Finding an effective way to lose weight is an amazing feeling, especially as your clothes start to feel looser and you have more energy overall.
But, at some point or another, everybody hits a plateau with weight loss. Normally, this happens well before you’ve hit your weight loss target.
So, what do you do?
Figuring out how to break through a weight loss plateau can often seem overwhelming – particularly as you’re probably already following healthy approaches overall. After all, you’ve got this far with weight loss.
But, as frustrating as they are, a weight loss plateau doesn’t have to be the end of your journey. Instead, this issue is a time to step back, reassess and figure out new strategies.
Thankfully, there are many ways to ensure you continue to lose weight and reach your overall goals.
Tips to Break Through a Weight Loss Plateau
In this post, we are mostly going to talk about one overall technique for getting past stalled weight loss – which is the idea of intermittent fasting. This is a powerful approach and is worth seriously considering, even if you have never tried or considered it previously.
But first, we’re going to consider some general approaches. Most of these work well in conjunction with intermittent fasting and may also help to solve the problem in their own right.
Adjust Your Energy Intake. We don’t advocate calorie-restricted diets, as they tend to be ineffective in the long-term and frustrating to follow. However, being aware of your energy intake is important. In particular, larger people tend to need more energy.
As such, your energy intake needs to decrease as you lose weight. So, if you hit a weight loss plateau, it could be because you’re still eating as much as you did when you first started losing weight.
Drink More Water. Water is critical for weight loss and for health in general. Many of us don’t actually consume enough of it and drinking more is a powerful weight loss tool. If you’re not fond of plain water, you can try options like lemon water or some of these healthy water variations.
Get Enough Fiber. Fiber is another important area for weight loss and also plays a role in how full you feel. It’s easy to be lacking in fiber but you can improve this area by focusing on whole foods, particularly vegetables. Many plant-based protein options can also act as a good source of fiber.
Practice Good Sleep Habits. With our busy and stressful society, sleep is one area that often gets compromised. Indeed, around 33% of working people in the United States get no more than 6 hours of sleep a night (1). Yet, sleep is critical to good health and to weight loss (2,3,4). In many cases, you can make small changes to improve the quality and quantity of sleep.
For example, some recommendations include:
- Keep to a sleep schedule
- Limit screen time in the few hours before you sleep
- Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and pillow
- Avoid caffeine after around 3 pm
- Keep the bedroom cool
- Ensure you are sleeping in total darkness (or as close as possible)
As is always the case, the best approaches are going to vary depending on who you are and what you need. But, these can all be good places to start. Often, simply improving your sleep quantity or quality can have dramatic effects on your ability to lose weight.
For that matter, having better sleep makes it easier to make good decisions about food.
Pay Attention to Protein. Many people cut down their protein intake as part of weight loss – but this can be counterproductive. Instead, we often need more protein and protein can help with weight loss and building lean tissue. Additionally, protein is filling, so getting enough makes it easier to stick to a diet.
Do What Works for You. There are countless weight loss techniques, programs and fads out there. Some of them work in the short-term only, while others are effective in the long-term too. But, one of the most important approaches is simply finding something that works for you.
Realistically, despite all of our similarities, we are all different in how we respond. For example, some people are sensitive to gluten or dairy and may need to cut these out of their diet entirely.
So, you may find that you hit a plateau with weight loss because you’re trying to follow an approach that simply isn’t the best for you. Instead, it’s worth paying close attention to how your body responds and make adjustments based on this.
Try a Different Diet Approach. In some cases, dramatically shifting up your techniques may work well. For example, many people find that a low carb and high fat diet is more effective for weight loss than focusing on low fat. Other people rely on ketogenic dieting, which typically involves fewer carbs again. Such techniques can work well, especially for people who are sensitive to carbs.
And, as we’re going to discuss, one particularly good way of trying a different approach is through intermittent fasting.
Losing Weight with Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a popular technique for losing weight and for keeping it off. The basic idea is that you lose weight by controlled and planned fasting.
This doesn’t mean you’re starving yourself, far from it.
Instead, people who intermittent fast often eat wholesome and hearty meals. The main difference is simply when they eat.
One great thing is that there are many different variations to intermittent fasting. For example, one common option is the 16:8 schedule (also called the 16:8 diet), where you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8.
Some people also do alternate day fasting, which typically involves one day of fasting, followed by a day of eating normally.
There are other variations too, including changes in the specific number and distribution of hours or days that you are fasting for. As a result, you can tailor intermittent fasting for your own lifestyle.
James Clear offers a great beginner’s guide to intermittent fasting if you want to learn more, including visual schedules for how you can fit the technique into your day.
But, why do it?
Intermittent fasting contradicts much of the weight loss advice that we’ve heard before – particularly the idea that you shouldn’t skip breakfast. Yet, despite common belief, there is little evidence that intermittent fasting slows down the metabolism or results in increased calorie intake in subsequent meals.
Instead, many people on intermittent fasting consume fewer calories per day, which alone contributes to weight loss (5). For that matter, intermittent fasting works well simply because it is a relatively hassle-free way to lose weight. After all, there are no special foods to worry about and you don’t have to count calories or macros – unless you want to.
For many people, the idea also simply makes sense, especially as they may not always be hungry during conventional meal times. And, if nothing else, the approach means fewer meals to worry about, which saves you time and money as well.
People do also adapt to the diet fairly quickly (6), even though the concept may not sound appealing at first. In fact, intermittent fasting is one of the few diets that is often easier in practice than it sounds on paper.
But, there are also biochemical advantages.
In particular, the state of being hungry impacts the way that our bodies respond and can help the body to clear out waste (7).
Additionally, fasting helps reduce blood sugar spikes and may improve regulation of blood sugar (8).
Some authors suggest that the fasting state gives the body the chance to break down some of your energy reserves, as the body isn’t actively processing food. As a result, you can potentially burn more calories by fasting periodically than constantly remaining fed (9).
This situation is also known as the postabsorptive state and typically occurs between 3 to 5 hours after a meal (10). As you can probably imagine, without intermittent fasting, we don’t reach that state very often. After all, modern eating patterns involve a meal every 5 hours or so and people often have snacks between meals as well.
The end result is that intermittent fasting has significant potential for weight loss and is often a particularly powerful technique.
Intermittent Fasting and Weight Loss Plateaus
Intermittent fasting is great for overall weight loss. But, it is also especially powerful for weight loss plateaus.
For one thing, it can be a significant variation on what you were doing previously. This alone can be a good way to kick start your body into weight loss again and help you get past the plateau.
You also end up spending less time eating, which means fewer opportunities to over-indulge. The flexibility of the idea also works well, especially as it means you can combine intermittent fasting with whatever other approaches you are taking.
Actually Doing Intermittent Fasting
On paper, intermittent fasting sounds horrible.
Nobody really likes being hungry and having to go without food for 16 hours (in the 16:8 variation), for a day or for some other length of time can seem like torture.
And, in fairness, the process is tough for some people, especially right at the beginning. But, for many, intermittent fasting isn’t hard at all. Instead, many people find it easy and even enjoyable.
One reason is that you have so much flexibility with food. For example, on a 16:8 regimen, you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8.
During those 8, you can basically eat whatever you like, whenever you like (within reason).
Obviously, you don’t want to eat an absurd amount of calories. But, the whole idea is that you’re not dieting during the process. So, you typically wouldn’t worry about counting calories and you would often focus on foods that are filling and high in nutrients.
This flexibility also means that intermittent fasting can work well with whatever you’re already doing. For example, many keto dieters follow intermittent fasting at the same time and the same is true for people on low carb diets.
Likewise, you could do intermittent fasting on a low fat diet if you wanted to, on a Mediterranean diet or on something else entirely. You could even simply follow a flexible approach, where you mostly eat what you want to, rather than working off any specific diet.
Another reason is that being hungry isn’t as tough as you may think.
Take the 16:8 diet for example. Fasting for 16 hours sounds horrible. But, that includes the time you’re asleep. So, for example, your fast might be from 6 pm at night to 10 am the next day.
Doing so basically means that you don’t eat at all after dinner and that you have breakfast late (or you have an early lunch). For many people, the toughest part of that is the few hours early in the morning – but drinking coffee can help get past that.
You can also adjust those times based on your schedule and what works for you. You don’t have to do the 16:8 either. Many authors recommend 14:10, particularly for women – and you could pick your own timing based on how your body responds.
The diet approach also means that you can consume hearty food, including options that you simply couldn’t fit in your diet otherwise. For example, many people in the 16:8 version of intermittent fasting only eat two meals a day. But, those two meals are typically large and very satisfying.
It’s easy to see how this could be appealing and it gives you the chance to enjoy your food without having to stress about what you are eating.
Should You Try Intermittent Fasting?
For many people, intermittent fasting is a powerful tool. But, as with any weight loss technique, it’s important to pay close attention to your own body and how it responds. After all, fasting can be a fairly intense process and the impacts on your body are significant.
For some people, this isn’t an issue at all. In fact, the diet can be liberating, as you are often paying less attention to the specific food you eat and to aspects like calories, carbs and grams of fat.
Likewise, many people don’t find it hard to be hungry – and may experience improvements in their attention and concentration, rather than the reverse.
But, as you can probably guess, this isn’t always the case.
Instead, some people do experience major challenges with intermittent fasting. One example of this is energy and people can feel sluggish when they are fasting. This can be a major issue for productivity and effectiveness.
Some people also find it difficult to get all of the nutrients that they need on a daily basis.
Finally, the style simply isn’t practical for some people. For example, those who often eat socially may struggle to skip meals and many may not be able to function effectively without breakfast. As such, intermittent fasting won’t be an amazing solution for everybody – but, it is worth trying out.
If nothing else, the method changes the way that you think about and approach food. That aspect alone can be powerful for weight loss.
Intermittent Fasting for Women
One important area to consider is intermittent fasting for women. While intermittent fasting is powerful, it can cause some additional challenges for females.
In particular, intermittent fasting can contribute to hormonal imbalances, metabolic issues and even early menopause. The reason for issues is that intermittent fasting does impact hormones, including those that regulate ovulation.
The pattern isn’t surprising. After all, intermittent fasting can make your body think that it is starving. This can change where resources are allocated, especially in relation to reproduction.
We’re not going to go into the topic in too much detail here but Precision Nutrition offers an in-depth discussion about intermittent fasting for women and the potential implications that it can have.
Now, this isn’t the case for everybody and many women can (and do) follow intermittent fasting without any problems. But, the potential for side effects means that women need to be very careful with intermittent fasting and listen to the signals that their body gives.
With this in mind, you may consider trying out intermittent fasting and seeing how your body responds. For example, if you find that your cycle becomes less regular, sleeping gets more difficult or you are experiencing mood swings, then intermittent fasting may not be for you.
On the other hand, if you have more energy and no significant side effects, then intermittent fasting could be a good choice.
If you do have issues, there are also variations that you can try, such as shortening the fasting window or adding in bulletproof coffee, as discussed below.
Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting
One interesting alternative to standard approaches is the idea of bulletproof intermittent fasting. The video below offers a short introduction to the topic – but the idea basically involves using bulletproof coffee as part of intermittent fasting.
In case you haven’t heard of it, bulletproof coffee is an extremely popular trend, although it is heavily debated. The official recipe comes from the Bulletproof blog and involves using coffee, butter or ghee and a specific oil that the company sells, called Brain Octane Oil.
However, many people simply use either coconut oil or MCT oil instead, while others ignore the oil and stick to butter on its own. There are also various other recipes out there that vary the ingredients and approaches somewhat.
Regardless of how you make the coffee, the idea is to drink bulletproof coffee as a way of decreasing hunger and making the diet easier to maintain.
For example, a 16:8 approach could involve fasting from 6 pm to 10 am. If you got up at 6 am in the morning, you might have one (or two) bulletproof coffees in that gap between 6 am and 10 am to tide you over.
Likewise, if you were doing a 24-hour fast or something similar, you might have bulletproof coffee during the day.
Technically speaking, a bulletproof coffee breaks your fast, which is why this is a variation on the idea, rather than actual intermittent fasting. But, there is some logic behind doing so.
In particular, bulletproof intermittent fasting may help to decrease some negative effects and make it easier to stick to the diet. The creator argues that this can help keep your hormones in check and may be especially relevant for anybody following a keto diet.
In short, the approach lets you get most of the benefits from intermittent fasting but is a slightly easier way to do so and there are fewer side effects. There may even be more health benefits to doing this form of intermittent fasting – but there isn’t enough evidence to know.
Now, we do want to make it clear that the benefits of bulletproof coffee are debatable.
The coffee can be a good way to increase your healthy fat intake, especially as butter is good for you. It also contains healthy compounds like butyrate. Furthermore, a high fat and low carb diet may offer many benefits and saturated fat is fine for health (despite the cholesterol controversy) (11,12).
But, most research into saturated fats has only looked at ‘normal’ levels of consumption. We don’t really know whether consistently having high amounts of saturated fat is a good thing or not, especially if you’re intentionally adding it into your coffee every morning (or multiple times per day).
Realistically, bulletproof coffee may well be completely safe and even beneficial for health. Still, without the research, there is no way to be certain.
Overall, this means that bulletproof intermittent fasting may be a good alternative if you want to make intermittent fasting easier. But, do be wary and pay attention to the way that your body responds.
Will Intermittent Fasting Break Your Weight Loss Plateau?
Weight loss is a very personal thing. We all respond differently, which is partly why some people thrive on diets approaches like keto, while others struggle the entire time.
As a result, intermittent fasting works very well for some people and is a poor fit for others.
Still, it is a considerable variation from traditional weight loss methods and can offer an effective way to break a weight loss plateau, especially if you are struggling to do so on your own. If nothing else, the approach is well-worth trying and you may find that it improves your relationship with food at the same time.
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