Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Breaking Through Plateau

Sustainable weight loss is a "marathon" which includes a long road of plateaus and other obstacles but eventually leads to success and satisfaction.

"Plateau" is when a person who is engaged in an exercise or eating program stops seeing or feeling results or changes. 

When you reach that point pat yourself on the back and change things up. You have reached the majority of the immediate benefit of your current plan, it may be time to move forward.

Plateau is a common obstacle along the way of almost any exercise or eating program. It takes 6 weeks to establish a habit, it also takes approximately 6 weeks to establish plateau. Our bodies are efficient machines and quickly adapt to the stressors that we put upon them.

The FITT principle can be used to help break out of plateau.

Frequency- How often
Intensity- How Hard
Time- How long
Type- What is being done

Changing any of these items will increase our ability to get the most benefit from our workout and cause a mild "shock" to the body which can help break out of plateau. 

Frequency- (How often)  Adding one day a week, for example, to a current exercise plan can be enough to convince the body that it still needs to change.

Intensity- (How hard) Making the workout more difficult by increasing intensity is a great way to break plateau.  Adding and incline while walking, for example, is a good way to work harder but keep the same amount of impact.

Time- (The amount of time in one session.) Adding a few minutes on to a workout may be beneficial depending on a persons goals. 

Type- (The type of activities that we choose to do.) If a person is walking 6 times a week, for example, they can change things up by switching a walking day into a lift weights, swimming or even jogging day.

We can also plateau in our eating. To break out of an "eating" plateau we have to do almost opposite of what we do with exercise. While exercise needs to be changed almost constantly to avoid plateau, eating should be more steady and constant. We should convince our body that it will receive nutrition consistently so that it is more willing to utilize and burn calories. We do need to adjust our calories  weight decreases or increases depending on our goals. The same principle applies with water. If we are consistently drinking plenty of water our body realizes that it does not need to hold on to water and will become more efficient at pushing it through the system. 

When we stop losing weight some automatically think that in order to change this we would decrease our calories significantly but that is not so. It takes calories to burn calories so if you deplete your ability to function by having too low of calories than you will not only stop building muscle (which can burn 300 calories a day without motion) you will stop burning the right type of calories. It takes your body some convincing to burn fat. Fat is it's most valuable source of energy. It will tap into other sources much more quickly. Also the brain will not sacrifice function. The brain needs glucose to continually run. Once a women drops below 1200 calories and a man below 1500 calories a day the brain starts to break down muscle in order to get its own food which is glucose. If a person's goal is to lose weight then they should take their calories just below their activity level so that their body can adapt to the slight change without sacrificing much needed muscle or brain power.

Eating plateaus can actually be changed using the same acronym as exercise, using the FITT principle somewhat differently.

Frequency- Eat small frequent meals. By decreasing the calories of each meal but eating more often we will give our bodies a steady stream of nutrition so that we keep the metabolism oven burning.

Intensity- Eat nutritionally dense foods. We need to get the biggest bang for our buck and choose foods that are rich or intense in nutrition rather than calories. Some foods like chocolate are packed with calories but not nutrition. Most of the foods that are high in calories are also designed to make us want more, so if we adapt to nutritionally dense foods and even learn to like them they begin to replace empty calorie foods.

Time- Eat at the same time each day. According to some research if we eat at the same time each day we train our bodies to be ready to burn calories at that time and they become more efficient at using those calories.

Type- Eat the right balance of healthy carbohydrates, proteins and fats. It may be a good idea to analyze the type of food that you are eating and your goals or activities. Ratio calculator link. If you want to build muscle then you will have to eat more protein then your marathon friend who should be eating more carbohydrates.

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