Overcoming Plateaus

Ever found yourself stuck when it comes to your progress in the gym? You aren’t alone. This happens to numerous people whenever they are looking to make improvements. It’s really just a product of the body adapting to change.

You see, you make progress, whether weight loss or muscle gain, by putting stress on the body. Now, this stress is good stress that causes changes to happen. It is just enough to knock the body out of what is called homeostasis. Homeostasis is really just a baseline of comfortability that the body strives to stay within. Anything outside of this, and it will find ways to create that new stage of homeostasis. For example, if you lift weights, it forces the body to grow stronger and larger if it wants to be prepared for that level of stress again.

However, if you put a certain stress on the body and never work to increase the intensity, the body will maintain where it is. Only by increasing some variable or adding in something new, will you be able to drive adaptation again.

This is where people hit their plateaus. The plateau can also come from various different aspects of your lifestyle as well. They can be broken, but here are some different ways that it can happen and how to break them.

 

Diet

This may be one of the biggest ones that people get stuck with. You see, regardless of the goal, the body will even adapt to nutritional changes. For example, if you decide you want to cut down then you would decrease your calories. Whatever you end up setting these at will work so long as a deficit is created. However, that calorie amount was for your starting weight. As you lose weight, the body’s metabolism changes and so do your calorie needs. If someone stuck to the same calorie recommendations that were given to them initially, they would stall out. Why? Because what they needed at 180lbs won’t be the same for when they weigh 170lbs.

This is a great place for a coach to come in and assess your progress. They can help to adjust your calorie intake as you move through the changes. Taking this dynamic approach always keeps the body working so that you can get the most results possible.

 

Workouts

As initially stated, you have to continue driving adaption to grow. If you are doing the same workouts over and over again, you may get efficient at them. However, you aren’t going to take as much progress from them as you initially did. This is a place that many people find themselves in when pursuing a physical goal.

They become comfortable with the same weight, the same movements, and never switch things up to challenge the body.

Now, this shouldn’t be confused with the idea of “confusing the body”. This was a fad concept that was created a couple of years ago and took the idea of something new every day to the extreme. Muscles and the body don’t work like that.

What needs to change are the variables that go into your progress. You could use the same movements over and over again. So long as you gradually increase the weight or reps, you will see progress. This is what powerlifters do in their training. They utilize the same three movements of squat, bench, and deadlift but change the reps and weight over time.

The above concept actually has a name. It’s called linear progression. It is the idea of changing variables gradually and consistently over time. If someone did “X” weight for 5 reps one week, then the next week they could increase the weight by 5lbs. This would slowly drive adaptation if repeated, thus breaking plateaus. There are two main variables that you can change with your workouts for this to work. That is the intensity and the volume. The intensity is the actual weight and effort that is being used, while the volume is the amount of sets and reps.

If you are feeling stuck, then you may just need to implement some of these small changes. In addition, this can be a little bit intensive to keep up with, so having a coach to guide you on that journey is extremely valuable.

 

Cardio

If you are hitting a plateau with weight loss, you could just as easily increase your calories burned. Versus just taking a huge drop in calories, you would be able to slightly increase the amount of physical activity you are doing via cardio. This may be the tipping point for you to continue with your progress.

As always there are variables that you can change up with this as well. Are you doing HIIT? Are you doing steady state cardio? Are you running? Are you biking? All of these can be adjusted to bring new stimuli and more calories burned to your routine. Meaning, that it will help to drive an adaptation and break through those plateaus.

 

Supplements

Often times you are literally right on the edge of breaking a plateau. That extra 5% gain could be the thing that actually sends you to the next level of results. So how can you gain that advantage? Well, first get your training and nutrition in order because that takes up the strong majority of what you need to break that plateau. Then, you can start to look into supplements.

Supplements help to fill in the gaps where you may be missing out. These subtle changes in the nutrients you are getting, or the improved recovery could mean a ton for you.

Some of the best supplements that can help you achieve this are protein powder, creatine, and multivitamin. While these are some simple staples, that’s not to say that there aren’t others out there as well to try.

Regardless, protein powder is great for that improved recovery. That extra protein can go a long way for helping you build that extra bit of muscle or even lose body fat. It’s something that can make your life a little easier when it comes to convenience as well. All of those factors play a role in getting that extra 5% gain that you need to break those plateaus.

Creatine is right up there with protein powder. Creatine helps to improve your recovery, but also increase your strength and power output. Some people hit a plateau mainly because they run out of steam during their workouts. Having creatine built up in the system can help you to get those extra reps at the end of a set. Over time, those add up and can lead to massive gains in the gym.

The multivitamin just covers all of those little gaps nutritionally. We can’t operate at our best when there are gaps in what we consume. Thus, bringing a multivitamin into your routine can help you do just that. While it may seem like such a small addition to your daily routine, it can really make a huge difference in your results.

Those are really some simple additions as far as supplements go. Yet, they are the most proven and practical when it comes to breaking a plateau. Try them out individually or combine them to bring it all even closer together. Always consult your doctor before trying out any new supplements as well, just to make sure!

 

Lack of Sleep

This one is slept on… literally. Adequate and quality sleep are a huge component of recovery, weight loss, and muscle gain. Without it, you can see a plateau start to mold, or even the onset of some injuries. This is a critical time, when our bodies are working to repair all of the damage done. When those things go unattended to, we often fail to make progress.

The best way to improve on this is to practice good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene really just involves your nighttime routine.

First rule of thumb is to stay away from screens before bed. This includes your phone, tv, and computer. All of the devices have blue lights in them, which signal our brain to think it’s daytime. When this happens, we can’t properly produce a substance called melatonin in the body. Melatonin is important for the duration of sleep, but also the quality of how well you sleep. If you find yourself sleeping long hours, but still feeling tired you may have poor sleep quality.

The second is to make your room cold! When our body is running hot, we think it’s daytime. In primitive times, it got colder at night. Thus, a cold room signals to the body that it’s time to sleep. Taking precautions to keep your bedroom cool is a game changer for your sleep quality.

Lastly, you are going to want your room to be DARK. Almost dark enough to where you can’t see your hand in front of your face. This really signals the brain to slow down, produce melatonin and sleep well. Even the slightest blinking light or sliver of glow can reduce the quality of sleep. Thus, it’s best to keep all of the electronics that may do this in a separate room.

 

Stress Levels

A very overlooked reason that you may be hitting a plateau is the amount of stress that you take on. We live stressful lives, and this can jack up our cortisol production. High levels of cortisol can lower your recovery and even slow down the quality of your metabolism.

It must also be understood that you take stress from all levels of life. Whether it’s work, relationships, or even your environment. All of these stressors add up and can lead to you hitting a plateau.

So, taking time to lower your stress levels or even manage it better can prove very useful when it comes to continuing your progress. This can be done by dedicating time to stress management, walking in nature, turning off electronics, yoga, meditation, and even getting a massage. All of which are great outlets for you to release stress and lower those levels of cortisol.

If you feel like you’ve tried everything else and nothing works, then this just might be the missing link for you.

 

Conclusion

To wrap this up, there are multiple areas in which you may be hitting a plateau. Regardless, there are multiple methods or approaches that you can use to help break through and continue making progress. It may take some time and trial and error, but it is all worth it in the end. What is even better is that most of these things can be coached. Finding a high-quality coach can and will help you to break that plateau even faster than if you did it alone. Consider investing in yourself!