It is easy to take your progress for granted. Steadily you have been losing weight, shedding inches, gaining muscle and then all of a sudden it just stops. This is called a plateau and occurs when your body becomes accustom to the resistance being placed upon it and no longer needs to work as hard. The body adapts very quickly and a plateau can occur in as little as four weeks if the muscles are not being constantly challenged.
1. Interval training. The science really supports this one. Intervals done right are very painful (you’re training at 90% or more of your maximum ability) but they are short. As with most exercise, more is not better (hgh, human growth hormone, works while you rest, remember?) but do try working in a couple of interval workouts a week. 20 minutes max is all you need. And don’t tack them on to another workout. Seriously. Because then you won’t be able to give those intervals your all. Bored of treadmill sprints (or they give you shin splints)? Try bike sprints. Or rowing sprints. Or, heaven help you because you will barf, swimming sprints.
2. Mess around with your macronutrient ratios. Recent research has shown that eating fat and protein for breakfast can give you a metabolic boost that will help you burn fat throughout the day and help you stay full longer. I’m not saying cut out healthy carbs all together, just don’t fear the fat! And don’t mess around with that Smart Balance stuff – go for the coconut oil, olive oil, heavy cream and whole eggs.
3. Try a new type of exercise. Always do step class? Try martial arts. Die-hard runner? Try boot camp. There are more ways to exercise than even I can blog about (not that I’m not trying, mind you) and change is good. It shocks your body and will make you sore in places you didn’t know you could be sore!
4. Cut back on your cardio. For many of us, the instinct to just do more – more classes, more miles, more laps – is strong. If some is good, more is better right? Not so with exercise. And you know that I speak from experience here. Too much cardio actually teaches your body to store fat, can increase your hunger or just convince you that since you ran 10 miles you can eat whatever you want, goldanggit. Many of the leanest people I know do minimal cardio and focus mainly on the weights. I’m not telling you not to do cardio, just to resist the impulse to do more of it. If you want to run a marathon to prove to yourself you can do it or because you love to run or because racing gives you a thrill or even just because you think the finisher’s tee is adorable then you should totally do it! But if you are running a marathon because you think it will make you lose 10 pounds, rethink that.
5. Lift heavy stuff. If you haven’t started lifting weights, do it. Not just because adding muscle will increase your resting metabolism (not by a ton, but every little bit helps) or because muscle takes up less space than fat but because it is good for you in so many ways. Increased bone mass. Stronger heart. Fewer varicose veins (unless you squat too heavy and then you can get hemorrhoids but that’s another post). Increased confidence. And if you already lift weights, change it up: try lifting heavy with few reps, or light with many reps. Try doing supersets. Lots and lots of different programs out there.
6. Eat more calories. This may sound counterintuitive but I think by now we’ve all heard about how our metabolisms will head off into the Siberia of starvation mode if it thinks it’s not being sufficiently fed. Cutting back on your calories only helps you lose weight to a point. You may actually need to eat a bit more. How to tell? Do you feel tired, lethargic and/or more cold than usual? Have you lost your sex drive? Losing your hair? Brittle or strangely ridged nails?
7. Get your metabolism tested. If you have health insurance and this isn’t too costly, this can be a good thing to do if nothing else is working. Get your thyroid tested (especially if you are pregnant, recently were pregnant, are lactating or are female and over 50). Get your vitamin and hormone levels checked. It can’t hurt and who knows – it might turn up a health issue you need to know about!