Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

I am curious to hear what you can tell me about breaking plateaus.
I am successfully losing body fat but am approaching a point where I usually seem to level out and have difficulty pushing through.

Your Questions Answered By Tom Venuto

Question: I am curious to hear what you can tell me about breaking plateaus. I am successfully losing body fat but am
approaching a point where I usually seem to level out and have difficulty pushing through. I am 5’8” and have
gone from 205 to 185. I am not sure how much further I am going to drop, but am committed to going beyond just
being “trim” to getting more “cut up” than I’ve been in the past. I perform a 20-30 min run every morning and
most evenings in addition to weight training 4-5 evenings per week. It’s a heavy training schedule but I enjoy it
and miss it when I miss a workout due to travel. My diet is consistent as well, and consists of 4 – 5 small meals per
day including 2 which are usually MET-Rx. While I understand the importance of consistency and losing fat over
time, I have a long way to go to reach my goals and would like to get there as quickly as possible.


Answer: Usually when you hit a plateau, it means you need to crank up the intensity and frequency of your training and you also need to
“tighten up” your diet. If you’re doing 20 minutes of cardio per session, you can increase it to 30 minutes. If you’re doing 30
minutes, you can increase it to 40 minutes. If your heart rate is 130 you can push it up to 140. If you’re training short of failure,
you can take sets to complete failure, or even beyond with the help of a training partner. If you’re eating only 4 meals a day,
you can bump it up to 5 or 6. If you’re cheating 2 or 3 times a week you can drop back to only one cheat meal a week. Get
the idea? In a nutshell, reaching peak condition means that you train harder!

Doing more and doing it harder is not always the best strategy, however. Sometimes when you’re “stuck in the mud,” pushing
on the gas even more just digs you into a deeper rut. If you’ve been on an extremely intense training schedule, your plateau
could be due to over-training syndrome. If you suspect over training is the cause of your plateau, then the best thing you can do
is take a rest. Take up to a full week off from heavy training (or at least a few days). Don’t worry about losing ground – even if
you do, the rest is like taking one step back to get ready for two steps forward; once your system has recovered and
replenished itself, you’ll be able to easily thrust beyond your old plateau to a new peak.

If you’ve been on the same training program for a long time, adaptation syndrome may be the cause of your plateau.
Adaptation occurs because once your body becomes accustomed to any repeated training stimulus, continuing with the same
stimulus will no longer will cause a growth response. The only way to bypass the adaptation syndrome is to change your
workouts frequently. I recommend that you change your weight training programs every month, or as soon as you stop making
progress. Any change will work: new exercises, different set/rep scheme, change in tempo, change in grip or stance width, etc.
The training variations are literally endless.

The most common cause of a plateau in fat loss is not training-related, however. The most common reason for hitting a wall in
fat loss is that your calories are too low and your body has entered starvation mode. Once you start to go into starvation mode,
no amount of increased training will help. The only thing that can get you out of starvation mode is eating more. If your calories
have been very low and you suspect the starvation response is the culprit, the best thing you can do is keep your food quality
“clean” (don’t eat a lot of junk), but raise your calories for a while. You can prevent this type of plateau from occurring again by
using the “Zig – Zag” or “High – Low” method of dieting: that is, eat a few days of higher calories and higher carbs followed by a
few days of lower calories and lower carbs. On the low calorie/low carb days, you lose body fat rapidly, and before your body
can adapt, you raise the calories back up, which increases your metabolic rate and keeps you out of starvation mode.
I am curious to hear what you can tell me about breaking plateaus.


Question: I am curious to hear what you can tell me about breaking plateaus. I am successfully losing body fat but am
approaching a point where I usually seem to level out and have difficulty pushing through. I am 5’8” and have
gone from 205 to 185. I am not sure how much further I am going to drop, but am committed to going beyond just
being “trim” to getting more “cut up” than I’ve been in the past. I perform a 20-30 min run every morning and
most evenings in addition to weight training 4-5 evenings per week. It’s a heavy training schedule but I enjoy it
and miss it when I miss a workout due to travel. My diet is consistent as well, and consists of 4 – 5 small meals per
day including 2 which are usually MET-Rx. While I understand the importance of consistency and losing fat over
time, I have a long way to go to reach my goals and would like to get there as quickly as possible.

Answer: Usually when you hit a plateau, it means you need to crank up the intensity and frequency of your training and you also need to
“tighten up” your diet. If you’re doing 20 minutes of cardio per session, you can increase it to 30 minutes. If you’re doing 30
minutes, you can increase it to 40 minutes. If your heart rate is 130 you can push it up to 140. If you’re training short of failure,
you can take sets to complete failure, or even beyond with the help of a training partner. If you’re eating only 4 meals a day,
you can bump it up to 5 or 6. If you’re cheating 2 or 3 times a week you can drop back to only one cheat meal a week. Get
the idea? In a nutshell, reaching peak condition means that you train harder!

Doing more and doing it harder is not always the best strategy, however. Sometimes when you’re “stuck in the mud,” pushing
on the gas even more just digs you into a deeper rut. If you’ve been on an extremely intense training schedule, your plateau
could be due to over-training syndrome. If you suspect over training is the cause of your plateau, then the best thing you can do
is take a rest. Take up to a full week off from heavy training (or at least a few days). Don’t worry about losing ground – even if
you do, the rest is like taking one step back to get ready for two steps forward; once your system has recovered and
replenished itself, you’ll be able to easily thrust beyond your old plateau to a new peak.

If you’ve been on the same training program for a long time, adaptation syndrome may be the cause of your plateau.
Adaptation occurs because once your body becomes accustomed to any repeated training stimulus, continuing with the same
stimulus will no longer will cause a growth response. The only way to bypass the adaptation syndrome is to change your
workouts frequently. I recommend that you change your weight training programs every month, or as soon as you stop making
progress. Any change will work: new exercises, different set/rep scheme, change in tempo, change in grip or stance width, etc.
The training variations are literally endless.

The most common cause of a plateau in fat loss is not training-related, however. The most common reason for hitting a wall in
fat loss is that your calories are too low and your body has entered starvation mode. Once you start to go into starvation mode,
no amount of increased training will help. The only thing that can get you out of starvation mode is eating more. If your calories
have been very low and you suspect the starvation response is the culprit, the best thing you can do is keep your food quality
“clean” (don’t eat a lot of junk), but raise your calories for a while. You can prevent this type of plateau from occurring again by
using the “Zig – Zag” or “High – Low” method of dieting: that is, eat a few days of higher calories and higher carbs followed by a
few days of lower calories and lower carbs. On the low calorie/low carb days, you lose body fat rapidly, and before your body
can adapt, you raise the calories back up, which increases your metabolic rate and keeps you out of starvation mode.