8 Ways to Break a Fat Loss Plateau
When I say the word “plateau” what is the first thing you think of? For 90% of you, it’s most likely a stall in your physical progress to losing weight (instead of level surface of land). That is because we have all been hit across the head with this so-called “plateau” before...and we ain’t happy about it! It’s no fun, but it is inevitable.
Next time it happens to you, don’t let it knock you down though! I am going to go over 8 ways I have found to break fat loss plateaus personally and with my clients. They work, trust me.
#1 Examine your Nutrition
Nutrition plays a huge role in fat loss success - around 70%! Often times, I find my clients may think they are doing everything right. When in fact, they are not. Common nutrition mistakes I see are people who do not weigh their food with a digital food scale so they underestimate (under-report) how much they are truly eating. Another common mistake is people who feel the need to cut out carbs. That is a huge mistake. You should have a well-balanced diet consisting of proteins, carbs, and fats. Let's break your diet plateau.
So I encourage you to sit down and be honest with yourself.
- How many calories are you truly eating? Maybe you should decrease them to go into a larger caloric deficit in order to see another boost in progress. Or maybe they are already too low that your body is going into starvation mode and it’s time to increase them. (See Related: Women’s Fat Loss: Is the Magic 1200 Calorie Threshold Too Low?)
- What is your macro split? Are you getting enough grams of protein, carbs, and fats to provide you with energy for your workouts? Consider manipulating your macros to provide you with more carbs to power through your workouts. In order to learn more about macros and how many you should be eating for your body and lifestyle, checkout our free four week online course called Flexible Dieting University. (See Related: Flexible Dieting University)
- Is the amount of food you’re tracking consistent with the actual amount? Get a food scale and weigh out your food so you can be positive you are tracking exactly everything you're eating - even little bites, licks, tastes, sauces, dressings, and oils. That way you know exactly how many calories or macros you are consuming and you take the guess work out of it.
- Do you enjoy your diet or are you miserable? If you are miserable, you are less likely to stick to it. Which may encourage you to feel the need to have “cheat meals or days” due to feelings of deprivation. If you are unhappy with your diet, know that it does not have to be that way. Flexible dieting is more enjoyable and more sustainable for most people. You get to eat 20% of the foods you enjoy each and every day - it's wonderful! (See Related: Flexible Dieting University) (See Related: Never Diet Again)
# 2 Drink more Water
Water is your body’s boss in the chemical department. Did you know that 60 percent of your body weight is water? Our bodies depend on water in order to flush out toxins and transport nutrients. Lack of water can lead to dehydration, which has many negative side effects.
What comes in must equal what goes out. Every day you lose water through sweat, breathing, urine, and bowel movements. So you must drink enough water to replenish what you have lost. Therefore, how much you should drink depends on other factors like your activity level, the climate, and your gender. In general, I recommend around a 2L+ of water a day for most women. PS, also consider drinking less alcohol (See Related: Think Before you Drink)
#3 Change up your Training
When was the last time you changed your workout routine? After about 4-6 weeks of the same routine, your body adapts and starts responding less to your same old routine (hence the reason why you probably get less sore in week 5 than you did in week 1). That is why, for my online coaching clients, they get new training programs every four weeks. I recommend you make a change monthly. What factor you change each month can be up to you. See the chart below for some ideas on exercise programming factors to change. Also, be sure you're practicing progressive overload by continually increasing training intensity in some way over time. Vary your sets, reps, rest periods, equipment, range of motion used, timing, types of contractions, and various types of sets.
In addition, you could change to a different program to build up strength called Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP) if you really want to throw your body for a loop. Periodiziation is being shown to be super effective for muscle hypertrophy in the latest research. (See Related: DUP Step)
#4 Increase your Cardio
If your calories are getting low and don't leave much room to drop them more, then increase your calorie expenditure. You can either increase your training frequency (train more often), increase your daily steps, work on increasing your NEAT (standing and walking more throughout the day instead of sitting), or increasing your formal cardio sessions.
I prefer to begin by increasing a client's daily step goal by 500-1,000 steps. That's usually less time consuming. But if that's already getting high (over 10k/day), then you can try doing formal cardio at the gym or outdoors. Cardio can either be low-intensity steady state (LISS), moderate intensity, or high intensity.
See which type works best for you, doesn't drain your energy too much, and doesn't cause too much of an increase in your appetite.
For some people, HIIT causes exhaustion and increased hunger, so LISS works better for them.
For others, HIIT works well. HIIT certainly takes less time. HIIT maintains your muscles instead of breaking them down or causing repetitive injuries from all the repetitive impact. HIIT consists of quick bursts of intense exercise over a short period of time. The principle behind this method is that the body works so hard during the intense workout so it continues to expend energy- even after the workout is over. So Stephanie, even when I am chilling on the couch watching TV after a workout, I am still burning fat? Yes. Yes, indeed. Pretty sweet, huh? High intensity cardio breaks through many fat loss plateaus. It's short and sweet, but very demanding. (See Related: HIIT)
Checkout a few of the YouTube video HIIT exercises I practice and I give my clients when they want to drop fat:
sprinter vs. long distance runner
#5 Lifting > Cardio
I have learned from experience that lifting should be prioritized over cardio. Unless you require the cardio for a race or something, keep it to a minimum. Spend more of your valuable time manipulating calories and lifting. It will increase your lean muscle mass. I’ll take more muscle mass over fat mass any day. (See Related: Is Strength Training for Me?)
I normally recommend 3-5 days a week of strength training for about 45-60 minutes. Then cardio or steps can be sprinkled in, as needed. Keep a focus on heavy, compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench press. (See Related: The Big Three)
#6 Relax More
Sometimes, your mind can get in the way of your body. If you become so obsessive over losing weight that you allow yourself to be consumed by stress, your body may stall in progress due to increased cortisol levels. If you have hit a plateau, it may be time to sit down and calm your mind. Take some quiet time to meditate, do some yoga, prayer, reading, or do some journaling. Also, be sure to prioritize getting enough sleep each night. Research shows at least 7-8 hours per night is ideal. (See Related: Meditation)
#7 Set New Goals
Writing goals is no easy task. Many people choose goals that aren’t objective, have no end date, and are too generalized. So you work work work and never reach them. Instead, try setting new goals with rewards that keep you on track for a new burst of motivation!
I can better explain this by sharing good and bad examples.
Bad examples of goals:
- When I lose 4 inches, I will treat myself with a whole “cheat” day of eating whatever I want.
- When I drop ten pounds, I will treat myself to a night out drinking.
Better examples of goals:
- When I lose 1 inch around my waist by August 1, 2020, I will treat myself with a new pair of Nikes.
- When I can fit in my size 27 jeans again by September 1, 2020 I will treat myself to a new, cute belt to go with them.
Also, keep in mind that it's not always the best time to pursue fat loss. You can have other physique goals besides fat loss. See this infographic for ideas.
#8 Think Beyond the Scale
Even if your weight isn’t changing, your body fat percentage may be. That is exactly why I have my online clients track their progress 4 ways: scale weight, inches, pictures, and how clothes fit / how they feel. It is very possible that if you start a strength training program you are going to put on weight, but that is most likely lean muscle mass. You could be gaining weight but dropping inches and body fat! So re-focus your goals on things like body fat, inches, progress pictures, how clothes feel, how you feel, and self love. Drop your obsession with the number on the scale. (See Related: How to Take Progress Measurements) (See Related: How to Measure Body Fat)
Next time you hit a plateau, break down that wall by trying one or more of the techniques covered above. Instead of giving up, stay consistent and you’ll break through that plateau. If not, then it is time to try another one of the strategies above. No one knows your body better than you do. Self-analyze which of the 8 options is most likely your biggest problem area, look it in the face, and tackle it.
If you still need help, hire the best! *winkwink