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What Causes A Weight Loss Plateau?

If you are trying to lose weight, chances are that at one point or another you either have or you will experience a period of time in which your weight does not change. For many, stepping on the scale on week only to discover that your weight hasn’t decreased at all after strictly dieting and performing countless hours of exercise can be extremely frustrating and disappointing. A weight loss plateau can last anywhere from a few short days to upwards of weeks at a time. Mentally, these can be one of the worst things anyone trying to lose weight can encounter.


Why Has Your Weight Loss Plateaued?


So what could be some of the reasons as to why your weight loss has plateaued in the first place and what can you do to fix this issue? The first reason, and usually the reason for most who encounter a plateau, is that your water weight is fluctuating. Usually, when we begin to lose weight, water is the first thing to go. This is why we sometimes can see upwards of 4-5lbs of weight loss in a week, and many believe this weight is fat. However, only about 1lb of that is going to be fat, while the remainder will be water that is stored in the body.


The next reason as to why you aren’t possibly losing weight is due to your method of training. When you first started, performing 20-30 minutes of steady state or low-intensity cardio on a treadmill or Stairmaster was enough to provide you with results. However, the problem with steady state cardio is that your body uses up such few calories in the process that the rate of calories burned is very minimal. Instead, try switching up your routine and swap out your steady state cardio for any form of HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training instead. With HIIT, you should be able to elevate your heart rate upwards of around 70-85% of your maximum heart rate. The most simple and basic formula for determining your max heart rate to a ballpark area is 220 – (your age in years) = max heart rate. The higher your heart rate levels during cardio, the greater the oxygen yield the body will require which results in a larger calorie burn.

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Calorie Consumption


You’re guessing too much and too high on your food calorie consumption. One of the largest reasons why people aren’t losing weight or suddenly stop losing weight is simply because they don’t track what they are consuming correctly. When we go out to eat somewhere, most of us will typically look at the meal and guess how many calories we believe the meal has. However, this is a giant mistake since 99% of the time your guess is always going to be far under what the actual meal contains. In a study performed at the University of Toronto, researchers discovered that at 19 sit down restaurants, on average between all the meals from breakfast, lunch and dinner, they contained around 1100 calories. To give you an idea of how great this number is, the average persons recommended calorie consumption is 2000 calories. This means the average meal of 1100 calories is 55% of your total daily-recommended calorie intake in one meal. This is just one meal, not including soda or desserts or anything like that. Try tracking your meals more accurately using an app such as MyFitnessPal or someone else to help you understand better how many calories are in certain foods.


Another popular reason why you aren’t losing weight is due to your drink choices. When we begin dieting we think the best drinks to cut out are the usual soft drinks/sodas and milkshakes and we often forget about juices and dairy products. However, many juices we consume can be just as unhealthy as a standard soda. Many fruit juices, such as certain brands of lemonade, apple juice, pineapple juices, and even orange juices can be just as unhealthy, if not worse when compared to certain sodas such as Coke. Fruit juices are packed with calories and excess sugar that many forget about simply because it sounds healthier when compared to soda. Skip the juice and switch for healthier, low-calorie options such as sugar-free drinks or just regular water.


Take Home Message


These few reasons listed are usually the largest contributing factors towards why someone may encounter a weight loss plateau. Stop guessing on what you are consuming and learn to track your macro nutrients correctly to get a better understanding of how many calories are in most of the meals you are eating. Understand that just because something may sound healthy, it doesn’t mean that it’s healthy at all. Often times we swap out foods we consider bad for ones we believe may be healthier and end up consuming the same amount of calories from the “healthier” food, if not even more. Increase the intensity with your workouts as well in order to ensure you are burning as many calories as possible with each workout to help offset what you are consuming.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Master of Science in Sport Physiology and Nutrition. She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding. Find out more about Faye's experience here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/faye-reid-8b619b122/.

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