5 Common Causes Of Plateaus & How To Break Through Them

“I’m doing everything you’re telling me to do… Why won’t my body change?”

The sad thing is, early on in my training career I used to think my clients were lying to me when they’d tell me this. I’d give them a program that I KNEW FOR A FACT would get them results if they followed it consistently. I was having them eat better, exercise more regularly, yet they still struggled month after month to see any significant progress.

My initial thought would always be that there was something they weren’t telling me. “They were over-consuming”, “they were cheating on their diets”, “they were skipping out on their workouts”. While sure, this may have been the case for some of these clients, I now understand that there’s MUCH more that goes into someone’s weight loss than simply “calories in vs. calories out”.

Over the past few years, I’ve made it my mission to develop a better understanding of why some people’s bodies could lose fat quickly and effortlessly, while others couldn’t seem to change even if their lives depended on it. As I dove deeper into the rabbit hole, I started to learn that there were many more factors at play when it came to someone’s metabolism and their ability to lose & keep off body fat.

UNKNOWN FOOD INTOLERANCES

This is the first on the list because I believe it’s an issue, to at least some degree, for every single person. Let’s be honest, over the past few decades food has become less and less about providing quality nutrition, and more about simply creating a higher quantity to reap more profits. Whether it’s chicken, beef, pork, etc.. almost all of the animal products we are consuming are being artificially enhanced with hormones & other chemicals in order to produce in massive quantities.

Not just that, but almost all of our fruits and veggies are being contaminated with extreme amounts of pesticides & herbicides in an attempt to keep bugs & other plants from destroying the crops. While this may be good from the perspective of keeping the crops alive, we’ve effectively depleted our soil and plants of almost all beneficial nutrients.

What this has led to is a massive issue of altered gut microbiome, as well as chronic inflammation in our GI tract. If this happens for a long enough period of time, it can lead to the development of food intolerance’s, autoimmune disorders, and a whole other host of problems. If untreated, we may experience hormonal issues as a result, which can play a crucial role in our bodies overall ability to burn fat, digest food, and build muscle. If you’re someone who feels they may be experiences any of these issues, I’d highly recommend incorporating an elimination diet to see if you can alleviate any of these symptoms. I wrote an entire article about how to follow the elimination diet which you can read HERE.

POOR SLEEP & SLEEP QUALITY

People completely underestimate the importance of sleep for our overall health. A lack of sleep can lead to increased levels of cortisol & stress, which will also play a big factor in how well our hormones function. Not only are we talking about how many hours you get each night, but also the QUALITY of sleep during those hours. Getting on a consistent schedule, eliminating electronics before bed, and reducing stimulant intake will play a huge role in the quality of your sleep at night. Remember, you can be doing everything else right, but if your hormones are out of balance, you’re going to have an incredibly tough time achieving any sort of results with your physique.

POOR STRESS MANAGEMENT

This falls right in line with the previous two causes, and it’s one I’ve been absolutely preaching since I began to understand how much of an impact it made on our bodies. Meditative practices can be a game changer for someone who experiences chronic stress, anxiety, and worry. When your body is in a constant sympathetic state, it will have a hard time being able to recover and properly metabolize the food you consume. Not just that, but it may also be contributing to the inflammation your body is experiencing from the foods you’re consuming. Pair these things together, and you’ve got a perfect storm of stress and inflammation negatively effecting your hormonal health. Stress can also lead to more frequent cravings and bingeing, so finding ways to mitigate that stress can also positively impact your diet as a whole.

YOU NEED TO MIX UP YOUR TRAINING STIMULUS

If you’re someone who’s been following the exact same exercise routine for the past six months, it may be time to make some changes. Our bodies are adaptation machines, and if you aren’t conscious about switching things up, that workout routine you’ve been following will start to become less and less effective. The good news is, there’s lots of ways you can change up your training, and it doesn’t take much for you to get your body responding and adapting again. Changing the set & rep ranges, mixing up a few exercises, increasing the weight, & changing the tempo of your workout are just a few simple ways to keep your body progressing over time. My inSHAPE coaching group also provides people with six months of phased exercises that people can follow to avoid those plateaus in their training. You can learn more about our group and how to join by clicking HERE.

METABOLIC ADAPTATION DUE TO EXCESSIVE CARDIO/CALORIE DEFICIT

I’ve spoken about this a number of times, but it’s important to reiterate as there’s still so many misconceptions when it comes to losing weight. Look, how you set up your program from the beginning is EVERYTHING. Just like lifting weights, our bodies can easily adapt to both cardio & the amount of calories we’re consuming on a daily basis. It’s important to understand that you don’t need to go 0-100 right out the gates in order to see results. If you simply cut your calorie intake in half and start doing an hour of cardio each day, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s important to leave tools in the toolbox for down the road. This means focusing on one thing at a time, and always shooting to do as little as possible to elicit change. If your body responds to a 200 calorie decrease, well then stick to that for as long as possible before dropping any additional calories.

However, if you are someone who’s already in this position, there’s a few things you can do to reverse out of it and get your metabolism speeding up again (Disclaimer: most people aren’t going to like what I’m about to tell them).

If you’ve found yourself in an extreme caloric deficit, working your butt off in the gym, and still not seeing results… well then it’s time for you to reverse into a bulking phase (Let’s actually use the term “improvement phase” to avoid scaring people off). What this means is that for the next few months, we’re going to work on increasing your calorie intake, and slowly tapering the intensity of your cardio/workouts. Now before you freak out, you have to understand… YOU DON’T HAVE A CHOICE. You cannot fight your body & try to force it to do what you want. That’s a battle you will lose. Every. Single. Time… Understand that this is going to require patience and acceptance of the process, because the reality is you probably WILL gain a little extra weight/body fat in the process. However if you can stick to it, you will see much better results as you begin to lean out again. Here’s a few steps I would recommend as you go:

1) Begin tapering cardio by 10-25% every single week.

2) Focus on lifting weights & getting stronger. Allow for adequate rest periods and resist the temptation to keep the intensity extremely high. For right now, you need to prioritize building muscle and getting stronger.

3) As you decrease your cardio each week, begin replacing that activity with an additional 1000-2000 steps a day. This should be nothing more than WALKING throughout the day. This will help mitigate any weight gain that may come as a result of reducing cardio.

4) Begin increasing calories by about 100-300 every single week. The goal is to get your body adapting to the added muscle & calories, and ramp up your overall daily calorie expenditure.

Remember this is a long and tedious process. Depending on how adapted your metabolism is, this may take from 6-18 months. Don’t freak out. I know it feels like life is ending, but I PROMISE, you will be so glad you did it. Once you get your metabolism up, it will be much more effortless the next time you try to lean out, IF you structure your program correctly the next time around.

Hopefully this post has provided you guys with some good info and tips on how you can get your body progressing and changing again. Plateaus can be extremely frustrating to deal with, especially if you feel you’re doing everything right. Give these methods a try and see if they yield you any results! Also, I would LOVE it if you took the time to share this post with one person you feel could benefit from it 🙂 Who knows… you just might change their life!

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