You knew it would come eventually: that seemingly inevitable plateau. But do you know why you hit it, or how to avoid it altogether?
First, it is important to note that a plateau isn’t actually inevitable. Even if you have a long-term plan of action, you need to be flexible in order to notice if and when a plateau occurs, and be willing to try out new techniques to beat it.
However, there are a few common reasons you stopped losing weight on your fitness journey:
You don’t change your caloric intake.
When you first start working out, your body adjusts the energy you are burning by using up stores of glycogen: this is usually the reason behind the initial drop in weight.
However, as you start to lose weight, you also need to change how many calories you intake each day, as well as the type of calories. Consuming more carbohydrates can give you energy at the gym, however your long-term goal is to increase muscle mass. If you’re over consuming carbohydrates, and under consuming protein, you may experience more weight gain or plateau.
You’re not getting enough sleep.
Sleep affects both our energy and our hunger throughout the day. If you haven’t been getting enough sleep, you’ve probably felt the effects at the gym. However, you may also notice that you crave more carbohydrates when you’re lacking sleep. This is because we have two hormones that depend on sleep that cue our hunger: leptin and ghrelin. When we’re lacking sleep, our ghrelin levels increase, and cause us to feel more hungry throughout the day.
You only do cardio.
Muscle is essential for weight loss. However, if you are only doing cardio exercises, you are not building the muscle mass to help you boost your metabolism during your day-to-day activities.
If you love doing cardio, try adding a fasted cardio session to your workouts a few mornings each week. This means having nothing in your stomach aside from water, black tea or black coffee, then going for a light run, walk or bicycle ride. Our bodies naturally tap into our glycogen stores first for energy, then our fat stores. When doing fasted cardiovascular activities, our body does not have a large glycogen store to start with, so will move to burning fat, faster.
However, it is important to note: if you are just starting to workout, include carbohydrates before a workout until your body is used to exercising. If we are not used to tapping into our fat stores, or do not have enough, we may end up burning muscle as well.
It’s time to check your hormones.
Your hormones can play a major role in weight loss. If you feel like you’ve tried everything, and the scale isn’t moving, it may be time to have your hormone levels tested.
Check out this blog post on liver detox and weight loss for more information. This is particularly important for women as high estrogen plays a large role in weight gain.
You don’t workout, outside of your workouts.
It’s great that you’ve started exercising! However if you exercise, then spend the rest of your day sitting, you probably won’t see the scale move. Part of the reason we exercise, is to be able to live other parts of our life pain-free and with energy. So get out, and do activities that excite you!
Try joining a recreational sports league, head biking with your children in the summer evenings, go for a walk after dinner. If that sounds too intimidating, try parking the car at the other end of the parking lot from work or the grocery store, and take the stairs instead of the elevator.