Imagine thinking and believing that you are giving your all in the gym, watching your diet and eating all the right foods, as well as staying hydrated only for you to step on the scale after a week or two and noticing that you haven’t dropped a single pound? A weight loss plateau is one of the most dreaded things in weight loss and bodybuilding and it can discourage you from putting in any more effort towards your goals.
If this has happened to you before, or you are suspecting that you have hit a plateau in weight loss. Do not fret. Read on to find out more about this issue, its causes, as well as the things that you can do to get over it.
What Is A Weight Loss Plateau?
In simple terms, a weight loss plateau is when you temporarily stop losing weight despite following a strict and previously effective diet and weight loss regimen. Researchers have found that most people hit a plateau in weight loss anywhere within 6 months, 1 year or two years of starting their weight loss program (4).
What Causes Weight Loss Plateau?
A Very Restrictive Calorie Deficit
While consuming fewer calories than your body needs is a surefire way of losing weight, eating too few calories can have the opposite effect. Reducing your food energy intake slows down your metabolism and the lesser you eat the lower your metabolic rate goes. A slow metabolism makes it harder for your body to turn food energy into calories which causes them to be stored in the body as fat.
You Are Eating More Calories
The more weight you lose the higher your chances of slacking off, not keeping an eye on your calorie intake and eating more unhealthy foods as a ‘reward’ for your progress. An increase in calorie intake without the subsequent increase in workouts to burn said cals can lead to a weight loss plateau.
A calorie deficit does not always mean water weight and fat loss. Sometimes it can also mean muscle loss, especially if you have been eating too little. Remember that muscle burns more than fat and without muscle your metabolism slows down and your weight loss slows.
Increased Stress Levels
The more stressed out you are, the more your body pumps out the hormone cortisol into your bloodstream. High cortisol levels have been linked to a stall in fat burning and an increase in belly fat.
Sleep and weight are more related than many seem to realize. Lack of enough sleep has been linked to a reduced metabolic rate, and has also been shown to influence your hormones by making you hungrier and causing your body to hold on to fat.
How To Overcome A Weight Loss Plateau?
Here are some tips to help you get over a weight loss plateau in no time:
As previously stated, muscle helps burn more calories. To build more muscle, you need to start working out more and not just by doing cardio. Be sure to incorporate weight lifting in your routine:
Track Your Calorie Intake
Always ensure that you are eating at a modest calorie deficit.
Increase Your Protein Intake
Your body always uses more energy to digest and metabolize protein than it does other macro nutrients which helps boost your metabolism and burn more calories. This macronutrient also helps keep you fuller for longer and helps you build muscle.
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Eat More Fiber
Like protein, fiber rich foods keep you fuller for longer which easily prevents you from eating too many calories throughout the day.
Manage Your Stress Levels
This can be done through therapy, meditation, exercise, and making time for hobbies and other fun activities.
Keto Weight Loss Plateau: What Causes Weight Loss Plateau On The Ketogenic Diet And How To Overcome It?
In recent years, the ketogenic diet has grown in popularity with both men and women due to its incredible results in relation to weight loss. Multiple studies and articles have even gone ahead to show how this low carb diet has helped many shed those unwanted pounds and even overcome many illnesses. For example:
- A keto review by the Harvard School of Public Health revealed that not only might this eating plan produce beneficial metabolic changes in the short-term and cause weight loss, but it may also help improve issues such as insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol and triglycerides in dieters (3).
- In 2004, a study looking in to the long term effects of the keto diet showed that after 24 weeks of being on this meal plan, the study subjects showed reduced weight and BMI, their triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and blood glucose levels were also significantly decreased, while levels of the good cholesterol (aka HDL cholesterol) were increased (9).
- Years later in 2014, another review on the benefits and disadvantages of this diet found that not only can this eating plan be beneficial for both fat and weight loss, but it may also help control hunger, improve fat oxidative metabolism, improve moods, glycaemic control, haemoglobin A1c, and lipid markers, as well as reduce the use of insulin and other medications (7).
Read More: How To Break A Weight Loss Plateau?
Factors That Could Be Causing Your Weight Loss Plateau While On Keto
Despite the success of this diet, sometimes even a ketogenic eating plan may not be enough to save you from a plateau in weight loss. Here are some factors that could be causing your weight loss plateau while on keto:
A fact that many people may be unaware of is that the more weight you lose the more your appetite increases. This was demonstrated in a 2017 study that showed that for every 1 kilogram lost, your appetite increases by about 100 more calories per day (5) – as compared to what you were consuming before shedding the extra weight.
Increased appetite often means increased calorie intake and the more you eat, the higher the chances of going over your recommended calorie intake, which can lead to plateau weight loss.
Increased Calorie Intake
Regardless of your diet of choice, keto or otherwise, a calorie deficit is the most direct and effective weight loss method. The recommended calorie deficit for weight loss is anywhere between 500 to 1000 calories a day (3500 to 7000 calories a week).
Often when people start a weight loss diet, their calorie deficit is often too extreme. While this does cause weight loss, it is not very sustainable as it leaves them hungry and eventually they have to increase how much they eat as well as their calorie intake – which can cause a weight loss plateau.
Declining Energy Expenditure
Just because you are planning on losing weight doesn’t mean that your body agrees with your effort. The moment your body realizes that you are on a diet -i.e., that you are now eating less than you used to, it reacts by slowing down how many calories it burns a day (even while at rest) and increases your appetite. These two factors will very easily make you hit a plateau in weight loss where you don’t see any changes on the scale (8).
Other factors such as lack of enough sleep, increased stress levels, lack of physical activity/exercise, as well as thyroid problems, etc. can also be a big part of why you are experiencing a weight loss plateau whilst on a low carb ketogenic diet.
How To Get Over A Weight Loss Plateau On Keto?
Prevention is always better than cure. However, if you are already trapped in a weight loss plateau, it does not mean that there is no hope for you. Here are some ‘how to get past a weight loss plateau’ tips to help you get back on track
Get A Personalized Diet
While the ketogenic eating plan may seem quite straightforward and simple, it is actually quite complicated as it requires you to pay attention not only to your calories but also to your macro intake as well.
Counting your macros on keto ensures that you do not overindulge in carbs to the point where your body is no longer in ketosis. A personalized diet might be an extra expense but it helps you ensure that all your calories and macros are personalized to your body and goals for the best results.
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Count Your Calories
This helps keep your body at a calorie deficit which is the most optimum condition for weight loss.
Increase Your Activity Levels
The more you workout, the more food energy your body burns and thus the more weight you are likely to lose. You can increase your daily activity levels by starting a workout regimen, increasing how much time you spend working out, by increasing your workout intensity by adding weights.
Increase Sleep Time And Reduce Stress Levels
If none of these options work, you could try seeing a doctor to find out of you have any underlying conditions, eg. thyroid issues, PCOS in women, reduced testosterone levels in men etc. that could be hindering your weight loss efforts (2).
Weight Loss Plateau Bodybuilding: Can It Happen?
Yes, it can. Just because you are constantly at the gym does not mean that you can not experience a plateau. Remember that this issue is caused by several factors, not just diet or lack of exercise.
The Bottom Line
A weight loss plateau is a frustrating thing but with a couple changes to your diet, workout routine, and lifestyle will have you overcoming this situation in no time. Instead of giving up on your goals, try the tips mentioned above and you will be back on track in no time.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 5 Sneaky Reasons You’re Hitting a Weight-Loss Plateau (2020, eatingwell.com)
- 6 SURPRISING HEALTH CONDITIONS THAT HINDER WEIGHT LOSS (2010, canadianliving.com)
- Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss (n.d., hsph.harvard.edu)
- Effect of dietary adherence on the body weight plateau: a mathematical model incorporating intermittent compliance with energy intake prescription (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- How strongly does appetite counter weight loss? Quantification of the feedback control of human energy intake (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- How to Fix a Weight Loss Plateau (2019, verywellfit.com)
- Ketogenic Diet for Obesity: Friend or Foe? (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Ketogenic Diet Weight Loss Plateau: Why It Happens and What to Do About It (2021, greatlist.com)
- Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients (2004, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)