4 Tips to Overcome a Weight-Loss Plateau
One minute you're cruising along, making weight-loss progress, improving your health, and then something happens.
Maybe you got sick. Maybe you had an injury. Maybe you had a vacation that threw you out of your routine. Maybe you're unsure of what happened.
No matter the reason, you feel like you've stopped making progress. Your weight-loss comes to a halt and you feel like you've hit a plateau.
The good news is, this is all part of the course and to be expected.
As much as we'd like it to be, weight-loss is never linear. It has times when it speeds up and times when it comes to a slow crawl or even stops.
To help us be more efficient, our bodies are adaptive machines. In other words, we are good at getting used to what we are doing.
If you start a new diet, you might see some weight-loss right away due to eating less calories than you burn. Over time though, if you don't adjust the amount of food you're eating, that weight-loss can come to a halt.
If you start a new workout regimen like walking or running, you might see some weight-loss initially due to the calories you burn. If you always do the same mode of exercise, at the same intensity though, you will actually burn less and less calories each workout as your body become more efficient.
In order to end a plateau, we need to give our body something new.
The great news is, it doesn't need to be anything crazy. Even the smallest of adjustments can spark some serious changes and get progress started again.
Here are 4 tips to end your weight-loss plateau.
1. Strength train at least 2x per week
One weight-loss mistake people make is focusing too much on cardio.
As we talked about earlier, over time, your cardio workouts burn less and less calories. Say you go for a 2 mile jog or walk. As time goes on, your body gets more efficient at completing those 2 miles. You end up burning less calories each time as your body uses less energy to complete the task. Enter your weight-loss plateau.
Not only that, but too much traditional cardio like cycling and running can actually break down your hard earned muscle, slowing down your daily metabolism.
Instead of adding more cardio, break through your plateau with strength training.
This will help on multiple fronts.
1st: Strength training provides an endless variety of equipment and exercises. This is crucial for ending and preventing plateaus. Strength training allows you to mix up your exercises and continually provide your body with a new exercise stimulus to boost weight-loss.
2nd: Strength training allows for continual progress. When you strength train there's always room for improvement to keep weight-loss happening. Here are a few ways to ensure you're making progress with strength training:
1. Improve your exercise technique
2. Increase the amount of weight you use on your exercises
3. Complete more reps with your exercises
4. Complete more total sets with your exercises
5. Decrease rest time between exercises
3rd: Want to know what's adding to your weight-loss plateau? A decreasing metabolism.
What's the key to speeding up your metabolism? Muscle. And that's what strength training helps you maintain and build. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn throughout the day, improving your weight-loss.
2. Track Your Food Intake
When it comes to weight-loss, nutrition is the name of the game.
If you're eating too much you will gain or maintain your current weight.
If you're inconsistent during the week with what and how much you're eating, you'll gain or maintain your current weight.
One way to know how much you're eating is to track it using a food tracking app like My Fitness Pal.
If you've hit a fat-loss plateau, tracking your food and slightly changing your eating habits is the fastest way to get your weight-loss started again. This simply refers to recording the food and drinks you consume each day in a journal or food tracking app.
Food tracking will help you see how many calories you're taking in each day and if that number needs to be adjusted to promote further weight loss. It will also help you be consistent with your eating each week.
One study split over 1,600 participants into 2 groups.
Researchers put each group on the same calorie deficit diet.
Group 1 just focused on the diet.
Group 2 focused on the diet but also tracked all of their meals.
At the end of the study each group lost weight. In fact, over the course of the study participants lost an average of 13lbs.
Here's the kicker though: the participants who tracked what they ate lost an average of 18lbs where participants who did not track what they ate lost an average of 9lbs. Yes, the food tracking group lost twice as much weight on the same diet!
Food tracking may just be the change you need to break through your plateau.
3. Prioritize Your Sleep
Did you know that not getting enough sleep is one of the biggest contributors to causing a weight-loss plateau?
Here's 3 reasons why:
1. Hunger hormones
Research shows a lack of sleep (<7 hours) causes your hormones that control hunger (leptin and ghrelin) to get out of whack. This causes you to be hungrier throughout the day which can easily lead to overeating.
A lack of sleep actually decreases your ability to say no to unhealthy foods and increases your cravings. So not only are you hungrier when you don't sleep well but you crave high-calorie foods and have a harder time saying no to them.
Talk about a recipe for weight-gain.
3. Daily energy and motivation
Do you know what's great for weight-loss? Exercise.
Do you know what's not great for exercise? A lack of sleep.
A lack of sleep will sap your daily energy, take away from your exercise performance, and decrease your motivation to workout. Over time this lack of energy will drastically reduce your results.
Sleep Pro-tip: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Improve your sleep duration and quality by going to bed at the same time each night, sleeping in a cool environment, limiting caffeine intake, and sleeping in a dark room.
4. Be Accountable
One of the quickest ways to end a weight-loss plateau is to be more consistent.
After-all, consistency is the name of the game when it comes to making progress.
The great news is, you don't need to be perfect to break through a plateau and see incredible changes. You just need to be more consistent.
Focus on your consistency throughout the week (including the weekend) with the big rocks of health, fitness, and weight-loss like:
1. Your nutrition (track your food intake, focus on eating whole/natural foods and plenty of protein)
2. Hydration (Drink at least 64oz of water and replace other calorie-filled beverages with water)
3. Sleep (Aim to sleep 7-9 hours per night. Create a sleep ritual to improve your sleep)
4. Exercise (Aim to exercise at least 3x/week and make sure strength training is part of your routine)
One of the best ways to improve your consistency is with accountability.
To do so, make yourself accountable to at least one other person or a group of people.
Have a friend or loved one join you, hire a coach, or join a health and fitness community like DSC.