Ten Ways to Get Past the Dreaded Health Plateau
Are you on a mission to lose weight, but just can’t seem to get the scale to budge? Often, people report frustration when they’re trying to eat healthy, exercising, and doing everything they think they should do for weight loss, but still have not seen a difference. What gives?
The truth is that reaching a healthy weight isn’t a one-size-fits-all process… but it does often follow a similar pattern. We all experience ebbs and flows of weight gain and loss — many times, the pounds drop off quickly in the beginning, but over time, weight loss slows down, sometimes even stalling for weeks at a time.
While weight loss plateaus are normal, they can be frustrating and discouraging. If you’ve been sitting at the same weight for weeks, chances are you need to alter your routine to get the scale moving again. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can implement to encourage your scale to re-start its downward trajectory.
Check out these top proven tips to help break through your weight loss plateaus!
Track Your Food Intake Diligently
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, self-reported calorie intake falls drastically short of actual calorie intake. Unless you’re measuring everything you put in your mouth, chances are you’re underestimating your daily calorie consumption. If you’ve been stuck on a weight-loss plateau for weeks, there’s a good chance you’re simply overeating.
Try measuring out your portion sizes using a food scale to get an accurate picture of how much you’re really eating. To keep yourself on track, enter everything you eat into a nutrition tracking app such as MyFitnessPal. When you start tracking your daily food consumption, you might be surprised to learn how small a serving size really is!
Try Cutting Back on Carbohydrates
Cutting back on your daily carbohydrate consumption can stimulate faster weight loss, according to a study published in the British Journal of Medicine. During the study, researchers found that low-carb dieters burned approximately 250 more calories per day than people whose diets involved higher carbs.
If you’re currently consuming carbohydrates as part of every meal, try centering your carb consumption around your workouts instead. Focus on complex carbohydrates a few hours before a workout and some simple carbohydrates immediately after. Then minimize carb intake at other times. You’ll put the carbs you do eat to good use while helping your body burn more fat throughout the day.
And if you really want to bust through that weight-loss plateau, try a short-term ketogenic diet, during which less than 5% of your daily calories will come from carbs. Using ketones as fuel instead of carbs primes your body to burn more fat, making this effective for some people. However, as a long-term diet plan, our nutritionists recommend an anti-inflammatory diet rather than keto.
Cut Out Alcohol
Pure alcohol contains seven calories per gram, falling just behind fat in terms of caloric density. However, unlike fat, alcohol is not a necessary macronutrient; instead, it offers your body nothing but empty calories.
According to a review published in Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, alcohol suppresses fat burning, potentially leading to further fat accumulation. This phenomenon was more prevalent in individuals who practiced a high-fat pattern of eating. If you’re practicing a low-carb, high-fat diet based on its purported weight-loss benefits, you’ll definitely want to avoid alcohol.
Researchers also discovered that alcohol-related fat accumulation was more prevalent around the abdominal area. Just one more reason to give it a pass.
Incorporate Fiber-Rich Foods
Fiber fills you up, and fiber-rich foods are naturally voluminous, which can help keep you from consuming surplus calories. If you’re trying to break through a long-standing weight loss plateau, fiber may be just the tool you need.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dieters who included more fiber-rich, low-calorie foods — particularly vegetables and fruits — saw the most drastic decreases in weight.
Researchers also found that individuals who maintained greater quantities of high-volume, low-calorie foods were able to maintain their weight loss over the long term.
Eat More Lean Protein
If you’re focused specifically on fat loss (as opposed to general weight loss), then protein may be the single most important macronutrient on your plate. The thermic effect of food (TEF) describes the increase in your metabolism after you eat certain foods. Of the three macronutrients — fat, protein, and carbohydrates — protein has the highest TEF of all. This means that eating protein with every meal can give your metabolism a significant boost.
According to one study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, protein intake stimulated a two-fold increase in metabolism just hours after ingestion. According to the study, consuming a protein-rich, low-fat diet delivered the most profound results.
Protein’s effect on your weight loss goes beyond its metabolism-boosting capabilities. Adequate protein intake also stimulates the release of satiety hormones that help keep you full. So, the more protein you consume, the more satisfied you’ll feel.
Moreover, protein consumption also helps you maintain existing lean muscle mass. Since muscle is more metabolically active than fat — meaning it burns calories even when you’re sitting on the couch — maintaining your existing muscle will help you burn even more calories!
Hydrate More! Drink More Water
Did you know that drinking enough water can boost your metabolism? A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrine and Metabolism found that water can boost metabolism up to 30%!
Participants who drank just 17 ounces of water burned approximately 25 extra calories within 40 minutes after ingestion. So, if you consume the recommended amount of water every day, you could burn nearly 700 extra calories per week!
Add More Physical Activity
Let’s get this out of the way: You can’t out-exercise a poor diet. That said, if you have your diet nailed down and the scale still won’t budge, you may need to add more movement to your day.
You don’t have to go crazy; simply adding an extra 30-minutes of moderately paced walking can be enough to jumpstart your weight loss. And if you’re short on time, you can take advantage of a nifty phenomenon known as NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
NEAT encompasses all the energy you expend (or calories you burn) when you’re not exercising. Walking around the house, cleaning, even fidgeting… these all burn calories. When it comes to physical activity, NEAT burns more calories per day than most people burn during a dedicated exercise session.
If you really want to rev up your calorie-burning potential, try moving around more throughout the day. According to Mayo Clinic researchers, fidgeting around while standing can increase your calorie-burning potential by up to 54%.
Increase Exercise Intensity
If you’re exercising regularly and you’re still stuck in a weight-loss plateau, it may be time to ramp up your exercise intensity. Unfortunately, as your weight falls, so does your metabolism; what worked well to lose the first few pounds won’t do the trick to lose those last stubborn few.
To increase the intensity of your workouts, try switching things up. If you always perform cardio exercises, try incorporating machine-based resistance training. Weightlifting will help maintain your muscle mass, and since muscle helps you burn more calories — even at rest — more muscle equals more weight loss.
According to a study published in the Public Library of Science, resistance training is perhaps the most effective method of reducing your overall body measurements.
Practice Daily De-Stressing Activities
Ever heard of a little hormone called cortisol? According to researchers, it could be the culprit behind that extra weight around your midsection. Cortisol is commonly referred to as the “stress hormone,” and it doesn’t do anything good for your weight loss efforts. If you’ve been diligent with sticking to your diet and exercise routine, but you’re still not losing weight, there’s a good chance you’re too stressed.
Fortunately, you can manage your cortisol production by incorporating stress management techniques like deep breathing, yoga, and taking walks in nature. A study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found that overweight women who incorporated daily stress management techniques over an eight-week period lost an average of 9.7 pounds.
Get Enough Quality Sleep
Sleep drives more than just your energy levels — it drives your metabolism, too. A study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology found that chronic sleep deprivation resulted in a 40% decrease in glucose tolerance. The same study also found that lack of sleep stimulated an increase in ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone.
When you don’t get enough sleep (7-9 hours), your body drives you to eat more food. But when you eat that food, your body doesn’t process it as energy; instead, it stores those excess calories as fat. To give your metabolism the rest it needs to function correctly, do your best to get seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night.
Have You Had Success Breaking Through a Weight-Loss Plateau?
Have you tried implementing these plateau-busting techniques? Did they work for you? Have you discovered other tips that helped you jumpstart your weight loss? Share your experiences we’d love to see what has worked for you. Our staff would love to hear from you!