When you notice that cutting back calories and exercising aren’t budging those last extra pounds, you’ve hit a weight-loss plateau. As frustrating as it is, it’s an inevitable part of weight loss, explains David L. Katz, the resident nutrition expert for “O, The Oprah Magazine.” As you lose weight, your basal metabolic rate also declines because your body doesn’t need to burn as many calories as it used to, states Katz. Adjusting your weight-loss program and tweaking your diet will help your body burn off that stubborn remaining fat.
Increase your exercise activities. According to the “Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science,” exercise is only effective as long as it pushes your body to adapt to the stress of physical effort. Once your muscles become used to your workout, increase the duration of your cardio workouts or add more weight to your strength training. For instance, if you normally do 30 minutes of aerobic activity five days a week, increase it to 60 minutes a day, or add 5 extra lbs. of weight to your weight-lifting session.
Switch to different exercises or activities. As Katz explains, a weight-loss plateau may also creep up on you if you’re bored and missing some workouts. Spend one week doing more weight training and less aerobic activity, or try a new fat-burning activity you haven’t done before, maybe an indoor cycling class, water aerobics or rope skipping.
Eat only foods that can fire up your metabolic engine, advises Joey Shulman, author of “The Last 15: A Weight-loss Breakthrough.” She recommends eliminating processed foods and unhealthy saturated and trans fats. Eat primarily vegetables—except potatoes—and fruits, especially berries, apples, peaches, plums and oranges, as well as beans and whole grains. Eat only lean protein such as fish, chicken breast, tofu and low-fat dairy.
Drink six to eight glasses of water a day. According to Shulman, dehydration makes your metabolism sluggish. Without it, your liver begins to focus on retaining water rather than on burning fat. In addition, your body needs water for a variety of other functions that contribute to weight loss, including digestion and excretion.
Sleep for six to eight hours each night. The University of Chicago Chronicle reports that chronic sleep loss disrupts metabolic functions, including processing and storing carbohydrates. Sleep deprivation also reduces leptin, the appetite-suppressing hormone; the result is an increase in ghrelin, a hormone which increases your appetite.
Increase the intensity of your exercises gradually to avoid injury. Even though you’re anxious to burn off that last bit of fat, an injury will sideline you and derail your efforts.
Don’t exercise if you’re tired or in pain; it can also increase your risk of injury.