What happen when you hit a weight loss plateau?
You’ve been making great headway toward your weight-loss goals. Everything is going smoothly until your progress unexpectedly slows down and then comes to a halt. As far as you can tell, you’re still doing everything right. You’re sticking to all the healthy lifestyle changes that helped you make it this far toward reaching your goals, but it feels like nothing is working anymore.Your scale just won’t budge. This frustrating phenomenon is called a weight-loss plateau, and most people who are trying to lose weight will experience this at some point. A weight-loss plateau does not represent the end of your progress—it’s just part of your journey. Don’t allow frustration at slowed weight loss to get in the way of your success. This article will give you an inside view on what is happening to your body when you hit a weight-loss plateau and what steps you can take to get the ball rolling again.
Shift Your Balance
To understand what is happening to your body when you reach a weight-loss plateau, you need to think in terms of energy balance. Energy balance refers to the energy, or calories, coming into your body from the foods and beverages you consume and the energy your body expends to meet your basic needs, support physical activity, and other functions. Essentially, it’s the balance between calories in and calories out. If the amount of energy coming in is about equal to your body’s energy needs, your weight will remain stable. If it’s much greater than your body’s needs for a long enough period of time, you will gain weight. However, if the energy you take in is consistently less than the energy you are expending, you will lose weight. Considering these basic principles of energy balance, a sensible strategy for weight loss is to decrease the amount of energy you consume by reducing calories and increase the amount of energy you expend by adding more exercise.
Leveling Out: Causes of Plateaus
Thinking of your body’s energy balance in terms of calories in and calories out is an important idea, but it’s only part of the picture. The biggest factor in your body’s state of energy balance is the amount of energy that your body expends to meet your basic needs. It’s the energy required to support the basic functions of your cells, maintain your internal body temperature, and so on. This component of energy expenditure is called your resting metabolic rate, and it changes during weight loss, making the “energy in, energy out” concept a bit of a moving target. Here’s how it works: For any given body weight, you need a certain amount of energy to maintain your body at that weight. As your body weight decreases, your resting metabolic rate also decreases. A smaller body requires a little less energy to maintain than a larger body. You’ll reach a weight-loss plateau when the effect of the changes you made in your diet and lifestyle are equal to your body’s new, lower energy needs, including your lower resting metabolic rate. The scale stops moving because the same changes that worked to promote weight loss at your previous, heavier body weight are no longer effective for your new, lighter body.
Time for a Change
It’s easy to think of a weight-loss plateau as a barrier or an obstacle, but it’s more useful to think of it as a signal from your body that it’s time for a change. If you want to continue your progress toward your weight-loss goals, you’ll need to modify some aspects of your weight-loss strategy. These three tips can help you effectively modify your strategy to support sustained progress.
1. Improve Your Exercise
Nutrition is critical when it comes to weight-loss success, but physical activity is just as important. To get past a weight-loss plateau, you’ll need to mix up your workouts. It may be as simple as trying a new exercise class at the gym or adding a different type of workout that is higher intensity than your usual routine. Adding resistance training to your schedule at least three days per week can help you get the scale moving again.
2. Consider Calories
To move past a plateau, you might need to trim some unnecessary “extras” that are contributing calories to your meals and snacks. However, simply cutting calories may not be an effective strategy to help you work toward your goals. Specifically, people who are physically active may benefit from a modest increase in calories to help get past a plateau, especially if the additional calories are used to fuel higher-intensity workouts or maximize recovery after intense training.
3. Boost Protein
Increasing the amount of protein you’re consuming is one of the best methods for moving past plateaus. Consuming a higher-protein meal will give your metabolism a boost. Additionally, an increase in protein will provide the best support for building lean muscle. An easy way to bump up your protein intake is to incorporate one or two high quality protein shakes – as a family, we use IsaLean and IsaPro as they are soy-free, gluten-free, low-glycemic and use pure undenatured protein from grass-fed cows in New Zealand.
With my superfood nutrition, you have a range of nutritional options to offer the best support as you work toward your weight-loss goals. In addition to adapting your nutrition strategy, changing your workouts with increased intensity and resistance exercise can help to get your scale moving again. Experiencing a weight-loss plateau can be frustrating, but it’s by no means a barrier to success. Instead, it’s a sign that you are ready to take your journey to the next level!
Hall KD, Sacks G, Chandramohan D, Chow CC, Wang YC, Gortmaker SL, Swinburn BA. Quantification of the effect of energy imbalance on bodyweight. Lancet. 2011 Aug 27;378(9793):826-37. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60812-X.