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14 Simple Ways to Break Through a Weight Loss Plateau

Achieving your goal weight can be tough.

 

While weight tends to come off fairly rapidly at first, at some point it seems as though your weight won’t budge.This inability to lose weight is known as a weight loss plateau or stall, and it can be frustrating and discouraging. However, several strategies may help you begin to lose weight again. Here are 14 tips to break a weight loss plateau.

 

1. Cut Back on Carbs

 

Research has confirmed that low-carb diets are extremely effective for weight loss.

 

In fact, one large review of 13 studies with follow-up lasting at least a year found that people who consumed 50 or fewer grams of carbs per day lost more weight than those following traditional weight loss diets (1). Reducing your carb intake may help get your weight moving in the right direction again when you feel hopelessly stalled.

Whether carb restriction leads to a “metabolic advantage” that causes your body to burn more calories is a question that continues to be debated among nutrition and obesity experts.

Some controlled studies have found that very low-carb diets increase fat burning and promote other metabolic changes that favor weight loss, while other studies haven’t shown this effect (2, 3, 4, 5). However, very low-carb diets have consistently been shown to reduce hunger and promote feelings of fullness more than other diets. In addition, they cause your body to produce ketones, which have been shown to reduce appetite (6, 7, 8).

This may lead you to unconsciously eat less, making it easier to begin losing weight again without hunger or discomfort.

 

Summary: Research has found that low-carb diets help control hunger, provide feelings of fullness and promote long-term weight loss.

 

2. Increase Exercise Frequency or Intensity

Revving up your exercise regimen may help reverse a weight loss plateau.This is because, unfortunately, your metabolic rate slows down as you lose weight.

 

One study including more than 2,900 people found that for every pound (0.45 kg) of weight they lost, they burned 6.8 fewer calories, on average (9). As weight declines, the progressive reduction in metabolic rate can make continued weight loss extremely difficult.

The good news is that exercise has been shown to help counteract this effect. Resistance training promotes the retention of muscle mass, which is a major factor influencing how many calories you burn during activity and at rest. In fact, resistance training seems to be the most effective type of exercise for weight loss (10, 11).

In a 12-week study, young, obese women who followed a low-calorie diet and lifted weights for 20 minutes daily experienced an average loss of 13 pounds (5.9 kg) and 2 inches (5 cm) from their waistlines (12). Other types of physical activity have also been shown to protect against a metabolic slowdown, including aerobic exercise and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). If you’re already exercising, working out an extra 1–2 days per week or increasing the intensity of your workouts may help boost your metabolic rate.

 

Summary: Performing exercise, especially strength training, can help offset the drop in metabolic rate that occurs during weight loss.

 

3. Track Everything You Eat

Sometimes, it may seem as though you’re not eating that much, yet you still have difficulty losing weight.

 

Overall, researchers have reported that people have a tendency to underestimate the amount of food they eat (17, 18). In one study, obese people reported consuming about 1,200 calories per day. However, a detailed analysis of their intake over a 14-day period showed that they were actually consuming nearly twice that amount, on average (18). Tracking your calories and macronutrients — protein, fat and carbs — can provide concrete information about how much you’re taking in. This will allow you to modify your diet if needed. In addition, research suggests that the act of recording your food intake alone may enhance your weight loss efforts (19, 20).

 

Summary: Tracking your calorie and macronutrient intakes can provide accountability and help you see whether you need to make some dietary adjustments in order to begin losing weight again.

4. Don’t Skimp on Protein

 

If your weight loss has stalled, increasing your protein intake may help.

 

First, protein boosts metabolic rate more than either fat or carbs.

This has to do with the thermic effect of food (TEF), or increase in metabolism that occurs due to the digestion of food. Protein digestion boosts calorie burning by 20–30%, which is more than twice as much as fat or carbs (21). In one study, healthy, young women followed diets that provided 30% or 15% of calories from protein on two separate days. Their metabolic rate increased twice as much after meals on the higher-protein day (22). Second, protein stimulates the production of hormones, such as PYY, that help reduce appetite and make you feel full and satisfied (23, 24). Moreover, maintaining a high protein intake can help protect against the loss of muscle mass and a drop in metabolic rate, both of which typically occur during weight loss (25, 26, 27).

 

Summary: Increasing protein intake can help reverse a weight loss stall by boosting metabolism, reducing hunger and preventing muscle mass loss.

 

5. Manage Stress

 

Stress can often put the brakes on weight loss.

 

In addition to promoting comfort eating and triggering food cravings, it also increases your body’s production of cortisol.

Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone.” While it helps your body respond to stress, it can also increase belly fat storage. What’s more, this effect seems to be stronger in women, who tend to carry more weight in this area to begin with (28, 29). Therefore, producing too much cortisol can make weight loss very difficult. It may seem as though you have little control over the stress in your life, but research has shown that learning to manage stress can help promote weight loss (30, 31). In one eight-week study of 34 overweight and obese women, a stress-management program that included muscle relaxation and deep breathing led to an average weight loss of 9.7 pounds (4.4 kg) (31).

 

Summary: The increased cortisol production that’s associated with stress can interfere with weight loss. Stress-reduction strategies may help promote weight loss.

 

6. Try Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has become very popular recently.

 

It involves going for long periods of time without eating, typically between 16–48 hours.The practice has been credited with promoting the loss of body fat and weight, in addition to other health benefits. A review of several intermittent fasting studies found that it led to a 3–8% weight loss and 3–7% decrease in waist circumference within 3–24 weeks (32). Alternate-day fasting is a form of intermittent fasting in which people alternate between eating very few calories on one day and as much as they want the next.

One review found that this way of eating helped protect against muscle mass loss more than daily calorie restriction (33).

 

Summary: Intermittent fasting may help you consume fewer calories, maintain muscle mass and preserve your metabolic rate during weight loss.

 

7. Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

 

Although one alcoholic drink (4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of hard liquor or 12 ounces of beer) contains only around 100 calories, it provides no nutritional value. In addition, many people have more than one drink at a sitting. Another problem is that alcohol loosens inhibitions, which may lead you to overeat or make poor food choices. This may be especially problematic for those trying to overcome impulsive food-related behaviors. One study of 283 adults who completed a behavioral weight loss program found that reducing alcohol intake led to a reduction in overeating and greater weight loss among those with high levels of impulsivity (34). What’s more, research has shown that alcohol suppresses fat burning and may lead to belly fat accumulation (35). If your weight loss has stalled, it may be best to avoid alcohol or only consume it occasionally in small amounts.

 

Summary: Alcohol may interfere with weight loss by providing empty calories, making it easier to overeat and increasing belly fat storage.

 

8. Eat More Fiber

Including more fiber in your diet may help you break through a weight loss plateau.

 

This is especially true for soluble fiber, the type that dissolves in water or liquid. To begin with, soluble fiber slows down the movement of food through your digestive tract, which can help you feel full and satisfied (36). Although research suggests that all types of fiber may be beneficial for weight loss, a large review of several studies found that a soluble fiber known as viscous fiber was most effective at keeping appetite and food intake under control (36, 37). Another way that fiber may aid weight loss