Posted on May 15 2018
Is there anything more frustrating than a fitness plateau? Despite your commitment to working out and a regular exercise regime, suddenly your results start to diminish – and then seem to grind to a halt altogether. One minute you are seeing your fat reduce, muscles grow and training milestones smashed, and then – nothing!
Every regular fitness fan will see a plateau at some point in their training. However, with the right approach to exercise, nutrition and rest, you can get back to your workout and see those results start to fly in once again. Here are our top tips for overcoming that fitness plateau and hitting new heights.
Focusing on Diet
The saying ‘you can’t out-train a bad diet’ is unfortunately all too true. Even a marathon run only burns around 2,500 calories, which can easily be ingested in a night of takeaway curry and a few beers! So, if you are experiencing a plateau in progress, it’s time to look at your diet. When you begin any kind of health and exercise regime, you will see quick results, but as you progress, it gets increasingly hard to reach the next level of achievement. Your diet may be to blame because the more muscular and efficient your body becomes, the more it needs the right kind of macronutrients to maintain its peak.
This means eating quality protein from meat, fish or vegetarian sources such as protein powders, legumes, cheese, nuts and soy. Don’t cut out carbohydrates, unless you have a reason for following a ketogenic diet, or you find that it actually works well for you without compromising your ability to train. Instead, focus on quality carbs based around vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Eat good sources of fat such as avocado, olive oil, nuts, coconut and oily fish. Cut out processed sugar, alcohol and processed foods in general, which offer little in the way of nutrition. Some people follow the macros style of eating, which focuses on macronutrient balance (protein, carb and fat ratios) within an allowed calorie band. Others choose paleo or primal (meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds). Ultimately, you want to find a balanced, healthy approach to eating that focuses on nutrition and allows the odd treat without going over your calorie allowance. Remember that if you are training for muscular gains, you will need to eat more calories, and if you are primarily seeking to lose fat, you will want to achieve a calorie deficit. A food tracking app such as MyFitnessPal can help you track this.
Explore Other Training Options
Don’t simply add another training session to your week when you hit a fitness plateau. Look at your workouts and shake them up. Are you running three times a week for long and steady-state runs? Are you doing the same strength-training moves at each workout? Work with a PT or coach to create a regularly changing fitness programme that constantly challenges your body in new ways and forces it to adapt. You’ll also find programme ideas online and in magazines. This will re-engage your mind as well as your body and allow you to stop ‘going through the motions’ and to train with intensity and enjoyment once again.
Get Enough Rest
If you are getting tired and feeling a bit fed up of training, it’s usually a sign that you need to take a rest. Remember that your body becomes stronger during the recovery period. Get seven to nine hours of quality sleep a night and avoid watching a screen for two hours before bed or drinking caffeine. Keep your room cool and really dark. Try a ZMA (zinc, magnesium and vitamin A) supplement before bed and/or a casein protein shake to support your muscle repair overnight. Relax, keep your stress levels low and enjoy a bit of a break.
Other Things to Consider
Know that you will invariably hit a fitness plateau at some point and don’t fear it. Track progress in a new way. If weight isn’t coming off the scale, measure inches. If you can’t push past your bench PB, focus on gaining an extra rep at your max.
Also, take a few days off. Read about your sport or connect with other fitness enthusiasts in your class or via an online forum. Seek advice from experienced fellow gym-goers. Have the odd cheat meal and spend your time doing something else. It can be good to get away from the gym for a few days and to take a break. Remember that this isn’t a carte blanche to spend two weeks on the sofa eating junk food, but there is no harm at all in enjoying the balance. You’ll go back to your training feeling energised, motivated and ready to go once again – with a new round of results to look forward to.
Find out more about reaching your fitness goals with our updated-weekly blog.