Have you reached a point in your exercise regimen that you are no longer making progress?

Let me paint the picture:

You started off motivated! Eating all the right things, exercising and you are progressing towards your goals. Then BOOM…..the scale becomes stagnant, you are no longer getting any stronger and you have reached a point of utter frustration.

What is happening????

You my friend have reached what is called an exercise plateau. The good news is there are measures you can take to get out of this exercise “rut”.

An exercise plateau is a sudden halt of weight loss and/or muscle strength even though you are sticking to your healthy eating habits and workout plan. In other words, your body is not responding to your current routine.

Our body is amazing in the fact that it will adapt to any change or stress placed upon it. After you have been doing the same thing for so long, your body will become more efficient resulting in less energy needed to perform the same task. The end result….a plateau.

Once you start to lose weight your body’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) will decrease. Your BMR rate is the number of calories you will burn regardless of activity levels, even if you slept all day. This has a factor in if you maintain, gain or lose weight. A smaller body needs less food so if are eating the same amount of calories as you were when you started and doing the same exercises you will stop making progress.

To overcome this plateau, you must address two things:

  •  Your calorie input/output.
  • Your body’s adaptations to your current workout routine.

Addressing Calorie Input vs. Output

The first thing you should do is find out your BMR. There are numerous BMR calculators, all you need to do is search for one. It will ask for your height, weight, age and gender. Be sure to give accurate numbers for your height and weight so you can get the most accurate calculation.

Once you get your BMR, you can use that information to determine how many calories you should be consuming on a daily basis. The goal is to burn more calories than you consume. You must burn 3500 calories to lose one pound of weight. The more calories you consume in excess of your BMR, the more calories you will need to burn in the form of physical activity to either maintain your current weight or lose weight if that is your goal.

Addressing the Body’s Adaptation to Exercise

As I mentioned before, your body will adapt if you use the same routine over and over again. So how often should you switch up your routine? It is recommended to switch up your routine every 6 to 8 weeks in the beginning. As you start to advance, your body will be able to adapt sooner and you may want to switch up your routine every 4 weeks, just be sure not to go overboard.

So you may be wondering, what kind of changes should I make?

The following are ways to switch up your routine to avoid a plateau:

  • Increase the intensity or how hard you are working out.
  • Increase the amount weight, repetitions or sets you are doing for weight lifting.
  • Increase the amount time you are exercising.
  • Increase the frequency of your workouts. So if you are working out 3 days a week, increase to 4 days a week.
  • Change the mode of exercise. If you are using the treadmill, switch to the elliptical or stairmaster. Try a class like yoga or Pilates.

Reaching a plateau in your health goals can be frustrating but there are ways to overcome it. The key is to not get so discouraged that you give up! If you hang in there and implement some of the suggestions above, you will be out of that plateau in no time!

Find Health in Every day,

Dr. Lindsay