How to Lose Weight: Breaking Through Those Pesky Plateaus

It happens to everyone: you start a fitness and weight loss regimen, you start seeing results and feeling good about yourself and your progress…then you hit a plateau. That’s when your enthusiasm and motivation will take a dive and, if you don’t find a way to break through that plateau, you may be tempted to bag it.

The first thing you can do is to expect the plateaus and let go of ideas of rapid weight loss. You’ll go through periods of quick weight loss and periods when it seems like you’re not making any progress at all. Don’t be surprised or bummed out by that. If you expect it, and you have a few weight loss tips for plateaus in your bag of tricks, you’ll be more inclined to stick with your original weight loss plan, work past the plateau and start a new cycle of losing weight and building muscle.

Change Up Your Workout

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Try a different workout or form of resistance to break through plateaus.

Weight-loss plateaus hit when your body predictably adjusts to your routine of physical activity. Military Fitness recommends changing up your workout when this happens. Don’t fight it. You may be comfortable with your workout and know it by heart, but the familiarity is what’s causing you to plateau. Drop some of your usual exercises and replace them with different ones that still work the same muscles. ExRx.net has a comprehensive exercise directory that cross-references exercises by muscle groups, but the site also has a search option that lets you search by muscle or exercise.

Also, consider changing the time of day you work out if possible, or even the equipment you use. If you typically gravitate to the free weights, give the cable machines or resistance bands a try for a few weeks. Additionally, a plateau can be an indication that it’s time to increase the amount you’re lifting. Don’t be afraid to add some weight to your workouts to increase muscle mass and build strength, as well as kick-start your weight loss program again.

Fine-Tune Your Cardio

Take your cardio outdoors or even use a different piece of equipment to get your metabolism into fat-burning mode again.

Some people avoid cardio and some do it instead of resistance training, but it’s important that cardio and resistance training are both included in your weight loss plan. If aerobic exercise isn’t included in your workout, add it. If you already do cardio, add another day and increase the amount of time you’re spending on it. Mike Mahler recommends increasing your cardio workouts by 5 to 10 minutes at a time to find your cardio sweet-spot. That can be anywhere from 30 – 45 minutes per session, but it shouldn’t exceed 60 minutes. Also, change the type of aerobic exercise you’re doing. Ditch the treadmill or stationary bike for awhile and give the elliptical a try. Attend a class at your health club or, if the weather is nice, go for a run outdoors. Maybe even give HIIT a try. Anything to shock your body back into weight-loss mode.

Make Your Diet a Moving Target

Don’t overdo on the calorie deficit. Instead, change how and when you eat.

If making changes to your resistance training and cardio workouts aren’t giving you the weight loss results you want to see, it may be your diet that needs tweaking. You may be eating too close to bedtime, so try to start eating earlier, giving yourself four or more hours between your last meal of the day and the time you hit the hay. You can also break it up so that you’re eating smaller meals more often, five to six times a day. You can use the Harris-Benedict equation found on Medical News Today to determine how many calories you should be getting each day. Keep in mind that, if you don’t get enough calories, your body will start conserving them and shut down your weight loss plan. Instead of creating an extreme calorie deficit to induce rapid weight loss, concentrate on the foods you eat, making sure you eat enough protein, and change up your carb count a few days each week. ShapeFit recommends lowering your carbs one or two days in a row, then increasing back up for two to three days. It’s called carb-cycling, and the erratic amounts will keep your metabolism on its toes and in fat-burning mode.

Listen to Your Body

Without enough rest, your body wants to conserve fat and calories instead of burning them.
Image by Alexandra E Rust/Flickr

Hitting a plateau in your weight loss program is a huge signal from your body that you need to pay attention to if you want to continue losing weight. The best advice is to listen to your body and understand what it’s telling you. If you feel fatigued and worn out, you could easily burn out if you aren’t getting enough rest. If you’ve been at it 6 or 7 days a week non-stop since the beginning of the year, taking a week off will do you more good thanĀ  harm. When you are in full workout mode, take care to get adequate hours of sleep each night and do your body the favor of taking 1 to 3 days off each week. Giving your body enough rest and nutrition and keeping it guessing with changes to your workout will help bust through those plateaus and have you on the quick weight loss track again in no time.

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