Q. I've been working out since the beginning of January and was able to lose 12 pounds in the first six weeks. I'm still working out six days per week, mostly cardio, and limiting my calories, but I haven't seen any more weight loss over the past few weeks. Have I hit a plateau?
A. Thank you for your question Catherine. The great thing about the human body is that it will adapt to the environment you put it in. That is, if you increase your activity levels and decrease your caloric intake as you have, chances are, you will lose weight as your body begins to burn off stored calories.
But, there are many things to take into consideration besides calories in/calories out when it comes to weight loss. If your body is able to meet your demands, it no longer has a reason to change and adapt. You may have hit a plateau, but not to worry. Try the following tips to keep your body moving in the right direction.
Think progression. If you aren't pushing your body to do a little more each week, your results will fizzle out over time. Get in the habit of keeping a workout journal and recording your workouts from week to week. You can progress by lifting more weight, shortening your rest periods, increasing the volume of your workouts and adding intervals to your cardio routine, just to name a few. Plan out your workouts for the next eight weeks and be sure to incorporate some form of progression from week to week.
Exercise properly. Too many people get in the habit of focusing mainly on cardiovascular exercise to help them lose weight. Cardio is a great form of exercise, but too much of it without a balance of strength training could set you up for minimal results. In addition to burning more calories than you take in, you must maintain or increase your metabolism by building more muscle density while keeping your hormones in check. Too much monotonous cardio could actually tear down muscle tissue and increase stress hormones, therefore wreaking havoc on your metabolism and your overall weight loss. Focus on a balance of strength training and cardio -- so if you're working out six days per week, focus three of them on strength training and three of them on cardio, with each workout lasting around 30 to 45 minutes.
Feed your body. Don't make the mistake of starving your body, thinking you'll lose weight faster. Your caloric intake will depend on your activity level and the amount of muscle mass you have on your body. If you eat too few calories, you will lose precious muscle mass. So you may lose weight, but the wrong kind. As you lose muscle, your metabolism will weaken along with your ability to burn fat. In addition, make sure you're getting a balance of macronutrients. Too many carbohydrates and too little protein or healthy fats will impede your ability to burn fat. A personal trainer can measure your body fat and determine your daily caloric needs and percentages based on your goals.
Rest hard. If you're working hard, you need to allow for proper rest. Most of the positive changes to your body occur when you're resting or sleeping, so missing this recovery window will slow your results. Focus on getting a good night's sleep every night and learn simple ways to relax or de-stress throughout the week. Take care of your body, and you will see positive changes.
So try these tips to bust through a plateau or to avoid one altogether. You'll be seeing results in no time.
For more exercise and nutrition tips visit our blog at PushFitnessTraining.com.
• Joshua Steckler and Mark Trapp are co-owners of Push Fitness, a personal training studio in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning and nutrition. Contact them at PushFitnessTraining.com.