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Weight-Loss Plateau: How to Use Exercise to Stop It


How do you prevent an exercise weight loss plateau? First, your diet diligently and train consistently for months, and it shows. The scale steadily goes down. Your old clothes feel looser with each passing week, and you change visually.

But then, inevitably, you reach that point:

The scale doesn’t budge. Your clothes feel the same, and you stop noticing visual improvements—the dreaded weight loss plateau. But why does it occur? And how can you prevent it? Today, you’ll go over what you need to know.

What is an exercise weight loss plateau, and what makes it so wrong?

A weight-loss plateau is a sticking point on your lean and athletic body journey. Where progress seemed to come linearly over several weeks (or months), you now find yourself in a run, unable to keep losing weight.

The most frustrating thing about a weight loss plateau is that it comes even though you’re putting in the effort. You’re dieting, taking your supplements, and training hard, yet, despite your best effort, you can’t see improvements. The worst thing about weight-loss plateaus is that they force many people to give up. So, you need to be mindful of them and do your best to prevent them. First, however, you need to do your best to avoid getting frustrated or disheartened when a plateau occurs.

How to prevent an exercise weight loss plateau

Weight loss comes down to energy balance–consuming fewer calories than you burn each day. By placing ourselves in a calorie deficit, you force the body to burn fat for energy, and, thus, weight loss occurs. Say, for example, that you need to consume about 2,700 calories per day to maintain your current weight. (And keep in mind that this is an example, and you all have unique caloric needs).

If you eat about 2,200 calories, you will create a deficit of 500 calories per day. Theoretically, that should help you lose about one pound of fat per week, as a pound of fat contains approximately 3,500 calories. This theory is as straightforward as it can get. The problem is that your metabolism is highly adaptive. As you diet for a few weeks, your metabolism slows down until you eventually land on a weight loss plateau. So, what can you do? Well, first, you need to understand that weight loss plateaus are normal and are to be expected.

Your best way to tackle them is to stay calm, track your progress carefully, and make adjustments when you land on a plateau.

Say, for example, that you weigh yourself daily, calculate the average over seven days, and compare it from week to week.

  • 1 Week: 165.4 pounds
  • 2 Week: 163.7 pounds
  • 3 Week: 162.4 pounds
  • 4 Week: 161.8 pounds
  • 5 Week: 162.2 pounds
  • 6 Week: 161.9 pounds
  • 7 Week: 162.1 pounds

Clearly, over weeks five, six, and seven, your weight hasn’t been going down. So at that point, what you can do is increase your activity level (most commonly by doing more cardio or bumping your daily step count) or decrease your calorie intake by about 300-500 per day.

For example, if over weeks five, six, and seven, you were eating 2,200 calories per day, maybe eat 1,700 per day from week eight onward. Alternatively, if you used to do about 60 minutes of cardio per week, bump that to 100. That way, you’ll be able to maintain the caloric deficit and keep burning fat. Finally, the best way to lose weight is to eat less and move more. When you stop losing weight, your diet has caught up to your metabolism. Thus, this happens when your metabolism slows down because of body weight loss.

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