Not losing weight anymore? Weight loss plateaus are a common occurrence. Here are 6 highly effective ways you can bust right through stalled weight loss.
Raise Your Calories for a Week
Your metabolism adapts to lower calories faster than you might think. Plus, most people tend to cut their calories way too much at the beginning of a weight loss program. This combo of events can leave you with a weight loss plateau in no time flat. To get out of the rut, simply raise your calories for a little while to give your body a break.
How much? Maintenance level is a nice place to start. Up your calories for about a week. I think you’ll notice a lot of improvements during that time – better energy, improved mood, and increased recovery time. Then, lower your calories by 15% and watch the weight loss pick right back up.
Add in Some Cardio or Drop Some Calories
This one is fairly obvious, but it needs to be said. If you’re eating between 10-12 times your body weight in calories and your weight isn’t going down anymore, you should go ahead and consider either lowering your calories by 50-100 calories each day, or add in a 45 minute cardio session once or twice a week. You should aim to burn about 300-400 calories during the session.
As you lose weight, your original energy deficit starts to shrink. This is supposed to happen. You no longer need as many calories to maintain a smaller body mass. Lower your calories some and monitor your progress closely. The key is to just lower your calories a little, not by another 500 a day. Leave yourself room to further cut calories in the future.
Cycle Your Calories
I love calorie cycling. Not only does it add variety to your diet, but it is a much more natural way of eating. Think about it, when in your life have you ever eaten the same amount of calories day in and day out for an extended period of time? Most likely, it was only when you were trying to lose weight.
Instead of using a consistent calorie deficit day-to-day, try to have low, medium, and high calorie days. Your calories should still equal out at the end of the week, but the added variation of calorie intake and high calorie days sends signals to your body that there is plenty of energy from your diet, and that it can let go of the energy (fat) it’s currently holding.
I was made into a huge believer of reverse dieting when I slowly raised my calorie intake, and to my surprise, my weight starting shifting downwards. I was shocked and thrilled at the same time. Not only could I eat more food, but I could still reach my goals doing it.
The idea is to slowly raise your calories each week (50-100 per day) until you actually see your weight tick up. At that point, you’ve found your maintenance calorie intake. Nearly everyone I talk to is surprised at just how high they can go before they start gaining weight. Reverse dieting primes your metabolism so that you have a solid base to cut calories from. It gets all your systems functioning at 100%.
Implement Refeeds/Cheat Meals
Who doesn’t like cheat meals? I’ve slowly moved away from calling them cheats and have instead incorporated fun foods into my everyday diet. 20% of calories can come from these foods without an adverse effect on your weight loss. Now, when I talk about refeeds or cheat meals, it has less to do with the quality of food and more to do with the quantity.
What you want to do is take 1-2 days each week and bump up your calories to maintenance levels or slightly above. This serves several purposes both psychologically and physiologically. First, it gives you a mental break from calorie restriction and lets you actually feel full at periodic times during the week.
Second, this bump in calories helps to reset important fat loss and hunger-controlling hormones such as leptin, ghrelin, thyroid, testosterone, and growth hormone. With these hormones fully on your side and working for you, you have a much better chance of seeing fat loss results.
Play Around With Nutrient Timing
If you think you have your calorie intake nailed down and your macronutrient ratios dialed in, then it’s time to start playing around with nutrient timing. By shifting certain macrontrients around to different times of the day you can actually influence changes in body composition even at the same food intake.
What does nutrient timing look like? For example, you could move your carbohydrate intake to first thing in the morning and around your workout, and have protein/fat meals the rest of the time. There are a few times during the day when your insulin sensitivity is at its highest, and those times are first thing in the morning, and pre and post-workout.
That’s when your body better utilizes carbohydrates. You can eat them without a large spike in insulin levels. By keeping insulin levels low you enable your body to mobilize fatty acids. Nutrient timing lets you eat a sufficient amount of carbs so that you have plenty of fuel for high-intensity exercise, and it does this while also keeping a favorable metabolic environment for fat loss.
Any of these 6 methods will help you bust through a weight loss plateau. Be patient and stay consistent. Trust the process and continued weight loss will be right around the corner.