The Dreaded Plateau

If you’ve been involved in health and fitness activities on any level at almost any time, chances are you’re familiar with the word “plateau.” Basically, when someone begins an exercise and nutrition program after a period of relative inactivity and less than supportive nutrition, the results tend to happen fairly quickly. Most people start feeling better within the first week. By week 2, they notice their clothes are fitting better. By the 30-day mark or so, there’s usually some fairly significant progress...maybe they've lost 5-10 pounds or more, or can notice some more muscle definition, depending on your starting point. Unfortunately, what happens next causes a lot of people to lose motivation and even quit their fitness program. It’s the dreaded plateau. This just means that the initial rate of progress levels off and it becomes harder to move the needle forward as easily as they did in the first month or so. This is very common. It’s also just a simple fact of human physiology. You see, when you lose weight, your body requires less energy (i.e. calories) to be burned in order to take care of your day-to-day activities (like walking around, carrying groceries, even breathing). Weight loss is not binary. The more you lose, the harder it becomes to lose more. The same can be said for gaining muscle. The more muscle you have the harder you have to work to add new muscle to your frame. Here are a few ways you can keep the dreaded plateau from tripping you up and holding you back from your ultimate goal: Adjust. What worked to lose the first 10 pounds 6 weeks ago may not be the same formula to lose the next 10 (which probably will take longer than 6 weeks). You may need to add another workout or physical activity to your weekly routine, and/or adjust your diet to continue seeing results. Your body may just need a disruption to interrupt its adaptation to your new lifestyle. Believe it or not, if you’ve been following a calorie-restricted diet for at least a few months, a change in diet may be just what your body needs to reset its metabolism. Be Aware. Scientific research shows that most people overestimate how much they’re moving and underestimate how much they’re eating. This is why it’s important to track key metrics like workouts, meals, and water intake. Once you get real about what you’re actually doing, you’ll be more aware … and awareness leads to progress. Focus on getting stronger. Endless miles on the elliptical or treadmill might melt away the pounds initially, but it’s not a proven approach for long-term success. I firmly believe that getting stronger is the single most important thing you can do for your overall health and longevity. It will also help you get more “work” done in less time in your workouts, making them more efficient by burning more calories in less time. A good example of this is distance runners. For decades, pretty much the only training distance runners did was … distance running. Now, marathoners and weekend 5K warriors are learning that getting stronger is much more conducive to faster times than simply running all day like Forrest Gump. It makes sense; the stronger your legs and core are, the more force you can exert into the ground. Distance runners who strength train also tend to experience fewer injuries. That being said, if you're someone who only strength trains, maybe adding in some conditioning or extra walks to your routine could help your progress. Lifting weights 3-4 times a week is great, but if that's the only exercise you're doing, that's still only 3-4 hours a week that you're active. Improving your cardiovascular health will only benefit you on your strength training journey and help keep you lean while you're at it. Try adding in 30 min of walking a day to your routine or add in a couple of short cardio sessions a week (30 min or less). I've done this recently and I'm the strongest and leanest I've ever been while training (and eating) to gain muscle. So, if you’ve hit a plateau, don’t get frustrated or lose motivation. Understand that it’s part of the process, and try some of the tips above to get back on track. If you're struggling with hitting a plateau and you'd like some guidance, shoot me an email (ryan@truegritstrength.com) and I'm happy to help you troubleshoot. Here's to moving forward! PS: I'm sending out free weekly workouts every Wednesday to the Weekly Workout Club. You can choose to receive bodyweight workouts or workouts that require full gym access to suit your needs! If you'd like to join this free club, click here to join!

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