4 Simple Steps to Overcome Health Plateaus (NDPP#16)
You’ve been working hard to lose weight and live a healthier life, whether you’re focusing on lowering calories, following a fitness plan, or even trying the Keto diet. Each time you step on the scale or take a measurement and see the number go down, it’s hard not to do a happy dance (or maybe you do – we won’t judge!). Definable, measurable progress is an incredible motivator to stick with your diet or keep working out – clearly what you’re doing is working!
But when the numbers don’t change for a week, even though you’re sticking to your plan, it’s disheartening. Then another week goes by, and you’re still stuck at the same weight (or it’s even gone up!), that little voice in your head starts saying, “Why bother?”
You’ve reached the dreaded plateau, and you’re feeling ready to throw in the towel.
But before you give up or get frustrated, we have some helpful tips to get you over the plateau and start seeing that progress again!
Plateaus Are a Normal Part of Weight Loss and Fitness Progress
Those first few weeks where you’re seeing fast weight loss or muscle development are great for morale and motivation, but it’s not necessarily sustainable. When you lose weight, you’re naturally losing a bit of muscle along with fat, and because muscle is what helps keep your metabolism up, losing muscle tone slows your metabolism. A gradual reduction in your metabolism will slow down your weight loss. One study showed that for each pound a person lost, they burned around seven fewer calories at a resting rate.
A fitness plateau is a bit different. It generally presents that you’re all of a sudden getting more tired during a workout or observing a loss in strength. Maybe you can’t train at the level you’ve been achieving for several weeks. Usually this is caused by your body getting used to the stressors and the demands your routine puts on your body.
That doesn’t mean you’re stuck at the plateau forever! So, let’s look at some ways to move beyond the plateau and start seeing progress again.
Boost Your Exercise Routine
If you’re facing a slower metabolism because you’ve lost muscle tone, it’s time to get that muscle tone back! Adding strength training or interval training to your workouts. This will build the muscle tone to rev up your metabolism and get you burning calories at a faster rate.
If your exercise consists of walking on a regular basis, consider adding ankle and wrist weights along and increasing the pace of your walk, or after finishing your walk, add 10 minutes of dedicated strength training, such as push-ups, squats, lunges, and tricep dips.
Consider Your Calories
At its most basic, weight loss occurs when you burn more calories than you consume. Of course, there are plenty of factors that affect calorie burn and consumption, but if you want to lose weight, you may need to cut back on your calories.
Also, when you’re tracking how much you eat, be sure to use measuring tools to get an accurate look at how much you’re actually consuming. Food scales and measuring cups give you a much better idea of our calorie intake.
Note: It’s important to not dip below 1200 calories a day as that can slow your metabolism down even more and stall your progress!
Increase Your Protein
You probably never thought about it, but your body uses calories for digestion – cool, right? It’s called the Thermo-Effect of Food. Protein has a much higher TEF than carbs or fat, burning higher than 20 or 30 percent!
If that wasn’t enough to get you hitting protein, protein helps maintain and build muscle mass (remember, muscle boosts metabolism) and triggers the hormone PYY that helps you feel satisfied and keeps you full longer. Perfect for both diet and fitness plateaus.
Ditch the Processed Foods
Processed foods – frozen meals, pre-packaged dinners, cereals, and most of the items crowding the shelves of your grocery store, are filled with salt and sugar. Both of these things are often to blame for holding on to excess weight.
Excess sodium in the body causes you to hold onto water weight, so if you’re eating a diet high in salt, you could be experiencing bloat and water retention.
Sugar, on the other hand, does cause your body to store fat. First, if your body has more glucose in it than your body needs as fuel, the liver converts it to fat. It also causes your body to resist the cues of a hormone called leptin, which is released by fat cells telling your body how much fat is stored up. If your body is resisting the cues leptin is giving off, your body is storing more fat.
Over time, excess sugar leads to insulin resistance, diabetes, and other serious health issues, so it’s best to cut the processed stuff out all together and get your calories from a better source, like fruit, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains.
Plateaus are a natural part of the health and fitness journey, but they are NOT insurmountable. Just follow these tips and you’ll start seeing some positive changes.