Hit A Plateau? Here’s Why You May Have Stopped Seeing Results In The Gym
Progress is a fickle bitch. You could be cruising along great for weeks or month, losing fat, gaining muscle, or getting stronger.
But then all of a sudden you hit the dreaded plateau. Progress comes to a screeching halt. Everything you’ve been doing stops working. You think maybe you need to cut calories more, or starting hitting the gym a few more times each week.
While these are certainly options worth implementing at some point in your program, they are more often than not better saved as a last result. Instead, here are the 3 things to look at if your progress starts to stall:
1. Are you counting calories/macros?
The reason this is first on the list is, as you have probably heard me say time and time again, calories are and always will be king. While they are not all that matter for making progress, they are the most important. Yet there are people out there who still say that calories don’t matter. You just “gotta eat clean bro!”
I will say it again: You cannot lose weight if you are not in a caloric deficit! You cannot gain weight if you are not in a caloric surplus! Period. This is not up for debate. It’s science!
People are notoriously bad at estimating caloric intake. Not counting calories or macros makes it very difficult to get an accurate representation of how much you are eating. Participants in this study were shown to underestimate their daily caloric intake by almost 50%! That is a lot of extra calories.
And even if you’ve been dieting, watching what you eat and making healthy choices, it’s not too difficult for extra calories to start creeping their way back into your diet; especially if you’ve been doing it for a while.
The problem occurs that if you do hit a plateau, and you are not counting calories/macros, how do you know if you need to make adjustments in your diet? The reason for your lack of progress could simply just be you are eating more than you think.
Having a grasp on how much you’re eating each day lets you make adjustments, saves you time, and allows you to get back on track much quicker.
2. Are you sleeping enough?
Unfortunately, most people do not get enough sleep. We often sacrifice sleep in favor of other activities, whether that be hitting up the bar with your buddies or staying up to watch Jon Stewart.
The fact of the matter is however, sleep is important. Like super important. Most people need at least 6 hours of sleep per night, although 7-8 would be considered optimal.
It’s not sleep itself that aids in fat loss, but rather what happens when you sleep. First, a lack of sleep increases your body’s production of cortisol. Also known as the stress hormone because it is released during times of high stress, cortisol works within the body to breakdown tissues. Chronically elevated levels of cortisol within the body increase the chances of muscle tissues being broken down. And a loss in muscle mass means a drop in metabolism as well.
Lack of sleep is also directly related to other hormonal and metabolic issues. When sleep deprived, your body releases ghrelin, a hormone that sends hunger signals to the brain. So less sleep equals more hunger.
Sleep’s role in your training program cannot be overlooked either. The time you spend sleeping is when your body begins the process of repairing muscle tissue damage sustained during exercise. Without quality sleep, your workout performance will suffer and could lead to a greater chance of injury.
So how do you increase the quality of your sleep? One way is to simply stick to a regular schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, regardless of what you have going on. This will help your body develop a rhythm and make it easier to fall asleep and get up.
Other things that can help increase sleep quality are regular exercise, eliminating electronics in the bedroom, supplementing with melatonin, and keeping your room as dark as possible.
3. Are you training with enough intensity?
What?! Not training hard enough?!?! How dare I question the integrity of your workouts right?
The sad reality is however, if you look around most commercial gyms in America, it’s clear very few people have any concept of intensity. It takes them an hour to do three sets of anything because they are watching TV, chatting with friends, or checking Facebook in between sets. Or you see them doing the same weight with the same number of reps workout after workout.
Yes, they are there, and they are working out. Fantastic…if you are just looking for something to do to pass the time. But if you actually want to see results from your program, you need to train with intensity.
What do I mean by intensity? First off, it means if you are at the gym to workout, you are there to workout…not for social hour. You rest only for as long as the rest periods in your workout calls for, then you do your next set. You push yourself from workout to workout, whether that be adding weight, adding sets, adding reps, increasing density…
Training with intensity forces your body to work, and work hard! By sticking to proper rest times, increasing weight/sets/reps, you increase muscle fatigue and damage. This forces your body to work harder to repair and recover, building more muscle and burning more fat.
If you’re not seeing the results you think you should be, ask yourself: “Am I working as hard as I could be?” If you even have to think about it, the answer is most certainly, “NO!”
If you stop seeing results, the first step is to take an honest look at yourself and your lifestyle, before you start blaming your program.