9/16/2007

Weight Loss Plateaus and Pitfalls

from the American Council on Exercise
Hitting a plateau? It's like running into a wall when, after a few months on a weight-loss program, you suddenly stop seeing results. It's not uncommon. Unless you continually update your program to reflect changes your body has already experienced, you can almost be guaranteed to plateau at some point.

Weight-loss woes

The first thing you should do upon hitting a plateau is try to determine the cause. Could you be eating more calories than you think?
As you lose weight, your metabolism slows down because there is less of you to fuel. While a diet of 1,800 calories per day helped you lose a certain amount of weight, if you've hit a plateau, maybe 1,800 calories is not the amount you need at your current weight.

Exercise your options

This leaves you with two options: Lower your caloric intake further or increase the amount of time you spend being physically active.

The first option is less desirable because you may not be able to get sufficient nutrients from a diet that is very low in calories, and it is difficult to stick to it for very long. It is much better to moderately reduce calories to a level that you can sustain when you reach your goal weight.
The same is true for exercise. Trying to exercise for several hours per day to burn more calories is a good way to set yourself up for failure. Not only does this type of regimen require an enormous time commitment, it is hard on the body, making you more susceptible to injury and overuse syndromes.

To help balance the intake with the expenditure, a good rule of thumb is to multiply your goal weight by 10 calories per pound, and add more calories according to how active you are.
Another means for getting you off the plateau is strength training. Muscle is much more metabolically active than fat; therefore, the more muscle you can add, the higher your metabolism will be.

Get off the plateau

If you've stopped losing weight, the key to getting off the plateau is to vary your program. The human body adapts to just about any circumstance or stimulus; vary your program and you'll likely find yourself off the plateau and back on the road to progress. click here for a downloadable reprint of the full article from the American Council on Exercise.

Ace FitFacts are reprinted with permision from the American Council on Exercise.