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, weight loss plateaus, and diet plateaus for myself and for my online coaching clients. They work, trust me.
#1 Examine your Nutrition
Nutrition plays a huge role in fat loss success. 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, so they over or underestimate 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 eating? Maybe you should decrease them to go into 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 changing the percentages you are consuming of each. 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 what you’re eating. 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 have more “cheats” and be less strict on the weekends. 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. You get to eat 20% of the foods you enjoy each and every day. (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 gallon of water a day. 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 a month of the same routine, your body gets bored 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 month. 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 factors to change:
You can see from the chart above that you can vary which muscles you're pairing up for each workout, which equipment you're using, the type of sets you're performing, and the type of contraction speed. 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. (See Related: DUP Step)
#4 Upgrade your Cardio
Ditch the running kiddos. Instead of steady state cardio, switch to HIIT (high intensity interval training) for killer fat loss results. HIIT maintains your muscles instead of breaking them down from all the repetition. 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 just wonderful. (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 on 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 4-5 days a week of strength training for about 45-60 minutes. Then HIIT 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. If you have hit a plateau, it may be time to sit down and re-focus. Take some quiet time to meditate and concentrate on your goals again. Consider creating a few minutes of quiet time each morning for prayer, scripture reading, or meditation. (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.
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.
When I lose 1 inch around my waist by August 1, 2018 I will treat myself with a new pair of Nikes.
When I can fit in my size 27 jeans again by September 1, 2018 I will treat myself to a new cute belt to go with them.
#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: 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. So 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. Give it your best shot for 1-2 months and you’ll break that plateau. If not, then it is time to try another one of the 8 options above. No one knows your body better than you do. So self-analyze which of the 8 options is most likely your biggest problem area, look it in the face, and take it down.
If you still need help, hire the best! (us, *winkwink)
Stephanie Dorworth is the Founder of Beautiful to the Core. She is a Doctor of physical therapy, Pilates instructor, Internationally published fitness model, and Freelance health & fitness writer. She is passionate about empowering other women to lift heavy, practice flexible dieting, and love their bodies.