How To Break A Low Carb Diet Plateau
Many people believe a low carb diet plateau can’t happen, however just because you’ve decreased the amount of carbs in your eating plan doesn’t mean you’ll never hit a weight stall! If you’ve been following a low carb diet for a couple of months and you’ve stopped losing weight, you’re experiencing a weight loss plateau, or a weight loss stall.
Don’t give up on your low carb diet plan just yet! A diet plateau is a normal part of losing weight, and there are plenty of small diet adjustments you can make to get past a weight stall.
Follow each step and you’ll start losing weight immediately!
In this article we’ll discuss:
- What is a weight loss plateau?
- What causes a weight plateau?
- How to break a weight loss stall?
- How long does a weight plateau last?
The more information you have about how your body works when losing weight, the more control you’ll have over a weight stall. It’s important to understand exactly what your body is doing while your weight is plateaued so you know exactly what steps you should take to move past the stall quickly and easily. This post is focused on a low carb or keto diet, however the steps in this post can be applied to any weight loss program!
What Is A Weight Loss Plateau?
A weight plateau is a stall in weight loss on the scale even when you’ve been following your low carb diet perfectly. You may stop losing weight for no reason, or so it seems! You might be tracking macros and reading nutrition labels but no matter how hard you try the scale just won’t budge.
It’s normal to hit a weight plateau when you’re losing body fat. It’s a natural part of any healthy weight loss program. The frustration of a weight stall is the toughest, so you’ll need to be patient and persistent to get through a low carb plateau.
It’s important to understand a weight plateau will likely happen many times during a healthy weight loss program. Each time you hit a plateau you can use this information to assess your situation and make adjustments to get the weight falling off again. If you use the information outlined in this post, you’re weight stall shouldn’t last longer than two weeks. No matter how frustrating a weight stall is, you do have control! You just need to know what to do.
What Causes A Weight Plateau?
- Eating more calories than you burn off
- Eating too many carbohydrates
- Unstable blood sugars and insulin
- Water weight or hormonal fluctuations
Calories And Low Carb Weight Loss
There are rumours in the low carb diet community that you don’t need to worry about calories while losing weight with low carb, but actually this isn’t true! While burning fat your body needs to make many metabolic adjustments.
One of those adjustments is your energy intake versus your energy output. When your weight is stable you’d be consuming about the same number of calories as your body uses up each day. When you’re losing weight on a low carb diet you’d naturally reduce your calorie intake, and therefore your body will dip into stored body fat for the calories it needs.
If you don’t decrease the calories in your diet as you lose weight, your calorie intake will become close to the number of calories you burn off. At this point your body is in energy balance. When your body is in energy balance there is no reason for your body to use stored body fat as energy, because you’re already eating enough calories. As you lose weight you’re body needs less calories.
What Determines Your Calorie Intake?
- Muscle mass.
- Activity levels.
How many calories does your body need?
You can work out approximate calorie needs based on the factors outlined above. When calculating your calorie needs, you’ll take into account your basal metabolic rate and your activity levels. Basal metabolism refers to the minimum energy your body needs to function at rest. Age, current weight, gender and muscle mass determine your basal metabolic rate. You can learn more about basal metabolism here. Activity levels determine how many extra calories you might burn during daily activities. As you lose weight, your calorie needs will decrease!
You can easily work out your minimum daily energy needs by taking these simple steps.
- Your current weight in pounds
- Divide by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms
- Weight in kilograms multiplied by 24
- Your minimum calories per day
Current weight: 220 pounds ÷ 2.2 = 100 kilograms body weight
100kg’s x 24 hours in a day = 2400 calories per day
Note: this is a minimum number of calories you’d need to consume daily and remain healthy. If you have an active lifestyle or more muscle mass you’ll likely need more calories! Men carry more muscle than women so males usually need more calories. Those who exercise at a higher intensity need more calories to maintain lean mass. If your calorie intake is too low, your body will start breaking down lean tissue, which will slow your metabolism!
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How To Burn More Calories For Weight Loss
You can control how many calories you burn! Obviously you can’t control your gender or age, however by increasing muscle mass and increasing daily exercise you can increase the number of calories your body burns each day. The more calories you burn off, the faster you’ll break through a weight plateau because your body will start using body fat stores to make up the difference.
Watch this video to understand calories and weight loss
Exercise To Break A Weight Stall
Increasing your daily exercise will increase the amount of calories you burn off. Higher intensity exercise burns more calories. The longer the activity, the more calories you’ll burn. For example if you were to do a high intensity aerobic activity for 40 minutes three times a week, you’ll likely break through your weight plateau very quickly. You might do a resistance training exercise combined with cardio activity such as interval training. Or you might decide to do a HIIT workout which has been proven to burn a lot of calories!
Eating Too Many Carbohydrates Causing A Weight Plateau
It’s normal to relax into a low carb diet plan. Sometimes we can become so relaxed that we eat more carbohydrates than we realise. Here are some solutions to lower your carbohydrate intake easily.
- Check nutrition labels
- Eat Whole Foods
- Excessive snacking
- Address sugar cravings
Check Nutrition Labels For Hidden Carbohydrates
When following a low carb diet it’s important to check for hidden carbs and simple sugars in the processed foods you buy. Many food manufacturers include hidden carbs, and the ingredient lists are not always easy to understand on food labels. When in doubt, put the packaged food back! If there are many chemicals and words you cant pronounce on the ingredient list, chances are some of those ingredients are hidden carbs, or in the very least, the food isn’t healthy!
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Eat Whole Foods
The best option is to eat whole foods from nature. As a nutritionist I’ve studied the foods found in nature. The good news is, most whole foods are low in carbohydrates and high in fibre. For this reason I suggest when reducing carbohydrates in your diet, you should always base your diet on whole, unprocessed foods.
Did you know whole most unprocessed foods contain less than 20% carbohydrates? Even the humble potato contains only 17% total carbs. If you base your diet around natural whole foods, you’ll inevitably be following a low carb diet. An easy way to reduce calories and carbohydrates in your diet is to increase the vegetables in your meals. Most vegetables are very low in both calories and carbohydrates, and they’re also filling and flavoursome! By including more vegetables you’ll naturally be increasing fibre, vitamins and minerals in your diet, which will decrease hunger.
After following a weight loss plan for a while, it’s perfectly normal to snack excessively or cheat on the plan subconsciously. This is one of the most common causes of a low carb weight plateau! Be sure that you’re not snacking out of habit rather than hunger. When you do have a snack check the foods you choose are very low in carbohydrates and sugars. A perfect snack should be based around protein to keep you satisfied until your next main meal.
Address Sugar Cravings
If you’re craving sugar you’ll likely be making sweet desserts or sweet snacks using a natural sweetener. There’s nothing wrong with that, and in fact having sweet treats on a low carb weight loss plan can ensure that you stick with the diet long term. However, if you’re sugar cravings are out of control and you’re eating sweet treats when your not really hungry, you’ll be adding extra calories to your diet that you don’t need! Even small low carb treats have extra calories, and all those extra calories add up over a week. Those extra calories can be enough to cause a plateau. Check the calories in your sweet treats and see if you can find a lower calorie alternative to squash those sugar cravings.
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Unstable Blood Sugars and Insulin Levels
Following a low carb diet natural reduces blood sugars and therefore circulating insulin in the blood. Under normal circumstances your body should be able to function for many hours without food. You have hormones such as glucagon which increase blood sugar in between meals. This is how your body stabilises blood sugars no matter what you’re doing. But if we have metabolic disturbances, our hormones don’t function well. So blood sugars might become too high or too low, and that’s when symptoms start to appear.
One example of this type of metabolic disturbance is type two diabetes. The symptoms of blood sugar disturbances are: feeling shaky when hungry, feeling light headed, needing to eat often, feeling drowsy for no apparent reason, or feeling sweaty and clammy. If you have these symptoms you need to consult your doctor and have some blood tests to determine a cause.
Watch this video to understand how insulin and blood sugars affect weight loss.
Unstable Blood Sugars Cause Weight Stall
When blood sugars aren’t stabilised a weight plateau is likely for a couple of reasons.
- Due to high blood sugars, you’ll also have higher circulating insulin in your blood. Insulin is a storage hormone. It sends a message to cells to store both body fat and sugar.
- When you’re blood sugars drop from the increased blood insulin, you’ll feel hungry and crave high calorie carbohydrate dense foods. In this situation its likely you’ll eat again even though your body doesn’t need the calories, but instead needs blood sugar!
If you’ve experienced these symptoms you need to consult your doctor for a proper medical assessment.
Water Weight Causes Weight Loss Plateau
Water weight can cause a temporary weight stall on the scale but shouldn’t be considered a real plateau! Water weight is usually a temporary setback and is most often caused by menstrual cycles or sodium intake. If you’re weighing in weekly and this is the first time you’ve remained the same weight, or gained weight, look at the meals you ate the day before. Water weight caused by excess salt in the diet usually only lasts a day or two. If you haven’t eaten anything too high in sodium, consider where you are in you’re menstrual cycle. Menstrual water weight is natural and usually lasts no longer than a week leading up to a period.
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How To Break A Weight Plateau?
Now that you understand what may be causing a weight stall, you can assess your situation and find areas to adjust your diet. Every body is different so it’s important to adjust your diet according to your personal needs. After looking at the outline above you should have an idea of at least one area you can focus your attention for the next couple of weeks.
12 weight plateau breakers
- Are you premenstrual? Could you be holding water weight?
- Check your calorie intake. Can you reduce the calories you’re currently eating?
- How many snacks are you eating? Do you really need a snack or is it habit?
- Are you eating proper meals which are made of whole low carb foods?
- Are you sneaking extra carbs into your diet?
- Check the labels for all processed foods.
- Eliminate processed foods with added chemicals.
- Eat when your hungry!
- Include more vegetables in your diet.
- Increase your daily activity.
- Change up your exercise plan. Increase your intensity or include resistance training.
- Increase the duration of exercise time.
How long does a weight plateau last?
If you change nothing about your diet and exercise routine, you’re weight plateau could potentially last months. How long a weight plateau lasts depends entirely on the individual! A weight stall can end quickly if you’re willing to take the necessary steps we’ve outlined above.
Most people will start losing weight again after changing just one element of their diet or exercise routine. If you make a significant change to your exercise routine for example, you’ll likely start losing weight immediately! The great news is, the weight you lose after a plateau is usually high. The more the changes you make to your diet and exercise plan, the faster your weight stall will shift.
Get off the scale and focus on diet and exercise!
It’s tempting to check the scale everyday when you’re trying to break a weight stall, however this is counterproductive. Weighing yourself daily doesn’t give you the right information because your weight will naturally fluctuate. Therefore I suggest you weigh yourself no more than once a week. If your limit your weigh ins to once a week, you’ll be able to measure your progress more accurately. If you’ve tried changing one or two things about your diet and you’re weight still wont budge, you may need to take more drastic action! Read the information above about calorie intake and energy output to understand where you can make other changes. Weight loss is just physics! If you understand how to manipulate your metabolism, you’ll break a plateau quite easily. Good luck!
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