Are you going to the gym constantly, but finding that your body will not change? Maybe you can’t lose those pesky last 5,10, or 15 pounds. You feel stuck in a rut and are not sure how t break out of it. You may be experiencing a plateau, and today I am going to give you all five reasons why this could be happening. In terms of fitness, plateau means that you are basically not experiencing any results or progress, despite putting in the hard work that you are doing. Plateaus do not just apply to weight loss, you can plateau in putting on muscle, increasing your cardiovascular health, and your flexibility. This happens because humans are incredibly good at adapting to external conditions. This means your body adjusts to the workout you do everyday, therefore if the workouts and routines are not changing at all, the body is used to what you are doing and is not being “shocked” per-say.
You can break free from plateaus by constantly changing the workouts you are doing, as well as implementing certain lifestyle and diet changes to reach your goals. Of course, an exact procedure and program will be different for each individual, but in general, the majority of people can benefit and find positive changes with the following advice.
1. You are not eating enough.
A lot of people are surprised at this one, but in reality, nutrition is the most significant factor in your progress, even more so than the workouts. This is because the food you are putting into your body is essentially your fuel. Not consuming enough calories, paired with hard workouts, will cause your metabolism to drastically slow down. In addition, you won’t have the proper energy to give your workouts 100 percent effort. If you want to put on muscle, you need to be in a calorie surplus. Muscle weighs more than fat. The more muscle you have, the more your body will burn fat throughout the day and the more calories you will need to replace the lost energy. Focus on eating nutritious foods as well, which goes without saying. Limit processed grains, sugars, and foods from a box in general. Try an intermittent fasting protocol if you are still not seeing results.
2. You’re not switching up your workouts.
If you are going to the gym and doing the same exact workout every single time, this is a big problem in terms of progression. This is what I see a lot: people will run on the treadmill for a little, do the same weight routine, finish off with some abs and stretching. That is a solid great workout and everything, but if it is repeated with no variation, change will not occur. Like I said earlier, the body is great at adapting. Over time, if it is exposed to the same workout, there will be no difference in your body’s response to that workout. You need to add challenge to your workouts and “shock” your body a little to see real progress. Some ways you can do this are to try out different workouts. If you love running long distance, try sprinting. If you’re addicted to Pilates, incorporate some boxing. A spin fanatic? Try picking up some heavy weights and lifting. There are so many ways to increase the challenge and intensity of your workouts, and it really depends on what your goals are, but my main point is that you can’t do the same thing all the time and expect change. Variety is the spice of life right? An example for me is that I try to incorporate a lot of different workouts in my routine. I love to lift and do HIIT training, but recently I have incorporated sprinting and regular spin classes. I have been seeing more results by adding these variations to my regular routine. There is always a benefit to trying something new and stepping ut of your comfort zone.
3. You are not sleeping well.
Sleep is crucial. Snoozing at least 7-8 hours a night will ensure that your body is properly recovering and restoring…this includes everything from you brain to your muscles to your skin. All the cells in your body are regenerating while you sleep. If you are staying up until 2 am every night and wondering why you can’t make progress, it may be time to look at your sleep habits and get in bed earlier. You will also want to read this blog post I wrote on creating the ideal sleeping environment if you struggle with falling asleep.
4. You are overly stressed out.
Stress is a silent killer, and an epidemic in our modern day society. Stress causes your body to become inflamed, since stress raises cortisol levels. Chronically high cortisol levels will lead to lower immune function, lowered bone density, and weight gain. Everyone experiences high levels of stress from time to time, and unfortunately, stress is pretty much unavoidable. To cope with stress, try incorporating self-care techniques. My personal favorites are yoga, meditation, taking a bath, reading a book or journaling.
5. You are not recovering properly or adequately.
On the topic of cortisol, did you know that strenuous exercise actually also elevates cortisol levels? It’s true; every time you crush those heavy deadlift sets, complete four rounds of jump squats, sprint, push things, throw things, whatever it may be that is challenging to the body, cortisol levels will raise in reaction. Exercise after all, is a form of stress to the body. Of course, I am not telling you to not workout. Exercise is a very healthy form of stress, as long as you ensure to recover properly. In order to bring cortisol levels back down to normal after working out, you need to stretch, foam roll, do yoga, and cool-down after an intense workout. Pair heavy intense exercise sessions with restorative yoga, sauna, steam-room, massage, and be sure to invest in a foam roller to release tight muscles.
Last thing I want to mention is to remember that challenges come up during any fitness journey. You are not running on a race track with a golden portal to fitness perfection on the other side. I know you’ve definitely heard this phrase before, but it is a journey not a destination. Remember to forgive yourself when you fall off, and remember it is consistency that is the most key. As long as you keep getting up and trying, that’s what matters. And your hard work will be rewarded, don’t worry!