Let's start out with feedback from an MCNewsletters reader who successfully broke through her weight loss plateau:
I was so excited to start running last year. I thought, “Hey! If I'm able to run a few miles a day then the pounds will just fall off!” And for about two months they did.
I was running for about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week at the time and I usually felt pretty good after each run.
But nothing changed in my diet or drinking habits, and eventually, my weight plateaued – even though the running continued.
I wondered why I wasn't losing any more weight?
Once I added 2 days of weight training and changed my diet to include more high-protein foods as you'd suggested (and stopped drinking alcohol), I started losing weight again, and I'm now at my goal weight.
Once I hit my goal weight, I realized the hard work had finally paid off. But it wasn't easy; there were a few steps along the way that really made a difference in helping me get to where I needed to be.
First and foremost: stop drinking alcohol!
It's seriously like liquid fat and is filled with empty calories that just add up when you're trying to lose weight. And while this might sound extreme, it was one of the best decisions I could have made for myself because it helped me sleep better at night- free from all those nasty hangovers.
The next step was adding two days of weight training into my schedule each week, building some muscle will help burn calories faster over time.
And lastly, my running schedule needed some tweaking. Instead of running 5 days a week, I now run only 3 days with 2 days of weight training – and then mix in some yoga or walking on the 4th day each week for good measure.
I hope you find this feedback helpful! And, thank you for your help.
Barbara, thank you for your feedback, and congratulations on hitting your goal weight!
Hit A Weight Loss Plateau? Here's What To Do Next
Weight loss plateaus are just periods where you’re not able to lose any weight, even if you want to.
Many factors may contribute to a weight loss plateau. The most common cause for a plateau is your calorie deficit is no longer big enough.
Sometimes you're just not able to lose weight because the number of calories you eat is too high or your activity levels are too low.
Other issues could be at play, such as changes in metabolism due to pregnancy or menopause, illness, changes in your daily routine, recovery from an injury or surgery, or medication side-effects including insulin resistance.
Although it can be frustrating if you think there's something wrong with you physically, it is perfectly normal to experience a weight loss plateau.
It's just part of the process when losing weight and something you'll need to adjust for in your next step, but by knowing what might be causing it, you can often get things moving again.
Assuming you're otherwise healthy, let's answer the big question-
How Do You Break A Weight Loss Plateau?
Before I answer the question I want you to do something.
Take a look at your hands.
Turn them over and take a good look at the palms of your hands. What do you see?
Chances are that if you're reading this article, you work out. If you work out, you probably have calluses on the palms of your hands.
Calluses are part of the body's adaptation mechanism. The body recognizes extra punishment on the skin cells in the palms of your hands, and bolsters the protection by adding many more skin cells to toughen them up.
Keep in mind, the body knows everything that happens to it. No matter where or when. It knows, and consequently, it adapts.
Now, I know you're asking what do calluses on your hands have to do with a weight loss plateau?
Hold that thought, this will all come together in a minute.
Making Weight Loss Progress
I was doing a consultation recently. To sum it up- she works out hard and diets. She's doing great, losing 15 pounds, tightening up, starting to see some real progress.
Then she hits the dreaded weight loss plateau. Progress crawls to a halt two week into her program.
This weight loss plateau is the body's adaptation mechanism at work, yet again.
Just like when the body sensed something different happening with the hands, and forming calluses to cope with the situation, your body will adapt and adjust to your weight loss attempts.
Calorie Intake For Weight Loss
Normally when you're attempting to lose weight, you'll be taking in less calories. Lets say your average daily calorie burn is 2000 calories. You also take in a total of 2000 calories each day.
Net result is no weight lost nor gained. You simply stay put on the scale.
You decide you're going to drop down to 1500 kcal daily for your diet. This is a deficit of 500 calories per week. On a simplistic view, over a 7 day period, you'll have lost 1 pound of body weight. Fine.
During that week, your body notices the changes that are going on. Hmmm.. less calories to deal with. Check out the benefits of portion control as well.
What's the first thing the body will do here to adapt? It's going to lower your metabolism! It wants to burn fewer calories and hold on to what it's got- body fat.
Burning Off Your Body Fat
So, as your body recognizes this, it begins to adjust. Although you stay on your diet at 1500 calories, the body starts to burn only 1750 calories daily. So, at this rate, you'll still be losing weight, but at half the rate as before.
Follow this through to the next week- still taking in 1500 calories, but now your body has fully adjusted and is now only burning 1500 calories. No weight lost.
Read that again.
Now do you see how that sucks? You're eating less, but you're not losing weight. What's that called?
The Dreaded Weight Loss Plateau
Okay, great! So how in the world do you break through this plateau?
Should you lower calories at this point? No!
Any weight loss program you're on for a certain amount of time will result in less fat loss because the body is coping with what you're throwing at it.
You MUST adjust your program consistently if your goal is weight loss.
The answer here is NOT to lower calories. I have many tricks in my bag, but I'll share an easy way here.
Cycle your calories!
Calorie Cycling to Stimulate Weight Loss
You can keep the body from adapting to your diet and slowing weight loss by cycling calories in this manner…
3 days of lowered calorie intake followed by 1 day of slightly greater than normal intake.
Back to the earlier example.
Normal calorie burn for the day was 2000 calories. By taking in 1500 calories per day for 3 days, you're also creating a 1500 calorie deficit over the 3 day period.
On the fourth day, you'll take in a slightly higher amount of calories- the the tune of 2200 calories.
Now you're 4 days into the diet, and you've lost 1300 calories. The best part? You've reset your body back to the 2000 calorie per day burning mode.
Day 1- 1500
Day 2- 1500
Day 3- 1500
Day 4- 2200
Day 5- 1500
Day 6- 1500
Day 7- 2200
This pattern is of wide enough variety that you can cycle it for 3 or 4 weeks before changing any other variables.
Over a 4 week period, you'll have lost 2.5 pounds safely, effectively, and you didn't even notice you were on a diet!
Keep in mind, the calorie burn and intake is different for everybody. You should adjust the numbers as such.