If you've reached a weight loss plateau and just can't shift any more weight – then the following causes may offer some help.
You’ve been making a concerted effort to lose weight, increasing your exercise and changing your diet, and so far it’s worked. But all of a sudden you’ve stalled!
You’re following the same exercise programme and haven’t changed your diet, but those stubborn scales refuse to shift. Weight loss plateaus are all too common but making a few tweaks to your routine can get you started again.
The Issue Is Adaption
Lack of exercise is not the only factor influencing weight loss; lack of variety is also a problem. Clients often tell me how they’ve been slaving away with multiple spinning sessions a week while swimming or walking most other days.
With all that hard work, how can they possibly not be losing weight? The issue is adaption. In the initial weeks of an intense cardio programme you will of course burn fat.
However your body strives to become as efficient as possible at the task in hand. Spinning, running and other intense cardio activities involve repetitive actions which the body adapts to over time.
Eventually you need less fuel to do the same amount of work, resulting in less need to burn excess fat. In order to increase fuel usage you need to increase the duration of your activity, which means adding yet another spinning class to your already time consuming schedule.
Or you can change what you’re doing.
Variety Is Key
Regularly varying your exercise means your body has less chance to adapt therefore needs more fuel to power movements it is not use to. If your routine is mostly cardio based, you should include resistance exercises.
Lifting weights or performing body weight exercise like squats and press ups increases muscle mass, improves tone and burns fat. A healthy body is capable of a huge variety of movements so there is no need get stuck in a rut.
A simple squat can be varied by altering your foot position. Widening or narrowing your stance, or turning your feet out or in, changes the emphasis on the muscles you activate, preventing repetition and adaption.
You can also shake up your cardio routine by varying the intensity and shocking the body out of its comfort zone.
Add some sprints to a steady pace run or try including a 4 minute round of Tabata into your cycle (20 seconds of hard work followed by a 10 second break x 8 rounds).
One Man's Meat ...
Diet is probably the most baffling area of any weight loss challenge. At the start of a new year comes a barrage of articles promoting the latest weight loss craze: low carb; Paleo; high fat; intermittent fasting (5-2 diet); juice cleanse.
For every scientific study promoting the benefits of a particular diet, there is another slamming it. And this is not surprising as humans are a hugely varied bunch.
We have different body shapes that respond differently to exercise, some building muscle easily while others struggle to change their body shape. We respond differently to stress, a well known factor influencing stomach fat storage.
Mice with the ‘lean’ bacteria stayed the same weight whereas those with the ‘obese’ bacteria gained weight, despite both groups eating roughly the same amount and type of food.
Double-check Your Diet
With such a variety of factors influencing fat storage, is it surprising there is no one-size-fits-all solution to weight loss?
There are good guidelines which will help, such as avoiding processed food and refined sugars, reducing starchy carbs (a tablespoon of cooked rice is a serving, not a whole plate full!), eating a good protein source and healthy fats with each meal and filling the majority of your plate with vegetables.
But if you’ve tried all of these and it’s still not helping you lose weight, try changing your diet. Whatever approach you go for it needs to fit in with your lifestyle, should be sustainable long term and should be safe (check with your doctor if in doubt).
It may take a bit of trial and error but you could hit on a plan that suits your body type, kick starts weight loss and helps you maintain it for life.
So don’t let a weight loss plateau demoralise you. See it as a milestone in your weight loss journey, an opportunity to revitalise your diet and fitness regime and enjoy a slimmer, fitter, more energised you.
Please feel free to comment below how you have achieved overcoming your fitness plateau.