I Hit a Plateau – Now What?
By: Amanda Thompson
You have been cruising along just fine with your weight loss. You are eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and the weight has been falling off consistently. Then BAM - suddenly the scale is no longer moving. You hit the dreaded plateau now what?
Weight loss plateaus are normal. As you lose weight you lose some muscle along with fat – muscle helps keep your metabolism up (1). As you lose weight your metabolism declines causing you to burn fewer calories (1). Slower metabolism leads to slower weight loss and when the calories you are taking in equal the calories you are burning you end up hitting a plateau (1).
What can you do to bounce back?
Start a Food Journal: If you haven’t been tracking your food intake now is a good time to start. Pay attention to the types of food you are eating throughout the day. Are you eating enough protein, fat and good carbs (fruits and vegetable)? Journaling plays an important role in decision making. Write down what you are going to eat BEFORE you eat it. This allows you to see your food intake for the day and helps you decide in the moment – is this food I’m about to eat going to benefit my body?
Increase Your Exercise Frequency or Intensity: Exercise helps you maintain weight and build muscle which will boost your metabolism (2). Aim for 30 minutes of activity each day. Muscle burns more calories than fat even when you are at rest making resistance training the most effective type of exercise for weight loss (3). Other types of exercise that help increase your metabolism include aerobic exercise and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) (3).
Get Quality Sleep: We all know how great we feel after a restful night of sleep. Sleep not only restores our physical wellbeing but also aids in weight loss. Getting 7-8 hours of restorative sleep per night helps keep your metabolic rate level and reduces the hormones that promote hunger and fat storage (3). A good night’s sleep allows you to be rested and prepared for your next day’s work out.
Reduce Stress: Stress is always the bad guy, and it’s no surprise it plays a role in your weight loss. Excess stress affects your body’s production of cortisol which can lead to increased belly fat over time (3). Sleep also affects your cortisol levels. As mentioned above getting a good night’s sleep can improve your metabolism and help even out your cortisol levels. Other ways to reduce stress include meditation, exercise, getting outside, or any activity that allows your mind to relax and focus on the present.
Eat More Fiber, Protein, and Vegetables: It cannot be stressed enough that eating the right foods for your body will keep your weight loss moving in the right direction. Fiber helps you feel fuller longer which reduces cravings. It’s found in whole grains, the skins of fruits, and most vegetables. Protein helps rebuild muscles – a great supplement for resistance training – and keeps you full and satisfied. Protein is also known for its metabolism boost. The body burns 20-30% more calories digesting protein which is twice as much as it uses to burn fats or carbs (3). Vegetables are low in calories and carbs, high in fiber and contain numerous beneficial nutrients making vegetables a great side to add to snacks and meals (3).
Increase Your Water Intake: You’ve heard this repeatedly drink water. Meeting your water intake for the day can do so much for your weight loss. It naturally suppresses your appetite. It helps you burn fat, the more hydrated you are the more your body can metabolize fat through the process of lipolysis (4). Hydration aids in waste removal from the body allowing toxins to move out. Your workouts will make a bigger impact on your weight loss if you are drinking water. Water allows muscles, connective tissues, and joints to move correctly and allows your organs, especially the heart and lungs, to work effectively while you workout (4).
Plateaus can be frustrating but consider them a bump in the road. Pay attention to what you are eating and make a few tweaks in your exercise routine to jump start your metabolism. Hydration is key make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day. Make sleep and stress management a priority. Making these changes into daily habits can make a big impact on your weight loss.