So you’ve recently undergone a new make over. The PT has been putting you through the motions and you’ve been really shedding the pounds. Things are looking hunky dory, you’re fast approaching your ideal weight, and then.. and then, you hit a wall. In weight loss I mean.
A weight-loss plateau occurs when you no longer lose weight despite continuing with your exercise and healthy-eating habits. Being stuck at a weight-loss plateau eventually happens to everyone who is trying to lose weight. Although hitting a plateau is common, most people are surprised when it happens to them. No not me, you say! But I’ve been doing so well!
Well no actually, hitting this stale-mate is actually a pretty common phenomenon. The progression from initial weight loss to a weight-loss plateau follows a typical pattern. During the first few weeks of losing weight, a rapid drop is normal. In part this is because when calories from food are reduced, the body gets needed energy by releasing its stores of glycogen, a type of carbohydrate found in the muscles and liver. Glycogen holds on to water, so when glycogen is burned for energy, it also releases water, resulting in substantial weight loss that’s mostly water.
A plateau occurs because your metabolism, the process of burning calories for energy, slows as you lose muscle. You burn fewer calories than you did at your heavier weight even doing the same activities. The reason why there is no weight change is because at this new equilibrium, calories eaten equals calories expended. That means, in order for the scales to keep reducing, you need to either increase activity or decrease the calories you eat.
So what do you do, when you hit the dreaded Weight-loss Plateau..? It’s all in the mind really, and with a little bit of effort to change up the routine that has served you so well for so long, you will soon see results again.
Here are 12 Ways to Overcome the Dreaded Weight-loss Plateau:
1. Don’t Give Up!
It looks like the scales are no longer moving, but you are still losing weight. It’s just that it’s in a smaller proportion now, and maybe too small to see on the scales. Do NOT give up! Little grains of sand, make a might mountain, so keep positive and keep going.
2. Confuse your Body
Changing your physical activity routine, your diet or both can be a great way to overcome a weight loss plateau. Alternate physical activities (both aerobic exercises and weight lifting) to work different muscle groups and keep things interesting.Try Zumba, Capoeira, Pole-dancing, tennis or tae kwon do! Changing the time you work out could help too. Instead of working out only in the evenings, try waking up early for Yoga or a run a round the park. This will rev up your metabolism by confusing your body.
3. Add Weights
I cannot stress this enough – that cardio alone will not do. There is no way to burn fat as much, unless you include lifting weights. Your exercise routine should both burns calories and builds muscle. The more muscle you have, the higher your BMR (basal metabolic rate). Working out with substantial weights or doing resistance training will increase your muscle mass and can compensate for the decrease in BMR associated with weight loss. Add more resistance training to your routine if you are already doing it.
4. Do more!
Ever notice how when you are on holiday, and eating heaps, you hardly put on weight? That’s because, from morning till evening you are out exploring, walking around and always on the go. Well, try to incorporate that into your daily routine. Walk more – and this does not include workout time. Increase your general physical activity throughout the day by walking more and using your car less, or try doing more garden work or vigorous spring cleaning, really does help.
5. Boost Your Metabolism
Ah, this is my favourite. Start your day on the right foot by doing a cardio workout first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. A 30 minute cardio workout before breakfast will give your metabolism a boost that can last all day – resulting in more calories burned all day long. Increasing how frequently you eat (but not increasing how much you eat) can further boost your metabolism. Eating every 3 or 4 hours stabilizes your blood sugar, controls your appetite and keeps your energy and metabolism up. For some people supplements such as a green tea supplement can also be used to boost metabolism.
6. Wear a Pedometer
Put the pedometer on first thing in the morning. Then make it a point to be more active – do more gardening, walk to lunch, clean the house more often, take the dog out for an extra walk and wake up earlier for a jog. Imagine that 2,000 steps burn roughly 100 more calories, so aim for 10,000 steps daily for weight loss! It’s very satisfying to look at the pedometer and see how much you’ve done. This keeps you motivated to keep exercising. It’s also is a good monitor if you’ve been slacking off, and brings you back on track.
7. Increase Your Protein
Research suggests that shifting fat and carbohydrate calories to protein calories may help preserve your BMR during weight loss. Getting at least 20% of your daily calories from protein is ideal. If you are eating 1500 calories per day, 20% is 300 calories – and at 4 calories per gram that equals about 75 grams of protein per day.
8. Keep a Log
Calories have a way of sneaking into our food! Keep a log of what you eat, and you will soon notice if you’re eating more than you are exercising. You may also notice some empty calories that quickly add up and can be easily be eliminated for example, full cream milk, supping on cupcakes are going for the final burrito that nobody wants! Still not convinced? Well according to the American Journal of Preventitive Medicine, over a 20 week study those who wrote down everything they ate lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t, so keeping a log really works.
9. Guzzle Water
Water is important for more than just hydration. When we are losing weight, water is generated in the body as a normal part of fat metabolism. This can cause unwanted water-related weight gain. The solution is not less water, but more water to encourage our body to excrete more water and reach a healthy water balance! This also helps to eliminate toxins from the body – a byproduct of weight loss.
10. Check Your Hormones
This one is for people with a real weight problem or battling obesity. You should of course consult your doctor first. Dopamine, one of the feel-good neurotransmitters in our bodies, begins to decrease after a few weeks of weight loss. Dopamine is associated with pleasure, alertness, creativity, attention, learning and concentration. As if that wasn’t enough, dopamine also naturally suppresses appetite and supports weight loss (this is why some antidepressant medications have been shown to be effective for weight loss).
With all the benefits of dopamine it is a good idea to try to prevent the decrease in dopamine levels that occur with weight loss. A supplement called tyrosine (an amino acid) is one of the main building blocks of dopamine and can boost your body’s production of dopamine (and thyroid hormone). Take 1000mg of tyrosine each morning on an empty stomach. It will take four weeks to see maximal results – so start this supplement before you reach your plateau if possible.
This is a tricky one. Not many people like the idea of a complete food fast. But think of it as a chance for your body to detox, and in a state of starvation, that’s when one reaches a higher state of consciousness. Deny the wants and needs of the flesh, and the supernatural realm takes over. Many people I know attest to the fact that fasting, strengthens a man’s resolve and will power, to do mighty things. Many breakthroughs in our lives, only come about through fasting and prayer.
12. Ignite Your Motivation
Weight loss plateaus can be a real motivation killer. Write down you goals, post them on the wall, tell your friends and family etc. Ask them to help encourage you when you are down. Chances are, you’re feeling worse than things actually are. Who knows, a breakthrough might be just around the corner, and you just need to hang in there for a wee bit longer. Don’t give up and always look ahead.