You have probably heard of or even experienced plateaus. Plateauing is when whatever we have been doing to either lose weight or build muscle seems to suddenly stop working. This stall is despite the fact that you are still dieting and working out as hard as ever (maybe even harder!). What is going on here? There are a number of reasons why people reach plateaus and also ways to prevent and break free of these nasty situations.
Why Do We Plateau?
The human body loves balance. The body works hard to create a balance between energy (food) intake and output. When an exercise or diet program is first implemented, the body is shocked into making changes. You are essentially putting an overload of stress on the body and it is forced to adapt by losing weight and/or building muscle.
Unfortunately, this cannot last forever. The body eventually reaches a point where it has effectively compensated for the increased energy output. Once there are enough extra resources to handle the extra activity and stresses involved with the program, you will hit a plateau and then no more weight loss will occur for quite some time.
The key concept to remember in terms of weight loss and muscle building is that everything works (for a while) and variety is the spice of life. Plateaus can be prevented with proper planning. This involves not eating the same foods each day. It is also helpful to vary caloric intake slightly from one day to the next.
In terms of exercise, vary your routines as well. Use both strength and aerobic routines and make sure to periodically change what you are doing. This might mean adding new exercises or performing sets in a different way. You might even be able to perform exercises at a different speed or in a slightly different range of motion. The bottom line is to keep your body guessing. Do not allow your system to accurately guess what might be coming next. Doing so can certainly prevent the body from becoming comfortable and will force it to continue losing weight and/or building muscle.
Breaking Free Of Plateaus:
If you are currently experiencing a plateau, the good news is that you can break free quite easily. What you need to do is change the overall environment or circumstances. This could mean increasing activity levels, decreasing overall caloric intake, or changing around your entire exercise program or routine. Basically, you need to try shocking your body once again in order to make it think that more stress is coming and it needs to prepare.