Breaking Through Plateaus

Breaking Through Plateaus

I thought this article was appropriate seeing as so many people are trying to get lean for the summer.

Weight loss plateaus can be both mentally and physically taxing for anyone. Progress and results are what drives people and keeps them motivated to continue a healthy diet and exercise regimen. But what happens when you are doing all the right things and suddenly your results become stagnant?  Anyone that has lost weight has experienced a plateau in some form or another. Whether these plateaus last a week or a year, breaking through a weight loss plateau is crucial for your physical results and your psychological well-being.

 The Science Behind Plateaus

The progression from initial weight loss to a weight-loss plateau follows a typical pattern. During the first few weeks of losing weight, a rapid drop is normal. In part this is because when calories from food are reduced, the body gets needed energy by releasing its stores of glycogen, a type of carbohydrate found in the muscles and liver. Glycogen holds on to water, so when glycogen is burned for energy, it also releases water, resulting in substantial weight loss that’s mostly water.

A plateau occurs because your metabolism — the process of burning calories for energy — slows as you lose muscle. You burn fewer calories than you did at your heavier weight even doing the same activities. Your weight-loss efforts result in a new equilibrium with your now slower metabolism. At this new equilibrium, calories eaten equals calories expended. This means that to lose more weight, you need to increase activity or decrease the calories you eat. Using the same approach that worked initially may maintain your weight loss, but it won’t lead to more weight loss.

How To Overcome Plateaus

1. Make A Plan And Stick To It

Look back at your food and activity records. Make sure you haven’t loosened the rules, letting yourself get by with larger portions or less exercise. Track everything to ensure you aren’t cheating and you are sticking to the system and keeping yourself honest.

2. Change Your Workout

They say variety is the spice of life, and this holds true when it comes to your workouts. Without change you might find yourself dreading the monotony of regular gym sessions and simply lose motivation. Additionally, your body can become used to the same caloric burn and muscle exertion as it becomes more efficient at completing regular movements. Give your brain and brawn the wake up call they need by shaking up your usual routine with some new additions.

  • Try increasing the speed as you exercise and do short bursts of intense exercises (such as sprinting) for one to two minutes followed by small rest periods. These short bursts of anaerobic activity will stimulate your body to release human growth hormone, which helps to burn fat while maintaining muscle mass.
  • Maintain your body’s adaptation period by changing the intensity, duration, frequency and/or the mode of exercise and include interval training if necessary.
3. Pack More Activity Into Your Day
Think outside the gym. Increase your general physical activity throughout the day by walking more and using your car less, or try doing more yard work or vigorous spring cleaning. Little things like this will increase your overall caloric expenditure over an entire day.

4.   Calorie Cycling

This technique takes some pre-planning, but it could be just what your body needs. Cycle your calories by toying around with your daily caloric consumption. Maintain the same caloric intake over the course of a week, but eat 100 calories more one day, followed by 200 fewer calories the next day. Some folks call this the “zigzag” method, but no matter what you call it, this method disrupts your body’s equilibrium and will rev your weight loss engine. If you have been losing weight eating 1400 calories a day, eat around that many calories for three days. On the fourth day eat 300 to 400 calories more. Make sure those calories come from healthy foods mixing protein, carbs and fat. Those extra calories should not come from nachos and beer.

5. Spike Your Calorie Intake With One Meal A Weak

The human body will adapt to ANYTHING you do consistently over time.  This refers to weight training, cardio conditioning, and nutrition. Over time your body will adapt to the new caloric intake unless some type of adjustment has been made. Try offsetting your eating schedule by spiking your calories one meal a week by 400-600 calories. To increase your caloric intake on those “cheat meal days”, simply eat more nutritious food.  This will not only offset your metabolism, but will also keep your digestion and metabolism working optimally, ensuring a greater amount of fat-loss.

6. Cut Carb intake

Try reducing your carb intake to 50-100 grams per day to reduce insulin production and fire up your fat metabolism. Make sure that you’re eating enough protein for your weight (Shoot for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight) eating the right vegetables and snacking on high-fat foods to keep you feeling satisfied.

7. Find Ways To Keep Your Metabolism Elevated 

  • Eat six small meals a day. Eating small portions throughout the day will help keep your metabolism going. This is an extremely useful tactic in breaking your weight-loss plateau. Eat something when you wake up in the morning, perhaps a small omelet or some steel-cut oats.  Pretty much keep your meal times as normal; breakfast, lunch and dinner with a meal in between each and something for the evening.  Keep it higher in protein, small in calories, and nutritious.
  • Drink cold water. Drinking cold water can elevate your metabolism for several hours following completion.
  • Eat metabolism boosting foods. Things like cinnamon, curry, jalapenos, oatmeal, beans, green tea, ginger, grapefruits, apples, coffee, almonds, blueberries, watermelons and turkey can all help boost your metabolism.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any comments or questions.

From South Bend,

Kevin
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The Difference In Cardio Machines

The Difference In Cardio Machines

Here is a great nutrition tip before I talk about cardio machines

Immediately after waking up, drink 16 oz of cold water to get your metabolism fired up. Studies show that drinking cold water can increase metabolism as much as 25% for 2 hours after finishing.

According to a study by the The University of California at San Francisco’s Human Performance Center, cardio machines overestimate calorie-burn by shocking amounts. (http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Weekend/exercise-calorie-counters-work/story?id=9966500#.T1p_TvF8C80 the link to the study)

Treadmill: Overestimated calories burnt by 13%

Stationary Bike: Overestimated calories burnt by 7%

Stair Climber: Overestimated calories burnt by 12%.

Elliptical: Overestimated calories burnt by 42%

First off, there is no right or wrong answer here. Hopping on a cardio machine and doing the simplest of workouts is beneficial, and if nothing else, is useful for burning off calories from the ice cream you had the night before. With that being said, there are definitely some programs and machines that are more beneficial than others. As a general “wake up call” statement, documented studies suggest that treadmills and other cardio machines actually overestimate calories burned by up to 42%. Using cardio machines entails moving the large muscles in your body. These muscles require large amounts of oxygen which is circulated into your blood with the end goal of raising your heart rate. Taking this into account, the machine that requires the largest muscles to move the most should create the largest benefits, right? Lets take a closer look below at what I find to be the most effective machines. (4 most common machines)

1. Treadmill 

Benefits

  • Versatility– From a brisk walk to an uphill sprint, treadmills offer a wide range of tools in terms of speed, incline, and training programs.
  • Emulates Natural Movements– As technology continues to develop, fitness moguls are developing new machines that can be awkward or confusing. The treadmill is a familiar, and mostly natural movement for the human body that doesn’t allow you to rely on momentum to power the machine.
  • Seniority– Treadmills have been around since the 1800’s and are a staple at every gym and most homes.Naturally, they have been researched, developed, and perfected more than any other piece of cardio equipment.
  • Consistent Surface– As opposed to running outside, where you can encounter rocks, cracks, and other uneven surfaces, treadmills allow you to run on a consistent surface, year-round.
  • Full Body– Walking and running are rooted from the strides your legs are forced to make. In order to stride forward you have to engage your core and utilize momentum from your upper body.

Downfalls

  • Tough On Joints– In general, running can put stress on your spine, hips, knee, and ankle joints.
  • Safety Issue– Doing incline sprints can be dangerous if you are really “pushing the limits.”
  • Unnatural Handles Often times, people like to know their heart rate and find their target heart rate zone. Trying to hold on to the treadmill handles while you are running can be challenging and awkward.
  • Posture Problems Some studies show that the size of the belt can cause people to change the way they walk or run, leading to muscle imbalances and posture problems.
  • Difficulty– Running(especially on an incline) is hard. People are lazy. People will use the machine they find to be “easiest” and use that specific machine as a way to burn calories.
Consensus 
Overall, I think treadmills are the most effective cardio machine mainly because of the versatility in programs and the amount of muscles groups that are affected by a forward stride. I am a huge proponent of hill intervals (both walking and running) and I think using a treadmill to complete a high intensity training program can work wonders for your fitness goals.

2. Stair-Climber.

Benefits

  • Non Impact Conditioning Unlike the stress of running on a treadmill, stair masters can provide similar cardiovascular benefits without putting your joints in a vulnerable position.
  • Muscle Memory Almost everyone is guilty of taking the elevator or escalator in today’s technology-driven world. Naturally, the muscles in our legs become accustomed to a walking or running stride. Using a stair stepper will activate different muscles groups that may have been ignored in the past.
  • The Legs Feed The Wolf- The stair stepper is a great way to build leg muscles and increase lower body endurance. It also allows you to work on your balance and work on rehabilitative exercises.
Downfalls
  • Lower Body Specific- Climbing stairs definitely burns the quads and glutes, but your upper body is used sparingly in a stair stepper.
  • “Convenient” Handle Placement– The geniuses that created the stair stepper made handles that are easily accessible and almost invite you to hold on to them which can cause decreased energy output by your actual legs.
  • One Dimensional– You can’t change the incline on most stair steppers like you can with the treadmills which limits the overall versatility.
Consensus
Muscle memory is no joke. Using a stair stepper should be added to your weekly exercise regimen to activate different muscles in your legs that have become dormant due to technology-not your own personal laziness of taking the elevator everyday. (Yes I am guilty too)
3. The Elliptical 
Benefits
  • Non Impact Conditioning– Much like the stair stepper, the elliptical allows your body to emulate a running motion without causing the strenuous impact of actually running.
  • Cross-Training Aspect– Most ellipticals are now equipt with moveable handles which allow you to exercise your upper body and lower body simultaneously.
  • Reverse- Most ellipticals allow you to stride in reverse which can activate different muscle groups and put more emphasis on your quads.

Downfalls

  • Laziness– Ellipticals were a product of human complaint. “too hard”, “too much stress on my legs”. If running actually does cause pain on your joints, try an inclined/brisk walk on a treadmill. Check your heart rate and see how it compares to the elliptical.
  • Gravity- Elliptical pedals are suspended off the ground and lack the “weight-bearing effect” that is utilized when running.  Weight-bearing exercises strengthen bones and muscles, and is particularly important for older people in preventing osteoporosis.
  • Momentum- Operating an elliptical, especially on lower levels, can allow you to use the machines’ momentum to compensate for actual work output

The Consensus

If performed efficiently, the elliptical can be used as a valuable cardiovascular machine with interval training and tough, cross-training programs. Unfortunately, this is generally not the case. The elliptical’s reputation as the “lazy mans treadmill” is exactly that. Not to mention that ellipticals outrageously overestimate calorie expenditure.

4. The Stationary Bike

Benefits

  • Lower Body Endurance Bikes are great tools to build lower body strength, endurance, and stamina.
  • Limited Stress On Joints- Like the elliptical, the bike does not impose your entire body weight on your joints but stills allow you to reap enormous benefits.
  • Great For Rehabilitation- Bikes are great tools for people with pulled muscles or recovering from a lower-body injury.
  • Difficulty Factor- Cranking the resistance up on a bike can force you into a standing position and as a result cause enormous caloric expenditure.
Downfalls
  • Human Nature The average human spends 9.3 hours a day sitting. Why would you want to sit during exercise?
  • One Dimensional- The bike focuses primarily on lower body performance.

Conclusion

DON’T RELY ON CALORIE ESTIMATES BY CARDIO MACHINES. Joe Smith, exercise physiologist at UCSF’s Human Performance Center said the overestimation is not surprising.”I think the estimations are just that. You can’t necessarily believe everything you read on those machines.” However, cardio machines can be a great resource if you use them efficiently. Going on a 20 minute elliptical stroll will burn SOME calories, but will not give you the same benefits as an interval program on a treadmill. I give everyone credit for going to the gym and getting on a machine but why wouldn’t you use your time efficiently?

My Suggestion

Mix it up. Try different programs on different machines to constantly keep the body guessing. Rowing machines have started to make a return (thanks crossfit) and can be used as a great asset as well. Chances are, the machine you dislike the most is probably the one that is the hardest and causing the greatest amount of work output by your body. Lastly, spend one day a week doing some form of intervals. (See my Dec. 16 post for more on interval training)

Thanks for reading. Let me know if you have questions or comments.

From South Bend,

 Kevin

The 5 Exercise Mistakes You Could Be Making

The 5 Exercise Mistakes You Could Be Making

1.You are a victim of routine and habit:

Muscle memory is no myth. If you perform the same exercises and workouts every week, with no variation, your muscles will grow accustomed with them overtime and your fitness goals will severely plateau. Repitition of exercises allows the brain to become “hard-wired” with a simple, efficient circuitry that enables the activity. The brain and muscles no longer have to work hard to make that particular movement happen, so the activity “feels easy” to you, as if it were second nature.

My suggestion: Switch it up

  • I am all for getting in and sticking to a set routine, however, if you want to see progression in your fitness goals, whether it is bigger strength gains or more fat loss, vary your workouts/rep range/rest time.  You will see dramatic changes as your muscles will have to work harder to adapt to these new changes.

Great examples:

  1. Intervals vs. steady cardio. (see previous post for more specifics about this)
  2. Heavier weights with reps between 5 and 8 and allowing more rest in between rest.

2. You don’t get in a good warm-up:

The goal of any warm-up is to increase your heart rate, body temperature,. and blood flow to your muscles. The increase in these things will prepare you muscles and mind-set for the upcoming exercises. As a result, you will see better performance results and reduce chance of injury. Research over the last decade has shown static stretching cold muscles can actually inhibit performance and put you at greater risk of injury.

My suggestion: Perform movements that are specific to the exercises that will follow.

  • Activate the energy systems and muscles that are going to be required to complete your workout.
Great Examples:
  1. Jump Rope for 5 minutes- This gets both your legs and upper body involved at the same time.
  2. Dynamic stretch warm-up and not static stretching!-Do 5-10 minutes of dynamic movements that will get your blood flowing and major muscle groups activated. (bodyweight pushups, lunges, squats, or spider man crawls all work great)
3. You don’t do enough multi-joint movements:
Everyone wants more bang for their buck. So, why limit yourself to single joint movements or “isolated movements” when you can combine exercises and use multiple joints to build muscle, decrease fat, increase metabolic rate, and burn more calories, all at the same time.
My suggestion: Use multi-joint movements for the bulk or your exercises and supplement them with single joint movements.
  • Multi-joint movements will allow you to become a more functional and well conditioned athlete by using major muscle groups in conjunction with one another.
  • Supplementing multi joint movements with single joint movements will allow you to take care of the smaller and stabilizer muscles that can be overshadowed when doing multi-joint movements.
Great Examples:
  1. The old-fashioned back squat- Not only do squats activate all your lower body muscle group,  but it also activates your core muscles which are the foundation to your strength and posture. (utilizes knee,ankle, and hip joints)
  2. Dumbbell snatch- A great, functional exercise that utilizes major muscle groups such as your legs, core, and shoulders.

4. After all my suggestions you still do sit-ups:

Core is an essential component to a functional and strong body.Why is it that I continue to see people wasting time doing one of the most inefficient and outdated exercises today!

My suggestion: Trade in your old-fashioned sit ups for a core exercises that are more efficient

  • There still exists a common misconception that the key to a six-pack is by doing a bunch of sit-ups. False, the key to washboard abs is by losing stomach fat through a healthy(total body) exercise regimen and an all-natural diet.

Great Examples:

1. Plank on swiss ball- This exercise will force you to stabilize your core on an unbalanced surface.

2. Hanging leg raise- Targets your hipflexors and lower abs along with the rest of your core.

5. You don’t replenish your muscles after your workout:

“Approximately 30 minutes after intense exercise, the body optimizes its ability to replenish energy stores-particularly muscle and liver glycogen. This is also a critical time because the body instigates muscle protein synthesis for muscle tissue recovery and repair, replenishes fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat, and adapts to the stresses encountered in the workout.”

My Suggestion: Invest in a workout shaker and some tupperware.

  • Bringing a recovery powder to your workout will ensure you provide your muscles with adequate nutrition to fully recover immediately after finishing. Bringing some food in Tupperware is also a great way to ensure you are getting ample carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Depending on your sport and fitness goals, your post-workout shake should range from a 1:1 carb/protein ratio to 4:1 carb/protein  ratio if you are involved in more endurance activities and are trying to restore carbohydrate levels.

Great Example

1. 6oz of coconut water
6oz of unsweetened almond milk
1/2 c yogurt, 1 banana
1 c frozen strawberries/blueberries
1 scoop whey protein powder
3-5 grams glutamine

For all those interested in fat loss, check out my good friend’s website Kellie Kaufman at https://wrapmeskinnywithkellie.myitworks.com/home. This may help you gain the edge and break through plateaus.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

From Naples,

Kevin

kdeeth21@gmail.com