Weight Loss Plateau
Getting yourself entangled with the weight loss plateau is ought to happen with every individual trying to lose weight. Even after knowing this, many individuals get frustrated, surprised or even demotivated when it happens to them as they are doing their diet-exercise program with utmost caution and care.
Our body is an amazing work of art that needs the sharpest of the eyes and minds to understand it. Our body can adapt to any kind of situation but when it is subjected to only one kind of training stimulus repeatedly, there would definitely be a loss of response to this stimulus as the body is used to this challenge by now. You would definitely not avail the same benefits that you availed previously.
The First Few Weeks
Our body is in tune with a routine and when you break this routine by squeezing in a healthy diet plan with exercise routines, the body loses weight steadily and rapidly during the first few weeks after starting the program. That’s because, bringing down calories pushes the body to acquire the required energy by releasing stores of glycogen. Glycogen is a carbohydrate that is partly made of water. When glycogen is used for energy it releases water and the weight loss reflected in our body is mostly water lost from our body. This brings us to an extremely important question-Where does the lost weight evaporate? Weight loss in terms of water content is agreed but this is not the only way out. A major chunk of the weight is expelled out of our body as carbon dioxide. Don’t be surprised but our lungs function as the major organs to expel weight out of our body in terms of CO2. Detailed explanation along with equations are available in the website www.firsteatright.com. Please don’t miss reading about it as almost 98% individuals remain unaware on the answer to this important question!
Weight loss includes muscle as well as fat loss. Muscles monitor your body’s metabolic rate and ensure that you lose calories at a faster rate. But as you start slimming down, metabolic rate decreases and you start burning fewer calories that earlier. All this happen even when you stick to your diet plan that helped losing weight in the first place. When the calories consumed equate the calories burnt, you reach a weight loss plateau. To break this plateau, you need to either decrease calorie intake or increase your physical activity. If you don’t do any of these two and continue with your age-old fitness routine, you are bound to never lose anymore weight but only maintain the weight loss.
Un-habit the Habit
A monotonous life becomes boring after a while to individuals-getting up, doing your morning chores, eating breakfast, going to school/college/work/doing household chores, getting back, eat your dinner, sleep and repeat step 1 again. This frustrates us and vacations/recreational activities help us reenergize ourselves mentally and physically. Our body too faces this scenario every now and then when it is subjected to the same monotonous diet and lifestyle! A simple tweak to the routine might help your weight loss routine get back on track! To regularly improve body fitness, increase workload and intensity, otherwise you’ll remain on the plateau. The simple routine changes suggested here can revamp your fitness goals.
Vary exercises: Prevent your body from reaching a plateau by adhering to periodic training or periodization. Here, you keep changing your exercise schedules at regular intervals which keeps your body in a constant state of shock. It takes around 8-12 weeks for your body to adapt to a particular routine after which there must be changes incorporated to enable further weight loss. Apart from increasing the workout intensity or duration, you can even change the order in which you workout. For example, weightlift for 20 reps one day and weightlift for 6-7 reps of heavy weights the next day. Try mixing up cardio workouts with resistance training. A reputed study published in the Obesity journal shows that strength training helps to lose more fat than cardio. This builds lean muscles which in turn increase metabolism which ultimately increase fat loss although weight loss might become slower. It is advisable to combine cardio exercises with at least two days of strength training every week.
One can reach a fitness plateau even if a person reaches a dead end physiologically. Maybe you are bored with the workout or mentally you stop challenging yourself to workout and only workout simply because it has become a habit. All these are psychologically demotivating and it is better that an individual either starts attending group exercises, finds an exercise partner or joins a group dance class to motivate himself/herself to exercise vigorously.
Stress & Sleep: Diet and exercise are not the only two things essential for weight loss. Enough nutrition in terms of calorie intake, proteins and carbohydrates and quality sleep to elevate your training efficiency are mandatory for showing results. Sleep is the time during which growth hormones are produced, tissues repair and mind is devoid of any thoughts. Without sufficient sleep, stress hormones increase and the body becomes overstressed which can affect your workout efficiencies.
Though physical fitness is independent of many things in life, it is totally not isolated from our daily life. One needs to consider all other life stressors such as work, relationship status and economic status that could affect our quality of life. When you suffer from increased stress at work, choose low stress exercises while increasing intensity to make up for the low stress time periods. Beyond changing the intensity, duration and type of activity if you are still unable to cross the plateau it might be an indication of overtraining-training too much without giving time for recovery.
If you’ve tried out every possibility within your reach, maybe its time that you get some help from a fitness trainer. Even if you can afford a personal trainer constantly, you can meet up with the trainer and discuss for some fresh ideas, strategies to achieve your goals and mainly make you accountable for your goals. If you can’t cut down any more calories or increase physical activity, maybe its time to revisit your goals and the numbers you dream of are not practical for you. On the positive note, you have already improved your lifestyle by following a healthy diet and exercise schedule and this means you have already improved your health. Obese/overweight people who have lost even a few kilograms have definitely improved their chronic health conditions. One most important thing is to NEVER revert back to your old eating and exercising habits (if unhealthy) which could further deter your efforts and bring back all your lost weight. Feel proud of what you lost, ensure to maintain this loss and take every effort possible to elevate the weight loss in every healthy way possible.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.