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The Inevitable Plateau

We’ve all been here before. We’re watching our food intake, exercising, sleeping & hydrating. Doing everything our coach is asking of us and the damn scale won't budge. Since the scale hasn’t moved, you’re essentially about to throw in the towel. Sound familiar? This is the inevitable plateau that we will all face and continue to face. It happens in weight loss as well as strength training. A plateau does not mean it is the end of the line and we will never break it, but what it does mean is we must do something differently. What worked before doesn't work forever. As coaches, here is what we look for when dealing with plateaus.

Before we decide about decreasing numbers, increasing activity, or both, we must double-check that we are tracking everything correctly. It is very easy to get away from the scale and just estimate things, but our eyes can deceive us. We also must be honest with ourselves that we are possibly eating excess calories without accounting for them.

What must be decided next is whether we cut calories, increase activity, or both. Our goal is always to keep calories as high as possible in every stage of the cut. The first thing to change when trying to break a plateau is to increase activity if possible. This doesn't mean adding more “training.” It means adding to our general activity. Go for more walks, specifically after meals. These walks don't have to be longer than 10 minutes but they should be sprinkled in 2-3+ times a day. Always take the stairs when possible and park in the back of the parking lot when going to the store. Everyone should have 1 full rest day a week but activity can act as a form of recovery. On a non-training day, go for a light hike, casually ride the spin bike while watching your favorite tv show, or if you have access go for a swim! Find some activities/ hobbies that require movement and incorporate them into your week.

The next step would be to decrease calories. As we lean out our Metabolic Basal Rate naturally decreases. Why this is important is because as our body becomes smaller, we require less energy to function. When decreasing calories, the decrease should be somewhere between 200-300 calories. Always start on the low end when decreasing food. We can always take away more food so gradually lower calories over extended periods if possible. While doing this, make sure our protein macro is prioritized and untouched. Carbs and fats specifically should be decreased first.

It is true that specific macros affect body composition but mass loss is essentially calories in vs. calories out. Remember mass loss is a reduction in fat and muscle which is not good. Our goal is always just for fat loss while maintaining the maximum amount of muscle. So remember the next time you hit a plateau, there might be something that needs to change or else you might not advance towards your goals.

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