Putting in hours at the gym and refusing the office birthday cake; but still seeing the scales stay stagnate for a few weeks? Welcome to the dreaded plateau. Believe it or not, it’s normal to plateau when trying to hit your ideal weight – the more weight you lose, the more weight loss slows down (eventually). Good news is, it’s not hard to reignite the fire in your fat loss. Here are some reasons why you might be plateauing and what you can do to get back on track.
Many people settle into a workout rut. And while there’s benefits in consistency, it can also mean you’re not challenging your body enough. The problem? This is a fast track to waking up the plateau. Our bodies are adaptive creatures. You might notice the first time you do deadlifts, you can barely walk; the second or third time, you barely wake up with a twinge. This is because your muscles quickly get used to the same movements.
Fix: Mix it up
Focus on a different muscle group or increase your reps and weight. Aim for a mixture of interval, strength and cardio training to stimulate different muscle groups and enhance your results. If you’re not already into resistance training, add some to your routine. It encourages the retention of muscle mass, which impacts how many calories you burn during your workout and while you rest.
Squeezing a stress ball for 8 hours a day? Spending hundreds on massages to ease your tense shoulders? When you’re anxious, your body produces cortisol – a hormone designed to soothe stress-induced symptoms. When cortisol runs through your veins, it can signal the body to store energy – in which case mostly fat. On top of this, stress hormones ramp up hunger and reduce feelings of fullness (which might explain why we reach for the bag of chips when we’re overworked and under-rested).
Fix: Chill out
If you’re frequently frazzled, it’s time to implement a stress management technique that works for you. Maybe it’s yoga, 5 deep breaths or learning to say ‘no’. Integrate at least one technique into your daily routine – and you’ll begin to fine tune your coping abilities.
Feeling sleepy does more than sabotage your morning gym plans. In fact, it actually causes your metabolism to slow down in order to conserve energy. In this lethargic zone, your body kicks cortisol into gear again – and the combo of lagging metabolism and hunger-driving cortisol can leave you craving yet anthoer bag of chips.
Fix: Prioritise your sleep
As much as you love to watch 5 seasons in a night and spend hours scrolling through online sales, these habits can quickly get in the way of your essential evening zzzzs. The best way to optimise your exercise gains is to set a regular sleep routine. Go to bed at the same time every night, wake up at the same time every morning and stay off screens before bed.
That’s right; it’s possible to go too hard. While high intensity and variety is key, so too is integrated R&R. If you neglect the rest periods in between heavy workout days, you might be putting too much stress on your body – once again increasing cortisol levels. Worst still, over-training can actually cause your body to break down precious muscles for fuel – the exact opposite of battling the stubborn bulge.
Fix: Schedule rest days
If you’re training for 2 hours, 7 days a week, then rein things in a little. Be sure to schedule rest and recovery periods in an overall exercise regime to ensure your muscles repair – a process that stimulates the growth of stronger, leaner muscle. This doesn’t mean a whole day on the couch. Active rest, such as a light walk in fresh air is still ok and will still burn calories, improve blood flow and help counteract stress hormones.