Do you ever feel like weekends hold you back from your weight loss goals? Get weekend success tips from dietitian and nutritionist Nicole German Morgan.
How to Push Through a Weight Loss Plateau
A weight loss plateau happens to many people trying to reach a weight loss goal. Don’t panic! Read these top four tips to push through when the scale won’t budge.
Re-evaluate Your Food Intake
As you lose weight, the total number of calories needed per day to continue to lose weight goes down. You cannot continue on the exact same diet throughout your weight loss journey. This is a key piece of information that many forget.
You start your weight loss journey with a larger number of calories, comparatively. Then, as you lose about five to ten pounds or more, you must reduce your food intake further to be able to continue to see weight loss. A smaller body demands fewer calories.
You can use a calorie calculator to get a general idea of your specific calorie needs to lose weight. I also recommend speaking with a registered dietitian who can help you understand what these calorie guidelines mean for you.
Mix Up Your Workout
Have you been consistently doing cardiovascular exercise and you have hit a weight loss plateau? It’s time to add in some strength training to build some muscle mass and support the metabolism. Or, have you already incorporated some strength training? Perhaps it is time to add in a little cardio burst to your workout routine or increase the weights that you use in your strength routine.
I have found that the body loves a new workout stimulus when trying to lose weight. I often recommend my clients mix up their workout routine every three months for variety and a new stimulus of change for the body.
Most importantly, we must remember that strength training helps to preserve muscle mass while losing weight.1 Strength is key for maintaining a strong metabolism during your weight loss journey. In addition, research tells us that those who are able to preserve their muscle mass during weight loss are able to achieve better results.2
Modify Your Protein Intake
When we are working to eat a lower calorie diet, we must be careful not to restrict protein intake too much. A low protein intake is a major reason I often see a weight loss plateau with my clients.
The average adult woman needs at minimum 46 grams of protein per day to support body processes. The average adult man needs a minimum of 56 grams of protein per day.3 However, those who are overweight or obese require more protein per day. A good estimate for protein needs is to find your weight in kilograms (divide weight in pounds by 2.2) and multiply that number by 0.8 grams of protein.
200 pounds/2.2 = 90.7 kg
90.7 kg x 0.8 = 72.6 grams of protein
However, I recommend speaking with your doctor or a registered dietitian before changing your diet regimen. This calculation is a good starting point to determine what your protein needs may be. I often find that many are under-eating their protein for the day, and we need to work to increase this protein in order to maintain a healthy level of muscle mass and support a strong metabolism.
Lastly, it is important not to eat all of your protein in one sitting. This is another common mistake many make. I recommend not to eat more than about 40 grams of protein in one sitting. This helps prevent excess protein being stored as fat.
Examples of protein servings and grams:
- 4 ounces of a lean meat = 28 grams protein
- 1 6-ounce container of Greek yogurt = 10–12 grams protein
- 1-ounce cheese = 7 grams protein
- ½ cup beans = 7 grams protein
Boost Your Sleep
Improving sleep is another key lifestyle change that can dramatically improve our ability to push through a weight loss plateau. Most research notes that greater than 7 hours of sleep per day supports a healthy body weight. Many may even require 8–9 hours of sleep. Proper sleep helps to reduce ghrelin, which is an appetite hormone that causes our body to increase hunger signals. Healthy sleep leads to lower hunger levels and a healthier metabolism.
A few smalls changes to improve your sleep include:
- No television or electronic devices one hour before bed
- Colder bedroom temperatures
- Dark bedroom environment
- No caffeine after about 2:00–3:00 in the afternoon
- Limiting eating at least 2 hours before bedtime
- Incorporating a form of meditation before bedtime (this could include reading, light music, light stretching, or traditional meditation)
Small changes apply to all of these keys to pushing through a weight loss plateau. You never have to do something perfectly to achieve success. You simply have to move a small step closer towards doing the right thing for your body. To take action, write down a few small changes you can make this week that will take you one step closer to reaching your weight loss goal.
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- Hunter, Gary R., Nuala M. Byrne, Bovorn Sirikul, José R. Fernández, Paul A. Zuckerman, Betty E. Darnell, and Barbara A. Gower. 2008. “Resistance Training Conserves Fat-Free Mass and Resting Energy Expenditure Following Weight Loss.” Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) 16 (5): 1045–51. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2008.38.
- Stiegler, Petra, and Adam Cunliffe. 2006. “The Role of Diet and Exercise for the Maintenance of Fat-Free Mass and Resting Metabolic Rate During Weight Loss.” Sports Medicine 36 (3): 239–62. https://doi.org/10.2165/0000725620063603000005.
- Calcium, Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D. and, A. Catharine Ross, Christine L. Taylor, Ann L. Yaktine, and Heather B. Del Valle. 2011. “Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D - NCBI Bookshelf.” Text. National Academies Press (US). 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56068/table/summarytables.t4/.