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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

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

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

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    Adnan Munye

    Personal Trainer and Fitness Expert

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    Last Updated on April 19, 2021

    15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

    15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

    Stretching is one of those aspects of fitness that many people conveniently forget about. Perhaps you’re one of those who consider stretching nothing but a mere chore meant for ballerinas and gymnasts. While they are great for both, static stretches can offer a boost to any workout routine for people of all fitness levels.

    Irrespective of your reasons for working out, be it for sports or personal fitness, one thing is certain: stretching can help you. Static stretches come with myriads of benefits, such as improvement in flexibility and reduction in muscle tightness, which ultimately allow you to go through your workout routines with greater efficiency.

    For the purpose of this article, we’ll zero in on several great static stretches and take a look at the benefits and when they should be done.

    Benefits of Static Stretches

    Static stretches come with tons of benefits that can help you make the most of your workout routine. Some of them include:

    Improved Flexibility

    If you want to perform better, flexibility is of tremendous importance, irrespective of the specific workouts you do. Luckily enough, static stretches are all you need to get all the flexibility you desire.

    Flexibility, also known as the range of motion (ROM) around a joint, has been shown by several studies to be improved by static stretching.[1]

    Although the specific mechanism through which this occurs is still unclear, static stretches have been shown to greatly increase muscle and joint flexibility[2] and tissue length[3], which work in tandem to make your workout more effective.

    Prevent Injuries

    If you’re looking to push yourself to your training limits without coming down with injuries, then stretching will do you a great service. Research has shown time and again that performing the right stretches pre- and post-workout greatly helps with injury prevention.[4]

    Think of it this way:

    When you stretch, you literally push your joints and muscle fibers to their limit. This increases the stretch tolerance in these muscles and joints over time, and the increased tolerance allows you to perform more rigorous exercises without negatively impacting your body or risking an injury.

    Increased Blood Flow to the Joints

    Another benefit of stretching is increased blood flow – and by extension, nutrient supply – to the joints and muscles of the target areas. This, in turn, improves the performance of these muscles and joints due to the availability of more nutrients, improved oxygenation, and removal of metabolites.

    For static stretching, though, the mechanism of action isn’t as straightforward. When stretching statically, blood flow (capillary oxygenation) temporarily reduces due to vascular compression.

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    However, immediately after releasing the stretch, the blood flow to these areas nearly doubles the pre-stretching levels.[5]

    Improvement in Recovery

    If you’ve been working out for some time, then you’ve probably discovered that a rigorous workout session can leave you battling sore muscles for days.

    Recovery essentially means getting rid of this soreness and returning your muscle fibers back to their tip-top condition.

    Research has shown that practicing static stretches after your workout session helps to reduce muscle soreness. And while some may argue that this effect is minimal, the fact still remains that stretching does help shorten your recovery time.

    Stretching allows tissues to be better hydrated after the induced tension is released, and this encourages reduced inflammation and faster repair of such tissues.

    Other reasons why you really should incorporate stretching into your workout include:

    • Improved relaxation
    • Increased movement efficiency
    • Reduction in the risk of lower back pain
    • Reduction in muscle tension
    • Improvement in neuromuscular coordination
    • Improvement in balance and postural awareness
    • Relief from cramping

    15 Static Stretches to Enhance Your Workouts

    Here are some amazing exercises that will keep your body in tip-top condition and take your workout routine to the next level.

    1. Neck Stretch

      While sitting tall or standing, place your right arm gently on the right side of your head, and place the other arm out to your side. Slowly pull your head towards your right shoulder until you can feel the stretch on the left side of your neck. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing, and repeat for the opposite side.

      Many people tend to hold stress and tension in their neck and shoulders. If you find this is the case, this is one of the best static stretches to use for a muscle release in this area.

      2. Chest Stretch

        Stand upright, with your fingers interlocked behind your back, near your buttocks. While keeping your shoulder blades together and your back straight, push your arms up behind you until you feel the stretch in your chest. Hold for about 20-30 seconds before releasing.

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        3. Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

        Shoulder Cross-Arm Stretch « CASS FITNESS

          Stand upright or sit up tall on a chair or mat, and extend one arm out in front to shoulder height. Grab the extended arm with your other arm, and pull it towards your chest while keeping the extended arm straight. Continue the pull until you feel the stretch in your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

          4. Triceps Static Stretch

            Lift your arms overhead, with both arms slightly behind your head and bent at the elbow. Use your right hand to pull your left elbow until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Hold for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

            Many know this stretch from gym class, but it really is one of the best static stretches for the arms.

            5. Biceps Stretch

            Arm Exercises | Seated Bent-Knee Biceps Stretch

              Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. With your fingers pointing away from your body, place your two palms flat on the floor behind you. While your hands are steadily in place, slowly slide your butt downward toward your feet until you can feel the stretch in your biceps, shoulders, and chest. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.

              6. Wrist Stretch

              11 Best Tennis Elbow Exercises For Pain Free Mobility [PDF]

                While standing up straight or sitting tall, extend your right arm forward to shoulder height with your fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Grab your right fingers with your left hand, and pull your right hand to bend the wrist until you can feel the stretch. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite arm.

                7. Side Stretch

                  Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Take your right arm and reach over your head towards your left side while bending your side. Keep bending your side slowly until you can feel a stretch on your right side. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite side.

                  The muscles down your side body are notoriously difficult to stretch out. This is one of the best static stretches to try on a consistent basis to get them loosened up.

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                  8. Abdominal Static Stretch

                    Lie down on your stomach with your face towards the ground and your palms facing the floor as though you’re about to do a push up. While keeping your pelvis firmly on the floor, gently push your upper body up from the ground. This should make your feel some stretch in your abs. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds before releasing.

                    9. Reclined Spinal Twist

                    Supta Matsyendrasana - Supine Spinal Twist - Yogaasan
                      Lie down, with your arms extended to the sides and placed on the floor. While keeping the right leg straight, pull up your left knee towards your chest, tilt it toward your right side, and then drop it slowly over your extended right leg.

                      Keep your shoulder blades flat on the ground, and you should feel the stretch around your back. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.

                      10. Knees to Chest

                      Knee-to-chest exercise from Physical Therapists' Advice to Manage Pain at Home - The Active Times

                        Lie on the ground facing the ceiling, with your knees bent. Hold your shins, and pull your knees toward your chest. This should make you feel some stretch in your lower back. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing. If you’re looking to loosen up your back muscles, this is one of the static stretches you can do daily.

                        11. Hip Flexor Static Stretch

                        How to Do the Standing Lunge Stretch

                          Stand upright in a standard lunge position, and place your two hands on your hips. Step out on your right foot into mini-lunge position, without your knee going beyond your right toe. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left side.

                          12. Figure 4 Stretch

                          How to Do a Figure 4 Stretch | Openfit

                            Sit tall on the ground with both knees bent and both feet on the floor. Lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh, while your left knee remains bent. Pull both legs inwards toward your abdomen for a deep stretch of your glutes. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat with the other leg.

                            13. Standing Quad Stretch

                              Stand tall while maintaining a straight posture. With your left hand, grab a pole, wall, or anything durable for balance. With your right hand, grab your right foot and pull up your heels until they touch your buttocks.

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                              Keep your knees close together while doing this, push your hip forward, and you should feel the stretch in your quadriceps. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other side. This is one of the best static stretches for the quads.

                              14. Hamstring Stretch

                                Sit on the floor with your right leg extended straight in front of you and your left leg bent. Reach forward with your right hand, and touch your right toes. This should cause a stretch in your right hamstring.

                                Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the left leg. If you’re unable to reach your toes, try holding your shin instead, but seek to go further every time you perform the stretch until you can touch your toes.

                                15. Calf Stretch

                                  Sit on the ground and extend your right foot straight in front of you. Gently pull your right toes backwards with your right hand. This should cause a noticeable stretch in your calf.

                                  Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg, if you’re unable to reach your toes, use a rope or towel to pull your toes inward.

                                  Bonus: Stretch With a Resistance Band

                                  Resistance bands offer a unique benefit from free weights and create tension throughout your movement. Get the free 30 Day Resistance Band Full Workout Challenge, and challenge yourself to stretch with a resistance band.

                                  When Should You Do Static Stretches?

                                  Static stretching is great when done correctly and at the right time. Over the years, research has shown that static stretching produces best results when done after working out or on rest days,[6] but not as a part of warm up routines before an explosive workout session.

                                  This is because static stretches have a cool-down effect on each muscle group and are more effective when done after the muscles are already warm.

                                  That doesn’t mean you must never ever perform static stretches before working out, but do it sparingly. Dynamic stretches, which involve more movement, are generally recommended for warming up as it helps the body prepare better for the work ahead.

                                  The Bottom Line

                                  Carving out the body of your dreams isn’t only about lifting weights and running. You need to keep your body “elastic” if you’re going to make the most of your training, and that’s the whole point of static stretches.

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                                  Starting today, be sure to incorporate these static stretching exercises into your routine, and in no time, you’ll find yourself recovering faster and performing better than ever before.

                                  More Tips on Stretching

                                  Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

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