Thursday, May 16, 2013

How To Break Through a Plateau

It can be so frustrating when you you work out hard, eat right and seem to suddenly stop getting results. Before you go crazy and turn to extreme dieting, fat loss pills, or marathon-like cardio sesions to drop weight, be sure you are truly hitting a plateau. If you can honestly answer these questions, then read below for tried and true methods of dealing with a stop in your fat loss.

Learn hot to break through a fitness plateau to get results!

To begin, honestly ask yourself these questions before you think you've hit a wall:

Could It Just Be Slow Progress? -- Remember that SLOW PROGRESS IS PROGRESS. Keep in mind that, while when you first begin a weight loss program you will at first feel like the pounds are falling off, after a while your progress will slow down. Accept this fact as completely normal, and keep an open mind to your progress slowing down. It's healthy to at first see about 1-2 pounds of fat disappear every week, but eventually as you will have less fat to lose your body will hold on to it much longer. Some of this fat is essential fat, but it is definitely true that the last 10 pounds are the hardest to lose!

If you notice that the scale is not budging for more than 2 weeks, and feel like progress is at a standstill - take the time to record your circumference measurements (see next tip below) to double check if your body is simply putting on muscle. Keep in mind that muscle is denser than fat, and your bathroom scale doesn't know the difference between the two.

Instead of relying on the scale, take circumference
measurements to accurately track your fat loss.

Are you really at a plateau? -- Are you only checking your progress by weighing yourself?  It may be time for you to break up with your scale and worry about losing FAT and not just WEIGHT. Start to keep a weekly journal of body circumferences of your waist, thigh, arm, and chest. You can do these yourself using a measuring tape in the comfort of your bedroom.

Also - check body fat if possible. This is easy to do from home with a BIA monitor or using a body fat caliper . If you're not comfortable with taking measurements yourself, go to your local gym and have a personal trainer do them for you. 

Try taking progress pictures of yourself in the same outfit or bathing suit at the same time of day (early morning after going to bathroom, before eating/showering/working out). Sometimes we barely notice a difference until we have a visual to compare our bodies to.

 If all else fails, try on your favorite pair of jeans and see if they are starting to fit any looser or tighter.

Take progress pictures so you can see
if you're body is changing.

Are you really following the plan? -- Check your calories by logging religiously in a food journal or an online fitness tracker , and writing down what you're doing for your workouts - both weight training and cardio. Are you eating healthy, natural foods cooked from home, or are you going out to resturants and bars a bit too often? Be honest with yourself and look at the quality of foods you are putting into your system. Remember, your stomach is not a wastebasket, and calories don't matter if the quality of the foods you eat are mainly packaged, baked goods, fried or high in trans fat.

Sometimes just looking at what you eat reveals holes in
your fat loss plan that can easily be changed.

Still need help with fat loss? Then move on to the next steps below.

Here's the plan:

1) Try Calorie Cycling  for fast results in fat loss - Try eating less calories on days you do only cardio, rest, or do a weight lifting routine for smaller muscle groups like abdominals, shoulders, or  arms. Eat higher calories on days you weight train your legs, chest and/or back.
If you already calorie cycle and are plateauing, try to change your caloric amounts by 100 calories less. For example, at 5'4" and 120 pounds, I eat 1400 on Low Calorie Days and 1600 on High calorie days. If I stop seeing results, I drop down to 1300 calories on Low Days and 1500 on high calorie days. After 2 weeks, I'll bump back up to the 1400/1600 calories to keep my metabolism guessing and avoid another plateau. You can try this out for yourself- just NEVER go below 1200 calories a day. This can set you up for metabolic damage, meaning your body will think it's starving and will hold on to fat stores much more readily, thus making your fitness goals even harder to attain. Check out my post on how to calculate your own calories here.

2. Kick Up the Cardio- I have tons of ideas for changing up your cardio routine if you prefer running or using a treadmill. Otherwise, I highly recommend switching it up when it comes to cardio. Try a couple of dance or Zumba classes; sign up for kickboxing (my personal favorite high intensity, complete body workout); if you're at the gym get on the elliptical for 10 minutes then jump right on the stationary bike  for another 10 minutes then immediately jog on a treadmill for 10 minutes; try out one of my HIIT cardio workouts  ; or, make up one of your own!

Experiment with your cardio, and keep it interesting! Every body is different, so a 45 minute run may work great for one person, but not necessarily for you. Find a cardio workout that benefits your body type here  - whether you're an Endomorph, Ectomorph or Mesomorph.  I recommend different cardio workouts to my clients based on their body types - so, it's wise to eduate yourself and find the workout that will benefit YOUR BODY THE MOST.

Change up your cardio routine-
 try out some of Kama's workouts here!

3. Try a Different Weight Training Routine - Just like changing up the cardio, it is equally important to experiment with different weight lifting programs. Some programs are designed for building muscle, and some are for burning fat. A wise move is to have a different set of weight training exercisese every 2 weeks to keep your body from adapting to the same workout.

In addition, keep in mind that you should be keeping track of how heavy you can lift, and aiming to lift a little more periodically. It's important to understand that lifting more weight is sometimes the most simple and easiest solution to building more sexy muscle, and burning off fat. Don't be afraid to pick up a heavier weight - as long as you can perform the exercise safely. Changing the exercises, moving from machines to dumbbells or cable machines, or performing different number of reps will all give a shock to your muscles and ask them to perform in a new manner - thus stimulating muscle growth and promoting fat loss!

If you need help with designing a weight training program for your body type and goals, you can Contact Me Here and I can send you a questionnaire to get you started today!

Try different weight training routines with heavier weight
- using proper form- to increase muscle growth and fat loss.

4. Check Your Macros - Not all bodies are the same, as I just stated, and therefore you may need to change up your macros. Macros is short for macronutrients -meaning, how much Protein, Fat and Carbs your particular body requires to burn unwanted fat and create sexy muscle tone. Find out what your body type is here . You can get access to the macros your body needs by checking out my e-book Training for Life and learning how to apply this information into your daily diet. I can't stress enough how important learning about your macros is when getting into awesome shape - adjusting the mount of carbs, fats and proteins for your specific body type needs is essential in this process. It may seem like a daunting task at first (math scares me, too!) - but once you know your numbers, the process is simple! You can Contact Me here and I can help you out!

5. Limit Your Carbs - This is sort of a "last resort" effort, but you will see big changes in your physique by limiting carbohydrates. Foods such as fruit, certain types of dairy products, grains, oats, beans, sweet potato and rices should be restricted to only certain times of the day. Bascially, only eat these items at breakfast - within the first hour of waking up when your body will utitlize those carbs readily- AND within one hour after a workout.

If this seems difficult, you can try eliminating carbs completely from your diet after 3 PM.

 Your diet after 3:00 will include lean sources of protein, healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, peanut butter, fish) and vegetables. These methods are doable, but take time to adjust to. You will notice, however, a significantly lower amount of bloating and fat loss by following this simple rule.

6. Relax - Stress and lack of sleep are two of the biggest culprits when it comes to not meeting your fitness goals. Aim for 8-9 hours of sleep so your stress levels are down and you are less likely to crave carb-rich, high fat foods. Stress can induce an increase in the hormone Cortisol in your body- which is responsible for an increase in body fat, especially around your mid section. Find ways to take time for yourself every day by doing things like fitting in a 20 minute nap, listening to calming music, meditating, gardening, reading, taking a walk outdoors, or signing up for a class that you truly enjoy such as yoga, dance, gymnastics - whatever makes you happy and healthy :)

Take time out to relax and de-stress to avoid food cravings
and stress - which can both lead to weight gain.

One Last Thing - Please keep in mind that utilizing ANY of these methods will take time for your body to respond. Choose one or two of the methods above and implement them for two weeks before you decide they're not working. Our bodies are designed for ADAPTATION -so, remember to switch things up every few weeks to keep your muscles guessing and to promote fat loss and muscle growth.


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Hi! I 'm Karlene Murphy. A lover of food (especially if it's gluten and dairy free!), getting outdoors, lifting weights, travel, writing, and snuggling with my two puppies. My addictions include chocolate, coffee, cookies, and sharing my love of being HAPPY and HEALTHY! My passion is educating others - whether at my full time job as a high school Psychology teacher, or with YOU my readers. I have been in the fitness wold for almost 10 years, and currently am an Online Fitness Coach, Fitness Instructor, Pilates and Yoga and Aerial Yoga Instructor in Southern New Hampshire. Contact Me if you need help with designing your own fitness and nutrition program.

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