How to Break Through a Weight Loss Plateau: 8 Simple Tips

fit woman stretching on the beach happy because she learnt how to break through a weight loss plateau and reach her fitness goals

Are you feeling frustrated because your weight loss journey has hit a roadblock? Don’t let a plateau derail your progress and lead you back to old, unhealthy habits. In this blog, we’ll explore effective strategies to overcome a weight-loss plateau and get back on track towards your fitness goals.

What is a weight loss plateau?

A weight-loss plateau is a phase where your weight remains stagnant, despite your best efforts to shed those extra pounds. It’s a common occurrence in weight loss journeys, often catching people off guard. You might still be eating healthily and exercising regularly, but the numbers on the scale refuse to budge.

Why do weight loss plateaus happen?

When you first start a weight loss journey and reduce your calorie intake, your body primarily burns glycogen for energy. Glycogen is a carbohydrate stored in your muscles and liver, and it holds water. As your body utilizes glycogen, it releases water, resulting in rapid but temporary weight loss.

However, as you continue to lose weight, you inevitably lose some muscle mass alongside fat. Muscle plays a crucial role in maintaining your metabolism, the rate at which your body burns calories. As your metabolism slows down with weight loss, you burn fewer calories than you did when you were heavier.

Eventually, your calorie expenditure matches your calorie intake, resulting in a weight-loss plateau.

Is it possible to still make progress without losing weight?

Although you may be stuck at a certain weight, it’s important to remember that progress isn’t solely determined by the number on the scale. You might still be making positive changes in your body composition, such as gaining muscle while losing fat. This phenomenon, known as body recomposition, can’t be measured by scale weight alone.

To truly gauge your progress, consider tracking:

  • Body Fat Percentage: This metric provides insights into your body composition changes.
  • Circumference Measurements: Measure changes in your waist, hips, and other key areas to monitor your transformation.

These methods offer a more comprehensive view of your journey beyond the scale.

How to break through the plateau

If you’ve hit a weight loss plateau, it might be time to reassess your approach and make necessary adjustments. Here are some strategies to help you break through the plateau and continue your weight loss journey:

1. Reassess your habits

Review how much you’ve been eating and exercising. Ensure you haven’t relaxed your dietary discipline or exercise routine. Small deviations from your plan can contribute to plateaus.

2. Consider your caloric intake

Consider further reducing your daily calorie intake, but be cautious not to drop below 1,200 calories. Very low-calorie diets can lead to constant hunger, increasing the risk of overeating.

If you have dropped your calories too low, you might want to consider taking a break from the calorie deficit and reverse dieting to get back to a healthy caloric intake. Ideally, you shouldn’t stay in a calorie deficit for more than 12 weeks. Taking a break from restricting your calories can help give your metabolism a boost, so when you do decrease your caloric intake again, you break through the plateau.

3. Boost your workouts

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly. Combining both types of exercise is beneficial. For enhanced results and weight management, aim for at least 300 minutes per week.

Perhaps most importantly, you should incorporate weightlifting to help increase muscle mass. Increasing your muscle mass helps increase your metabolic rate, meaning you burn more calories at rest, which can help you lose fat.

4. Increase daily activity

Start moving more throughout the day, outside of the gym. Increase your overall physical activity by walking more, using your car less, doing more work around the house, and standing more. Any physical activity can contribute to burning more calories. 

5. Increase your protein intake

Protein plays several important roles in the body, including building and repairing tissues, producing enzymes and hormones, and transporting nutrients. Increasing your protein intake can boost metabolism, reduce hunger, and prevent muscle loss. A good rule of thumb is to aim for at least 20-30 grams of protein at each meal.

6. Manage your stress levels

Stress can hinder weight loss by triggering comfort eating and increasing cortisol production, known as the “stress hormone.” To help control your stress levels, try incorporating stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing into your routine. Additionally, aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

7. Limit your alcohol intake

Alcohol can interfere with weight loss in more ways than one. Alcohol is actually much higher in calories than you may realise, so a night out could have you drinking more than your calorie requirements for the day. On top of that, alcohol tends to lead to poor dietary choices and overeating. Additionally, it can lead to increased belly fat storage.

8. Drink more water

Staying hydrated is essential for overall health and well-being. Drinking more water can also help you burn more calories, get the most out of your workouts and stop you from overeating. How much water you should drink depends on a number of factors such as your activity level, age, size, the temperature and more – but as a starting point, aim to be drinking at least 2-3 litres (8-12 glasses) of water a day.

Don't give up on your goals

If your efforts to break through a weight-loss plateau aren’t yielding results, consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian for additional guidance. Remember that your ultimate weight goal may need adjustment, but don’t overlook the achievements you’ve made so far. Improved dietary choices and increased physical activity have already done wonders for your health.

The key to success is persistence. Continue to celebrate your accomplishments and remain committed to maintaining your weight loss. While the scale may not always reflect your progress accurately, tracking your measurements and body composition will provide a more holistic view of your transformation. You’ve got this!