HITTING a weight loss plateau can be disheartening to say the least, but this issue is very common in dieters. It simply means that after a while, you become stuck at the same weight despite dieting and exercise efforts, and will need to step it up a bit to see continued results.
"Over time, a weight loss programme can run out of steam. This usually happens because the programme becomes consistent in terms of food/calorie intake and/or your exercise regimen becomes monotonous over a period of time. If the programme becomes consistent then the person is not going to lose any weight," explained nutritionist and fitness expert Donovan Grant.
Given the inevitability of a weight loss plateau, experts usually advise that you change up your work-out and eating plan at least every six to eight weeks to prevent your body adjusting too much.
"So if every week you are doing an hour worth of exercise and you just eat roughly the same amount of calories, then the body is not going to register that much change. In order to see more weight loss, you would have to make some changes. One of the things you could do is to increase the number of days and/or duration of your exercise programme," Grant said.
The fact of the matter is that no matter how technical your workout routine is, your body will naturally adapt to it after a while. Failure to make any changes could result in you becoming demotivated and risk the progress you have been making thus far.
If you are currently experiencing a plateau — whether it is that your muscles are no longer growing or your weight has remained stuck — here are a few things you can do to get over it:
1. Reduce your caloric intake. Your body usually requires less calories as you lose weight. This means that you will need to be consuming less food than you did at the beginning of your transformation. There are many resources online that can help you to calculate how many calories you should be having on a daily basis based on your weight. Be sure that you do not go below 1200, as this is the minimum amount of calories needed to sustain your body daily.
2. Get more rest. It's not the sort of advice you'd expect to hear, given the fact that it was always taught that exercising will help with your weight loss efforts. But taking a week's break from the gym will help to rejuvenate and motivate you, so you can put out even more energy in your work-out routine. Instead of pumping weights or going on the machines, try going for walks, swimming or cycling instead.
3. Do more interval training. High intensity interval training is a great way to push through a plateau. Instead of doing one full hour on the elliptical, for example, at the same speed, mix it up a bit and do about 20 minutes each on separate machines at a much higher speed.
4. Challenge yourself. Rev up your workout by another 20 or 30 minutes or increase the intensity of your work-out. Also challenge yourself by doing a work-out you have never done before, probably because you felt it was too difficult. Training for a marathon, for example, is a good way to remain motivated.
5. Find ways to incorporate more activities. Try to find more ways to get your workout done that will take you out of your usual routine. Think outside the gym and start increasing your physical well-being by walking more, for example to the supermarket 20 minutes away, instead of driving your car.
6. Don't do too many cardio exercises to build muscles. If your focus is to build muscles as opposed to weight loss, then you ought to spend less time doing cardio and more time lifting weights instead. Also switch up the days you work the various muscle groups.
7. Consider getting a personal trainer. A certified fitness instructor can give professional advice on how to improve your ability to burn calories based on your body structure and lifestyle. It might cost you, but if you are serious about achieving your weight loss goals, then it will be money well spent.