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Fat Loss, General Health

How To Avoid Hitting Weight Loss Plateaus

By Shannon Cole on Jan 29, 2024 9:00:00 AM
5 Minutes Reading Time


We train hard, and we try to maintain our workout routines. Progress toward our health and fitness goals remains consistent, until one day it all comes to a halt.

What gives? If we show up to the gym and complete our workouts, shouldn’t we always see progress?

The answer is no, and it could be for a variety of reasons.

We think that just because we go to the gym and eat healthy, our progress toward reaching our goal weight will be linear. Well, our bodies don’t work that way; being able to steadily lose a pound or two every week is nearly impossible because there are so many other variables that come into play.

Calories In vs. Calories Out

When it comes down to it, weight loss will only occur if the number of calories you take in is less than the number of calories you burn.

The calories we burn occur in a number of ways.

-BMR: The calories we burn while at rest. This is the minimum number of calories we need to take in for the body to perform basic physiological functions.

-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT): The number of calories you burn during exercise.

-Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): The calories we burn from activities outside our workouts. This includes fidgeting, walking to the store, or walking the dog.

-Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): The increase in metabolic rate after ingestion of a meal. Fun fact: it takes more calories to digest protein than carbs and fat.

You may be burning a decent number of calories during your workout, but if you’re barely moving outside your hour-long workout, you’re missing out on activity that can promote weight loss. Should activity outside your workouts be intense? Definitely not. But people who tend to lead an active lifestyle are more likely to have a healthier BMI and reach their weight-loss goals.

The other part of the equation is calories. I hate to break it to you, but there is the possibility that you may be consuming more calories than you think. That handful of nuts you casually ate could easily be an extra 200 calories, while some people forget that the sugary coffee drinks they consume daily are still extra calories that they’re not even considering.

If you’re logging your food to keep you on track with your calories, every food and beverage you consume needs to be considered. It sounds tedious, because it is. But if you want an accurate calorie count, every bite and sip counts.

To avoid hitting a plateau, ramp up your activity and ensure you are tracking your calories the right way!

Your Workouts May Need To Be Tweaked

There are a couple of reasons why your workouts just aren’t….working. 

1. You’re only doing cardio

2. Your workouts are not at an appropriate intensity

Let’s first start with the cardio conundrum.

Initially, cardio seems like the best tool for weight loss, but for long-term purposes, it’s very common to see a plateau if you are only doing cardio. Steady-state cardio, whether that may be cycling, the elliptical, or running, traditionally burns more calories than a resistance training workout, but it is not nearly as successful if you want to add muscle.

Why would we want to add muscle if we want to lose weight?

A greater amount of lean muscle mass means a faster metabolism. Cardio breaks down muscle tissue, which initiates the opposite effect. Resistance training works in your favor, even after the workout is over; the time in between resistance training workouts, when the body is at rest, is when the muscles are recovering and resynthesizing stronger than they were before.

However, the appropriate stimulus needs to be applied. That’s where the intensity comes in.

If you are lifting weights, that’s great! But it also needs to be challenging for there to be a muscle-building response. If you finish your set of exercises feeling like you could have given more, then you probably weren’t lifting at enough intensity.

Your last few reps should be challenging, to the point where you could maybe complete 1 or 2 more reps with good form. If you feel like you can muster out another rep or two, go for it! Just don’t compromise on form.

If you want to avoid a plateau, keep these training tips in mind.

And if you need some help revamping your workouts, Mind Pump has an extensive collection of workout programs; no matter what level of lifting you are at, or what your goal is, there will be a program for you.

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Shannon Cole

Shannon Cole is an ISSA certified personal trainer and lives in the Dallas area. She is a certified nutrition coach through NASM and NCI, and is currently pursuing her M.S. in Sports Science and Rehabilitation. After obtaining her B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication she eventually gravitated to personal training, and hasn't turned back since. Her passion for athletics and fitness initially stemmed from her high school years playing golf, and her love for the sport still hasn't faded; her career goal is to obtain her Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) certification and develop strength and conditioning programs for golfers. You can usually find her working out in her garage gym, or training for the next Spartan Race with her husband.

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