Progress plateaus: What are plateaus, and are you in one? Part One
When we enter a dieting phase with the goal of fat loss, inevitably there will come a time when our progress stalls and we hit a plateau. This happens due to a process called metabolic adaptation, which is the down regulation of our metabolism as we get further into a diet.
As you diet, your body becomes more and more conservative with your energy output, meaning you will naturally start to expend less energy during the course of the day, therefore burning less calories than you were before. This is why your weight will eventually plateau and you will stop progressing. That’s when we can implement things like increasing daily steps, additional cardio, or reducing calories.
However, before doing any of this, it’s important to know whether or not you are actually in a plateau. Often people are too quick to blame their lack of progress on a plateau, instead of looking at other things that could be affecting their progress, such as lack of compliance, poor sleep, stress, hydration, and training volume.
So, here are the best ways to identify whether you are actually in a plateau:
- Has your weight been the same for three or more weeks? If so, you may be in a plateau.
- Are you getting enough sleep? If not, address this first and see how your progress improves.
- How are your stress levels? If they are high and you aren’t prioritising de-stressing, then you are likely not in a plateau, and need to address your stress before making other changes.
- Are you actually being compliant with your program and calories/macros? Remember that those extra licks and bites or untracked foods can add up and affect your deficit. Be 100% compliant to your program for at least 2 weeks before assuming you are in a plateau.
- Make sure you are staying hydrated. Dehydration can increase water retention which may be the reason the scale isn’t moving.
- Are you moving enough? Make sure you are consistently hitting your daily step targets, as well as sticking to your training program and performing well in the gym.
- Women - where are you at in your cycle? Weight drops can be easily masked by water retention caused by changing hormones.
If your sleep, stress levels, hydration levels, training and compliance are all in check, only then are you likely in a plateau and need to make adjustments to your program. It’s important to make sure that all of these factors are under control before manipulating your calories or training program. Otherwise you can potentially slow your progress down even more by introducing unsustainable habits or creating a damaging relationship with food and exercise.
However, if your sleeping habits, hydration, training, stress level and compliance are all ideal, then you are most likely in a plateau. So, what to do next? Check back in for our next blog covering what to do next!