The Lowdown On Plateaus and What You Can Do About It
A plateau is when your weight loss stalls. This can be discouraging and frustrating and can also lead to someone giving up a diet as they feel that it’s not working for them. I tend to look at weight loss as running consecutive marathons – really hard work. I then tend to see a plateau as a rest in between these marathons. Sometimes it’s a sign that your body just needs to readjust for a short while. As long as your body is not gaining weight then there’s nothing to fear from a plateau. Usually when your body has finished resting then weight loss will continue. However, if your plateau has gone on for more than several weeks you might need to tweak what you are doing. A plateau is usually caused by your metabolism slowing down by adapting to a lower calorie intake so you might need to trick your body into speeding your metabolism up again.
Add resistance/strength training
Resistance training increases muscle mass. This affects how many calories you burn during not just activity, but also at rest. Just adding one more strength-based activity a week could be enough to change things up. This is much more effective than a cardio-based activity. Resistance training doesn’t have to mean a gym – we have lots of strength workouts on the website. Squats, press ups and lunges are all effective strength exercises.
Prioritise your protein
Ensure you are getting enough protein for your bodyweight. If you are active and strength training, then you need around 1g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. If you are 75kg in weight, you’ll need 75g of protein a day. Protein helps to boost metabolic rate more than carbohydrates or fat. You need to make sure you are consuming this protein throughout the day – ideally 20-30g of protein per meal.
1 large egg = 6g of protein
1 large chicken breast (no skin) = 53g of protein
1 cup of oats = 11g protein
170g Greek yoghurt = 17g of protein
142g tin of tuna = 27g protein
Look at your stress
Stress is very effective at stalling weight loss by increasing the amount of cortisol we have in our body. Stress is not just our mental load, it can also be caused by lack of sleep, too restrictive a calorie intake or a high toxin load in our body. Poor sleep for instance can reduce our metabolic rate and increase our hormone levels that promote hunger and fat storage. If you feel that stress is hindering your weight it might be worth looking what the root cause could be.
Alcohol is liquid sugar – it provides calories but no nutrients. Excessive alcohol can lower inhibition which might lead to overeating or poor food choices. Alcohol can also lead to belly fat accumulation and suppress fat burning. Try and give up alcohol for a couple of weeks and see if this helps to get you over the plateau.
Studies have shown that plain water can boost your metabolism by 24-30% for 1.5 hours after drinking a large glass of water. Ensure you stay hydrated without overdoing it. In a normal person 1.5-2L is adequate.
Green tea contains EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) which has been shown to increase fat burning and boost your metabolic rate. Green tea however does contain caffeine so limit to 1-2 cups a day and consume in the morning.
Your metabolic rate increases in response to fidgeting, changing posture and other similar activities. If you stand rather than sit in your working day, then you can burn an additional 200 calories. You could try a standing desk or just make sure that you get up from your desk every hour and walk around the house or office. Try taking the stairs rather than the lift or escalator. Or using the toilet on a different floor of your house or office.
Don’t rely on scales alone
Scales won’t accurately reflect changes in body composition and that’s why we try and encourage taking body measurements. What you want is fat loss and not necessarily weight loss. Muscle is denser than fat and so takes up less room in your body.
In essence weight loss is hard mentally and physically. I don’t see a plateau as a problem at all. As long as you are not gaining weight then all is good and your body should start responding again soon.
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Author: Katherine Bright MBANT, CNHC