. That means you burn less calories doing your workout, causing you to lose less, or no, weight.
To sum it all up, because you’ve lost weight your daily calorie requirements may be less, because you’ve been dieting your metabolism may have slowed down, because you have been doing the same workout for some time your body is burning less fat. In other words, your body is very clever and is, inadvertently, sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
How to Break a Weight Loss Plateau
So what do you need to do? To beat the plateau, you’ve got to change up your exercise routine and your eating habits. Here’s what to do:
Re-calculate Calorie Needs
If you have lost significant weight, but are still eating for your previous size, weight loss will slow or come to a standstill. Use this calorie calculator to determine your calorie requirements at your current weight. Reduce your daily calorie intake by approximately 500 calories less than this to lose about 1 lb. per week, for healthy, sustainable weight loss.
Extend Your Workouts
Extend your workouts by 15 minutes.You may need to burn more calories or change some variables of your workout, and adding a little extra time to your usual workouts is allows you to kill two birds with one stone. You can begin by adding just a few extra minutes to your workout, gradually working up to at least 15 minutes.
Increase Exercise Intensity
One of the most efficient ways to burn calories is through interval training, which involves alternating short bursts of high-intensity activity with recovery periods of low-intensity exercise.
Interval training is a surefire way to beat any weight loss plateau, read more about it here and how it can help you lose weight. If you usually power walk, try doing one minute of jogging for every three minutes you spend power walking, or alternate two minutes of medium resistance on the stationary bike with 45 seconds of high resistance.
Add Strength Training
Add strength training to your workout routine 2 to 3 times a week. Building muscle speeds up metabolism and counteracts the metabolism decrease that comes with weight loss. During dieting, we often lose muscle mass. Because muscle is metabolically very active, losing muscle slows down metabolic rate.
Therefore, it is important to include a strength training routine to stave off the loss of muscle that usually occurs when dieting and if possible to increase muscle mass to boost metabolism and speed up weight loss. If you’re already lifting weights, try lifting making them heavier or increase the number of sets/ repetitions to keep your muscles challenged.
Increase Your NEAT
NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) refers to the calories you burn throughout the day doing everyday activities like walking, cleaning, climbing stairs, or singing. In other words, everything that is not sleeping, eating or deliberate workouts. And it can make a huge difference to the total number of calories you burn each day.
So, burn more calories outside the gym by packing more activity into every day. Take a family bike ride every evening after dinner; 15- minute walk during your lunch hour at work; take the stairs; pace while talking on the phone; clean your home; play soccer, jump rope or other games in the garden with your kids.
Start Tracking Calories
Many dieters start a weight-loss program by counting calories, but later abandon the food journal when they start to lose weight.
Without tracking your calorie intake, you can become unaware if you are slowly reverting to eating habits like serving up too-large portions or snacking mindlessly. By logging your food intake, you will know whether you are consuming more calories than you need.
Eat Quality Calories
Limit the consumption of optional calories derived from alcohol, added sugars and saturated fat, etc. and concentrate on foods that guarantee proper nutrition like, lean protein, monounsaturated fats, and fruits and vegetables.
Eat Little & Often
If you’re a snacker, rather than eating large amounts a couple times a day, divide your meals into 4 to 6 smaller meals and spread out your eating. This will help keep your blood sugar levels stable and help prevent cravings and extreme hunger.
Drink More Water
Drink lots of water. It sounds unlikely, but many of us confuse dehydration with hunger. Also, drink green tea throughout the day, as it may help suppress appetite and increase metabolism.
Try Calorie Cycling
Try calorie cycling, also known as calorie rotation or zig-zagging. This involves eating different amounts of calories every day. Part of the reason metabolism slows down during dieting, is that your body has got used to the lower amount of calories you’re consuming.
To stop your body adapting to your low calorie intake, alternate high and low calorie days. Read more about the different ways to reduce calories for maximum weight loss.