Do you feel you’re in an intermittent fasting plateau and find it difficult to get back on track?
Hitting a plateau while working on your weight loss journey is an annoying reality. It happens to the best of us, even with the most experienced fitness enthusiast.
When you initially start out, you’ll see and feel your weight come off more quickly. But over time, your workouts and diets start getting easier and you stop seeing results. While it might be incredibly discouraging to have this kind of roadblock on your way to losing weight, this essentially means your body has made progress.
Your body has adjusted to the demands of your diet and workouts and will lose its effectiveness. Fortunately, this isn’t permanent and there are plenty of ways to overcome the holdup. Let’s first understand what it is, why you might be stuck and how you can make the right changes to your routine so you can get back in the game.
What Is A Weight Loss Plateau?
A weight loss plateau is basically when your body has stopped changing. Although this does not mean that intermittent fasting has stopped working.
This can sometimes last from several days to months and there’s no exact answer to how long a weight loss plateau lasts because it varies on an individual level. There are several causes and they all have to do with your calorie intake and how your body burns those calories.
Causes Of Intermittent Fasting Plateau
Even when a person is consistent with a diet and exercise routine, they will eventually reach a weight loss plateau and stop losing weight. According to research1, weight loss plateaus occur after roughly six months of low-calorie dieting.
The researchers in the study concluded that although a person’s metabolism can alter as they lose weight, this does not explain why the weight loss plateau occurs.
Although it is not fully understood why weight reduction plateaus happen, some possibilities include:
- After several months, you may cease to adhere to your dietary practices as your body adapts.
- Lowered Metabolic Rate
- If you lose weight rapidly, your metabolism slows down. Along with losing fat, you also lose some muscle mass which results in a lower metabolism rate.
- Set Point Theory
- Your body adjusts to weight loss and fortifies itself against additional loss of weight. The theory stems from how your body naturally tries to maintain a certain weight where it is most comfortable so as to keep you alive.
Trying to lose weight is hard work and it can be difficult to continue when you find an unreasonable lack of results; which can force you to abandon your weight loss goals.
In order to break the plateau and lose more weight, you need to either increase your physical activity or decrease the calories you eat.
You can use the same approach that worked at first to maintain the weight you’ve lost, but it won’t lead to more weight loss.
Different Ways To Break Intermittent Fasting Plateau
A few keys to breaking this plateau is to evaluate your habits, your physical activity routine, and the amount and timing of your food intake. Once you’ve identified the reason behind the plateau, it can assist you in correcting the causes behind it.
Here are a few tactics that could help you in resuming your weight loss.
1. Keep a Dietary Diary
Even though keeping a food diary can be time-consuming, it can be quite insightful. Keeping a food journal will help you monitor your calorie intake.
According to research2, people significantly underestimate their daily calorie or energy intake. People can make changes once they are completely aware of their eating and drinking habits and know where extra calories are coming from.
More than 50% of the individuals underreport their dietary intake, according to the researchers of a previous study3. These individuals had:
- Increase in body mass index (BMI)
- Less portions of veggies and fruits
- Lowered calcium, fiber, iron, vitamin B-1, and B-6 concentrations
- Larger proportion of protein-based energy
- Greater mass of fat
- Increased visceral fat
- Higher levels of perceived stress hormone levels
A meal diary can also help in monitoring intermittent fasting hours, which is an unintentional calorie restriction and a guide to making sure that your old eating habits will not come back.
2. Don’t Just Rely on the Scale
You probably step on the scale every day while you’re trying to lose weight. It’s crucial to understand that the scale reading might not accurately reflect your progress in light of things like alterations in your body composition.
Your objective is actually to lose fat rather than weight loss. Regular exercise may cause you to develop muscle, which is denser than fat and takes up less space in your body.
You can therefore be gaining muscle and burning fat while maintaining a steady weight if the weight on the scale isn’t changing.
Additionally, a variety of factors, including dietary preferences, can cause you to retain water. Changes in hormone levels, particularly in women4, have an impact on fluid balance, but this is not the most common cause.
Consider how you feel and how your clothes fit rather than concentrating exclusively on the weight on the scale. To help you stay motivated when your weight reduction seems to have stagnated, it’s also a good idea to measure yourself once a month.
3. Consume Vegetables at Each Meal
The best food to help in the weight loss process is vegetables. Most veggies are high in fiber, low in calories and carbohydrates, and packed with healthy elements.
In fact, research5 shows that diets high in veggies tend to result in the most significant weight loss.
Unfortunately, many people don’t consume enough vegetables to promote weight reduction. At every meal, even breakfast, it is simple to include a side of cooked or raw greens, tomatoes, or other vegetables.
Although they are low in calories and carbohydrates, vegetables are packed with vital nutrients. You might be able to break out of a weight loss plateau by incorporating them into every meal.
4. Exercise As Much As You Can
Exercise plays an impact on your weight loss. Normally, you need more than 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to maintain your body weight.
It is suggested that you spread out exercise during the course of a week. There are two great times of the day to exercise: during your fasting period and your eating window.
However, the exercise you perform during each period may slightly differ based on your goals.
Resistance exercise encourages the maintenance of muscle mass, which has a significant impact on how many calories you burn when moving around and while you’re at rest.
Other types of exercise that you can do once you hit a plateau are aerobic exercise and high-intensity interval training.
Increasing your everyday physical activity and eating fewer calories increase your metabolism and encourage weight loss.
5. Get Lots of Rest and Sleep Quality
For optimal mental, emotional, and physical health, sleep is crucial.
It’s also becoming more and more evident that lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain by slowing down metabolism and changing hormone levels that stimulate appetite and fat accumulation6,7,8.
Make an effort to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night to promote weight loss and general wellness.
To improve sleep quality, set a structured bedtime and wake-up routine, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
6. Spread Your Daily Protein Intake
First off, protein increases metabolic rate more than fat or carbohydrates. Digestion of protein increases calorie expenditure by 20–30%, more than twice as much as that of fat or carbohydrates9.
You can have multiple possibilities to increase your metabolism throughout the day by consuming protein, thanks to the thermic action of meals (TEF). Otherwise defined as the rise in metabolism brought on by meal digestion.
Second, protein promotes the synthesis of hormones like PYY that help control appetite and give you a full and content feeling10.
Additionally, maintaining a high protein intake can aid in preventing the loss of muscle mass and a decline in metabolic rate11, both of which frequently happen with weight reduction.
Adults should take a minimum of 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal, assuming three meals per day, according to protein metabolism specialists12.
7. Consume Enough Water, Coffee, or Tea
While sugary drinks make you gain weight, other drinks can actually make you lose weight. According to studies13, drinking 17 ounces (500 ml) of plain water can increase metabolism by 24–30% for 1.5 hours.
When your drink water before meals it may eventually result in weight loss since it could help you eat less overall.
Your efforts to lose weight may also be aided by coffee and tea.
Caffeine, which is commonly found in these drinks, has been shown to improve metabolic rate and increase fat burning by up to 13%. However, lean people appear to be more strongly affected by these impacts14,15.
In addition, green tea includes the antioxidant EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which has been shown in research to increase fat burning by 17%16.
8. Increase Your Fiber Intake
Increased fiber consumption may aid in overcoming a weight loss plateau. This is particularly true for soluble fiber, which dissolves in liquid or water.
Because soluble fiber slows down the digestion of meals, it can make you feel more satiated and full17,18.
Fiber may also help you lose weight by reducing the number of calories you absorb from other foods. According to research19, consuming more fiber on a daily basis—between 18 and 36 grams—could result in 130 fewer calories being absorbed from mixed meals.
9. Skip or Limit Alcohol
Despite having just about 100 calories (4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, or 12 ounces of beer), one alcoholic beverage has little nutritional value. In addition, a lot of folks consume multiple drinks at once.
Alcohol also lowers inhibitions, which can cause you to overeat or choose unhealthy foods and affect the fat-burning process. This might be particularly difficult for people who are trying to stop engaging in impulsive eating practices.
Although each person’s body reacts to alcohol differently and alcohol has no discernible nutritional value, it is nevertheless wise to avoid drinking it so it won’t hurt your weight loss efforts.
It may be preferable to quit alcohol or just infrequently consume it in small amounts if your weight loss has halted.
10. Reduce Stress
When it comes to losing weight, consider stress to be your sworn enemy. Stress on a regular basis can increase calorie intake and appetite, which evidently can result in weight gain.
Cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” is also stimulated, and research has shown that this increases the storage of abdominal and body fat. While it improves how your body handles stress, it can also lead to an increase in belly fat storage. Additionally, this effect appears to be more pronounced in women20,21.
Even though it may seem like you have little control over your stress levels, studies have shown that finding ways to manage stress can support weight loss22.
Therefore, worrying is the last thing you should do if you’ve reached a weight loss plateau for a number of reasons.
11. Cut Down Carbs
Low-carb diets have proven to be quite beneficial for losing weight, as per research23.
It has often been demonstrated that very low-carb diets increase feelings of fullness and decrease appetite more than other diets. They also make your body manufacture ketones, which have been demonstrated to suppress hunger24.
A weight-loss journey even in intermittent fasting has phases of ups and down until you hit your ideal goal weight. Weight loss plateaus are inevitable; one you will face at some point and can make sticking to your routines more challenging than ever.
You will get frustrated but do not give up! Endeavor to not focus on how hard it is and instead, make it a challenge and focus on how you can break through the plateau.
Just remember that your body isn’t a machine and to allow yourself to recover. You’ve come a long way so appreciate all that weight you’ve lost so far. Give yourself a rest, celebrate your successes and then plan on how to move forward in your weight loss journey.
1 Thomas DM, Martin CK, Redman LM, Heymsfield SB, Lettieri S, Levine JA, Bouchard C, Schoeller DA. Effect of dietary adherence on the body weight plateau: a mathematical model incorporating intermittent compliance with energy intake prescription. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Sep;100(3):787-95. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.079822. Epub 2014 Jul 30. PMID: 25080458; PMCID: PMC4135489.
3 Karelis, A., Lavoie, ME., Fontaine, J. et al. Anthropometric, metabolic, dietary and psychosocial profiles of underreporters of energy intake: a doubly labeled water study among overweight/obese postmenopausal women—a Montreal Ottawa New Emerging Team study. Eur J Clin Nutr 64, 68–74 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2009.119
5 Tapsell LC, Batterham MJ, Thorne RL, O’Shea JE, Grafenauer SJ, Probst YC. Weight loss effects from vegetable intake: a 12-month randomised controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jul;68(7):778-85. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.39. Epub 2014 Mar 26. PMID: 24667750; PMCID: PMC4086735.
6 Taheri S, Lin L, Austin D, Young T, Mignot E. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS Med. 2004 Dec;1(3):e62. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0010062. Epub 2004 Dec 7. PMID: 15602591; PMCID: PMC535701.
7 Shechter A, O’Keeffe M, Roberts AL, Zammit GK, RoyChoudhury A, St-Onge MP. Alterations in sleep architecture in response to experimental sleep curtailment are associated with signs of positive energy balance. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2012 Nov 1;303(9):R883-9. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00222.2012. Epub 2012 Sep 12. PMID: 22972835; PMCID: PMC3517705.
8 Buxton OM, Cain SW, O’Connor SP, Porter JH, Duffy JF, Wang W, Czeisler CA, Shea SA. Adverse metabolic consequences in humans of prolonged sleep restriction combined with circadian disruption. Sci Transl Med. 2012 Apr 11;4(129):129ra43. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003200. PMID: 22496545; PMCID: PMC3678519.
10 Batterham RL, Heffron H, Kapoor S, Chivers JE, Chandarana K, Herzog H, Le Roux CW, Thomas EL, Bell JD, Withers DJ. Critical role for peptide YY in protein-mediated satiation and body-weight regulation. Cell Metab. 2006 Sep;4(3):223-33. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2006.08.001. PMID: 16950139.
11 Leidy HJ, Clifton PM, Astrup A, Wycherley TP, Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Luscombe-Marsh ND, Woods SC, Mattes RD. The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jun;101(6):1320S-1329S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.084038. Epub 2015 Apr 29. PMID: 25926512.
12 Layman DK, Anthony TG, Rasmussen BB, Adams SH, Lynch CJ, Brinkworth GD, Davis TA. Defining meal requirements for protein to optimize metabolic roles of amino acids. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jun;101(6):1330S-1338S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.084053. Epub 2015 Apr 29. PMID: 25926513; PMCID: PMC5278948.
13 Boschmann M, Steiniger J, Hille U, Tank J, Adams F, Sharma AM, Klaus S, Luft FC, Jordan J. Water-induced thermogenesis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Dec;88(12):6015-9. doi: 10.1210/jc.2003-030780. PMID: 14671205.
14 Acheson KJ, Gremaud G, Meirim I, Montigon F, Krebs Y, Fay LB, Gay LJ, Schneiter P, Schindler C, Tappy L. Metabolic effects of caffeine in humans: lipid oxidation or futile cycling? Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Jan;79(1):40-6. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/79.1.40. PMID: 14684395.
15 Bracco D, Ferrarra JM, Arnaud MJ, Jéquier E, Schutz Y. Effects of caffeine on energy metabolism, heart rate, and methylxanthine metabolism in lean and obese women. Am J Physiol. 1995 Oct;269(4 Pt 1):E671-8. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.1995.269.4.E671. PMID: 7485480.
16 Venables MC, Hulston CJ, Cox HR, Jeukendrup AE. Green tea extract ingestion, fat oxidation, and glucose tolerance in healthy humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar;87(3):778-84. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/87.3.778. PMID: 18326618.
17 Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis RH Jr, Ferreri S, Knudtson M, Koraym A, Waters V, Williams CL. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev. 2009 Apr;67(4):188-205. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x. PMID: 19335713.
18 Wanders AJ, van den Borne JJ, de Graaf C, Hulshof T, Jonathan MC, Kristensen M, Mars M, Schols HA, Feskens EJ. Effects of dietary fibre on subjective appetite, energy intake and body weight: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Obes Rev. 2011 Sep;12(9):724-39. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00895.x. Epub 2011 Jun 16. PMID: 21676152.
19 David J. Baer, William V. Rumpler, Carolyn W. Miles, George C. Fahey, Jr., Dietary Fiber Decreases the Metabolizable Energy Content and Nutrient Digestibility of Mixed Diets Fed to Humans, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 127, Issue 4, April 1997, Pages 579–586, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/127.4.579
20 Warne JP. Shaping the stress response: interplay of palatable food choices, glucocorticoids, insulin and abdominal obesity. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2009 Mar 5;300(1-2):137-46. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2008.09.036. Epub 2008 Oct 15. PMID: 18984030.
21 Moyer AE, Rodin J, Grilo CM, Cummings N, Larson LM, Rebuffé-Scrive M. Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Obes Res. 1994 May;2(3):255-62. doi: 10.1002/j.1550-8528.1994.tb00055.x. PMID: 16353426.
22 Cox TL, Krukowski R, Love SJ, Eddings K, DiCarlo M, Chang JY, Prewitt TE, West DS. Stress management-augmented behavioral weight loss intervention for African American women: a pilot, randomized controlled trial. Health Educ Behav. 2013 Feb;40(1):78-87. doi: 10.1177/1090198112439411. Epub 2012 Apr 13. PMID: 22505570.
23 Bueno NB, de Melo IS, de Oliveira SL, da Rocha Ataide T. Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Nutr. 2013 Oct;110(7):1178-87. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513000548. Epub 2013 May 7. PMID: 23651522.
24 McClernon FJ, Yancy WS Jr, Eberstein JA, Atkins RC, Westman EC. The effects of a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet and a low-fat diet on mood, hunger, and other self-reported symptoms. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007 Jan;15(1):182-7. doi: 10.1038/oby.2007.516. PMID: 17228046.