10 effective ways to overcome a weight loss plateau
You’re as dedicated as they come. Sticking to your diet come rain, shine, or whatever treats coworkers can tempt you with. You’ve been clocking in the exercise hours too, never missing a scheduled workout.
But the worst has happened – or so you think. All those feelings of pride from your non-stop progress has stopped. Why? The numbers on the scales simply won’t budge.
Have you done something wrong? Will you ever get to your goal weight? Naturally, frustration, panic and finally confusion sets in. What happened?
You’re experiencing a weight loss plateau. Don’t fret, because they’re more common than you’d think.
Although the magazines, podcasts, and Instagram personal trainers promise smooth weight loss in six weeks, these things happen. It’s just not clever marketing to tell you that you’ll probably stop losing weight at some point.
The good news is there’s usually a fix. It’s either time to stop trying to lose any weight or make the right adjustments to get going again. But before we get into all that, let’s look at what a weight plateau actually is.
What is a weight loss plateau?
Without sounding obvious, the clue is in the title. You’ve reached a point in your weight loss journey where you aren’t making any progress. It might be that you’ve only been stuck a week, which isn’t long at all in the grand weight loss scheme. But, if you’re at a sticking point for two weeks or more, you’ve hit a plateau.
Even the best, rigorously planned weight loss routines can grind to a halt. Your body is an extremely intricate machine and human foresight is never perfect.
Maybe you need to readjust your calories. Maybe you need to up your workouts or sleep in an extra hour to combat hunger hormones. What if you don’t need to lose any more weight and your body wants a break? We’ll look at all this and more.
Here at Instant Knockout Academy, we’ve rounded up the best tips to get over your weight loss plateau and start making results again!
– Tips to overcome one…
Tip 1 – Review calories
You’ve been trying to lose weight for a while now. So, you’ll understand that the only way to burn body fat is to consume less calories than you need1. This calorie deficit forces the body to tap into fat cells and unlock their fuel for energy.
As you lose weight, the number of calories you need every day drops too. Think about it like you’re carrying a lighter load, so you require less fuel to move it around.
It might be that you just need to review your calories. Take a moment to review your current position, set yourself a new deficit, and go again.
Tip 2 – Check you’re not eating hidden calories
Hidden calories are a silent diet killer. While we’re so busy logging our lunch, we sometimes forget the new brand of sparkling water we’re drinking is sugary soda. You might have even switched up your coffee on the way to work – hello full-fat milk and added syrup.
Now, you don’t need to let hidden calories give you anxiety. Instead, take time to sit down and look at the foods you’re eating. Has anything changed? If that’s a yes, take a look here first. If that’s a no – make sure you’re logging everything well.
Tip 3 – Make sure you’re logging everything
Loose logging is sometimes okay when you start out. Yet, when you become leaner, it can be a real issue. Think back to our first two tips to understand why. Your calorie needs have dropped significantly, and that deficit can easily be outdone by misjudged calories.
If you’ve suddenly stopped losing weight or even gained some, you might be underestimating what you’re eating. The same goes for drinks too! Researchers say that we’re not so good at guesstimating portions as we’d like to believe2. So, don’t do yourself an injustice by ditching the kitchen scales. Log and track everything.
Tip 4 – Fix your sleep
Some people still think sleep is for the weak. Weight loss is all about cutting calories and hitting the gym hard for them – nothing more. Sleeping is just cheating, right?
Well, that’s one way of looking at it, especially if you like doing things the hard way. Yet, numerous studies show deciding to sacrifice sleep can spell disaster for weight loss3456. Is it worth it? In short, no.
When you’re sleep deprived, you’re more likely to feel hunger pangs. Now, these wouldn’t be too bad if you craved celery, but you don’t. Poor sleep makes people hungrier for high calorie foods full of fats and sugars. Plus, because you’re tired, you’re less likely to exercise as hard to burn away calories.
Did we mention sleep deprivation tanks testosterone too? Given that a side-effect of low testosterone is weight gain, getting enough rest should be high priority.
Bottom line – sleep seven to eight hours every single night. You’re putting extra pressure on your weight loss plan if not. Don’t set yourself up to fail, sleep instead.
Tip 5 – Reduce stress
Stress is no good for anyone. Even more so if you’re trying to lose weight!
Experiencing stress can cause a handful of unwanted side effects. Besides the obvious grouchy and tired feelings, stress promotes comfort eating and poor food choices. We’ve all been in that position when all we want is three beers, a pizza, and anything sugary sweet to take the edge off.
Now, when you become stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This is a natural stress response and in small doses actually helps us stay safe. But when stress becomes chronic, prolonged releases of cortisol causes problems. Higher levels are what can cause those calorie-rich cravings we mentioned above.
Plus, research suggests being full of nervous energy can make you hungrier too7! Not to mention cause you to skip meals, which makes you ravenous when you do eventually eat.
Tip 6 – Turn up your activity
Forgive us if this sounds a little bit obvious. Yet, it’s all too easy to forget that activity sets the foundation for weight loss. While calorie control is the concrete base, activity is the steel rods that supports it. The more you move, the more you burn – and the easier it is to stay in a deficit.
One thing that can happen when we try to lose weight is that our activity slows down. Your body is a super-intelligent machine with so many subtle responses we can’t even tell they’re happening.
You might not know that your body has convinced you to sit more at work, but it has. It senses fuel is becoming scarce and hits the brakes.
The fix? Turn up your activity! Walk more, stand more, take the stairs, and don’t skip out on those workouts.
Tip 7 – Change your workout
Exercise creates a stimulus for change. If you’re currently experiencing a weight loss plateau and you’re hitting the same old workout, it’s time for a change. This is especially true if you’ve not been doing progressive overload – aka making sessions slightly harder.
If you do adapt to a workout, it’s usually within the six to eight weeks mark. So, to keep things fresh and your weight loss moving, change your workouts regularly. It can also be motivating to have a new collection of challenges to achieve.
Tip 8 – Rev up your workout
Instead of changing your workout, you might just need to rev it up.
Remember progressive overload? Well, there might be a chance you’re not pushing hard enough to cause adaptations. Are you putting in the necessary effort to burn “X” number of calories and get your heart rate up? Be honest and re-evaluate.
You can rev up your workout by simply increasing your intensity. Push harder, move faster, go for longer, or increase resistance. If you’re new to strength training, check out our guide to The Best Strength Training Exercises For Beginners.
Find a way to incrementally make your workout challenging, while still staying within safety parameters. One example would be running a little faster with longer strides to really push your cardiovascular system. Another might be adding an extra 5 lbs. each at the end of the barbell.
Tip 9 – Rethink your goals
Rethinking your goals might be the not-so-obvious answer. Not necessarily to cut more calories or grit your teeth and try harder. You might be better to stop trying all together – here’s why.
We’re all different, and each one of us has a certain weight considered healthy and appropriate for our size. So, if the scales won’t budge, it might be your body saying; “we’ve arrived, and any more might be too much.” Sometimes a plateau is a simple sign you’ve lost enough.
Take an honest look at your achievement so far. Are you leaner, healthier, and happier than before? Yes? Well, it might be time to rethink your goals.
Decide to ditch the fat loss and build muscle instead. How about just getting back on the road and cycling each weekend?
If you’re struggling to cope with the idea of stopping, you might have a problem. We’d recommend talking to a trained medical professional or therapist if you feel your weight loss causes anxiety, issues eating, and affects your sense of worth.
Tip 10 – Don’t just rely on the scale
When it comes to fat loss, scales can be deceiving. If you’ve been eating well, exercising regularly, and lifting weights, you might have lost lots of fat already. But because you’ve been lifting, you’ve probably built muscle. Your bathroom scales probably can’t tell the difference between muscle and fat – they weigh your mass, that’s it.
Gaining muscle while reducing fat is the art of body recomposition.
What could be happening right now is that you’re maintaining the same weight while your body changes its composition. Experts actually believe body composition to be a better indicator of health too.
Water retention could be another factor affecting your weight loss. If you’ve been eating saltier foods or simply drinking less, you could be holding more water. Slightly reduce your sodium intake and look to drink two liters of water every day to combat retention.
Other factors that affect weight loss
On paper, weight loss appears so simple and foolproof, it’s bewildering when things grind to a half. Yet, there are other factors that affect weight loss besides calories in and calories out.
Certain conditions and illnesses can make losing weight arduous. In which case, call your doctor if you believe a condition could be causing a plateau. While the condition itself might not always be the root cause, medications can impact things like hunger, energy, and water retention too.
Nothing in this article is intended to be used as medical advice. Yet, we will say, don’t delay going to see a doctor if you feel something isn’t right. They may be able to find the cause of why you’re struggling to lose weight.
One final thing to consider is closely related to tip 9. Maybe your metabolism has slowed, potentially exhausted from and in retaliation to constant starvation mode. Remember, your body is an intricate biological machine with millions of unnoticed functions happening every day.
In this case, it’s worth considering increasing your calories to maintenance for two weeks. Give your body time to recover, reacclimatize, and get out of that starving cycle. Then, you’ll be set to safely enter a deficit again. You’ll also be better prepared for any plateaus in the future.
The bottom line
Never panic when you hit a weight loss plateau. Add all ten tips to your dieting toolbox and be prepared for whatever happens.
There’s always something you can do when the scales won’t budge. It might be as simple as decreasing calories again, or better yet, logging all foods. Sometimes the best trick is to just stop thinking about weight loss at all. A plateau could be a natural signal to rethink your goals or take a break from calorie cutting.
If you’re struggling to make any progress at all on a weight loss program, have you thought about trying Instant Knockout Cut?
Designed for the pros, Instant Knockout Cut is a weight management supplement that works to shift extra weight by igniting calorie burn and providing a steady flow of energy throughout the day. It also works to help you build muscle without the jitters or hunger pangs. It’s the perfect training partner for anyone looking to lose weight naturally – and will keep you on track!
Good luck on your journey.