Weight Loss Plateau Explained
The weight loss plateau is a phase many dieters dread and even more experience. However, simply being aware of it may just be the key to long-term success.
What is the weight loss plateau?
A weight loss plateau is very common and can occur at any point during a weight loss journey. It’s a period during a weight loss programme where your weight stops decreasing, despite carefully following an appropriate diet and lifestyle plan.
Unfortunately, those who would be considered “yo-yo dieters” often give up hope and go back to their old habits as soon as they experience a weight loss plateau, because the loss of momentum can hinder motivation. However, anticipating a weight loss plateau and accepting it as a very normal and common part of a weight loss journey means no surprises, less disappointment and being able to prepare for a healthy way of eating to overcome it.
While a weight loss plateau can be incredibly frustrating and often the reason people struggle to stick to a lifestyle change, it’s important to not be disheartened, or discouraged, and carry on through until you see the other side of it. And, with the right mindset and some tips and tools, you will see the other side of it and continue on towards your ultimate weight loss goal. Read on for some simple strategies to help.
Why does the weight loss plateau occur?
There is no single cause of the weight loss plateau. One reason may be that when calories are significantly reduced, the body switches from using glucose to using its stores of glycogen (before then moving into fat-burning mode) in the muscles and liver. As the body uses glycogen, it is also excreting water, so many people experience an initial rapid weight loss as the body loses both fat and water. Once this initial “water weight” is lost, weight loss inevitably becomes more gradual as the body works to burn its fat stores.
In addition to this, as glycogen is stored in muscle, people can experience some loss of muscle mass, along with fat, and recent research has shown that a reduction in muscle mass during weight loss has a correlation with the weight loss plateau. Following a Mediterranean-style diet rich in protein, like The Fast 800, is one way to better maintain muscle mass while also losing fat. Weight loss can therefore seem more gradual, because the body is not losing heavier muscle stores while burning fat, which by volume weighs less than muscle.
Additionally, at a reduced body weight, your body expends less energy than it did at a heavier weight. Think about your everyday activities; at a reduced weight, you will burn less calories going for a walk than you would have before. This is because it takes less energy to move less mass.
How can I reduce my risk of experiencing the weight loss plateau?
While it is normal to experience short periods of weight loss plateau, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of it happening. Maintaining lean muscle mass during weight loss and beyond is crucial in reducing your risk of weight loss plateau. By maintaining and, where possible, building muscle mass, your metabolic rate will stay the same or increase, and you will continue to lose weight.
To maintain muscle mass, you need to:
- consume moderate amounts of protein;
- increase your intake of healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, salmon, etc.);
- complete regular HIIT and resistance workouts; and,
- increase your incidental exercise to ensure you’re as active as part of your daily lifestyle.
If you’re experiencing a weight loss plateau, The Fast 800 Online Programme is a great option to help get you through. All of our meal plans have been created with this in mind and are carefully calculated to make sure you reach protein targets.
Strategies for breaking through a plateau
If you do find that you are experiencing a weight loss plateau, there is no need to panic. If you continue to exercise and eat the right foods, you will begin to lose weight again. For that period where it seems like there is nothing shifting, here are some strategies to make things a little easier:
- First, understand that the weight loss plateau occurs in the majority of people who are trying to lose weight. Just knowing about the weight loss plateau and why it happens will increase your chances of achieving your goals. Stress can have a huge impact on weight gain or stalled weight loss, with studies showing a correlation between the two, so worrying about the plateau may only make things more difficult. You may wish to consider adding mindfulness practices to your day, like a daily walk or a morning meditation.
- Try a lower carb diet – research shows that diets low in carbohydrates can help you to flip your metabolic switch from burning sugar to burning fat. A meta-analysis found eating a diet with fewer than 50g carbohydrates per day can result in faster weight loss than a traditional weight loss diet.
All of the plans on our Online Programme follow a Mediterranean-style diet, naturally lower in carbohydrates. If you’re looking for quick weight loss, and are feeling motivated, The Fast 800 Keto plan is a great short-term option.
Start today and take our personalised assessment to determine the right meal plan and exercise level for you. Twelve weeks really can change your life, you just have to take the first step!Start your journey today
- Continue to exercise and follow a Mediterranean-style diet. Remember there are many other benefits to exercising and eating well that extend beyond weight loss. Both a Mediterranean diet and increased exercise have been recognised to improve blood sugars, reduce the risk of heart disease and boost mental wellbeing.
- Eat foods high in fibre – fibre is often overlooked, yet critically important for any healthy diet. Studies have found that fibre can help you feel full, removing the need for snacks throughout the day. When paired with protein and healthy fats, it’s a winning combo!
When following a lower carb diet, it can be difficult to achieve adequate fibre intake, if you’re unsure on how to do this, the Online Programme is a great tool as the calculations are done for you. All you have to do is eat the delicious food in your meal plan. Plus, if you are curious about knowing the ins and outs of your nutrition, all of the 550+ recipes on the Online Programme provide information about their calories, protein, fibre, carbohydrate and fat content.
- Try TRE (time-restricted eating) – a form of intermittent fasting that is simple to add to your weight loss plan. TRE involves reducing the window in which you consume calories, extending your fast, usually overnight. Multiple studies have shown those following a TRE method experience improved weight loss, alongside multiple, non-weight related benefits like improved sleep, lower stress levels and more energy.
If you’re new to fasting, start with 12:12 (12 hours of fasting, 12 hours of eating) and when you’re confident, you may wish to extend this to a 14-, or in some cases 16-, hour fast. During this time, you can choose to eat two or three meals a day. For extra guidance, we have meal plans catering for both two and three meals per day on our Online Programme.
- Be aware that during this period, your weight staying the same is actually a positive. This is because you are not gaining any weight, therefore proving to yourself that you can keep the weight off. Maintenance is an important part of a weight loss journey!
Bueno NB, de Melo IS, de Oliveira SL, da Rocha Ataide T. Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Nutr. 2013 Oct;110(7):1178-87. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513000548. Epub 2013 May 7. PMID: 23651522. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23651522/