Overcoming Your Weight Loss Plateau: Proven Strategies That Work

20 May 2024

My Muscle Chef

What is a Weight Loss Plateau?

A weight-loss plateau is a period during a weight-loss journey where progress stalls or stops altogether, despite consistent efforts with diet and exercise. This occurs when the body adjusts to changes in calorie intake or physical activity, creating a new equilibrium that slows or halts further weight loss.

Why have I Plateaued?  

Factors contributing to a weight-loss plateau include: 

Water Weight Loss:

During the initial phase of weight loss, the body often utilizes glycogen stores for energy, which are partly composed of water, making rapid weight loss common due to water weight loss, eventually leading to a plateau. 

Caloric Deficit:

As weight decreases, the body requires fewer calories, leading to a decreased caloric deficit. 

Increased Efficiency:

The body becomes more efficient with regular exercise, burning fewer calories for the same activities. 

Decrease Metabolic Rate:

A decreased metabolic rate can result from losing muscle alongside fat, which is a factor in weight loss plateaus given that muscle mass helps maintain a higher metabolic rate. 

Muscle Loss:

As individuals lose weight, there can be a small amount of muscle loss, further necessitating the adjustment of calorie intake due to changes in body composition and reduced energy requirements. 

Stress and Lifestyle Factors:

Increased stress, poor sleep, or other lifestyle changes can affect weight-loss efforts. 

The Role of Hormones in Weight Loss Plateau 

Hormonal changes play a significant role in weight loss slump. Increased ghrelin levels can heighten hunger, prompting the body to conserve fat stores. A decline in leptin after substantial weight loss can also raise appetite, contributing to plateaus. Additionally, calorie restrictions can lower leptin levels, disrupt hormones like insulin, testosterone, and thyroid hormones, and boost cortisol, further complicating weight loss efforts. 

Strategies for Breaking Through a Weight Loss Plateau 

To overcome a weight-loss plateau it may be necessary to make adjustments in diet, exercise, or lifestyle. Here are the top strategies that have found success. 

Adjusting Calorie Intake: 

As a person loses weight, their metabolic requirements change, necessitating a reassessment of daily calorie needs to account for lower body weight and altered body composition. Therefore, reassessing daily calorie targetsto reflect the body's new energy needs will help restore a calorie deficit.  identify unintended increases in portion size or calorie-dense food intake.  
Maintaining a detailed food diary is another crucial tactic for rectifying diet-related issues contributing to a weight loss plateau. For example, where to reduce carbohydrates, what refined sugars to cut out, and when to increase high-fibre and high-protein foods.  
This will help to maintain muscle mass while promoting a higher metabolic rate. A food diary can also identify unintended increases in portion size or calorie-dense food intake. But be mindful when reducing calorie intake it is vital to ensure that consumption does not fall below 1,200 calories daily to avoid extreme hunger and potential overeating.  


Optimal Meal Timing:

Avoiding eating right before sleep can enhance weight loss efforts by influencing the body's energy expenditure and hormone regulation.  


Enhancing hydration by drinking water more regularly can increase satiety, reduce food intake, and stimulate metabolic rate, supporting the overall weight loss journey. 

Exercise Modification:

Recommendations to incorporate exercises like strength training or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) not only builds muscle mass and endurance but also increases calorie burn, which is essential for overcoming a weight loss plateau.   

Intensifying your workout routine:

Including at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly can be a key factor in pushing past a weight loss plateau.  

If increasing the intensity of your workout is not right for you, take a gentler approach by incorporating everyday physical activities, such as walking more or engaging in yardwork, to assist in burning extra calories. 

Lifestyle Changes:

In addition to diet and exercise, other strategies such as altering meal timings and patterns such as intermittent fasting can help reset the body's metabolic response. Reducing stress and improving sleep quality will also positively impact hormonal balance.  

Developing Long-Term Strategies: Keeping Goals Realistic

Measuring weight loss success should extend beyond the scale to encompass broader health and well-being indicators, keeping one motivated and focused on long-term health benefits. 

  • Losing 1 to 2 pounds per week or 

  • Losing 5% of your current body weight  

  • Eating slowly and chewing food thoroughly can contribute to a feeling of fullness and reduce overall food consumption. 

  • Pre-planning meals and meal prepping in advance help in controlling calories and maintaining consistent diet quality to overcome weight loss plateaus. 

  • Reassessing macronutrient composition, such as increasing fibre intake through fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can lead to better weight management and plateau breakthrough. 


All in all, plateaus are a normal part of the weight-loss journey and having patience can be beneficial.  

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