Most people are aware that weight loss requires them to burn more calories than they eat. However, there are many factors that play into weight loss, including lifestyle habits, hormonal changes and environmental factors. In this article, we’ll explore how you can use your metabolism to break through your weight loss plateau and provide tips for implementing the macro diet effectively.
The New Year’s resolution hype has faded away, and you’ve made a commitment to get in better shape this year. But somehow, your weight loss progress suddenly hit a plateau, despite sticking to your diet and exercise plan. And now you find yourself frustrated even though you have tried everything to shed off the last stubborn pounds.
Truth is, you are not alone. It's a really common problem many people face when they are trying to lose weight. They experience a slowdown in their progress which can be extremely unmotivating, but without realistic goals around following the right diet and exercise plan, according to this research paper the maintenance of lost weight can be even more challenging (1).
However, the good news is that there are ways to overcome this plateau by incorporating a macro diet into your daily routine. Not only will this diet boost your metabolism, but it will give you the jumpstart you need to reach your weight loss goals.
But first, it's recommended to understand how your metabolism plays this vital role in weight loss. You can take this metabolism quiz to assess your current metabolic health.
A weight loss plateau is when your weight progress begins to slow down or even abruptly stops even though you are following a healthy diet plan and getting the same level of activity.
What tends to happen at the beginning of your weight loss journey is you begin shedding off pounds rapidly, but as your body adjusts to your diet and routine, you see a decline in your progression. This can happen based on various factors such as lifestyle changes, stress, or sleep, but ultimately the biggest factor is your metabolic health.
Once you understand the significance your metabolism plays in weight loss, you can begin to make the necessary changes to optimize your metabolism and integrate a personalized macro diet plan that fits your physiology.
This sets you up for smoother sailing to optimize your metabolic flexibility. Integrating a personalized plan is a proven and sustainable way to boost your body and put it back into fat-burning mode.
The two basic ways to do this are by monitoring your metabolism and implementing the right foods.
Metabolic flexibility refers to the body's capacity to shift between various fuel sources, such as carbohydrates and fats, depending on availability. Being metabolically flexible allows for easy transitioning between burning carbs for energy during intense workouts and burning fat for energy while at rest. This ability is critical for effective weight management as it enables the body to burn fat efficiently, even when not engaged in physical activity.
The good news is that metabolic flexibility is a range, and we can move along that range. If we find that we are metabolically inflexible, there's an opportunity for us to turn things around and achieve our goals. We just need to take action and form the right habits in the four lifestyle domains: nutrition, movement, sleep and mind to improve metabolic flexibility.
Now that you understand the function and significance of your metabolism, let’s look at some ways that you can beat your weight loss plateau. You’ll need to monitor your metabolism and create a diet plan that boosts it.
When you consume fewer calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight, your body responds by slowing down your metabolism to conserve energy. In response to a calorie deficit, your body burns fewer calories to try conserve energy.
This metabolic slowdown can lead to a plateau in weight loss, where your body burns fewer calories than before. This makes it harder to create a calorie deficit and lose weight. This is why many people who follow calorie-restriction diets experience plateaus, despite their best efforts to maintain a calorie deficit.
Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand and are the two main factors that will help you beat your weight loss plateau. Our Lumen nutritionists also suggest that you integrate foods that boost your metabolism and develop a more personalized nutrition and exercise plan.
A plateau may occur when you have lost all of the weight you are going to lose through your current exercise and diet program. Ask yourself whether you're satisfied with your current weight or if you want to lose more. If your answer is the latter and you want to lose more weight, you'll need to adjust your weight-loss program and reassess your habits.
Intermittent fast has also been proven as a tactic to shed pounds. By determining your optimal fasting schedule, you can measure when your body enters into fat burn or carb burn. Intermittent fasting hours for women and men may differ depending on their metabolic state and physiology - which makes measuring your metabolic state helpful.
Sometimes you might feel you're not eating a lot, yet you still can't seem to lose weight. Research (2) has found that people do tend to have a tendency to underestimate and overestimate the amount of food they eat. Logging your food on an app will help you to effectively track your intake.
Measuring whether your body is burning carbs or fats will take out the guesswork and allow you to assess whether you're on track and meeting your recommendations. These insights will guide you to making better choices and sticking to healthy habits on your way to metabolic health.
Make yourself accountable for your new habits, for example, by meal planning and prepping your food in advance for the week, so you are less likely to make unhealthy choices or eat out when you're short on time or feeling tired.
'Understanding what your body is doing, what fuel it is using, and if it's the right fuel for you to lose weight - is process of biohacking', adds Dr Fung.
Rev up your workouts as soon as you start getting comfortable during your exercise. If you get to a point with your exercise routine where you’re not breaking a sweat or feeling that exertion, that might mean your body is used to the exercise, and you’re not burning calories at the same rate.
If you're running out of energy too soon, a nutritious snack like a banana before exercising might be the best pre workout meal to supercharge your performance.
An increase in lean muscle mass also has a positive impact on improving metabolism (3). Complementary to what you're eating, track your movement throughout the day and how often you're exercising.
Make yourself accountable for your new habits, for example, by setting a specific goal such as running a 5k or doing 10 push-ups every day, and then tracking or sharing your progress on an app or with a friend to stay motivated and committed.
Sleep is underrated, but, in fact, it is a critical factor in weight loss. A lack of sleep can stall your weight loss in a number of ways. Too little sleep can cause spikes in your cortisol levels, the stress hormone. This might lead you to eat more than you might otherwise, feel fatigues and experience digestive issues. Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep can help your body shift to fat burn overnight - which is a great indicator for a faster-working metabolism.
Make yourself accountable by getting into a healthy sleep routine, avoiding screens before bed and finish eating dinner at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Top tips from our Lumen experts:
Your diet is one of the leading factors that will boost your metabolism. Having a well-balanced diet with a variety of high-density foods is a great way to help boost your metabolism.
Macronutrient-based diets, such as low-carb diets, could help avoid the challenge of a plateau by promoting metabolic flexibility. For example, when we restrict carbohydrates, our bodies are forced to use other sources of fuel, such as fat. A decrease in insulin levels, caused by carb restriction, makes our bodies more likely to burn fat as fuel, resulting in a shift in fuel usage - an important aspect of metabolic flexibility.
This approach allows your body to burn more calories even when you're not constantly in a calorie deficit - a key in helping prevent plateaus in weight loss. When we are metabolically flexible, our bodies will use the fat in our bodies for energy on days when we are in a caloric deficit, enabling us to lose weight. Additionally, by promoting metabolic flexibility, macro-based diets may have other health benefits, such as improved insulin sensitivity and reduced inflammation.
A macro diet is all about balancing your intake of macronutrients, which include protein, carbohydrates, and fats. By tracking the amount of each macronutrient you consume, at the right time, you can ensure that you're fueling your body properly for your fitness goals.
For example, if you're trying to build muscle, you'll need to increase your protein intake to support muscle growth. On the other hand, if you're trying to lose weight, you may need to reduce your carbohydrate intake. By following a personalized nutrition plan with your macros, you can adjust your diet to suit your goals and break through your plateau. So if you're stuck in a fitness rut, consider giving a macro diet a try.
Top tips from our Lumen experts on overcoming the weight loss plateau
Hitting a weight loss plateau is not the end of the road, and it merely means you need to take on a different approach, starting with understanding the vital role your metabolism has on your body and incorporating a macro diet. There are many methods and best practices to overcoming plateaus, yet the effectiveness of these strategies depends on consistency and your motivation to reach your goals.
This will help beat your weight loss plateau and continue to help you towards your weight loss goals. It's only through patience, persistence, and kindness to yourself that you will see success and become a healthier and happier person.
Although frustrating, a weight loss plateau is not bad. This is your body’s way of adjusting to your new weight. In fact, plateaus are a healthy and normal response to weight loss over time .
Answer: To get past a weight loss plateau, you need to take a look at your diet and exercise routine. Some things that can help include tracking what you eat, adjusting your macronutrients, trying out intermittent fasting, adding in exercise such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or boosting your overall daily movement (such as setting a step goal), and prioritizing good quality sleep [9, 10, 3, 4].
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Galgani J, Ravussin E. Energy metabolism, fuel selection and body weight regulation. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Dec;32 Suppl 7(Suppl 7):S109-19. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.246. PMID: 19136979; PMCID: PMC2897177.
Hall, K. D., & Kahan, S. (2018). Maintenance of lost weight and long-term management of obesity. The Medical clinics of North America, 102(1), 183. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mcna.2017.08.012
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Sarwan G, Rehman A. Management Of Weight Loss Plateau. [Updated 2022 Oct 24]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK576400/
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2022, June 22). Can you boost your metabolism?: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000893.htm
Venn BJ. Macronutrients and Human Health for the 21st Century. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 7;12(8):2363. doi: 10.3390/nu12082363. PMID: 32784664; PMCID: PMC7468865.
Stiegler P, Cunliffe A. The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports Med. 2006;36(3):239-62. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200636030-00005. PMID: 16526835.
Mettler S, Mitchell N, Tipton KD. Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Feb;42(2):326-37. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181b2ef8e. PMID: 19927027.
Abigail Markman holds a Master’s degree in Nutritional Sciences, underscoring her vast knowledge of nutrition and health. She has been a practicing Nutritionist for several years, driven by her passion for empowering people with valuable insights into balanced nutritional intake and lifestyle habits and their significant role in promoting overall well-being.