How To Overcome A Fat Loss Plateau
Weight loss plateaus are very disheartening. But we’ve all been there, and it happens to nearly everyone who goes on a weight loss journey. Please don't get discouraged; it's normal for weight loss to slow and even stop temporarily. So below I want to discuss what causes a fat loss plateau and things you can do to speed it up and get back into losing those unwanted kilos.
What is a fat loss plateau?
A fat loss plateau is simply when a person is on a fat loss journey and out of nowhere they no longer lose weight on the scales despite following a diet and fitness regimen.
Why do they happen?
There is no definite answer to what causes them, but below are some theories.
- The body adapts to weight loss and defends itself against further weight loss - this is referred to as metabolic adaptation. This means your body burns less calories doing the same thing as before the diet to conserve energy.
- Some people lose motivation and start defaulting to old habits without realising it.
- As you get lighter you need to eat less to continue losing because you are lighter so your body needs less energy to function.
- People don’t change up their exercise and their body gets used to it and burns less calories over time.
I could actually go on longer with more theories, but let's get into the nuts and bolts of this blog which is what to do to get out of a plateau!
How can you overcome a fat loss plateau?
1) Try tracking your food for a week
I know this might seem time consuming, but sometimes you might not realise just how much you’re actually eating until you start tracking it. There have been studies where even dieticians were shown to underestimate how much they eat by 25%! In the same study, the other participants underestimated by 50%!
Tracking your calories, and even the macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs), can provide a great insight into how much you’re actually taking in. This will allow you to modify your eating habits if needed. Research suggests that recording your food intake alone may enhance your weight loss effort, so it’s worth it! I recommend the app MyFitnessPal. I’ve been using it for 7 years, you would think I would get a commitment badge or something by now… might email them about that!
2) Don’t be a Left over Mama
What do I mean by left over Mama you ask? Well, when your child decides they wanted a sandwich but didn’t finish said sandwich and Mama decided to eat the leftovers. You are now a left over Mum. These calories that come from picking at your child's leftovers can add up QUICKLY! So please, give it to the dog or leave it in your fridge for later; those calories are better left alone than on your waistline.
3) Don’t forget protein
Increasing your protein intake may help with a fat loss plateaus. This is due to the thermic effect of food (TEF), which in layman's terms means the increase in metabolism that occurs due to the digestion of food. Protein digestion boosts calorie burning by 20–30%, which is more than twice as much as fat or carbs. In one study (1), ten healthy, young women followed diets that provided 30% or 15% of calories from protein on two separate days. Their metabolic rate increased twice as much after meals on the higher-protein day!
It’s also important to note that consuming protein throughout the day provides you with several opportunities to boost your metabolism through the thermic effect of food (TEF) that I mentioned earlier. I recommend consuming a minimum of 20–30 grams of protein per main meal, based on a three main meals per day diet (plus 2-3 snacks on top of the main meals - please refer to Slim Mama Co. Weight Loss guide eBook that comes free with each purchase of the Slim Mama Shake).
Protein also stimulates the production of hormones that help keep your appetite at bay and make you feel fuller for longer. Ensuring you have protein in your diet is also SUPER important when dieting as it can help protect against the loss of muscle mass which then results in a drop in metabolic rate.
4) Change up your workouts
Our bodies are super smart, and as you get deeper into your weight loss your body will burn less energy doing the same thing as you did prior to the diet. For example, when you started the diet you were heavier and maybe not as fit, so your body might have burnt 350 calories on your 45 minute walk. But now that you are lighter and your body knows what is about to happen it conserves energy and you might only burn 250 going on that same walk. So what do you do to combat that? You can do a few things which I will dot point below.
- Change up your type of exercise
- Increase the time that you exercise
- Add in resistance training (if you increase your muscle mass will help you burn more calories FYI)
- Add an extra day of exercise into your week
- If you do the same route each time you exercise, time yourself doing it then try to beat it the next time
- If you’re at the park try doing some squats and pushups throughout your walk or jog
Anything you do to shock the body will do the trick! As I said, our bodies are super smart and adapt very quickly so we gotta keep it on it’s toes! No pun intended.
Another thing you can do is add more incidental exercise like using your car less, doing more gardening, parking further away from the shops, get off the train one stop before and walk the rest, go for a walk on your lunch break, walk around the house when you’re on the phone, or play tag with the kids! Any movement will help!
5) BUT PLEASE - Don’t rely on the scale alone
The scale can lie and mess with our heads. You can be up 1-2kg when on your period or if you didn’t drink enough water the day before or if you ate dinner later than usual last night - the list goes on!
Not to mention if you’re working out regularly, or just started exercising, you may be building muscle, which is denser than fat and takes up less room in your body but weighs more on the scale.
So if the scale weight isn’t budging, you could be building muscle and losing fat, yet maintaining the same weight. Take progress photos and measurements - the scale is just a tool, but we have other tools in our toolbox so don’t just rely on one!