You know the feeling…
You’re being strict with your food, working out consistently and doing your best to be healthy and slim down. Unfortunately, that stubborn scale just doesn’t seem to budge no matter how hard you try.
The struggle is real.
Studies have shown that the majority of people who attempt to lose weight hit a weight loss plateau.
The worst part is that the lack of progress that results when we hit a plateau leads to frustration, disappointment and, worst of all, a lack of motivation to continue.
WHY WEIGHT LOSS PLATEAUS HAPPEN
Weight loss plateaus happen because of how our bodies adapt to food, dieting and exercise. The more progress you make in losing weight and increasing your fitness level, the more likely you are to hit a plateau.
As we diet and lose weight, our bodies adapt and store calories more efficiently. Amanda Foti, M.S., R.D., a Senior Dietitian at Selvera Weight Management Program says, “if you are successfully losing weight, you’ll most likely hit a plateau at some point.”
In fact, research conducted by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014 uncovered that even those who follow their diet plan religiously can expect to hit a weight loss plateau 6 months into their journey.
The second adaptation that happens in the body is how it responds to the stimulus of exercise. Registered dietitian and health & fitness instructor Jim White explains, “your body becomes more efficient, so it burns less energy during any given workout.”
A study with over 2,900 participants published by The National Center of Biotechnology Information supports this by uncovering how for every pound of weight participants lost, they burned 6.8 fewer calories on average. So, it appears the closer you are to your fitness goal, the more difficult it becomes to achieve it.
To help you avoid or bust through a current weight loss plateau, let’s look at how to diagnose the problem areas causing the plateau and present some solutions for busting through it with confidence!
DIAGNOSING AND BUSTING YOUR WEIGHT LOSS PLATEAU
Often, when I speak with people that are looking to burn fat, tone up and transform their bodies via my BodyHack90 transformation program, I ask them what their current struggles are. Many will say things like ‘I can’t seem to lose those final 10 LBs’ or ‘No matter what I do, I can’t seem to get rid of my muffin top.’
When it seems their progress has stalled and they’ve hit a plateau, I usually diagnose the problem by looking at four key areas:
Let’s briefly dive into each one of these areas below, to see which one might be causing your results to plateau, and review some recommendations for how to fix each of them:
The first place to look at with any weight loss plateau is the quality and quantity of your nutrition. While you’ve heard it before, it’s worth repeating: Our bodies, first and foremost, are a reflection of how much and what we consume. Indeed, we are what we eat. When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight or changing your body’s composition (i.e. burning fat and adding muscle), nutrition is said to make up 70-80% of the equation.
So tell me, is your diet on par with the body and health you’re committed to attaining?
First, be sure you are consuming healthy, natural foods that will kick-start your metabolism. Whole, natural foods are you friend here. This means reducing things like processed foods, sugars and unhealthy fats and increasing your intake of quality meat, whole grain and healthy fats (nuts, avocado, olive oil, etc.). Not only will these foods take longer to digest, but will keep insulin levels low. According to David Ludwig, Professor at The Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, fat cells stop storing calories when insulin levels are low.
Second, focus on getting plenty of protein. Not only does protein help build and preserve lean muscle, which keep your metabolism high, it also helps you feel fuller, longer. Plus, digesting protein actually burns calories! Yup, the mere act of digesting protein burns 20% more calories than digesting carbs or fat.
Third, eat plenty of vegetables to receive vital micronutrients your body needs to function properly.
On that note, if you’re consuming a lot of fruit and have hit a plateau, you may want to reduce your intake of fruits. A 2005 study by Basciano H, Federico et al. indicated that consumption of fructose, the sugar found in fruit, can lead to insulin resistance, elevated blood cholesterol levels and increased fat gain, especially in the abdominal area.
Fourth, keep your metabolism churning regularly by eating throughout the day, especially at breakfast. Unless you’re doing intermittent fasting (which is something you may want to experiment with if all else fails), skipping breakfast will result in a slower metabolism.
So, have breakfast, and, ideally, eat protein. According to Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Body, having breakfast within 30 minutes of waking will help keep you satiated longer and fights off hunger pangs.
Finally, and most importantly, be clear on your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (i.e. how many calories your body burns on a daily basis). You can find it with this free tool.
Once you know your daily caloric needs, be sure to have a nutrition plan that has you eating at this level and NOT over it. If you over-eat calories, those calories will be stored as fat.
Coming up with the TDEE and appropriate meal plan based on your individual caloric needs, macronutrient needs and eating preferences is a core part of what I do when I set up a new client on my BodyHack90 fitness transformation program. If you want help with setting yours up, please let me know.
Performing intense exercise is the best way to rev up your metabolism. In fact, it benefits you in two ways: First, by burning calories while you’re exercising. Second, by keeping your metabolic rate high for 24-48 hours after your workout is over.
Additionally, if you do weight training and add muscle to your frame, the added muscle increases your resting metabolic rate, which means you burn more calories while at rest (i.e. sitting, sleeping, etc.). That’s almost like getting paid while not working!
The most beneficial type of exercise, and one that I put all my clients on, is resistance training. The most beneficial type of resistance training is one that targets your lower body, since that’s where you’re biggest muscle (your glutes) and muscle group (your quads) reside.
Working these large muscles will naturally be the most taxing and will, consequently, boost your metabolism the most. Do different types of squats, lunges and deadlifts for great results in this regard. (like a Swiss bodybuilder once told me ‘If you want great abs, you gotta do legs.’)
When doing resistance training, ideally, use free weights like dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells. But if that’s too intimidating, start with machines, cables, or bodyweight-based movements using a TRX device or doing plyometric exercises.
Your other friend when it comes to exercise is doing High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT. This is a more intense way to do cardio and is highly beneficial for fat loss and overall conditioning.
Studies have shown that doing HIIT can burn up to 9X more fat than doing steady-state cardio. Furthermore, a study published by The National Center for Biotechnology Information has shown how HIIT training protects against metabolic slowdown.
You probably know by now, but we’re big fans of HIIT training. It’s so much more fun and effective than typical cardio workouts. That’s why we launched the Motion Traxx fitness app.
It features audio coaching by leading fitness instructors, set to high energy beats that are synced to your workout. Use this motivating workout app to power up your next treadmill, elliptical, rowing or indoor cycling workout!
BTW, men: If you’re doing a lot of endurance running, you may want to consider reducing your mileage. Running long distances has been shown to reduce testosterone, which is a hormone we need to keep muscle high and body fat low.
Finally, if you’ve been nailing your workouts but still not seeing results, consider changing up your routine. Try different exercises, and different sets and rep combinations. Just make sure to keep you movements strict and the intensity high.
This is a weight loss plateau culprit many people overlook.
I was recently speaking with an old friend who I had bumped into randomly at the beach. He mentioned he was currently struggling with a weight loss plateau and couldn’t figure out why.
He had been working with a personal trainer, doing weights and cardio, and had also been careful with his diet, cutting out junk food, sugar, alcohol, etc. He was even taking three different training supplements, including a fat burner, all to no avail.
After asking him about his sleep patterns, he revealed that he rarely slept well, tossing and turning and waking up several times through the night, on most nights. When I pointed out that his lack of sleep was probably the culprit, he was shocked. He hadn’t even considered that as a factor.
Here’s how a lack of sleep can cause you to plateau:
First, sleeping less causes your metabolism to slow down. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that study participants (healthy adults) who slept for only 4 hours, 5 days straight, experienced a drop in resting metabolic rate by 2.6% which returned to normal after sleeping for 12 hours.
Second, it prevents you from going full-out during your workouts. Both your muscles and your central nervous system need to recover after an intense workout. If you’re not properly recovered, your body cannot push as hard during your next workout, which means you won’t receive the full benefit of the time spent during your sweat session.
Third – and this is a BIG one – a lack of sleep boosts cortisol, a fat-storing hormone our body releases when we are under stress. Which leads me to…
Stress is another often overlooked factor for plateauing weight loss.
As mentioned, stress leads to the release of cortisol, which was shown in a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information to increase belly fat storage. One reason for this might be cortisol’s impact on our thyroid, which is responsible for regulating our metabolism.
Per Dr. Veeravagu, Founder of Sage Clinic in Yaletown, irregular cortisol levels can impair the conversion of thyroid hormone from its inactive form to its active from. This can result in a lower thyroid activity, causing weight gain and symptoms of poor metabolism.
Another way stress can cause a weight loss plateau is by leading us to take actions that are detrimental to our fitness goals, including skipping leg day and emotional eating.
To better manage stress, try meditating regularly. Meditation clears your mind, calms your nerves, and allows you to assess your thoughts from a neutral, unemotional place, which will give you piece of mind.
In fact, meditation has been proven effective for losing weight. An eight-week National Center for Biotechnology Information study of 34 overweight and obese women, who partook in a stress-management program that included muscle relaxation and deep breathing, resulted in an average weight loss of 9.7 pounds.
HOW I CAN HELP YOU BUST YOUR OWN WEIGHT LOSS PLATEAU
Using the techniques above, you can better diagnose what might be causing your weight loss to plateau. Often times, knowing where the problem lies and what to do to fix it is enough.
Other times, it takes more formal help with things like dietary guidance, workout planning and accountability to stay on track. I take great pride in helping my clients bust through their weight loss plateaus and attain the health, body and confidence they seek through my online fitness coaching.
My clients have dropped significant weight and have transformed their lives. One success story I love is from my client Carita A., who lost 33 pounds in less than 3 months (watch how ECSTATIC she is!). Best of all, she can finally fit into her Hugo Boss tailored suits that had been sitting in her closet, unused for many years.
Looking for results like that for yourself?
With my BodyHack90 program, which is virtual, I can coach you to better results no matter where in the world you live.
Fill out this one-minute form now to receive a no-cost Weight Loss Plateau Diagnosis, which will help you lose those stubborn 10 pounds and wave goodbye to that weight loss plateau for good!