1. an area of relatively level high ground
2. a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress
3. a word that creates panic in exercisers everywhere
This post was inspired by a friend who reached out to me for a few tips after finding herself chilling on a plateau for awhile. She had come a very long way in her journey, but was feeling stuck in a rut. After eating right and working out, she had found that the scale would. not. budge. Has this been your story too? We’ve all been there at some point in time and had the same thoughts. ‘How could this happen?’ you think. ‘But I’ve been doing everything right!’ you lament. ‘I guess it’s time to workout more, and eat less’ you decide. If that’s where you’re at, it makes sense how you came to that conclusion. It’s everywhere in mainstream media today. In order to lose more weight, you need to work harder and eat less. However! This couldn’t be further from the truth! And I’ll tell you why. But first, let us take a gander at why plateaus happen at all, shall we?
You’re working out, and working out, day in and day out, kicking your butt relentlessly. Either doing cardio, lifting weights or a combination of the two. If you’ve been at this for awhile, your body has become accustomed to the energy needed to sustain a workout, and therefore it will need less energy to complete the workout over time. What does this mean? It means that your body has become a crazy efficient workout machine and will eventually need less calories (energy) to complete the exercise and therefore burn less calories during your workouts. Usually efficiency is awesome. But not in this case. There is also a possibility of your body being outright, dog tired. If you are working out multiple times a week, have an active job, and are eating few (and fewer) calories, then your body might be having trouble keeping up.
So all that information is great, but you’re still wondering how to get out of the rut, right? A body that has become accustomed to it’s routine needs change. This comes in the form of either changing your calorie intake or changing your workout intake. If you are going to change your calorie intake, ramp it up a bit. Give your body more fuel to help it work properly. However, I suggest changing your workout intensity first. Rest and recovery is an essential component of the cycle. Your body makes changes, i.e, gain muscle or lose fat, during the rest days. When you don’t get enough rest, your body (including muscle, tissue and hormones) can become crazy out of whack. Are you doing many sessions of long duration cardio? Maybe switch a few of them up for leisure walks. I know I know, it sounds crazy. ‘But I burn so many more calories when I run/do kickboxing/do Zumba then when walking!’. While yes, this is true, going for a leisure walk will reduce your stress levels and which in turn will reduce your stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol can be responsible for many good things, but also many nasty things, including excess fat around your mid-section. Adding in a few days of strength training can be super helpful as well. Grab a few heavy dumbbells or the barbell and add that into your week.
Many people, especially in our ‘GO! GO! GO!’ culture, do not prioritize stress management and sleep as they should. I know I was guilty of it up until several years ago. I believe that stress management and sleep should be on the top of the list for many people and their journey for fat loss. If these things are not in check, then all of the nutrition and working out will only go so far. Having a lifestyle that is high in stress and low in sleep is a recipe for disaster. It can lead to altered hormones which will throw off everything in the body. Make sure that along with great nutrition and working out, you prioritize time for yourself and getting a good nights sleep. If these things are not in your daily routine, add them in, and see what changes happen.
If you feel like you want further information or suggestions, don’t be afraid to drop me a quick note!