Metabolism and Weight Loss Plateaus- What’s the Connection?

November 3, 2015

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If you or anyone you know has ever run a marathon, you might be familiar with that notorious point where you “hit the wall.” That description is entirely accurate. You’re running, making good time, and then, BOOM. It happens. It’s as if your forehead suddenly gets pressed up against a wall of steel. And no matter how hard you push, you feel like you don’t make progress. For people trying to lose weight, hitting the wall may sound familiar, but by a different name. Hitting the wall in weight loss is reaching the dreaded plateau.

As frustrating as it may be to hit a plateau (where your rate of weight loss slows or halts), it is a normal and expected part of the process. It actually means your body is responding appropriately to a reduction in overall weight, primarily in the areas of fat and some muscle. In its own misguided way, your body is trying to protect you when it detects a loss of body weight. The more you lose, the more concerned it gets that you are headed for starvation mode. As a response it pushes back – hard – which results in the plateau.

How you arrived at the plateau most likely came from an initial decrease in daily calorie intake. So to break through the plateau, it may seem logical to reduce calories even further. This might be true in some cases where you can tolerate cutting more calories. But to make matters more confusing, the reality is that is your body actually needs a minimum amount of calories in order to lose weight. The real key to busting through a plateau is simple. You need to boost your metabolism.

There are a number of ways you can boost your metabolism. Here are a few ideas:

Exercise. Both cardio and strength training have been proven to help boost your metabolism. Resistance training can help you maintain or build muscle and turn you back into a calorie-burning machine. Walking is another great way to boost your metabolism. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that women who walked for nine hours a week were able to lower body-fat percentage and their raise basal metabolic rate (BMR).

Spice up your diet. Chili peppers help you feel the burn, and can also benefit weight loss. Capsinoids found in chili peppers have metabolism-boosting qualities. A 2010 study found that a capsinoids could boost your basal metabolic rate by 50 calories a day after one month of consistent consumption.

Eat more protein. Protein has a two-pronged benefit on your metabolism. First, it helps your body build muscle. Second, it requires your body to work a little harder (i.e., user more energy) to break protein down for the digestive system to function properly.  What’s not to love?

Plateaus may last of few days or a few weeks, but if you engage in the activities that are designed to boost your metabolism, you should break through sooner rather than later. Don’t get discouraged! Just think of it as a signal that your weight loss goal is only a few paces away.

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