You’ve been working out, eating right and following all the rules from your fat-loss bible, but you can barely see any physical changes, and the scale won’t budge.
It sucks, doesn’t it? It can be overwhelming, and throwing in the towel is a near thought.
“Increase your weights!” or “increase your cardio!” are some of the things we’re told to do. You may do all that, but it’s likely that nothing much will change out of the situation. If you want to get back into being a fat-burning machine, keep reading!
What is a weight-loss plateau, anyway?
A plateau often occurs after one has been on a weight loss journey for a while. As you lose weight, your metabolism declines, causing you to burn fewer calories than you did at a heavier weight. When you reach a point where the calories you burn is equal to the calories you consume, your body hits a deadlock.
Equally, when your body is on a severe caloric deficit for a long period of time (basically, if you’re under-eating consistently for a long time), your metabolism weakens, causing your fat burning process to slow down or simply, stop.
A plateau can make you feel worthless, hopeless and in despair, especially if you’ve been putting in the work and have been loyal with your food.
The good news is, identifying what got you in a plateau in the first place will help you fix it and get back in to the fat-burning zone. Consider the following:
- Underfeeding: Most people trying to lose weight do not think there’s such a thing as under-eating. There’s an old facade in the weight loss world that suggests starvation diets are the fastest way to lose weight. Excessive dieting, cutting out food groups (say the word “carbs!” and watch some run for the hills..) and other extreme measures are not here to serve any long term goal, sorry to say. A quality, nourishing diet is fuel for your body goals! Eat more, to lose more.
- Over-feeding: If we’re gonna talk about under feeding, you know we’re gonna talk about over feeding. Obviously, if you eat anything more than your body requires for ‘fuel’, the rest will be stored as fat. And training doesn’t give you a license to eat as much, or anything you like. You can not out-train a poor diet. Consume only what your body requires for your goals (if you’re losing weight, eat less(er); if you’re building muscle, eat more). Obviously, you need to know how much your body needs; guesstimating isn’t the wisest route for most. Consult a meal planner (such as myself) and make sure you get a customized meal plan based on your body stats.
- What Exactly Are You Eating? A diet laden with fruit or fruit-juice, though healthy, is not the best choice for weight loss. Fruit is high is sugar (mainly fructose) and we all know that sugar spikes your insulin levels, which in turn slows down your metabolism process, meaning, your body’s ability to burn fat is weakened. Let your carbs instead, come from complex sources such as sweet-potato (ahhh, how I love thee, S.P…), arrowroot, butternut, oatmeal, quinoa (another fave..), all of which, fill you up for longer, stabilize your metabolism, and are loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Carbs are your friend, people! Sugar is the devil.
- Have You Met My Friend, Protein? Protein is the single most important nutrient the body requires, whether for fat loss of muscle building. Why? As you lose weight, your body burns both fat and muscle. High protein intake ensures you mainly lose fat, so muscle is preserved (ladies, no muscle, no curves!). Protein also suppresses the hunger hormones, regulates your metabolism (increased fat burning!) and increases energy levels. Among a host of other things! The goal here is to ensure you are consuming 1gram of protein per pound of your body weight. Need customized assistance? I’d love to help with that..
- Re-evaluate Your Training Methods: Change up whatever you’ve been doing and shake things up a bit. If you do too much cardio, slash it by half and incorporate weights. If your cardio is a treadmill, move to the stair master or take up boxing. If you lift weights every day, incorporate two days of cardio instead. If you train every single day, incorporate rest days (most gains are made during rest). If you’ve been squatting the same weight for a month, increase by 30%. If you do the regular 10 reps, shoot up to 15-20 rep range. If you rest too much and chit-chat mid workout, start timing your rest and take your training sessions a little more seriously.
- Carb-Cycle: This has worked very well for my clients. Carb cycling involves eating a higher amount of carbs on one day and slashing them down the next day. So if you are strength training on Monday, consume higher carbs on that day. If the next day is a cardio day, reduce the carbs, but keep the fats and protein levels consistent. Works very well.
- Quit Stressin’: Stress produces the hormone called cortisol, which among other things, wrecks havoc on your metabolic process, slowing down your fat burning abilities – and can also cause binge eating and sugar cravings. If you’re overwhelmed and stressed out, ask your doctor for a hormone stabilizer and mood enhancer. During such periods, I take 100mg of 5-htp, Complex B vitamins, trace minerals (a combination of magnesium, zinc, etc) which all-together resume my sanity. 5-htp on it’s own works well too. Find what works for you. Seek your doctor’s approval.
As you can see, there’s tons of reasons why you may have hit a plateau, and you’ve probably identified a few reasons from the pointers above. Don’t despair, and don’t you dare give up on yourself. Almost everyone on this journey hits a plateau at some point. Give your body the change it needs and keep it moving.
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