And then nothing.
Weeks and months of dieting, commitment to working out; sweat, muscle aches, and pound after glorious pound disappearing. New clothes, new confidence. And then, all of a sudden, nothing. The needle on your scale, steadily decreasing with exercise and healthy eating, now refuses to budge. What… The… Literal… First off, relax. You’ve likely hit what’s called a weight loss plateau. Not only are they extremely common obstacles along your weight loss journey, but you can overcome them. But there are a few things you need to know first.
- Weight loss plateaus can happen to anyone, even professional athletes and personal trainers. It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.
- In order to understand how to break a weight loss plateau, you need to understand what they are. We’ll get into that in the next section.
- Knowing what a plateau is makes it easier to determine for sure if you’re stuck in one. Then, you can take the most effective steps to getting past it.
What Is A Weight Loss Plateau?
A weight loss plateau is a (usually) temporary slow-down in the progress toward your ideal weight. It can happen for a number of reasons. Some of them are actually important to consider.
For instance, though you’ve been losing lots of fat, you’ve also been losing small amounts of muscle. When you lose weight through dietary restriction, up to 25% of what you lose can be muscle.  This causes your metabolism to decline, essentially meaning you have less fuel to burn.
There’s also the set-point theory, which states that your body will eventually settle at balanced weight and fat level. Though, it’s widely agreed that this set point is dependent on certain other factors.  So it may be possible to reset your set point.
Additionally, it could just mean that you need to add or adapt your workout routine in order to get over a slump often called workout plateau.
But first, let’s help you identify signs you’ve reached a plateau in weight loss.
Signs You’ve Hit A Weight Loss Plateau
1. You’re exhausted
The first, and most obvious, indicator is that you’re abnormally tired day in and day out. Food is energy, after all. And if you’re not getting enough food it may be difficult to function on all cylinders, all the time. It might be time to increase your food intake AND increase your workouts to ensure you’re still burning more energy than you consume.
2. Every. Thing. Upsets. You.
I’m not talking about just having a bad day, or it being that time of the month. After months of weight loss or if everyone and everything suddenly irritates the 💩out of you, it may be because you’re depriving yourself of nutrients your body is craving.
Dietary restriction of 1,200 calories or more can actually increase production of cortisol, the stress hormone in women.  What’s more, prolonged periods of stress can lead to weight gain! 
3. You’re starting to snack
Or skimp on your diet. That’s right! After successfully losing pounds, you may find yourself starting to snack which can stall your progress. This could be for a variety of reasons, natural caloric cravings and simple dietary boredom being two of the most common. Naturally, if you’re finding yourself snacking more now than in the beginning of your weight loss journey, it could be signs of a plateau.
The good news is that you can still prevail! Now that you know the signs, it’s time to show you how to break a weight loss plateau.
How To Break A Weight Loss Plateau
1. Cut out carbs
Or at least cut back.
Fats received a bad rap back in the day, but if you’re trying to lose weight, carbohydrates are what you should really keep an eye on. Low-carb diets widely outperform low-fat diets in weight-loss studies.  Low-carb diets will help you burn calories very efficiently—and very quickly in the first 6-12 months of low-carb dieting.  Long-term studies also show that reducing carb intake to 50 grams or less per day has long-term benefits, too, most notably bodyweight and cholesterol. 
What’s more, women who consume fewer carbs report decreased feelings of hunger throughout the day, in addition to greater results in weight loss.  So, if you’ve hit a weight loss plateau, evaluate your carbohydrate intake and see where you can cut back. (A starting hint: bread, sweets, sodas, and alcohol are regular carbo-culprits.)
2. Eat more protein
The common trope about protein is that it’s a bodybuilder’s best friend; that it’s for packing on muscle, not slimming down. And while protein certainly is essential for muscle mass, it’s also essential for improving your health holistically, from immune response to body weight management.
As protein intake increases, so does metabolism. This is all thanks to a process called thermogenesis, in which our body produces heat. This heat production fuels metabolic burn, and it just so happens that protein beats out both carbohydrates and fat in thermogenesis. For the omnivores among us, it’s worth noting too that animal protein stirs more thermogenic burn than plant protein. 
3. Size up your portion size
Whether you’ve cut out carbs or simply can’t give them up, another strategy for how to break a weight loss plateau is to evaluate your portion sizes at each meal.
I, personally, am 110% guilty of stacking a few extra forkfuls onto my plate. It may seem like just a slight bump in caloric intake, but even such a seemingly unsubstantial increase, over three meals a day, over weeks on end, could lead to weight loss plateau or, worse, weight gain.
Monitor how much food you’re helping yourself to each meal. Keep portions moderate, and only go back for more if you’re still hungry after at least 30 minutes.
Need a little assistance cutting back on portion size? Try eating from a smaller plate or check out this blog to learn how to eat less and improve your portion control!
4. Amplify your workout
Diet plays a monumental role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Dramatically reducing your carbohydrates and managing your portion size certainly go a long way in balancing your diet, especially when weight loss is your goal. But if the progress you’ve made on your weight loss journey has slowed to a standstill, it may be time to amp up your workout routine.
When you hit the gym, begin to incrementally increase the weight you’re lifting. This will increase your total exertion, and therefore the amount of calories you burn in a given workout. But this comes with some caveats:
- Increasing muscle increases weight. As far back as childhood you probably remember hearing “muscle weighs more than fat.” Because of this, you may find you’re experiencing a weight loss plateau even though you’re in amazing shape. In which case, you may have to amend your goals not on weight loss, but on fat loss.
- At some point, losing weight means losing muscle. In order to preserve muscle mass during weight loss, shift your exercise routine to more resistance-type exercises.  I highly recommend trying the SkinnyFit 28-Day Challenge! This month-long workout routine is geared specifically to helping you hit your weight loss goals and increasing core strength.
5. Work in workout supplements
It’s neglectful to talk about a weight loss plateau without talking about a workout plateau. We touched on it above, but a workout plateau is when your body acclimates to the physical demands of your workout.
A workout plateau can take many forms; it can come about through a lack of motivation to exercise or simply boredom with your routine. Alternatively, if you’re aiming to hit progressive goals, you may experience a workout plateau if you’re not amping up your exertion or workout frequency.
Using a natural pre-workout supplement, such as SkinnyFit Jump Start gives you an immediate and sustained energy boost, plus the focus and motivation to get you through your workout, and the energy to push through more reps. If you’re struggling to overcome a workout plateau, this is a great way to get you through a lack of motivation so you can continue seeing results.
6. Recover right
Understanding how to break a weight loss plateau requires awareness of effective exercise as much as it requires actually exercising.
But proper post-workout recovery is extremely important, too. To repair muscle tears and damage from weight lifting and other heavy exercise, you also want to build in a good electrolyte powder into your post-workout regiment. SkinnyFit also offers Repair & Recover, a natural post-workout formula that restores electrolytes and provides your body with important branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) to help you spring back from intense exercise.
Electrolytes and BCAAs are very effective for reducing soreness.  This means you can more quickly and safely return to your workouts and burn more calories to overcome a weight loss plateau. BCAAs can also help rehydrate our muscles, keeping them healthy and helping to avoid injury. 
Combining pre- and post-workout powders is the perfect way to get the most out of each workout. To learn more about combining them effectively, take a look at SkinnyFit’s Workout Warrior bundle, which includes Jump Start, Repair & Recover, and a shaker bottle to mix them in.
7. Fit more active movement in your day
There are lots of little health-hacks you can do to increase your caloric burn throughout the day. Fitting more activity into your daily routine—even in and around work—isn’t just possible, it’s perfect for shedding calories here and there.
Here are few ideas to try every day to fit a little more movement into your day:
Ride your bike to work. Obviously, if you commute long distances or, let’s say, up a gigantic San Francisco hill every day, this may not be so feasible. But riding to work, or the grocery store, or other errands can help keep you active and maintain mobility.
Take the stairs. Another favorite of mine, though it sounds like torture to most. Work those hamstrings, calves, quads, and glutes to really bun calories. Opt for the stairs not just when it’s convenient, but when it’s doable. That means opt out of things like airport escalators or apartment elevators.
Make more trips. I hate making two trips from the car, and will go to extremely inconvenient lengths to get everything from the car to my house in one trip. But making two or more trips not only increases the number of steps in a day, thus more calories burned, but it also helps you, however minimally, to practice self-control.
Parking at the far end of the lot. Not much more to say about this. I love parking at the far end of packing lots to increase my daily walking distance, and because fewer people tend to park there. Plus, fewer people tend to ding my car. 😡
Take a walking lunch. Sure some people think eating on the go is uncultured. Whatever. You’ve got goals! That weight loss plateau isn’t going to break itself. Grab a healthy sandwich or a protein smoothie and take a stroll around your office’s neighborhood. You’ll fit in your steps, increase daily energy burn, and get to know the area better.
8. Count calories
This should come as no surprise. So much of understanding how to break a weight loss plateau comes down to caloric intake. The US Department of Health & Human Services recommends no more than 2,000 calories per day for moderately active women between 36 and 50 year old; give or take 200 calories depending on sedentary or active lifestyles.  But that’s just to sustain weight.
If you want to lose weight, you’ll have to burn more energy than that, or consume less of it. For many of us, fitting more exercise into the day is nearly impossible. So counting calories can be extremely effective in helping ensure you don’t over indulge. However, as we’ve covered, you’ll still want to maintain healthy food choices. Try to make sure the calories you consume come from more thermogenic sources such as protein, instead of carbohydrates. To learn more about how to lose weight with calorie counting, check out this blog about counting calories for beginners.
9. Think fasting
Intermittent fasting may sound like voluntary starvation, but in fact it can be very healthy. Intermittent fasting has shown to increase weight loss by up to 9% and even reduce waistline circumference by up to 7% in 3-12 and 3-24 week time periods, respectively.  Keep in mind that your approach to fasting (for instance, everyday vs every other day, or duration of fasting) can impact your results.
Given fasting’s manifold benefits, it certainly is worth exploring if you’re seeking new solutions for how to break a weight loss plateau.
10. Expand your dietary horizons
Look. If workout plateau can be a thing, doesn’t it just make sense that culinary plateau is also a thing? To help you re-energize your weight loss progress, try exploring new cuisines, recipes, and diets. This can keep dining exciting without feeling like it’s okay to go back to standard, unhealthy diets.
11. Abstain from alcohol
That’s hard for me to say aloud, let alone bestow as advice in a blog (I mean, have you seen how many cocktail recipes I’ve written!?). But the fact of the matter is, if you need to leap over hurdles in your weight loss journey, holding off on alcohol is a great strategy.
Alcohol loosens ambitions and can make it easier to excuse yourself from working out or coerce you into overeating. Studies show that alcohol increases impulsivity and can slow weight loss and lead to bigger portions.  It’s also worth mentioning that for every gram of alcohol you drink, you’re adding an extra 7 calories to your dietary intake! That’s right—alcohol contains 7 calories per gram! The only problem is that alcohol is not considered a macronutrient, so your body doesn’t use it as energy. Meaning, it’s empty calories. In America, the average cocktail contains 14 grams of alcohol. At 7 calories per gram, you’re looking at adding an additional 98 calories for every cocktail you drink. Let that sink in.
12. Keep a food & habits journal
Logging the meals you’ve had and the activities you’ve done week after week helps maintain focus on progressively losing weight. You may also find it a means of staying accountable to yourself and your goals.
Record what meals you had each day during the week, tracking how many calories each meal contained. Complement this with records of how much exercise you got each day, and what workouts you performed. Be reflective about how each made you feel, and ambitious in noting what you want to improve upon.
Don’t forget to reassess your habits at regular intervals to make sure you’re staying on track.
13. Join a supportive community
One of the most common mistakes people make is not allowing others to join on their fitness journey. No, I don’t mean convincing a friend to workout with you (though that can be very effective). I mean joining a supportive community. Not only will the encouragement of others help keep you motivated and accountable, but you’ll be able to glean tips from people who have been in your position. Learning from other’s success is a great way to see success on your own.
The SkinnyFit Community group is probably the most positive place on the internet. It’s now over 20,000 members strong. Don’t hesitate to reach out for weight loss tips from women who are excited and passionate about sharing their first-hand advice.
The Bottom Line On Workout Plateaus
You will likely experience workout and weight loss plateaus at some point in your fitness journey. I guarantee it. But don’t worry! I also guarantee that with the right approach you will emerge better (and slimmer) than before.
Weight loss, like life, is about patience and variety. You’ll certainly want to hang onto a few full-time, such as supplements and community support, as these can never be overdone. But don’t feel forced to incorporate each of these tips into your daily routine all at once. Rather, keep things fresh by cycling a few tips in and out every two or three months to help yourself past any weight loss plateau you face along your journey to a fitter, healthier you.
Mentioned In This Post
Workout Warrior Bundle
Crush (and recover from) each and every workout, with ease! Each Workout Warrior Bundle includes 30 servings of Jump Start and 30 servings of Repair & Recover, and our BPA-free Shaker Bottle.