How I finally broke a weight loss plateau!
This morning, I stepped on the scale and conquered a plateau: I finally broke through the 210 lb barrier.
As you can see from the above picture, I was hovering above 210 pounds for over a year. My body weight was like a stock that was stuck in a 52-week trading average that it could not break through. The floor and ceiling were solid.
With stocks, this dependability might be a good thing. With weight loss, it can be frustrating. However, like a persistent trader who believes his investment will eventually go up, I stuck with my program of counting calories, cardio, and weightlifting until the plateau was broken.
I’m just a regular guy who, in his 40s, realized he needed to get into shape or else he was going to suffer unnecessary health consequences. At this stage in my life, I still have control over the shape that I’m in. So I decided to take control of it. I’m not a licensed professional: this is not official medical advice. I am merely giving you one person’s experience in the hopes that it encourages those struggling with a weight loss plateau to keep fighting through it.
Here is a list of things I did to break through my own personal weight loss plateau:
No matter what, you have to believe that by exercising you are doing good for your body. Even if the scale is flatlining on you, there are changes going on within you that our constructive and helpful. Stick with it, no matter what. The scale is just a number. Exercising makes changes within you that go far beyond that number.
For example, if you’re lifting weights, you should eventually start gaining muscle mass, assuming your diet is complementing your efforts. This gaining of muscle mass may increase your weight before you see a reduction due to burning off fat. You have to patiently stick with what you’re working on, trust the results that you see in the mirror, and understand that eventually the fat loss will translate into weight loss.
Run, then walk. Then run some more.
About a year ago, I signed up for my first 5K run at my daughter’s middle school. A couple of months after that, I did a 10K. Then, in October, I ran a half marathon.
Before you get too impressed, understand that I am a very slow runner. I just recently started running under 12 minutes per mile on my 5K’s, and last week I finished a 10k in one hour and 23 minutes, just to give me an idea of how slow I am.
I am not a competitive runner. At least when it comes to time. No, I am a competitive when it comes to improving my fitness!
A minor tweak that I made at the beginning of this year was to incorporate fast-paced walking into my running regimen. For example, for the 10K, I ran the first 2 miles, then I walked 2 miles, then I finished strong with a 2 mile run. My end time was better than the first 10K that I had run last year. I had much more energy at the end of the run. And by walking, I mixed in some fat burn with my cardio.
Use a heart rate monitor.
The reason why I started walking with my running was because I started analyzing the data I was getting from a Christmas gift I got: the Fitbit charge HR. This device revealed to me that when I was running, I was in peak heart rate mode most of the time. That means my heart rate was above the ideal rate for cardio, let alone burning fat.
I still wanted to run. Why? Well, training for a 5K or a 10K gives me a goal to aspire to. It keeps me focused. It motivates me. That’s why I do it, even if I am a slow runner.
However, by running at a peak heart rate, I was not getting all the benefits that I really wanted out of the exercise. I wanted to lose weight, which translates to I really wanted to burn off some fat. Running at a peak heart rate is not necessarily the best way of going about doing this. It doesn’t hurt, but there are more efficient ways of doing this without the wear and tear that goes with running.
So, now I run about 6 miles a week, and I walk about 6 miles a week. The numbers vary. Sometimes I walk more, sometimes I run more. My black Labrador, Emmett, prefers the fast-paced walking, but sometimes I’m in the mood for a run. I listen to my dog, then I drop him off and listen to my body, LOL.
My goal this year is to walk/run 1000 km. By mixing walking with running, my heart rate is more often in the cardio and fat burn zone, which is where I wanted to be when exercising like this. Plus, walking is easier on my joints, which becomes important the older you get!
Using the Fitbit charge HR, I also learned that my heart rate was around 80 bpm when I was lifting weights. Deciding that wasn’t high enough and that I wanted to burn some fat while lifting, I have added. walking in between sets to my routine. So, I’ll complete a set, and then walk around for 45 seconds before continuing the next set. This bumps up my beats per minute slightly, and increases my step count for the day. Every little bit of exercise, no matter how small and trivial it may seem, counts when you’re trying to lose weight.
I made another tweak at the beginning of this year. A friend of mine recommended an app called BodySpace, which has tons of free weightlifting programs for you to follow. You can put in your age and your goals, and the search results will bring up weightlifting programs that fit what you’re looking for.
Prior to this, I was lifting twice a week, doing a 45 minute full body workout. Sometimes I would do machines, sometimes I would do weights, sometimes I would just do bodyweight exercises. It was pretty good, and I saw my waistline go down, but I was stuck in that 52 week weight loss trading range, unable to go below 210 pounds.
So, when I signed up on the BodySpace app, I chose a workout program that was more strenuous for lifting weights. I figured it was time, and that my body could handle it.
I now work two or three major muscle groups every time I go to the gym to lift weights, and I lift about four times a week.
Sometimes you have to make changes to your workout regimen to trick your body into letting go of some of that fat. I believe that definitely helped me break through the plateau.
Increase your protein intake.
I have been using the myfitnesspal app to track my diet for over 500 days now. It’s been a huge help to me. My first 25 pounds of weight loss I owe to this app, for helping me to see that I was eating too much! Counting calories was my first big key to getting back into shape when I started down this path two years ago.
As I get closer to my goal weight, I realize that tweaking my diet is important as well. In order to sustain the muscle gains from lifting weights in the gym, I decided I had to increase my protein intake. This will help my muscles recover faster. And as they recover faster, they will help me burn more calories when I exercise in the future. Which will help me burn more fat. Wash, rinse, repeat.
In the myfitnesspal app, there is a nutrition section. One part of that section is a pie chart that shows how much fat, proteins, and carbohydrates you’ve eaten in the day, or in the week. I had a goal of 20% protein for the day. That’s the default setting. In order to handle the increased weight lifting regimen I am now doing, I realized it was important to increase the protein percentage. So I increased it to 35% a few weeks ago. I decreased my carb intake to 35%, and kept the fat percentage at 30%.
By increasing my protein, I’m seeing more results from my weightlifting. My arms are more defined. The baby fat on my face is slowly going away.
If you’re working hard at the gym, it’s OK to feed your body, as long as it’s healthy stuff. However, I also want to keep my calories at a certain range. So how do I do this?
I rely on protein shakes to give me the extra protein boost that my body requires. I drink Premier protein, which is 160 cal and packs 30 g of protein, but you can make your own shakes if you want to go that route. I’m also a big fan of meal replacement protein bars, like Met Rx or Premier protein. On days when I’m not lifting, I might go with a lower calorie protein bar like Zoneperfect. If you travel or commute a lot like I do for work, portable protein bars and shakes are a great way to stay on top of your calorie count while getting the protein and nutrients you need.
I hope this article helps anyone out there who is struggling with a weight loss plateau. Even if you’ve been stuck for over a year, like I was, do not give up! When the time is right and you make the necessary tweaks to your diet and exercise plan, you will break through. I’m confident in that.