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How to Overcome a Plateau in Weight Loss

You’ve been doing so well, hitting the gym multiple times a week and eating right. The numbers on the scale have been moving in the right direction. And then, somehow, it all changed. The scale seems stuck, or worse, the numbers are slowly creeping back up. What’s happening? Nothing is quite so demoralizing as when you hit a plateau in weight loss. However, that doesn’t have to mean your fitness goals are doomed. Instead, a weight loss plateau is a good opportunity for you to step back and re-evaluate your efforts. You may discover that you simply need to reapply your focus or up the intensity of your workouts. So, to help you get back on track, here are 10 helpful tips on how to break a weight loss plateau.

1.Make Sure it Isn’t Muscle

Have you been pumping some serious iron at the gym or at least incorporating resistance training into your fitness routine? Great job! Resistance helps you build muscle, which weighs more than fat. If you’ve added muscle to your body, it’s possible that you could be losing fat but still see your weight increase. This is one reason why focusing on the scale isn’t always a great way to assess your fitness and health.

Instead, think about how your clothes are fitting. Many gyms also offer body fat analysis as a membership perk or an add-on service. Consider tracking your body fat instead of weight.

2.Dial in Your Nutrition

When you first started your weight loss journey, you probably felt highly motivated to cut out all the processed junk food in your diet and to switch to healthy, nutrition-filled meals. Are you still eating clean? It’s easy for bad eating habits to creep back in over time. You may think that grabbing a few handfuls of chips or nibbling on a cookie after dinner won’t make a big difference. Remember, every calorie counts, and they add up fast. If you’ve let your nutrition slide, now is the time to refocus and recommit to eating right.

One great way to hold yourself accountable is to maintain an eating journal. Many apps allow you to easily track your eating right on your smartphone.

3.Eat Fewer Calories

A heavier body needs more calories to function, which is why a 250-pound man could need as many as 200 more calories per day than a 150-pound man of the same age, height, and activity level, according to the Mayo Clinic’s calorie calculator. If you’ve lost a significant amount of weight – we’re talking 50 pounds or more – you may actually need to lower your daily calories to maintain your weight.

Keep in mind, also, that if you’ve gone from couch potato to gym rat, your body will gradually adapt to your exercise routine, meaning you won’t burn as many calories when you work out (more on this soon).

4.Drink More Water

One of the easiest ways for excess calories to sneak back into your life is through the liquids you drink throughout the day. Sodas, fancy coffees filled with milk and sugar, and alcoholic beverages are teeming with calories. These calories won’t make you feel full, but they still count. They can easily begin tipping the scale in the wrong direction. Be aware that even many “sports” drinks also include a high number of calories and sugar.

The solution? Make water your best friend. Not only is water calorie-free, but staying hydrated can help dampen your appetite, so you are less likely to snack. Keep water near you during the day and always bring water with you to the gym or to any fitness activity (along with electrolytes if you are planning a long workout).

5.Work with a Nutritionist

Nutrition can be complicated, especially if you feel like you’re doing everything right, and you’ve still hit a plateau in weight loss. At this point, it might be time to call in an expert—specifically, a nutritionist. A certified nutritional specialist can review your eating patterns and help you design an eating plan that will move you closer to your goals. This may involve helping you recalculate your caloric needs, shifting the ratio of the macronutrients you consume, and even helping you work through the way you relate to food.

Can’t afford a nutritionist? Check out the resources that your gym offers. Many gyms offer a nutritional consultation to new members and may offer ongoing nutritional counseling services as part of your membership or for an extra fee.

6.Start a Strength Training Program

Haven’t started a resistance training program, yet? Now is the time. The CDC recommends that adults engage in at least two sessions of resistance training each week. Strength training makes you stronger and fitter, protects your bone health, boosts your energy level, and can improve your mood. It can also help you lose weight.

A pound of muscle burns more calories than a pound of fat, which means that building muscle can boost your resting metabolic rate, even when you’re vegging on the couch. Additionally, a good strength training session revs up your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which causes your body to burn extra calories even after you get home from the gym.

7.Add more Intensity

Your body is an amazing machine. One of its best superpowers is its ability to gradually adapt to external stressors, like exercise. If you try to run a mile after years as a couch potato, you may find yourself wheezing after two minutes. Keep up the running workouts, however, and in a month or two, that mile may feel easy. The same thing happens when you lift weights. A weight that you could barely lift two months ago may now feel easy to lift for a set of five.

As your body adapts to your regular exercise routine, it will become more efficient at performing the workout. That means it won’t need to use as much energy to do the same level of work and won’t burn as many calories. The solution? Continually increase the intensity of your workouts to keep up the challenge. In turn, that means increasing the weight and/or reps during your resistance training and increasing the speed or duration of your cardio workouts.

8.Switch up your Routine

Another great way to burn more calories at the gym and send your weight loss plateau packing is to introduce more exercise modalities into your fitness routine. This is a fancy way of saying do different kinds of exercise. Have you only been running on the treadmill and using the resistance machines? Try the rower or the stair stepper and pick up some free weights.

One of the best ways to experiment with different forms of exercise is to sign up for group fitness classes. Most gyms offer strength training classes, dance classes, high-intensity interval training classes, and more. If you’ve ever wanted to try barre, kickboxing, or Pilates, see what classes your gym offers.

9.Recruit a Workout Partner

Have you started skipping your gym days or finding excuses to not show up for your weekend workouts? Then recruit a weight loss plateau breaker in the form of a workout buddy. Find a friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor to meet you at the gym or the trail. Just knowing someone is waiting for you will hold you accountable for showing up. Studies also suggest that a workout partner can encourage you to work out longer. Also, working out with a friend is just more fun!

10.Hire a Personal Trainer

Tried everything on the list and still not sure how to break a weight loss plateau? Then it’s time to bring out the big guns. Put your money where your muscles are and hire a personal trainer at your gym. A certified personal trainer isn’t just someone who can put you through your paces at the gym (though they’ll do that, too!). They can also help you look at your nutrition and everyday lifestyle habits to help you figure out what may be leading to your weight loss plateau outside of the gym. At the same time, a personal trainer will develop a fitness plan customized to your goals and hold you accountable for reaching your full potential.

You Can Break Through Your Weight Loss Plateau

It can feel so frustrating to hit a weight loss plateau. Don’t give up! Work through each of the 10 tips in this article, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your gym is likely to have a lot of resources available, from advice provided by a personal trainer to body fat analysis and nutritional consultations. Even tweaking small parts of your diet and exercise routine can help you break through your plateau and start moving closer to your ultimate fitness goals.

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