WORDS BY BENTZ P. TOZER, JR., B.S., CPT
The dreaded plateau. Anyone who’s ever worked toward a fitness goal, be it losing weight, building muscle or setting a new weight-lifting personal record, is familiar with this frustrating “stop” on the fitness journey.
So what exactly is a plateau? Simply put, a plateau is when your body stops responding to your diet or exercise routine. It’s very common, and it’s a sign that your body has adapted to the program you are following, which signals that it’s time to adjust or modify that program. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to break through a plateau and start making progress again.
If you hit a weight-loss plateau after losing several pounds, one of the first things to look at is your daily caloric intake. When you lose weight, your BMR (the energy your body expends to keep it functioning when you are at rest) decreases, therefore you need fewer calories. If you do not adjust your caloric intake, your weight loss will cease. To break the plateau and get your weight loss started again, reduce your caloric intake by modifying your diet.
Keep in mind, you should talk with your physician before reducing your diet to under 1,200 calories per day.
Another way to adjust your caloric intake is by increasing your caloric burn through exercise, for example, try adding a cardio session into your routine. A professional, such as a registered dietician, can provide you with a specific eating plan and guidelines to help you adjust your daily intake and break the plateau. Also visiting with a professional fitness coach for recommendations can help.
It is possible to also hit an exercise plateau, where you stop seeing muscle or strength gains, even though you are working out consistently.
The body is very efficient, so if you are doing the same exercises for the same amount of time at the same intensity, it will stop needing to adapt, and your progress will stop.
In order to continue meeting your goals, you will need to constantly change things up to keep the muscles “guessing.” This can mean adding interval training to your cardio sessions, making one of your strength-training days a “body-weight” day, where you do pushups, planks and crunches instead of using dumbbells or barbells. It could even mean taking one complete day of rest on a day when you would normally exercise. By constantly changing your routine, the body will constantly need to adapt, which will prevent an exercise plateau and help you achieve your fitness goals.
Plateaus, while frustrating, are a normal part of any wellness plan. Understanding what causes them and how to adjust your diet and exercise routine accordingly will keep you on track and moving toward your goals.
Be Well Tips
– Consult a physician before beginning or modifying a routine.
– Determine your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
– Review your daily caloric intake.
– Increase daily caloric burn through exercise.
– Change your exercise routine frequently.