How To Deal with Plateaus
In the beginning of any fitness or weight-loss journey, the results tend to come quicker. For every effort at eating right and exercising more, it seems that the progress shows. Unfortunately, at some point our bodies put the brakes on this noticeable progress. It’s only natural. Our bodies have ancient survival instincts that kick in to protect ourselves from starvation.
Our bodies like to maintain a stable weight, also known as set-point weight. While the set point can be adjusted, it can take some time to get there. As you lose weight, it can be tempting to cut calories even lower to shed pounds faster. The problem is twofold: First, because your muscle can be used as energy, you’ll lose muscle mass; second, your thyroid will slow down your metabolism. Both situations will lead to reduced weight loss in the long run.
So how do we override these inborn preservation techniques and continue the fitness and weight-loss progress? Try these healthy ways to overcome a weight-loss plateau.
Be brutally honest about food intake. Research shows that people underestimate how many calories they eat and overestimate how many calories they burn during exercise. So, make sure you are tracking EVERYTHING you eat (yes, even that one M&M!) to truly know how many calories you are consuming. It may even be time to break out the measuring spoons and scale to really know what you are consuming in a day.
Adjust your calorie intake. When you lose weight, your metabolism can drop because your body weighs less and therefore requires less calories, or energy. So that calorie count that was set when you began your journey may need to be adjusted to match your body’s new energy demand.
Drink more water. Make sure you are drinking plenty of clean water every day. Remember, your body will often feel hungry when you are even mildly dehydrated. Aim to drink 80-100 ounces (2.35 liters) of water per day plus extra fluids to replace what’s lost during exercise.
Improve food quality. Weight loss is so much more than just calories in versus calories out. If you’ve been accurate in counting your calorie intake but are still squeezing in those processed foods, it may be time to level up! Make sure you are eating only high-quality, whole foods like vegetables, beans, high-fiber fruits, and lean proteins rather than fake “diet” bars and shakes.
Try intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting has been shown to help people lose more weight easily without restricting what they’re eating. Simply don’t eat for 12, 18, 24, or more hours out of the day to give your digestion a break. This forces your body to use its own stored body fat as energy therefore burning off more weight.
Eat more protein. Protein has the highest thermic effect of food. The thermic effect of food simply means the calories it takes for your body to break down that meal during digestion. Breaking down protein requires a lot of energy, therefore increasing the amount of calories burned during digestion.
Change it up. It’s important to routinely change up your workout. Because muscles become familiar with the same workout, your regular routine becomes less effective. In order to reduce body fat, you have to get outside of your comfort zone. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been proven to burn body fat. Instead of that same old neighborhood jog, try doing speed work at the track, a boot camp class at the gym, or alternate weights and running intervals.
Sleep. Consistently getting a good night’s sleep is paramount to losing body fat because sleep resets your hormones. Just one night of minimal sleep deprivation has been shown to increase insulin resistance, to lead to increased cortisol, and to cause people to overeat by 500 calories the following day. Elevated cortisol levels also lead to more body fat accumulation around the midsection.
Increase muscle mass. Want to burn more calories at rest? Lift (heavy) weights and follow a strength-training program to build muscle. The more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate. This means more calories burned all day long!
Speak to your doctor. Finally, if you know you’ve been honest about what you eat and are exercising more but your weight is still not budging, you may have hormonal imbalances that could be making it difficult to lose weight. Consult with your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
Try adding these tips to your lifestyle and you’ll breakthrough that plateau in no time!