5 Ways to Break Through Weight Loss Plateaus
Have you hit a weight loss plateau? It’s time to learn why, and what you can do about it.
Fat was practically falling off your body just a few weeks ago, and now you’re wondering if your scale is broken because no matter what you do, your weight won’t budge.
Why did your routine suddenly stop working, and what can you do to push through this weight loss plateau?
Understanding Weight Loss Vs. Fat Loss
“Weight loss” is a tricky little devil because it doesn’t differentiate between changes in fat, muscle, and water.
The goal, of course, is to lose maximum fat and minimum muscle, and to keep water retention at a healthy minimum. When you step on the scale and register a pound lighter than the day or week before, you probably assume that you’ve lost a pound of fat; if you weigh the same or more, you probably assume that you’ve lost no fat, or gained. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Nothing swings weight up or down as easily as water retention, for example. If you eat a lot of sodium and carbs, and drink little water, you will retain quite a bit of water, giving you that puffy, smooth look. This can easily add 3-5 pounds in a day, which can be quite disturbing if you happen to hit the scale in this state. On the flip side, you eat little sodium and carbs and drink plenty of water, your body will flush water out, giving you a harder, more defined look, which might lead you to think that it was a great day of fat loss.
The unpredictability of water retention is one reason why I only weigh myself once per week, on the same day, in the morning, naked. Weighing yourself multiple times per week, or worse, per day, will quickly kill your confidence and mess with your head.
I also recommend that you choose a “weigh day” that doesn’t contain a cheat meal, as this can often add a pound or two of water that will come out by the end of the following day (my experience, at least).
What is a True Weight Loss Plateau?
A true weight loss plateau is a situation where you’re no longer losing fat.
I consider that I’ve hit a plateau if my weight hasn’t changed in two weeks. As I’m only going for one pound of actual fat loss per week, no change on the scale after one week of dieting isn’t necessarily a reason for concern-I could’ve lost that pound of fat but happen to be retaining a bit of water, or maybe my bowel movements weren’t as regular in the prior day or two. No change in weight after two weeks of dieting tells me that I’m definitely stuck.
Some Fat-Loss Facts to Keep in Mind
Before I cover how to break these plateaus, I want you to know a few things about losing fat.
1. Weight Loss Plateaus Are to Be Expected
Just about everyone experiences weight loss plateaus. If you have no idea what I’m talking about and are able to reach single-digit body fat percentages with complete ease, count yourself lucky. It’s very common for people to hit several plateaus on their journeys to a six pack because, well, the human body is just stubborn when it comes to shedding fat.
I’ve found that I can’t get below 9-10% body fat on diet alone (you can only reduce your calories so much, or you begin to eat up muscle)-I have to add in cardio if I want to continue losing. When I bulk, I usually end off around 14-15% body fat, and I can diet off the first 5% or so, but then I hit a plateau that only 3-4 days per week of cardio can cure (20-25 minutes per session). Then, the next plateau for me comes around 8%. If I want to go lower, I have to up my cardio to 4 days per week, for 30-40 minutes per session.