A plateau will occur when the body has reached a point of stability, where it has adapted to the changes that you have imposed on it. For some, this means your body has adapted to the weight you have been using in your training program. This generally occurs after 3-6 weeks. Some people adapt sooner, others take longer to adapt.
For others a plateau will occur when you have been on a restricted calorie diet for a given period of time. You've been doing well on a restricted eating plan, you've consistently had a negative calorie balance but now it seems you are at a calorie equilibrium. Let me attempt to quickly explain how this has happened.
Your body's metabolism is the rate at which it uses available energy. Your metabolism can be changed by a variety of factors but they are primarily hormonal and the change is often regulated by how you are treating your body. During a negative calorie balance (taking in fewer calories than you are using) your metabolism will slow down due to the fact that there is a decrease in energy. It's simply a cause and effect situation.
What most people do once they reach a point of calorie equilibrium, or plateau, is they simply decrease their calories even further. This may work. However, you will eventually reach a point where you are not taking in many calories at all. Many people reach the point to where they aren't bringing in enough calories to get through the day. At this point, your muscle breaks down, your bones break down and you feel sluggish and tired.
But there is HOPE...plateau's can be stopped dead in their tracks with on thing...CHANGE. No not that political type of change! I'm talking about changing your eating habits or changing your exercise program. This is why we change up our Hi-5 FitCamp every 4 weeks. Because it is just enough time to allow our body to adapt to the stress imposed on it, but not so long that we get stagnant and plateau. Keep moving UPWARD and ONWARD toward the goal!
Your eating habits need change too. And here are 5 ways you can change your eating habits to avoid the plateau.
- Have a scheduled cheat day. Don't go overboard eating everything in sight. But eat the foods you want and eat until you are content, not stuffed. If you want the steak...EAT THE STEAK! If you want dessert, EAT DESSERT! Just don't make it an everyday occurrence and be sure to eat well the other 6 days of the week!
- Involve more fruits and veggies into your diet. Fruits and veggies are known to speed up metabolism, and there are some that have a dramatic effect on metabolism!!
- Change your macronutrient ratio. Fats, Carbs and Proteins are macronutrients. Take a look at your plate and see what percentage each nutrient comprises. Most people are around 60:20:20 (Carb:Fat:Protein). So change it up to where you have a 40:30:30 profile for 2 weeks. Eat more protein, fewer carbs and more healthy fats. Set up a Caloriecount.com profile and it will do this for you when you use the food journal!!
- Switch to full fat dairy for breakfast foods! Research from the University of Alabama shows that they type of food you eat in the morning dictates what your primary fuel source will be for the day. So if you have a higher fat breakfast, your body will use more fat during the day!
- Split up your meals. If you are eating 3-4 meals per day, split them up to 6-7. This way you are increasing your Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF). TEF is the calorice cost of digesting and absorbing food. Eat more frequently and you use this metabolic booster to your advantage!