Losing weight is a drawn out process that requires self control, discipline, and dedication. The most effective way to burn off unwanted body fat is through a combination of physical exercise and a caloric deficit diet, but even the most effective weight loss programs stall sometimes.
Weight loss typically occurs rapidly in the early stages of a fat burning program, but over time results and progress can taper off, resulting in what is referred to as a weight loss plateau. These plateaus can be demotivating and difficult to push through, making it hard to achieve your health and fitness goals.
There are a number of factors that can cause a weight loss stall that are usually caused by lifestyle habits. In this article, we’ll take a look at fifteen effective ways to push through a weight loss plateau and get back to burning fat:
1. Reduce Your Carb Intake
Cutting back on your carbohydrate intake is one of the most effective ways to cut body fat. There is a large amount of clinical evidence that demonstrates the link between carb consumption and increased weight gain.
A comprehensive study performed in 2011 found that low carbohydrate, high protein diets are associated with faster weight gain, while another 2009 meta study has shown that low carb diets are superior to low fat diets at promoting weight loss.
There are many popular diets that promote reducing total carbohydrate intake, such as the Atkin’s diet, the ketogenic diet and the paleo diet. Although the specific reason low carb diets promote weight loss is a hotly contested issue in the field of nutritional science, it has been linked to a phenomenon called “metabolic advantage” that forces the body to use fat as its main energy source, rapidly burning away unwanted body fat.
Following a low carbohydrate diet forces the body to find an alternate source of energy. This energy is manufactured in the form of ketones, which the body creates as an evolutionary response to low carbohydrate availability.
Ketones are created out of fat stores and used to power the muscles, cardiovascular system and brain. Consuming less than 50 grams of carbohydrates daily induces the production of ketones, called ketosis, has have been linked in many clinical trials to increased fat deposit breakdown.
In addition to increasing the rate at which the body is able to burn fat, a low carbohydrate diet offers a number of other advantages. Studies have shown that low carb intake causes decreased appetite, assisting in reducing total caloric intake, and reverses the effects of carb addiction caused overeating.
Excessive carbohydrate intake also leads to increased fatigue, sluggishness, lethargy. If you’re having trouble shaking off those final few pounds, try a ketogenic or paleo diet to see if cutting out carbs can push you through your plateau.
2. Track Your Caloric Intake
Tracking your caloric intake is one of the most important but most commonly overlooked factors in weight loss. The average adult male requires 2500 calories daily, which lowers to 2000 if seeking to lose weight. This number is a little lower for the average adult female at 2000 for maintenance, or 1500 calories daily for weight loss.
Calorie intake awareness is integral to the weight loss process. When the body consumes more calories than it needs, the excess energy harvested from food is stored as fat. Inversely, when the body is provided with less calories than it needs for maintenance, it will harvest this energy from fat deposits, breaking them down. Exercise increases the total caloric intake, making it easier to reach the fat-burning threshold.
It can be hard to remain aware of your caloric intake, especially while dieting- a 1992 clinical trial found that individuals seeking to lose weight often underestimate their total caloric intake and overestimate their physical activity, which can make it harder to lose weight. Another study performed in 2013 found that most people significantly underestimate the total caloric content of their meals.
Calorie tracking can be performed easily via a number of online resources and free smartphone apps that provide accurate estimates of the caloric content of most common foods. Calorie tracking has been proved in multiple clinical trials to improve the accuracy of dieting methods and speed up weight loss.
3. Exercise More
Increasing the amount of physical activity you perform works in a synergistic manner with a reduced caloric intake. Regular exercise should be a part of any comprehensive weight loss regime. Increasing the amount of energy your body spends on physical activity speeds up the rate at which fat is broken down, and has the added benefit of creating new lean muscle mass and improving cardiovascular health.
Unfortunately for regular exercise enthusiasts, however, as the body becomes more fit and loses more weight, the resting energy expenditure of the body decreases. This means that the more you exercise, the less energy you burn when not exercising. A 2009 study performed by the University of Ottawa found that for every half kilogram of weight lost from the body, the resting energy expenditure rate of an individual drops by 6.8 calories.
This means that if you’re following an exercise regime in order to lose weight, you’ll need to continuously set goals and achieve higher levels of physical performance to burn fat consistently. One of the most effective forms of exercise is resistance training, commonly known as weight or strength training. Studies show that resistance training is able to dramatically increase lipolysis, or fat breakdown, rates in the body, with some clinical investigations demonstrating significant weight loss in just 20 minutes of resistance training daily.
There are several forms of exercise that have been demonstrated to deliver increased metabolic function and counteract the metabolic slowdown effect that occurs due to regular exercise, such as high intensity interval training, or HIIT. Good old-fashioned aerobic cardiovascular exercise is always an effective method of losing weight, however- although it’s important to scale the exercise up to your developing fitness level.
4. Increase Your Protein Intake
Tracking your nutritional intake is as important as tracking the overall caloric value of your diet. If your body isn’t getting the nutritional elements it needs, weight loss plateaus can occur. The average adult needs to consume roughly 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day, which works out to roughly 56 grams of protein for an adult man, and 46 for the average adult woman.
Low protein intake has been clinically proven to lower the metabolic rate of the body, which can slow down weight loss and cause plateaus. Inversely, diets high in protein have been demonstrated to cause faster fat burning due to its thermogenic effect. The thermogenic effect of a food, also known as its specific dynamic action, is dictated by the amount of energy it takes for the body to digest.
A 2014 scientific investigation performed by the Canadian Exercise Metabolism Research Group found that protein rich diets cause a higher rate of fat loss when following a caloric-restricted diet. The thermogenic effect caused by increased protein consumption can boost metabolic function by up to 30%, boosting the ability of the body to convert unwanted fat into energy.
Food that is high in protein content has also been demonstrated to help dieters feel fuller for longer, which minimizes overeating and makes it easier to hit daily calorie intake goals. High protein also offers a number of additional health benefits, such as balancing blood sugar levels, improving cognitive function, and promoting cardiovascular health.
If you’ve hit a wall in your weight loss plan, try increasing your protein intake. Foods that are high in protein include cheese, eggs, fish, beef, and chicken. If you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet, there are plenty of protein supplements available on the market today, including vegan-friendly pea and legume protein powders.
5. Practice Intermittent Fasting
Fasting can be an extremely effective method of pushing through weight loss stalls and plateaus. Generally consisting of 12, 24, and 48 hour periods in which a dieter consumes only liquids, fasting techniques have become extremely popular in recent years as methods of boosting metabolic function, cleansing the digestive system, and shedding unwanted body fat.
Although intermittent fasting is seen by many as a “fad” weight loss technique, several clinical trials have demonstrated its effectiveness in pushing through slow metabolic function induced plateaus. A 2015 study performed by the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health in Scotland found that dietary intervention through intermittent fasting is an effective tool in promoting faster weight loss, and another 2012 clinical trial performed by the University of Illinois found that, when combined with caloric restriction, intermittent fasting is an effective weight loss method.
Intermittent fasting methods can come in many different shapes and forms. Some, like the 16/8 method, required dieters to fast for 16 hours daily to boost metabolic function, while others, like the 5:2 diet, required dieters to fast for two days weekly. Intermittent fasting has been shown to promote weight loss while retaining muscle mass, making it ideal for individuals seeking to achieve an aesthetic physique.
6. Lower Your Stress Levels
Psychological stress has long been associated with weight gain and increased fat deposit size. A clinical investigation performed by Monash University in Melbourne, Australia assessed over 5000 individuals over a timeframe of five years, tracking their stress levels and overall BMI. The study found that psychological stress induces metabolic effects that slow down weight loss and contribute to overall weight gain.
The link between increased stress levels and weight gain is due to a hormone the body releases while stressed called cortisol. Often referred to as the “stress hormone”, cortisol causes the body to retain fat deposits and increase the size of adipose fat. A study performed by the New York Obesity Research Center found a direct link between the levels of cortisol in the body and increased fat retention.
There have been several clinical investigations that have demonstrated the efficacy of managing stress levels in order to promote faster weight loss. A clinical trial performed in 2011 that assessed the efficacy of stress-lowering mindfulness meditation on the weight loss process found that stress management techniques have a positive effect on the ability of the body to burn fat. Another trial performed in 2013 found that stress management augmented weight loss techniques are a powerful tool for pushing through weight loss plateaus.
If you’re feeling stressed, this may contribute to weight loss stalls and make it difficult to lose weight. One of the most effective ways to minimize your overall stress levels is through mindfulness meditation and breathing practices. Exercise has also been demonstrated to lower stress levels, and has the added benefit of increasing your total caloric burn.
7. Drink More Water
The body consists of over 65% water. A healthy adult needs to consume at least eight to ten glasses of water a day to remain healthy, otherwise net fluid loss may occur and cause a wide variety of negative health effects, including weight loss stalls. Increasing water intake is one of the most popular and most effective methods of pushing through a weight loss stall, and has been shown to increase the rate at which the body is able to break down fat deposits.
There are many clinical trials that demonstrated a link between increased water intake and increased weight loss. A 2010 clinical investigation performed by Virginia Tech assessed the effect of increased water intake and weight loss on a trial group and a control group consuming an average amount of water. The trial group that consumed more water lost 44% more weight than the control group, attesting to the fat-burning power of increased water consumption.
Drinking cold water regularly also increases the resting energy expenditure rate of the body, helping to counteract the metabolic slowdown that occurs in individuals that are performing regular physical exercise.
Drinking extra water has also been demonstrated to induce weight loss independence of exercise and diet. Other studies demonstrated that drinking water before a meal can reduce appetite and assist in reducing consumption, lowering overall caloric intake.
8. Drink More Coffee or Tea
The high caffeine content of coffee and tea has a demonstrated thermogenic effect that increases the rate at which the body is able to burn away unwanted fat. Caffeine is a proven thermogenic that has been shown in multiple clinical trials to boost metabolic function, while also providing more energy for physical exercise to the muscles which can increase total caloric burn.
There is a significant amount of scientific evidence that links increased caffeine intake to faster and more effective weight loss. A 2005 study conducted in the Netherlands found that in addition to increasing metabolic rate by up to 13%, caffeine increases fat oxidation and boosts the production of leptin in the body, which is the hormone that causes satiety and reduces eating.
An early 1982 trial found that caffeine supplementation during a weight loss period increases fat loss by 22%, while a more recent 2016 clinical investigation performed by the Institute of Clinical Pharmacology in Germany found that caffeine intake is related to successful weight loss maintenance in the long term.
Aside from coffee, other sources of caffeine also contain other natural compounds that are able to help dieters push through weight loss plateaus. Green tea, for example, contains powerful polyphenolic antioxidant compounds that have been demonstrated to boost fat burning rates in addition to modulate insulin response, which helps to control blood sugar and energy levels.
9. Increase Your Fiber Intake
Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet can aid in the weight loss process. There are two kinds of dietary fiber- soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, and insoluble fiber, which helps to clean the digestive system and reduce hunger pangs. A 2013 study performed by the University of Minnesota found that increasing dietary fiber intake is able to reduce net caloric intake by 22%, which can dramatically increase the rate at which the body burns fat.
Soluble fiber, such as the fiber found in oats, apples, beans, and nuts is able to clean bad cholesterol from the body, promoting better cardiovascular function and minimizing the risk of developing heart disease. This form of fiber also helps to regulate blood sugar levels, preventing blood sugar spikes that cause hunger pangs and reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Insoluble fiber, such as the fiber found in cereal grains, is able to reduce appetite response. An extensive meta-study conducted by the Kansas State University Department of Human Nutrition in 2010 found that increasing dietary fiber intake by just 8 grams a day can result in a 4.4 pound reduction in body weight over several months with no other dietary or lifestyle changes. The same study found that insoluble dietary fiber is able to reduce the total amount of fats and calories absorbed from food.
Increasing your dietary fiber intake is as easy as incorporating cereal or grain products into your diet or consuming more fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Oat flours and coconut flours are excellent sources of dietary fiber for individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, which can often make weight loss difficult.
10. Reduce Your Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol is one of the most common causes of weight loss plateaus. Although a single glass of wine on occasion is able to improve your health, alcohol is extremely dense in calories and is able to increase oxidative stress on the body when consumed in large amounts.
There is next to no nutritional content in alcohol, and the regular consumption of alcohol has been linked to increased weight gain in multiple clinical trials. A 2011 meta-study that analyzed over 80 different clinical trials observed a clear statistical link between alcohol consumption and increased BMI. Another more recent trial found that individuals that eliminated alcohol from their diet for a six month period experienced a 5% increase in overall weight loss.
Alcohol also loosens inhibitions, which makes it more likely that dieters will overeat or consume unhealthy calorie-dense foods. A clinical study into the effects of overeating caused by alcohol performed in 2016 found that reducing alcohol intake minimizes impulsivity, reducing the total amount of calories consumed and speeding up the weight loss process.
Alcohol has also been shown to inhibit the chemical process that occurs in the body during the breakdown of fat, inhibiting thermogenesis by up to 20%. If you’re trying to lose weight and are experiencing a plateau, eliminating alcohol could provide the extra fat-burning boost you need.
11. Structure Your Protein Intake
We’ve already covered the importance of protein intake in this article, but there is scientific evidence to suggest that spreading your protein intake throughout the day can help to promote weight loss. Clinical trials demonstrated that the body is only able to absorb between 20 and 30 grams of protein for each meal consumed, meaning that dumping 60 grams of protein into your body at once isn’t providing any health benefits.
Increased meal frequency has been demonstrated in a 2013 clinical trial to speed up fat oxidation and lessen appetite, with six smaller meals daily providing the optimum balance between metabolic rate and nutritional content. The body is only able to absorb between 1.3 and 10 grams of dietary protein per hour, so spreading your protein content out throughout the day will deliver the most effective thermogenic boost.
If you’re following a ketogenic, paleo, or another protein rich diet, try to split your total protein intake out by consuming smaller protein-rich snacks in place of meals. Protein bars and shakes are an effective tool for this purpose, but always pay attention to the total carbohydrate and sugar content of these products to ensure you’re not adding any unhealthy elements to your diet.
12. Increase Your Vegetable Intake
Micronutrient intake is critically important to the weight loss process. While it’s essential to ensure you’re getting enough dietary protein and fiber, it’s also important to remain aware of your vitamin and mineral intake. Vegetables are the ideal food to achieve micro nutritional balance, as they are rich in dietary fiber and essential nutrients.
Clinical evidence demonstrates that increasing your vegetable intake has a wide range of health benefits that includes enhanced weight loss and lowered appetite response. There have been five intensive clinical trials in the last 20 years that have demonstrated increased weight loss due to increased vegetable consumption. This effect is due to a combination of factors that includes increased dietary fiber intake, lower blood pressure, reduced oxidative stress, and lower cholesterol levels.
Adding more vegetables to your diet will not only increase fat loss rates, but also results in overall better health and protects the body from a wide range of diseases, including cancer.
13. Increase Your Activity Levels
Working out and performing regular physical exercise is essential in losing weight, but there are other methods of increasing your total daily caloric burn that don’t involve hitting the gym. Your body uses energy to perform every function, even when you’re simply standing around. Increasing the amount of energy you use in everyday activities induces an effect called non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT.
NEAT practices have increased in popularity recently due to a large amount of clinical investigation on the subject. A 2014 clinical investigation found that NEAT practices are able to significantly boost the base metabolic rate of the body and is an effective treatment tool in minimizing the negative health impact of obesity. Another 2015 study conducted by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York found that increasing movement and redesigning both workplace and leisure environments to promote heightened activity levels can promote faster weight loss.
Even simply fidgeting movements, such as tapping feet or hands, can significantly increase base metabolic rate. A study performed in 2000 by the Mayo Clinic found that sitting while fidgeting increases metabolic rate by 29%, while standing and fidgeting increases metabolic rate by 38%. Using a standing desk or regularly walking around the office is a great way to increase your metabolic rate while not at the gym- a 2014 investigation found that individuals that stand, rather than sit, at their desks burn 200 calories more every day on average.
14. Practice Healthy Sleeping Habits
Getting a healthy amount of sleep is another commonly overlooked factor that can lead to health complications, including weight gain and slow weight loss. Regular poor sleep can cause poor cognitive function, depression, hypertension, and other more serious health issues. Not giving your body at least eight hours of restful sleep every night can significantly slow down the metabolism, making it much harder to lose weight.
Sleep has been conclusively linked to the function of the digestive system and metabolism for a long time. A 2014 clinical investigation found that individuals with a high BMI are more likely to suffer from sleep issues, and an earlier 2007 study found that sleep deprivation leads to a slowdown on glucose metabolization, increased appetite, and lower overall energy expenditure.
Another study conducted in 2015 by the University of Pennsylvania found that individuals that slept for just 4 hours for five nights in a row experienced a 2.6% decrease in overall metabolic rate, demonstrating a clear link between sleep and fat burning ability. To make sure you’re getting the most out of your diet and exercise, always aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
15. Don’t Trust the Scale
The end goal of most diets or workout regimes is to lose weight- but this is often interpreted as an overall net weight loss, instead of a reduction in fatty tissue. Tracking your progress by the numbers on the scale isn’t the most accurate representation of how close you are to reaching your health and fitness goals.
As you perform physical exercise, especially resistance training exercises, the body will burn fat but at the same time increase the amount of lean muscle mass. In many cases this means that there is an even trade between weight lost and muscle gained, resulting in no change at all on the scale. Muscle is more dense than fat tissue and takes up less space, so while the numbers on the scale may remain the same, you will notice that your body is slimmer and more toned.
It’s also possible that your body may be retaining water weight while you lose fat. This also occurs if you’re taking any fitness supplements that cause increased water retention, such as creatine monohydrate. Water weight isn’t unhealthy, but sometimes can make the body appear bloated. Managing sodium intake or using natural diuretic supplements like dandelion root can help to reduce water retention.
The best way to measure your progress is by the way your clothes fit, how you feel and look visually, and your overall fitness levels. Measuring your weight on a monthly basis will provide the most accurate information on body changes, but always be sure to take these other factors into account when assessing your progress.
15 Weight Loss Plateau Breakthrough Conclusion
Hitting a plateau or stalling during a weight loss campaign can be frustrating, but isn’t permanent. Metabolic slowdowns and difficulty in pushing through stubborn fat deposits can be expected in a long term weight loss plan, but they can be dealt with using the techniques outlined in this article.
If you’re experiencing difficulty in losing weight even after trying the methods we’ve provided, you may want to consider trying a natural herbal weight management solution such as garcinia cambogia. These supplements aren’t a replacement for natural weight loss, but when used in combination with a healthy diet and workout regime they can provide a helpful boost to the metabolism.
Nearly everybody will experience a plateau at some point in their weight loss endeavors, but don’t become discouraged if it happens to you. Overall, by remaining dedicated and disciplined and making healthy lifestyle choices, weight loss is a simple and easy process that only requires consistency in behaviour to achieve.