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How to Get Through a Weight Loss Plateau (Step-By-Step Guide)

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How to Get Through a Weight Loss Plateau (Step-By-Step Guide)

Experiencing a weight loss plateau is perfectly normal. However, just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating, and it feels like all your hard work has ground to a halt.

Instead of seeing a weight loss plateau as a roadblock, you need to see it as a speed bump that may get in the way from time to time but can still be navigated.

This article will look at what causes these plateaus and how you can get through them the next time they may strike.

What Is a Weight Loss Plateau?

The basics of this plateau are that weight loss or fat loss has stalled after a period of progression. But what is the real reason this has happened, and why does it occur when it does? Weight loss, or fat loss, has seemed to stall, and the first thing to do is to recognize if this is a plateau.

If you weigh yourself daily, you know that there are fluctuations that occur each day. If you are weighing yourself every day, you want to at least be consistent with it. Your true weight will be first thing in the morning after you’ve gone to the bathroom. You want to weigh yourself at the same time and also make sure your scale is calibrated properly. Even a floor that is not perfectly even can give you an inaccurate reading.

It’s important to do this first thing as your weight can fluctuate throughout the day, with people often seeing variations of 3-5 pounds. Since there are these daily changes, you want to take a different approach and look at your weekly averages week after week. This will give you a better snapshot of your progress and tell you if you’ve actually reached a plateau or not.

True weight loss happens over weeks and months, and that’s why tracking is important. You should see a gradual decrease over this longer time period. Healthy and sustained weight loss will be around 1-2 pounds per week. It’s a linear path that will have small up and down spikes over the time period but should still move progressively downward.

When you see that the weight isn’t gradually dropping the way it has been over the past weeks and months, that can be your sign that you’ve hit a true weight loss plateau.

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The Issues With the Scale

A scale gives you some data but doesn’t always show the whole picture. You will not get an idea of true body composition, as a regular scale will not show a balance between lean muscle and body fat. You may have lost 5 pounds of body fat, but gained 5 pounds of muscle, and the number on the scale would stay the same. That body compositional change, however, would show some great physical results.

The body fat loss would help you appear leaner, and the lean muscle gain would also enhance your overall appearance. You could look significantly different while the number on the scale hasn’t changed.

The scale is also not going to reveal issues surrounding water retention or bloating, along with the hormonal fluctuations that can cause these issues. You can still check the scale, but a better indicator of weight loss will be with a tape measure.

When you’ve lost body fat, you will notice your clothes fitting differently, and tracking your body part measurements can be a great way to monitor results. If you are going the tape measure route, measure these main areas:

  • Hips
  • Right thigh, at the midrange point
  • Waist, just below your ribcage and above your belly button
  • Chest, under the armpits
  • Right bicep, unflexed
  • Right calf
  • Neck

You can take measurements on your right and left appendages, but this is a good base of measurement to track progress.

Why Is Your Weight Not Going Down?

This may be because you are doing too much and not getting enough calories at the same time. If you are overdoing it in the gym, it can be like taking a few steps backward. Your workouts shouldn’t be over 75 minutes (30-40 may be all you need), and you want some rest days throughout the week.

If you’re working out every day and exhausting yourself, your body will go into that self-preservation mode, raising stress hormones and, again, making weight loss difficult.

If you are involved in an adequate exercise program (3-4 days per week) and going for a reasonable amount of time, you may need to add in a little more physical activity if you’ve reached a weight loss plateau. This doesn’t have to be overly intense, but some extra cardio may help. This can be an extra 5-10 minutes, or one or two 20-minute walks added on to your weekly amount.

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You also want to make sure you’re eating enough and getting into a bit of a calorie deficit[1] if weight loss has stalled. You need not count every calorie, but it’s a good idea to take a few days to track your nutrition intake so you at least have a good idea of where you’re at.

Many people do not understand how many calories they are taking in each day. Calorie counting is far from a perfect science, but to get a rough ballpark figure, the average woman needs around 2000 calories a day to maintain. An average man will need around 2500 calories.[2]

How many calories should you eat to overcome a weight loss plateau?

     

    If you’re not losing weight, you’ll want to reduce that amount by around 300 calories each day and see how this is going after a week or so[3]. If there has been no change, you might need to drop another 200 calories. You don’t want this to go lower as not enough calories can have a negative effect on your metabolism and will lead to stalled weight loss.

    Is 1000 Calories a Day Too Little?

    In a word? Yes. Your body needs more than that just to carry out its basic functions of living, and that’s not including you getting up and moving around. Even if you were just to lie on the couch all day, your body will need at least 1200 to 1400 calories just to exist.

    If you are not giving your body sufficient calories, it goes into panic mode. Your metabolism will drop as your body needs to hold on to every precious calorie to sustain itself. When this happens you can kiss weight loss goodbye.

    The other problem is eventually you will snap because you are so hungry and will eat everything in sight. When you flood calories into a body with a slowed metabolism, you can guess what they end up being stored as.

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    Keeping yourself fed with high-quality and nutritious foods will allow your body to run optimally and provide you with energy to be active, burn body fat, and bust through those weight loss plateaus.

    What to Do When You Hit a Weight Loss Plateau

    When you think you’ve hit a weight loss plateau, try doing the following to get back on track.

    Track Your Info

    This is where it’s important to take a step back and have a look at what’s been going on in your life. Tracking your info can be helpful because it gives you some data to observe. You don’t have to be obsessive about it, but recording your workouts, sleep, stress levels and understanding your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and basic metabolic rate (BMR) will help give you an indicator where the problems may arise.

    Lower Your Stress Levels

    If you’ve noticed you’ve been overly stressed with work and life lately, this may be the culprit. When your body experiences stress, it elevates stress hormones, such as cortisol. When cortisol is constantly elevated, it can slow weight loss to a crawl.

    Stress hormones are released in the body as a way to preserve itself. The body will be more likely to hold on to body fat as it believes some sort of trauma is happening and it needs all the backup fuel it can get. At this point, your body is not interested in burning body fat, or building muscle; it’s interested in preserving things.

    Read this article for more tips on how to reduce stress.

    Get More Rest

    Higher stress may also lead to a lack of sleep, which causes the same issues around a weight loss plateau, and when you add these two together, they compound their negative effects. If you’re seeing this, it means you will have to slow things down a bit.

    Make getting extra sleep a priority, and you may have to back off the workouts for a bit. Even better, taking some time off from the gym can be a great way to let your whole body, central nervous system, and immune system recover.

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    This could be a good time to focus on relaxing, meditation, or yoga. You also want to make sure you’re keeping your diet as clean as possible, as eating things like refined sugar and carbs when stressed can easily lead to weight gain.

    Listen to your body and give it a breather when needed. Doing this will allow it to come back stronger than before.

    Add Variety to Your Workouts

    For workouts, you want to always keep your body guessing. The best workout is the one you haven’t done yet. Your body needs an ever-changing stimulus in order to get more results.

    The good news is this doesn’t have to be a drastic overhaul. If you’re exercising, you just want to make changes to your routine, exercise order, duration, or repetitions.

    At the very least, you want to do at least what you did last workout, plus a little more. If you ran for 30 minutes, go for 32 next time. If you did 10 repetitions of an exercise, go for 11 or 12.

    You can change the order of the exercises you do, perform some cardio before strength training, add in some high-intensity intervals, or shorten your rest periods between sets. The main thing is to give a bit of a shock to your body in order for it to change.

    Final Thoughts

    Weight loss plateaus will happen; it’s just all about being prepared for when they strike. Getting an understanding of why they happen is important to progress past them. What’s also important is realizing how your body works, and what it needs in order for it to respond favorably to exercise and diet.

    A weight-loss plateau can be overcome with changes in activity, addressing lifestyle issues, and keeping the diet as clean as possible. Recognizing when stress has overwhelmed you, sleep is being neglected, and you need a break will go a long way in helping combat weight loss plateaus.

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    You also need to be aware of consuming enough calories per day and the issues that come from not nourishing your body properly. Healthy weight loss is all about combining exercise, diet, rest, recovery, and an overall holistic approach for it to happen.

    More About Healthy Weight Loss

    Featured photo credit: Siora Photography via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    Adnan Munye

    Personal Trainer and Fitness Expert

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    Last Updated on January 5, 2022

    7 Practical Stretching Tips to Enhance Your Next Workout

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    7 Practical Stretching Tips to Enhance Your Next Workout

    Stretching is one of the most essential aspects of a healthy fitness routine. It’s also one of the most overlooked. Instead of thinking of this activity as a separate entity, consider stretching as a continuation of your exercise routine. By making stretching tips a part of your workout, you won’t neglect the attention your muscles and joints require to perform effectively.

    Whether using stretching as a way to wake up, get your mind in the game, or recover from strenuous activity, your body will reap its short-term and long-term benefits. In the moment, stretching is a great way to warm up the body and prevent yourself from overextension and injury. In the long run, stretching daily can help loosen your tendons and muscles, and ultimately help you maintain a full range of motion later in life.

    Taking these ideas into consideration, follow these 7 simple tips for stretching to add stretches back into your workout vocabulary.

    1. Stretch and Stretch Often

    Ultimately, your body can benefit from stretching daily. Many of us experience a somewhat stationary lifestyle at work, so we naturally need to warm up our bodies after remaining immobile for long periods of time.

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    With only ten minutes of stretching, you can increase your strength, balance and flexibility. From working out to waking up in the morning, slow, easy movements can warm up the body. Just remember to be gentle; any jarring movements can cause injury and muscle tear.

    For the best results, hold each stretch for at least sixty seconds[1].

    2. Warm up Before a Workout

    Similar to establishing a daily stretching routine, warming up the body pre-workout is vital for having a successful session and one of the most important stretching tips. Just grabbing your foot to stretch your calf for a couple seconds could actually harm your body, so make sure you begin slowly and take your time.

    Attempting any exercise with “cold muscles” or without “waking up the body” will also hurt your body and cause muscle pulls and tendon tears. Try taking a short walk or elongating your stretches for optimal results.

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    3. Gauge Your Tension

    Stretching should never be painful. Monitor how your muscles feel as you stretch. Naturally, you should feel some mild tension, but don’t push yourself past the edge of discomfort.

    If you’re starting to experience sharp pain or sensations that gradually get more severe, you are doing something wrong. Try to focus on one area at a time so you are only pushing yourself so far. When you begin to feel comfortable stretching, deepen your stretch, but don’t over-exert yourself.

    4. Avoid Bouncing

    Stretching tips don’t often mention this, but bouncing can be one of the most detrimental things you can do to your body while stretching. When your body constantly shifts, your muscles can tighten, and you can increase the risk of pulling or tearing a tendon. Find your balance or focal point, and remain steady.

    When in doubt, try using a mirror to watch yourself stretch to improve your form. Don’t be afraid to consult your doctor or trainer for someone to monitor your posture and stance[2].

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    5. Just Breathe

    One of the main benefits of stretching is its ability to help the mind and body relax. Therefore, try to breathe normally and make sure you don’t hold your breath[3].

    As you deepen your stretch, make sure to inhale and exhale slowly. Any abrupt, fast breathing or lack of breathing can cause tension in your body and increase your risk of injury. Make sure you are comfortable so that your mind focuses on the task at hand.

    6. Vary Your Routine

    While stretching, don’t forget to work on opposing muscles and incorporate as many muscle groups as possible in your routine for a holistic workout. Also, one of the most important stretching tips I can offer is to change your routine often so you don’t get bored.

    Often, boredom can cause carelessness and a loss of focus, which, in turn, can cause injuries. Look to Yoga workouts[4] or Pilates classes, as they are great resources for finding new stretches.

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    7. Always Remember to Cool Down

    Stretching is also an excellent form of recovery to avoid muscle soreness. Don’t overlook this part of a workout, as it releases the tension in your body and increases blood flow to muscles that are warm and worked. Cooling down can prevent injury and decrease your heart rate after an intense workout. Do what you can to help your body quickly recover from your daily exercise routine.

    Final Thoughts

    Stretching tips are vital when participating in an active lifestyle. However, your body needs fuel to assist you through these daily routines. Therefore, don’t forget to eat the right foods and stay hydrated. Not only do you replenish your body with fluids and nutrients lost, but you can keep your muscles strong and ready for the next routine.

    If you struggle with stress and anxiety, stretching can help you move into a calmer headspace and find both mental and physical balance. Furthermore, stretching can help you and your body focus on something else, which will help you move past the stress.

    As you plan your next workout, incorporate time for pre and post-workout stretches to see how it improves your exercise experience.

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    More Stretching Tips

    Featured photo credit: Oksana Taran via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Health Publishing: The ideal stretching routine
    [2] Harvard Health Publishing: Six tips for safe stretches
    [3] Penn State: Balance, Breathing and Flexibility
    [4] Health: Best Yoga Poses for Your Trouble Spots

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