We’ve all been there. A couple of weeks or months into your new training program and the results have dried up. The initial high of seeing the kilos and pounds dropping off and your muscles getting tighter and firmer almost by schedule is no more. Replaced with the static, immovable ticker of the scales and the identical physique you saw just last week and the week before. You’ve hit the dreaded plateau – a point where it’s Groundhog Day for your weight and your gains and enough to make you reach for those hot chips or chocolate bars to drown out your sorrows. Well don’t. That’s not the way to break out of your plateaus. You know it and I know it. So what is the best way to get out of this rut?
Weight Loss Plateau Buster
Two words. More effort. It may not sound exciting, but the majority of people on weight loss diets and training programs tend to stick to the same things they were doing when they first started their program. But over time, your body has changed physiologically so that the same things that you’re doing no longer generates the same amount of change. In fact multiple studies have been able to show that the majority of people experience their plateau at the 6-8 month mark after the initiation of their new weight loss program1.
This is because of two main reasons; first, that our body’s metabolism adjusts to the new level of calories that we consume and also to our new level of exercise and physical activity. For many, this means that our metabolism rate slows down to a point which stabilises our weight. Secondly, as the weight loss starts to taper off and body mass becomes more stable, people tend to become more relaxed about their diet as well as their physical activity levels, often not realising that the gears are already in motion for weight regain.
In order to prevent this from happening, it’s important to take charge and ensure that you continually adjust your level of food intake and also the intensity and volume of exercise that you do as a way of achieving further weight loss. But remember, it’s important to let your body adjust to a new maintenance weight before making those further changes, otherwise you can drive your body into a prolonged plateau where your body fights even harder to prevent any further changes.
Weight Loss Plateau Breaker
What about these fat burner and fat loss supplements? Can they help in breaking plateaus? Fat loss supplements commonly known as fat burners usually contain a wide variety of ingredients that have been investigated for their ability to support fat and weight loss. Some of these ingredients include compounds like green coffee bean extract, caffeine, bitter orange, capsaicin, raspberry ketones, conjugated linoleic acid and fucoxanthin just to name a few. While many of these ingredients have been shown to support fat and weight loss, it pales in comparison to the results you can get from changes to your diet and physical activity levels. But every little bit counts. New research has shown that a moderate reduction of 100kJ equates to approximately 1kg of weight loss but over an extended period of time1.
Learning and changing behaviour is all about feedback and if your results are static, then you’re not going to want to change behaviours. By using a fat loss supplement for a short period of time, even though fat and weight loss might not be as large, that little bit of success after a period of drought can inspire the more long term changes necessary to achieve your goals.
One of the other common causes of weight loss plateaus is lack of sleep. As our population behaviours change into one that wants to do it all, many of us often sacrifice our down time and our rest time in order to fit more into our day. This often results in less sleep, with the average person getting 2 hours less sleep than what they were getting 20 years ago. On top of that, our high stress lifestyles and our hyperactive desire to fit in more extracurricular activities means that for many of us, what little sleep we do get is often disrupted or disturbed. In a recent study2 on reduced sleeping hours and calorie restriction on fat loss, the researchers found that those receiving less sleep lost more muscle than fat, with a reduced level of fat oxidation and increased hunger levels. In simple words, less sleep resulted in physiological changes that pushes your body towards weight regain.
Weight Loss Plateau - Not Eating Enough
Wait a minute, that’s not right is it? How can eating less result in a weight loss plateau? As previously mentioned, our body’s metabolic rate and other physiological processes adjusts very easily and quickly with changes to our diet and physical activity levels as a way of maintaining our weight. When we decide to cut calories, the body will begin to lose weight. But as weight loss occurs, our body’s processes will begin to change as a way of driving our weight back up. A massive decrease in calories may often expedite the process of weight loss, but also means the body will quickly enter into starvation mode and accelerate changes made by the body. These changes include:
- Slowed Down Thyroid Production – The thyroid is responsible for the release of hormones which affects energy metabolism. In order to maintain energy balance with reduced calorie intake, thyroid production slows down and so does your metabolic rate3.
- Decreasing Lean Muscle Mass – Muscle tissue is one of the most metabolically active parts of our body and maintaining its amount takes a lot of energy. This is why it is one of the first things to go during extremely low calorie diets. Decreased lean muscle also means it is easier to regain that weight once you stop your diet.
- Lowered Testosterone Levels – An important sex hormone for men, testosterone is also important for both sexes in maintaining and growing lean muscle mass. Having very little calories results in decreases to testosterone4 which further leads to decreased muscle tissue and therefore a slower metabolism.
- Leptin Levels Drop – Leptin is known as the hunger hormone and controls appetite and regulates food intake. Long term low calorie diets results in a decrease in leptin levels5 which can increase your appetite pushing you to eat more.
- Lower Energy Levels – With a massive decrease in calories, your energy levels drop as a way of conserving what little food your body receives. Your body becomes lethargic and metabolism drops resulting in very little changes in weight.
As you can, drastically reducing your calories will quickly result in body process changes to maintain body weight. Not eating enough in this case makes it even harder for you to lose weight. So what do you do? It’s important to reduce calories in order to lose weight, but you have to pick the right amount of calories to help you avoid entering into starvation mode. Essentially, for most people, it’s about finding the minimal amount of calories that you need to reduce in order to lose weight. As everyone’s metabolism is vastly different, this could mean anything from 100 calories per day to 1000. But it’s a much more sustainable process to start small and adjust than to go all out and suffer the consequences.
Best Ways to Break Through Weight Loss Plateaus
Losing weight and losing fat is not a short trip, it’s an extended adventure where you need the right tools to help you get around your obstacles to reach your destination. The most difficult part of weight loss is not being prepared for what can happen and one of the most common barriers to weight loss is the dreaded weight loss plateau. Having read through this article and learning more about the plateau, here are the top 5 tips to breaking through them:
1. Increase your training intensity.
2. Pay more attention to your diet and adjust every 3-4 weeks.
3. Ensure adequate rest and sleep.
4. Boost the frequency of non-exercise physical daily activity.
5. Try some fat loss support supplements also known as fat burners.
By utilising some or all of these tips, you can break through those plateaus and be sure to reach your goals faster and with less hassle.
1. Hall KD, Sacks G, Chandramohan D, Chow CC, Wang YC, Gortmaker SL, Swinburn BA. ‘Quantification of the effect of energy imbalance on bodyweight.’ Lancet. 2011 Aug 27;378(9793):826-37. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60812-X.
2. Nedeltcheva AV, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Schoeller DA, Penev PD. Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Ann Intern Med 2010;153:435–41.
3. Fontana L, Klein S, Holloszy JO, Premachandra BN. ‘Effect of long-term calorie restriction with adequate protein and micronutrients on thyroid hormones.’ J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Aug;91(8):3232-5. Epub 2006 May 23.
4. Cangemi R, Friedmann AJ, Holloszy JO, Fontana L. ‘Long-term effects of calorie restriction on serum sex-hormone concentrations in men.’ Aging Cell. 2010 Apr;9(2):236-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-9726.2010.00553.x. Epub 2010 Jan 20.
5. Chan JL, Heist K, DePaoli AM, Veldhuis JD, Mantzoros CS. ‘The role of falling leptin levels in the neuroendocrine and metabolic adaptation to short-term starvation in healthy men.’ J Clin Invest. 2003 May;111(9):1409-21.