How to overcome a plateau in your progress?
Updated: Jul 3, 2020
Tips to achieve your Fitness Goals
You are taking care of your diet, exercising and probably the result at the beginning was very good, but there came a time where it seems that it no longer moves no matter how hard you keep trying. This "plateau" you find yourself in can be very frustrating and discouraging. Breathe, it is normal that progress is not always constant. Eventually we all go through a point where our goal, whether to lose fat, gain muscle, increase strength or overall performance stagnate.
The reality is that even progress on even the best plans can stop and make you feel frustrated. Understanding the causes can help you overcome this plateau and prevent you from stagnating. I will give you some tips to get back to your progress quickly.
What are the causes?
At first it is easy to lose weight since your body is in need of using your glycogen reserves (energy stored in muscles and liver). Glycogen is made up in part of water, so burning it for energy releases water, causing you to lose weight quickly. However, this process is temporary.
How to keep progressing?
Don't over-restrict yourself
The body is extremely intelligent and adapts to the number of calories you give it. If you are receiving less than necessary, your metabolism slows down, so your body will decrease the calories expended in daily activities and progress will be less. Your body does not know that you are trying to lose weight, and when it feels short, it will begin to store energy (fat) as a reserve to survive, limiting your weight loss.
Move more throughout the day
Most of the calories we spend are not during exercise time, but during the rest of the day. I'm not saying don't exercise, of course you should and it will be a very important part of your weight loss. What I mean is that, in addition to your hour of exercise, you should focus on something called NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis). This is caloric expenditure not from exercising. They are the calories you burn in daily activities and can contribute up to 15% to your total daily energy expenditure. Try to increase activities such as walking, standing on the computer, climbing stairs, etc.
Review your plan
Your current plan is probably no longer adequate for your progress. Goals must be adjusted periodically to continue progressing. A Health Coach can help you modulate energy balance, plan and manage your plan by periods; as well as staying on track towards your goals. In the same way, a personal trainer is trained to help you advance and exceed your exercise performance limits in a continuous and safe way.
Use an App to adapt your macronutrients
Sometimes we don't realize if we are really eating the right portions for ourselves and, most importantly, the right macronutrients. I mean identifying if you are consuming enough protein, carbohydrates, and fat. It may be that your diet is very restrictive or focuses on a single macronutrient. For example, that most of your calories come mainly from carbohydrates and little from proteins. It might also be happening the opposite, where you're not eating enough carbs or fats, which is causing your body to break down your muscle to produce energy. Using an app to record what you eat can help you see if you are doing things well or not.
Don't skimp on protein!
When you lose weight, part of what you lose, too, is muscle mass. Muscle helps keep metabolism accelerated. A person with more muscle mass has a faster metabolism since the body must work harder to maintain it. This is known as TEF (Thermic Effect of Foods). This is the energy your body requires to digest food, which is 20% to 30% higher in protein than in fat and carbohydrates. This will burn more calories and help you lose fat while maintaining muscle. In addition, the protein stimulates the hormone PYY, which helps reduce appetite and increase satiety. Consume a portion of protein in all your meals to keep your metabolism active and help retain muscle mass.
Derived from the previous point, strength training (weights, resistance exercises, etc.) helps preserve your muscle mass and prevents your metabolism from slowing down
Exercising weights is much more effective in losing fat than doing cardio alone. Caloric expenditure is much higher. Cardio training is, as its name says, beneficial for improving our cardiovascular system, increasing resistance capacity, and improving our physical condition. You can do it, but always giving priority to the weights.
This protocol has become very popular for very good reasons. It is an excellent method to control what you consume on the day. There are different types; the most common is 16-8, where you consume your food in an 8-hour period. The rest of the time you can drink water, tea and black coffee without sweeteners or cream. Reducing the period in which you consume food helps you to avoid snacking between meals or overeating as less time passes between meals. Try it! You will not go hungry because most of the time you spend it sleeping, in addition to that during fasting your insulin and blood sugar are very low, suppressing the feeling of appetite. Be Careful! Start little by little so that your body gets used to it.
Make a free meal once in a while
When you are continuously restricted in your diet, your leptin drops. Leptin is a hormone that controls satiety. A high carbohydrate meal, for example once a week, is the best way to increase it and continue your process. Remember that it is ONE meal, not a whole day hahaha.
Weighing yourself is not the best option
The scale may not reflect your progress if your goal is to lose fat. If you exercise, you may be building muscle. Muscle is more compact and denser than fat, so it takes up less space. So you can weigh the same or even a little more, but what is changing is your body composition. Also remember that certain foods and hormonal changes can cause you to retain more water on certain days. I recommend that you take better circumference measurements and focus more on how your clothes fit.
Keep stress at ease
I know it's easier said (or written) than done, but there are ways to control it. Stress elevates the hormone cortisol, which prevents you from losing fat and, conversely, promotes it to be stored in the body, especially in the abdomen. When we are stressed our breathing speeds up. Try to breathe deeply and relax the muscles, this sends a signal to the body that it is "not in danger" and then cortisol goes down and stress is reduced.
Although it may not seem like it, sleep is extremely important for good physical, mental and emotional health. Not getting enough sleep can lower your metabolic rate and affect the hormones that drive appetite and fat accumulation. In addition to trying to sleep at least 7 to 8 hours, try to always go to bed at the same time.
Whatever you do, don't go back to old habits. This can help you regain lost weight or even more. Do not get frustrated or demoralized, apply these strategies and remember that every process requires time, commitment and dedication!