Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Dreaded Plateau

How are your fitness and nutrition goals going so far?  If you have been at this for awhile, you may have had the frustration of hitting a plateau- that dreaded time when it seems like you are stuck at the same weight and not moving anywhere!  Number one, I would encourage you to always take measurements, because even if the scale isn't moving, you may still be losing inches.  There is always the age old question of which weighs more: muscle or fat?  I will reply to that with:  which weighs more:  a pound of feathers or a pound of steel?  A pound is a pound.  It's not that muscle weighs more than fat, it's that it is more dense than fat.  So, we can actually lose inches, but we may not see a lot of movement on the scale.  Take your measurements once a month.  You will want to measure your chest (for women or men- around the fullest part of the chest area or bust), waist (measure around the navel), the abdomen (about 2-3 inches below the navel), the hips (around the fullest part of your rear end), thigh (have foot planted on the ground and then measure around the fullest part of the thigh), calf (foot planted on the ground and measure around the fullest part), upper arm (measure around the fullest part).  It may work best if you have someone help you with these measurements.  Don't pull the tape too tight, either.

If after you measure yourself you find that you have indeed hit that dreaded plateau, examine a few things.  Are you still keeping a food journal?  If not, start up again.  It's very easy to go over in calories.  Think of it this way:  if you eat just 100 calories more than you need per day, in a year you will have gained 10 pounds.  Another thing to look at is your exercise.  What kind are you doing?  Are you doing any weight training?  Have you been doing the same form of exercise for a while now?  We can sometimes get into a habit of doing the same thing over and over.  I'm going to put it to you bluntly:  if you are not challenging yourself and if you don't feel like you have exerted yourself past your normal ability, you are not going to see change.  I have talked about the overload principal before.  You must overload your body past it's normal ability.  Make sure you are doing both aerobic and anaerobic activity.  The simplest and easiest way for me to explain the difference between the two that you will understand is this:  low intensity vs high intensity.  Aerobic means "the presence of oxygen" and anaerobic means just the opposite.  During exercise with adequate fuel and oxygen (aerobic), muscle cells can contract repeatedly without fatigue.  During anaerobic or non-oxygen conditions, muscle cells must rely on other reactions that do not require oxygen to fuel muscle contraction.  When you are exercising if you are not feeling fatigued or extremely out of breath you are in an aerobic metabolic mode, but when you are feeling exhausted and fatigued you are in an anaerobic metabolic mode.  Here is the benefit of anaerobic activity:  you will continue to burn more calories after you are done working out than you will with aerobic activity.  Make sure you are doing both aerobic and anaerobic activity.  Some examples of aerobic would be:  walking, running, elliptical, biking.  Examples of anaerobic would be:  weight lifting, sprinting, cycling in a spin class where you are doing intense intervals, classic calisthenics such as push ups, squats, mountain climbers- all to exhaustion, exercising such as pushing and pulling different weights, etc.  Aerobic activity is less exhausting than anaerobic, but you need both.  Remember:  if you are not challenging yourself, you aren't getting the most benefit from exercise.  As always, if I can help in any way please let me know!

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