Break Through Your Weight Loss Plateau
  • Allison Fahrenbach

Break Through Your Weight Loss Plateau

Typically, if you hit a weight loss plateau, your initial response is probably either one of two things: to increase cardio or cut calories.


But what happens when neither of these adjustments helps?


Understand that losing weight is more complex then calories in versus calories out. The human metabolism is not that simple. It's complex and intricate and includes ALL of the chemical reactions involved in maintaining the living state of your body and it's cells.


And the human body is brilliant. It's effective, efficient and ultimately it is hard wired for survival.


Your body is unconcerned with weight loss, with whether or not you look good in a bikini, or whether or not you hit your fat loss goals. It's concerned with surviving.


This means that there will come a point where the constant reduction in caloric intake coupled with an increase in activity does nothing except cause a series of unfavorable adaptations, one of which is to downregulate the metabolism (slow it down) to help conserve energy. This is problematic because a slower metabolism will inevitably lead to a further stall in weight loss, or worse, a regression into weight gain.





If you have hit a plateau, my advice is to look beyond the obvious calorie reductions or cardio increases and consider some of the following:


1) Compliance.

You may 'think' you're being 100% but if you get brutally honest with yourself- are you?? Are you logging ALL of your food? Weighing and measuring? Have you began licking the knife out of the peanut butter jar, or adding a few extra nuts here or there? Picking at your kids snacks? Sneaking an additional ounce of sweet potato? Having a bite of your husbands pizza? Not leveling off your cups of oatmeal etc? It may seem trivial, and you may justify your actions by saying 'oh it's a small amount I can get away with it' but you don't achieve elite goals with mediocre effort. Bodies aren't built on 'what you can get away with' they are built on precision and consistency and on executing the program you have laid out for you. Call yourself out and hold yourself accountable. Even if your picking adds just 100 calories a day that's 700 calories EXTRA in a week. That's huge.


2) Sleep duration.

Lack of sufficient sleep is one of the leading causes of being overweight. I have seen people lose weight almost "miraculously" simply by increasing their sleep duration.


Lack of sleep causes weight gain mainly due to the impact chronic sleep deprivation has on your hormones. One hormone it impacts is cortisol. When you don't get enough sleep, repeatedly, the body perceives this as a stress and responds by releasing cortisol, your stress hormone. The problem is our bodies were never designed to handle consistent cortisol release. When you go about your life repeatedly underslept you are basically wandering around in a constant state of stress. And elevated levels of cortisol in the body have been directly linked to weight gain, particularly in the midsection.


3) Digestive health.

You aren't just what you eat- you're what you eat and efficiently absorb. 70% of your immune system is in your gut. If it's unhealthy or you are digesting poorly this can cause weight gain. Underlying issues like chronic constipation, IBS, IBD, food intolerances or allergies, and bacteria overgrowth or an imbalance of good versus bad bacteria can dramatically impact your ability to manage your weight. Balancing digestive health helps reduce the inflammation of your immune system and optimizes your body for weight loss.


4) Hydration.

Do you get enough water during the day? Lack of hydration can contribute to food cravings, muscle wasting, lack of energy, poor strength and performance in the gym and inefficient nutrient absorption. While the science on the role of water in weight loss has been contraindicative, recent research has shown that people who are properly hydrated have better success managing their weight versus those who don't. This is likely because water helps promote satiety (sensation of fullness), helps combat cravings, and helps with the digestion and metabolization of food.


One study in 2016 however DID find that people who were inadequately hydrated had a higher BMI, on average, than those who were considered to be hydrated.


In addition, inadequately hydrated people were nearly 60% more likely to be obese than people who were adequately hydrated.


5) Training too much

Is it time for time off? It may sound counter-intuitive, but if you've been hitting the gym hard and dieting intensely, sometimes taking time off is exactly what your body needs to allow hormones to balance so you can successfully release unwanted body fat. Hard training elevates cortisol, and as I mentioned earlier, this impedes weight loss. If you constantly continue to train and train without ever "letting off the gas" there will come a point where all you wind up doing is beating up your body beyond what it can successfully recover from. If your body can't recover, it can't progress. Try taking a few days off, or doing some light cardio or restorative activity only.


6) Training too little

Is it time to ramp up the intensity? On the flip side maybe you've been dogging it in your training. Just as it becomes easy to slack in your dietary approach, it can also become easy to slack off in the gym. If you've been cutting sets and reps, dogging it through your workouts, or worse, skipping training altogether, you might want to consider increasing your intensity. Try swapping some of your steady state cardio for HIIT, metabolic conditioning or circuit work to help elevate your metabolism and push through a sticking point.

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