Intermittent Fasting (IF) has been basking in popularity for all of its health benefits including weight loss. But, for some IF practitioners overtime the weight loss tapers off or stops altogether. The stalling is often referred to as plateau effect and can be a frustrating and discouraging experience. [1]

In this article, we’ll review some reasons as to why the body levels out during IF and the break-through tips on how to move forward.

Related Posts:

Intermittent Fasting — An (Evidence-Based) Beginner’s Guide to Weight Loss

A Women’s Guide to Hormone Balance and Weight-Loss | Intermittent Fasting

tea over ice

Adaptation is Our Greatest Strength

Human species has a rich and diverse history. We wondered from Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago and inhabited almost every corner of the globe. Many regions with harsh climates were difficult to survive in, however our ancestors moved into these rough environments and found ways to evolve and prosper. [2]

The power to inhabit the uninhabitable comes from our ability to adapt as humans. Challenges (environment, physical or psychological) stress the body causing a response leading to either death or adaptation. Body adaptations produce enhancements to tissues, compounds, molecules, and so on to find a new metabolic baseline—homeostasis. [3]

Fasting acts as one such stress we apply to our bodies, overtime the body adapts to this stress. Adaptation means status quo and therefore little energy is suspended maintaining it. This is when we have to re-create, re-apply the same stress with a few different modifications to keep the body systems on their toes (as to speak) and maximizing fat burning.

Plateaus are Part of the Progress

Plateau is a stage where the body has adapted to particular change (reaching homeostasis) before completing the entire goal. [1]

Weight-loss plateau happens when we’re trying but no longer losing weight. To move beyond plateau we need to add variety (stimulus) and place the body back into the adaptation zone.

The following reasons shown to stall weight loss during IF. Let’s take a more detailed look on how to rise above and continue towards our goals.

Intermittent Fasting | 7-day Eating Schedule & Step-by-Step Guide 

10 Ways to Break Through Weight-Loss Plateau

1. Don’t Let the Scale Be Your Guide

The number on the scale is just a number, that does’t tell us anything else about our body. It gives no feedback in terms of body fat, glycogen storage, lean body mass or hormone levels.

Our body weight constantly fluctuates throughout the day, due to ongoing biochemical processes and the fact that we’re made-up of roughly 60% water by mass. [4]

Consider the following examples:

  • Low glycogen during a fast causes the body to remove excess water (as glycogen needs water for storage). [5] The scale reflects this change with a lower number, but nothing really happened. The body used up glycogen and therefore needs to retain less water so, it is excreted (water loss = lower weight on the scale). Side note: athletes use this trick regularly to make weight for completions and gain it all back with hours after the weigh-in.
  • On other hand, consistent IF schedule combined with regular resistance training improves muscle mass, insulin sensitivity while burning more body fat.[6] Muscle is denser than fat and holds more water (due to glycogen) which can show no change or even higher poundage (kilo) on the weight scale. The scale shows improvement in the first part due to water loss, and plateau or reversal in the second example. But this is inaccurate, as the real benefits of IF are actually gained in the second part. More muscle needs more calories for upkeep, improves body mass index (BMI) and enhances cellular efficiency, metabolic flexibility and energy production (mitochondrial). [5-6]

We’re not saying to avoid the weight scale, but simply use it as an indicator for your progress. In addition, focus on how your body feels, if it feels more toned, tighter and stronger then you are on the right track and give yourself some time to see the weight goal you are after.

2. Review Caloric Intake During Fasting

Checking what we consume during the fasting window is always a good place to start. A small lemon slice in water will likely be okay, as there are not enough carbs to break the fast. But, adding some cream to coffee or taking branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) will trigger insulin response stopping the fast. [7-9]

Some zero-calorie sweeteners can maintain the fasting state, but always check product ingredients, as some may do the exact opposite. [10]

If you are not already practicing clean IF (zero-calories during fasting window) perhaps its time to re-visit this strategy.

Related Post: Can Stevia Break Your Fast and Stop Weight-Loss?

3. Track What You Eat

It is always a good idea to be mindful of what we eat. Record all the food choices and amounts throughout the eating window. This generates an estimate of overall caloric intake, and whether we’re over-eating.

IF changes our eating habits, but the body will try to get its fixes elsewhere. Carvings of sweet and salty constantly come up during the eating window by making us think that we need more calories than we really do. Hence, we indulge more in our favourite foods and treats than we should. It happens to almost everyone, and reviewing what goes into our stomach is great way to identify such slip-ups.

4. Clean-Up Your Carbs

If you haven’t done this already, then plateau is a good time to start. Simple carbohydrates found in many processed foods like pastries, breads, and pastas provide plenty of sugar energy along with a high insulin response, but offer little else. The goal is to gradually substitute these simple carb options with nutrient-dense foods.

If you’re going to eat carbs, let’s ensure they have other nutrients. Nutrient-dense options are just as the name implies—wide range of different nutrients. We’re talking about Macros (protein, carbs, fats) in various chemical shapes (configurations), Micros (vitamins, minerals and various elements like electrolytes) as well as indigestible carbs like fiber (both soluble and insoluble variety).

Foods packed with many different nutrients (fruits, vegetables, legumes, pseudocereals, oats, nuts and seeds) take longer to process, create digestive benefits [11] in the colon and gut bacteria [12], and keep us satiated longer. [13]

Clean-up example:

A common breakfast options are cereal, toasted bagel with cream-cheese, or drive through breakfast sandwich plus hash browns.

Substitute them with oatmeal prepped on a stove (not from packets), microwave or soaked in milk or milk substitute, along with chia seeds, almonds and chopped apple. For a sweeter add spoon full of 100% real peanut butter with chopped banana—that will sure to satisfy the sugar craving.

5. Reduce Alcohol

Alcohol is a factor that can hurt our weight loss efforts, regardless of eating plan or diet. Even though alcoholic drinks don’t brake the caloric bank, they are empty calories without nutrients.

Drinking alcohol and over-eating often go hand in hand, as we gravitate towards food choices containing empty calories. Reducing alcohol triggers less overeating and weight loss. [14] Also, alcohol can affect fat burning process and may lead to higher body fat stores and weight gain. [15]

6. Manage Stress

Stress is an umbrella term for anything that the body engages in. Some temporary (acute) stress like exercise can be beneficial, but constant (chronic) stress can affect internal systems, misbalance hormones and lock up fat storage. [16]

Control stress by creating a management routine, or have a plan of what to do when feeling stressed. Things like: meditation, taking time to yourself, reflecting, mindfulness, exercise and breathing techniques, all show beneficial track records. Practicing these stress managing examples leads to weight loss. [17]

7. Improve Sleep Quality

Sleep is a major factor to our overall health, and lack of it can cause various issues and disease. [18] Our rest is interlinked with our internal schedule called circadian clock. [18] It controls our genes, hormones, body systems and other things, identifying ideal times for us to eat, sleep and be active. [18,19]

Sleep is essential to our ability to handle stress, recover from infections/injuries, digest foods and remove toxins. Unrestful sleep can trigger misalignments in circadian clock leading to less energy, less productivity, poor memory and learning, weight gain and metabolic disruptions. [18-20]

The break-through advise is to develop a consistent sleep schedule, including weekends. Design a good sleeping environment including cooler room temperature and blackout curtains.  Avoid exciting the body with blue light by watching TV or other screen time prior to bed time. [18] These tips will improve sleep quality, realign our circadian clock and enhance metabolic activity including weight loss. [18-20]

8. Drink Water, Coffee and Tea

As water takes part in almost every reaction within our body, drinking more of it improves metabolism. [21] Higher metabolic rate equals greater fat burn. Drinking a glass of water before meals also reduces food intake and increases weight loss, even with low calorie diets. [22]

Coffee and tea are options that contain caffeine and polyphenols which increase energy and produce wide range of benefits including smoother fasting experience and greater fat burn. [5] This is especially true with green tea which contain catechin polyphenols that drive metabolic and fat burning pathways even further. [23]

Like coffee and tea, spices are loaded with potent polyphenols but don’t break your fast. Spices reduce hunger cravings and boost metabolism while burning body fat. [5] Spice-forward teas like Dupi’s Chai hold polyphenol rich spices that enhance fasting experience and weight loss. [5] We even have a green-chai blend for better stress management and sleep quality. [23]

Extent your fast, stay hydrated and meet your micronutrient profile with our IF-friendly and healthy Spiced Teas.

chai teabags product photo

Not all IF-Teas are created equal as many companies shortchange their versions of this traditional drink using flavours and sprays to create the feel without substance.

Health benefits of chai come from wide range of active ingredients found within spices and herbs.

These ingredients possess compounds called polyphenols which are released during the brewing process.

A chai tea with purpose and more benefits must be:

  • High Quality and Quantity of Ingredients: no dust, presses or extracts.
  • More Spices: as most potent superfoods, spices are what give chai its benefits.  
  • No Sugar: #1 ingredient in most chai blends, sugar and/or substitutes have been linked to cascade of health issues and should be avoided.
  • No “natural” or artificial Flavours: majority of Chai tea brands spray their blends with spice essence, flavours and alike rather than adding real ingredients. Cost saving strategy for them and no health benefits for you. 

9. Change-up Fasting Window

As we mentioned before, adaptability is our greatest strength as humans which also happens to intermittent feeding. To push past IF plateau, try modifying a fasting window with following break-through suggestions:

  1. Shortening the feeding window extends the fast along with using body fat as fuel. For example, a 16-by-8 plan shown to reduce body fat while maintaining muscle mass and strength. [24-25] Such fasting options work for many different people including postmenopausal women (60+ years of age) that lost body-fat while keeping lean mass. [26]
  2. Try Keto for two to three weeks. Reduce fasting window to about 12 hours, or stop IF altogether while increasing good fat consumption aligned with the keto diet. A break from regular schedule shown to re-ignite weight loss when returning back. [27] Keto style eating  improves fat burning inside our cells. [28] Going back to the original fasting (IF) protocol after the keto period will fire up the metabolism along with enhanced fat burning (as cells are conditioned to use more fat as fuel).
  3. Switch to another IF schedule. If your daily fasts already pushing 18-20 hours, try different set-ups like 5-by-2, or 24-hour fasts every other day. Give it at least three weeks or longer, until plateau is broken and weight loss resumes.
  4. Create your own IF routine by overlapping some popular plans. For example, do a 5-by-2 set up, but fast 14 hours (14-10) during weekdays, and an OMAD (one meal a day) on weekends. New eating patterns disturb body’s metabolic baseline resulting in using more energy as fat. (Currently Dupi is doing 5-2 IF hybrid with 16-8 weekday and 18-6 weekend schedule. Victor is transitioning from 20-4 to an alternating daily fasts between 19-5 and OMAD.)

Remember, the changes need to be flexible enough for you to incorporate them into your lifestyle. Realistic consistency is the key to achieving results.

10. Switch-up Exercise Routine

Related Post: Keep the Muscle and Burn the Fat with Fasting Protocols

If you have not been working out, we strongly suggest to start. Exercise is a single best thing that we can do for our body. Physical exercise helps us to lose fat, build lean mass, balance hormones and raise daily caloric expenditure among many other benefits.

Just as with the fasting window, you want the exercise to stimulate a reaction in your body for a new level of fitness baseline. These break-through ideas will compliment any IF schedule:

  1. Exercise in a fasted state and make this a permanent transition. Whatever rumours that may be circling around the internet about not exercising on an empty stomach are completely bogus. There may be an odd exception (always is, due to medical reasons), but for the overwhelming majority of us, exercising in the fasted state compliments our genetic make up, triggering a cascade of metabolic and fight-or-flight hormones that elevate our fitness, build muscle and burn a lot of fat. [24-25,29-30]
  2. Switching workout times within the fasting window is an easy way to create training variety. If you workout in the morning, move it to evening portion of the fast, and vice versa. Another optimal time to exercise is just before feeding window. Eating right after training activates muscle building pathways, boosts hormones and uses fat as fuel. [24-25,31] Being an active tissue, muscle needs more energy which is supplied from fat reserves. [36]
  3. Change-up exercise routine by substituting some exercises or starting a new training routine altogether. Change from the norm forces the body to activate more muscles, nerves, connective tissues and many other compounds required for physical activity and post-training recovery. Much of this effort is financed through fat metabolism. [32,33]
  4. Try High Resistance Training—nothing ignites fat loss and activates more muscles than high resistance or strength training. Such protocols are designed around progressively overloading body systems, and burning body fat during training and long afterwards. High resistance training is often the answer to break through any plateaus. [24-25,32-35] If you’re new to such training methods, ease in slowly and always consult your doctor or health care professional prior to starting any diet or exercise routine. [37,38]

Final Thoughts

The body adapts to changes including our diet in terms of what we eat and when we eat. Weight loss plateaus are part of the journey which can also happen within the IF protocols.

To break through the plateau and restart weight loss we need to look over our current IF protocol. This includes additional stressors, sleep pattern, diet options, caloric consumptions and exercise. Modifying portions within IF schedule will disturb the current metabolic baseline and kick start the adaptation process into the new homeostasis.

Connect with us on Social

We love helping customers reach their goals!

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!