11 Feb How to Power Through a Plateau
So your diet is dialed in, you’re going to the gym 5-6 times a week and incorporating both weight training and HIIT, you’re sleeping regularly, staying hydrated and keeping stressors to a minimum. But you’ve plateaued. What gives? The truth of the matter is that your body eventually adapts to anything you throw at it, so you constantly have to come it with new material to push your body to new limits. We often don’t see this with our fitness idols, but the truth is, they are human just like us, and trust me, it happens.
So what do you do?
Change the tempo – In other words, change the time under tension, which is key to muscle growth. Try slowing the eccentric movement (lowering phase), holding at the bottom, or the isometric hold, and coming up quickly in the concentric phase.
For example, in a squat, you can switch up your tempo, by lowering slowly for 4 seconds, holding in an isometric hold for 2 seconds and exploding up in one second!
Flips sets and reps – we think of doing 4 sets of 8, but try switching to 8 sets of for. More reps and less sets is a volume based training vs more sets with less reps is an intensity style training. Volume is great for increased size and intensity is perfect for strength training.
Change your cardio routine – Ive mentioned this before, but anything your do to your body for extended periods of time, your body will get used to. This is why I often caution against increasing training before looking at nutrition. If you are consistently running sprints, your body will eventually adapt. Try adding in some inclines, or switch to some plyos between sprints. You will introduce new HIIT intervals and illicit more fat burning response in doing so.
More is not always better – we know it sounds backwards, but the muscle growth doesn’t occur during the training. In fact, the training sessions itself is what breaks down the muscle. Do build it back up stronger, bigger and leaner, we need the proper nutrition and rest. Throwing in 2-3 training sessions a day does not give your body proper time to recoup and reset. You just continue to tear down and deplete your body.
Eat more protein: protein has the highest thermic effect of food, which means it takes more energy for your body to break it down. You are actually using more calories just to digest protein. It also keeps you full and satiated, not to mention it aids your muscle in growth and the more lean mass you have, the more fat you burn at rest.
Beware of hidden calories – although you may be following your meal plan, a lot of time we overlook condiments and cooking agents. For example, 4 oz chicken breast is a protein source with very little fat, but you decide to marinate and cook it in olive oil and you’ve just added 14g or more of fat. Coconut oil is an amazing cooking tool, but it too has fat that may or may not be accounted for.
Lots of our favorite condiments have hidden sugars and fats as well. Ketchup, for example, is not a “free food”. Neither is BBQ sauce. Beware of salad dressings, pasta sauces, syrup, etc. You may be chalking up 100-200 extra calories without realizing it.
Are you eating too little? As I mentioned above, our bodies want to achieve homeostasis. Our bodies eventually adapt to the conditions in which they find themselves, and the same can be true of low calorie diets. Eventually our bodies figure out that we are only going to feed it so many calories a day. Calories are to our bodies as gas is to cars; they are our bodies’ fuel source. SO what happens when we continuously feed our bodies too few calories? They must adapt to this and will actually “shut off” any bodily functions not necessary to survive. This explains why some women will lose their menstrual cycle when on these “starvation” diets. Because if we can’t fuel our own bodies, how can be expect to create enough of a food source for a growing fetus?
Well, unfortunately for us, we don’t need our fat oxidation process to survive either. In fact, when on a low calorie diet for too long, our bodies will actually begin to store this food because they fear they will not get another meal and need to conserve this energy to keep us alive.
For more information on how crash dieting affect metabolism, be sure to check out my next post “How Crash Dieting Affects Metabolism”.
Bottom line: When we hit a plateau, it’s too easy to throw up our hands and tell ourselves we tried and then quit. What so many of us fail to recognize is that what we are doing or have been doing is no longer working. Maybe it was at some point, but as we know now, our bodies will adapt overtime. The hardest part is to admit what we are doing is not working, and start in a new direction. We all get set in our routines, schedules, and habits, so being able to alter course is a difficult task in itself! But remember, consistency is key -it takes 21 days to create a habit and 90 days to form a lifestyle. Be patient, stay the course, and never stop learning and growing. For that is truly the beauty of this lifestyle – there is no destination; just a continuous and rewarding learning curve:)