The dreaded weight loss plateau comes for us all at some point.  If you’re living in this nuisance right now, don’t worry, you’re not alone and you will get through this. 

This article is going to tell you exactly what you need to do in order to not only overcome this plateau, but also how you can continue to overcome future plateaus (yep, sorry to say but the plateau bitch doesn’t stop).

Why you’ve hit a weight loss plateau

Weight loss plateaus happen because your body is designed to run as efficiently as possible.  In order to do that, it cleverly adapts to its current circumstances. 

This is why you can never get complacent with ‘what worked before’.  The fact is; what worked for you at the start of your journey, isn’t going to work forever.

Depending on your individual approach to weight loss, your plateau could have been caused by a number of different things. 

Rapid weight loss is by far the most common cause of a weight loss plateau.  This is because as your body changes, your caloric and nutritional needs change too.  If you fail to keep up in the kitchen, you’ll be feeding your new body all wrong.

Equally, as your body changes, your physical ability does too.  What was challenging for you 6 weeks ago, isn’t such a challenge now is it? 

The fact is, as you work on yourself physically, it gets easier.  This is your body saying “ok cool, I see what we’re doing here, I’ll adapt to keep up”.  As a result, you get stronger but you burn fewer calories than you did 6 weeks ago performing the exact same workout.

Finally, it is worth noting that, rapid weight loss will also result in muscle wastage.  Muscle wastage is another well-known cause of the dreaded weight loss plateau.  This is the most interesting cause of a plateau, because it is the one cause that you have the most control over.  I’ll explain more on that later.  First let’s look at some of the easier things you can try to overcome your weight loss plateau.

What you can do to overcome your weight loss plateau

Reduce calories

The first and most obvious thing to do is reduce your daily calories.  But you should never take your calories below 1200 a day, (unless instructed to do so by a medical professional for some other reason).

If you’re already at 1200 don’t drop any more, try some of these other suggestions instead…

Drink more water

If you’re anything like me, your body will love to retain water.  It may seem counterproductive, but drinking more water is the best way to ‘flush’ it out.

Count macros

In some cases, you may not need to adjust your daily calories, it could be that you’ll benefit from a simple adjustment in your daily macronutrients.  These are fats, proteins and carbs consumed throughout the day.  See Macros Explained and our Macro Calculator for more info.

Write it down

Diet tracking is another thing you can do to overcome your weight loss plateau.  It could be that you’re consuming more calories than you think you are.  If that is the case, you should make a point of writing everything down.  This will give you a physical record that you can analyse for improvements.

Try a new diet

Try a completely different approach to dieting. 

It is important to note here that you shouldn’t change your diet too frequently.  Only do this if you’ve been on your current plan for at least 12 weeks and have been in a weight loss plateau for at least 3 consecutive weeks.

Overcome your plateau by eating more

It may surprise you, but sometimes your body just needs you to give it more energy to function on.  Of course, eat more quality calories, but also don’t be afraid of high calorie foods every so often.  Prove to your body that you’re not depriving it and therefore it doesn’t need to cling to what it has.

Check for fat loss

In weightlifting, it is not uncommon for a stall in weight loss to be a result of muscle gain.  Muscle gain is a good thing.  The point I want to make here is that if the scale has stalled for what seems like no good reason, you should check for signs of fat loss.

Put simply; check to see if you have lost inches.  Are your clothes fitting differently? Does your body feel/look different, is it changing shape, feeling firmer in places?  These are all signs that your body composition is changing.

Eat more fibre

High fibre foods such as whole fruits and vegetables are low in calories and loaded with nutrients.  They are ideal for weight loss and should make up a large portion of your daily caloric intake.

Take a plateau time out

Sometimes you need to take a step backwards in order to move forwards.  If you’ve been giving it your all and nothing is changing, take a break.  Take a week or two off, pull back on the exercise and relax your diet.

Just make sure your break is temporary!

Switch up your workouts and smash through your plateau

Overused workout plans lead to plateaus.  As explained above, your body is a finely tuned machine that will adapt to its circumstances to make your life easier.  However, in order to push through a weight loss plateau, you need keep your body challenged.  The best way to do this is to change your workout plan at least every 12 weeks.

Avoiding a muscle wastage weight loss plateau

Finally, allow me to explain how you can avoid a weight loss plateau caused by muscle wastage.

Muscle wastage happens to us all during weight loss, it comes with the territory.  It’s just that some approaches to weight loss encourage it more so than others.  It occurs most commonly when you combine a reduction in caloric intake with excessive and relentless cardio.  Which sucks really, since the best way to cut fat is to reduce your calories and perform more cardiovascular exercise.

But don’t be put off, because as always, there is a way out.

Firstly, note above that I said ‘excessive and relentless’ cardio.  NOT all cardio.  And secondly, the reduction in calories need not be forever, in fact, it works best in phases.

We’ve now crossed over into an advanced method that will require some explaining.  Fortunately, I’ve explained this already in another article, so rather than repeat myself here, I encourage you to head on over to Bulking And Cutting For Women.  Here I explain how you can use this pro method to overcome all of your weight loss plateaus.