Congratulations! You’ve lost some weight—or a lot of weight—but try as you might you can’t seem to ditch those last few pounds. If your old strategies just aren’t working anymore, you may have entered into a weight-loss plateau.
A weight-loss plateau happens when you’ve reached your body’s healthy normal weight (this is called your “set-point weight”), but not necessarily your goal weight. If you remain in a caloric deficit your body begins to think it’s starving and tries to store more fat—while at the same time you’re trying to lose it.
Another factor that contributes to a weight-loss plateau is your fitness level: the more in shape you become, the less calories you burn during workouts because you’re exerting less effort.
Does any of this resonate? Then check out these three simple strategies to overcome your weight-loss plateau.
3 Ways to Break a Weight-Loss Plateau
1. Try a New Form of Exercise
If you do the same workout every day, no matter how difficult, your body will eventually get used to it and it will become less challenging. This is known as adaptive resistance. Not only does adaptive resistance lessen the results of your workout, but engaging in the same repetitive movements may lead to injury (which will really slow down your weight loss!).
If you’re always doing heavy lifting, try switching it up with some high intensity cardio. If you love running, try swimming a couple days a week instead. By creating change and variety in your workouts you’ll confuse the body, resulting in more calories burned and the stimulation of new muscles. Plus, it’ll help keep you from getting bored.
2. Track Your Calorie Deficit
While weight loss is often associated with a calorie deficit, it’s important to fuel your body appropriately in order to effectively lose fat and build muscle. If you’re eating way less calories than you’re burning, you’ll begin to feel tired, hungry and cranky. Your metabolism will also slow down, rendering your workouts much less effective. Try using a calorie tracking app to get a general feel for how much you’re eating in a day. Better yet, pair it with a fitness tracker for more specific info on the calories you’re expending during workouts. You might need to be eating more than you think!
3. Take Enough Rest Days
Once you start seeing results from all of your hard work, it can be tempting to want to hit the gym every day. But incorporating rest days into your routine is essential to getting the biggest benefits out of your workout. Time off from exercise allows the tissues of your muscles to repair and their glycogen levels to restore. This helps make them stronger for the next workout and is a key to avoiding injury.
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), if a person begins to experience reduced beneficial effects from their workout—such as a decreased rate of fat loss or muscle gain, and an increase in muscle soreness and fatigue—it may be a sign that rest days are needed.
The amount of rest days you’ll need depends on the type of workouts you’re doing. When it comes to strength training, one study on muscular endurance recovery found that it took up to three days for full muscle recovery.
How Long Does a Weight-Loss Plateau Last?
It is possible to get out of a weight-loss plateau without changing up your diet or exercise drastically. According to this 2010 study on set points that regulate human body weight, losing weight slowly and gradually may allow a person to adjust their set-point weight over time. Generally speaking, one can expect a weight-loss plateau to last between three to four months. During this time, your body is adapting to its new size and new set point which will allow for future weight loss.
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