Is Your Scale Stuck on Hold? – Try These 6 Plateau-Busters!
Have you ever wondered why, just when things seem to be moving along great with your exercise and nutrition plan, the scale just suddenly stops moving… or worse, starts creeping back up in the opposite direction?
Your first inclination might be to point a finger at all that beautiful new muscle you’ve been building but, before you do that, let’s take a good hard look at the whole “muscle weighs more than fat” myth. Then we can get down to the business of identifying and eliminating the real culprits behind your stubborn scale syndrome.
IS IT MUSCLE?
Probably not, since it typically takes 4 to 6 weeks to build one pound of lean muscle. Men, of course, build a bit faster than women but, even for a guy, it takes a good deal of hard work, the right amount of calories and, most importantly, a certain measure of TIME before a full pound of muscle will show on the scale. So, even if you are one of the lucky few who seem to build muscle pretty easily, these gains are always gradual. In the best case scenario, if you are consistently building muscle, you might see an increase of ¼ to ½ pound per week – but even these numbers are on the high side when it comes to average muscle gains.
IS IT FAT?
On the flip side, if you are eating honestly, watching your timing and portions, avoiding alcohol, and drinking plenty of water, you will typically lose between .85 and 1.45 pounds of fat per week. So, you see, it isn’t that fat weighs less or muscle weighs more (a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat – it’s simply that muscle takes up less space than body fat…) When you are following your program 90-95%, in a month’s time you are going to lose many more pounds of body fat as compared to the 1 or 2 pounds of muscle you may or may not gain. Therefore, if the scale isn’t budging or is reverting back to the old numbers, it’s likely your nutrition is the guilty party.
WEAK AT WEEK 5
It’s usually after the honeymoon period of any nutrition and exercise program (between week 5 and 8) that things start to slide a bit. To decide if this is the cause of your weigh-in woes, have a look at these 6 Plateau-Busting steps and see if, perhaps, you’re program is due for some fine-tuning:
Plateau Buster #1 – Get Real – I’m going to pull a Dr. Phil on you here and ask you to really look at the difference between what you are doing right now, and how it compares to what you were doing when first you started. Are you missing workouts, skipping meals, having a few cocktails in the evening, cutting your cardio short, eating clean during the day but loading up at dinner? Make an honest assessment of how things were when you were losing as opposed to how things are now.
Plateau Buster #2 – Get Rid of Destructive Language – Think about the words you are using to describe how you feel about your fitness program. Have you been dragging yourself into the gym, struggling to talk yourself into even going? Negative dialog is one of the biggest drains on your energy so, while you’re at it, take a good look also at how you are describing your feelings about healthy eating. If you’re using words like “I’m not allowed…” or “I can’t have this or that,” you’re setting yourself up for failure. Start looking at all the great foods you can have and get in the habit of describing how much you enjoy those foods. Find something good to say about your exercise routine – then focus your energy (and your words) on what you like about exercise, as opposed to the things you dread.
Plateau Buster #3 – Get Your Portions Right – A good rule of thumb, no matter what eating plan you are following, is to make sure none of your meals are larger than your two clinched fists side-by-side. If you find that any one of your meals covers the average dinner plate, there’s a good chance you’re eating too much.
Plateau Buster #4 – Get Your Timing Down – Going for more than 4 hours without food will not only set you up for overeating later in the day (the worse time to over indulge,) waiting too long to eat is at the root of almost every craving you experience, especially alcohol cravings. I recommend that my clients eat a small portion of protein and complex carbohydrate every 2-1/2 to 3 hours throughout the day. In almost every case, when the timing of your meals goes haywire, everything else follows suit.
Plateau Buster #5 – Get Out of the Restaurant Rut – When you have a choice, it’s best to avoid restaurant food. Certainly there are healthy choices to be had but, if you are eating out all of the time, there’s a good chance you are consuming a lot of hidden fat and calories. Just remember, restaurants are, first and foremost, in the business of making their food taste good. Making it healthy will always take a back seat because, of course, it’s the taste that brings you back.
Plateau Buster #6 – Get Your Protein in First – This is an old trick but it works for a lot of people. If you are eating properly – a small portion of protein and carbohydrate at each meal – getting your protein down first will often satisfy your appetite more quickly and this habit is also thought to slow the spike in insulin that typically occurs when you eat your carbohydrate first. While there’s not a lot of scientific backing on the benefits of eating protein first, many of my clients swear by this method as a way to avoid over eating, especially at dinner time.
Try these 6 methods of tidying up your fitness plan for at least a week and see if, at the end of seven days, your scale doesn’t finally, finally start moving in the right direction.
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