As you begin your weight-loss journey, you celebrate every pound you lose. As your weight loss journey continues, you may find that your progress slows and sometimes stops completely. This plateau may be discouraging and frustrating, but you should not give up. A few simple changes to your diet and exercise strategies can help restart your weight loss.
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Beginning Weight Loss
When first beginning a weight-loss regimen, it is normal to see a rapid drop in weight each week. This rapid loss is a result of your body adjusting to the calorie deficit created by consuming fewer calories and exercising more. Your body starts to burn glycogen stores, which are the carbohydrates stored in muscles, when you consume fewer calories than your body needs to function. As your body uses glycogen, it releases stored water. Rapid weight loss at the beginning of your weight-loss program results mostly from this release of water. Once your body has used most of its glycogen stores, it starts to burn the stored fat for energy. When this happens, your weight loss slows. Once you reach this point, aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week.
If your weight loss slows down to the point where you lose very little or no weight each week, you have hit a weight-loss plateau. Weight-loss plateaus occur because your body adjusts to your weight-loss program, or because you used an extreme weight loss strategy. The first step to beating a weight-loss plateau or weight-loss slow down is analyzing your current plan to decide where your problem lies. Make dietary and exercise changes based on what your analysis reveals. This can get your weight loss back on track.
Make dietary changes according to your analysis results. A healthy number of calories in your diet should be between 1,600 and 1,800 calories each day. If you consume more than this, consider cutting calories by choosing low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, controlling your portion sizes or eating more slowly. If you consume less than this and exercise regularly, consider consuming more calories by increasing your intake of lean protein, whole grains, vegetables and fruits. If your calorie consumption falls between 1,600 and 1,800 calories, consider lowering your calorie consumption to the lower end of the range and spread your calories out throughout the day by eating at least three meals and two snacks. Severely limiting your calorie intake -- below 1,200 calories for women and 1,500 for men -- can slow your metabolism and limit your weight loss.
The amount of exercise you perform each day affects the number of calories you burn. Consider increasing the duration or intensity of your workout to ensure that you burn enough calories to lose weight. The more intense your exercise, the more calories you burn. Increase your intensity level by alternating between vigorous exercise and moderate-intensity exercise throughout your workout. By building lean muscle, you also increase your metabolism. Perform a whole body strength-training program on three nonconsecutive days a week to increase your lean muscle mass.
- Dr. Michael Hall; DuBois Regional Medical Center; DuBois, Pennsylvania
- American Council on Exercise: Weight Loss Plateaus and Pitfalls
- American Council on Exercise: Why is it So Hard to Lose the Last 10 Pounds?
- University of New Mexico Exercise Science: Gycogen and Resistance Training