Weight loss can be an empowering thing. You’ve worked hard, made serious changes to your diet, and taken up an exercise program. You have pushed yourself through cravings, said no to sweets, and gotten to the point where you actually kind-of like the post-workout muscle soreness. And as the pounds melt away, you feel in control. Until a weight-loss plateau stops you in your tracks, leaving you helpless and confused.
A plateau often happens around 6-10 months into a weight loss regime, when the pounds stop coming off as quickly and easily as before. For some people, their plateau may even include weight gain. Since nothing has changed with diet or exercise, this can be frustrating and mystifying. A lot of times it’s best to just embrace the period during the plateau as getting more stressed about it will increase your body’s desire to hold onto weight. This is because it senses that you are in a survival mode, so it wants to hold onto extra resources.
Why do plateaus happen? One theory is metabolic adaptation, which basically means that when you diet, your body’s metabolism will eventually start to slow itself down. Diets that extremely limit calories or carbohydrates are most likely to lead to metabolic adaptation, particularly if you are on one for a long time. Luckily, you can break through the plateau with the right foods and a few tips.
Something to think about when eating to break through a weight loss plateau is to make sure that you are eating wholesome food choices. A study found that it’s not always the calories that count, but the quality that counts more when it comes to weight loss. You could be consuming minimal calories of processed foods, but unless they come from more nutritious sources, it may not be the best for your body and restoration of your metabolism. Avoid sugary and refined foods and your calories should be on the lower end naturally. In addition, stop when you are full and only eat when you are hungry.
The answer to busting through your plateau has more to do with what you put on your plate than what you do at the gym.
Eat More Protein
Protein is the King of weight-loss foods. Proteins are thermogenic foods, meaning they cause your metabolism to work harder while they digest. Fill up on lean protein sources such as chicken and turkey, and you will also feel fuller longer, which can help eliminate between meal snacks. For an added metabolism boost, top your chicken with spicy salsa: the hot peppers can turn up your metabolic torch even further.
Options for protein sources include chicken, turkey, steak, bacon, yogurt, cottage cheese, and protein powder. Make the protein something that you truly enjoy and savor as that will help satiate you throughout the day. You can even snack on protein bars if that helps keep you full.
Increase Your H2O Intake
Your weight loss plateau may simply be a result of changes in water retention. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day; it should be your primary beverage of choice. You can also get more water by eating fruits and vegetables with higher water contents, such as iceberg lettuce, watermelon, cucumbers, and grapefruit.
Eat the Right Carbs at the Right Time
Not all carbs are evil, and if you have severely restricted your carbohydrate intake during your weight loss efforts, it may be time to reintroduce yourself. The right carbs, such as whole grains like oatmeal or starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, can help fuel your workouts. Eating a combination of a good carb and lean protein as a pre-workout snack can give you the energy you need to take your workout to the next level. And that may be just the thing you need to break out of your plateau.
More Tips to Beat a Weight Loss Plateau
While metabolic adaptation can be a factor in plateaus, there is another thing that may be equally responsible: diet mistakes. Here’s how to correct your diet mistake to get back on track.
Track Calories In And Calories Out
Many people start a weight loss program by carefully recording their calories, but this practice can start to slip as time goes by. You may not even realize you are eating or snacking more calories than you are burning off, because you aren’t keeping track. Researchers have found that an intermittent lack of diet adherence was responsible for more plateaus than metabolic adaptation. Weight loss guru Jillian Michaels recommends tracking calories at every single meal if you think you’ve hit a plateau.
Eat More Calories
In cases of extreme calorie restriction, your metabolism can really put on the brakes. If you are taking dieting to the extreme, your body can go into starvation mode and stall your weight loss efforts. In these rare cases, eating more calories can actually get your metabolism rebooted, and get you back on track.
Weight loss plateaus are very common, and will happen more frequently as you approach your goal weight or ideal body weight. Expect to come across a few along your journey, and then you won’t get discouraged when it does happen. As you lose pounds, continue to re-evaluate your optimal calorie intake for your new weight. This will help you know how many calories you need to eat a day, and how many you need to burn off with your workouts, to keep you heading in the right direction.