Naturally, doing more and doing it harder is not always the best strategy. 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 for a prolonged period of time, your plateau could be due to over-training syndrome.
If you suspect over-training to be the cause of your plateau, then the best thing to do is take a rest. Taking three to seven days off from high intensity training might be exactly what you need. If you're severely over-trained, you may also need to cut back on your volume and slowly work your way back up after your brief layoff. 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 easily be able to thrust beyond your old plateau to a new peak.
Adaptation syndrome is a frequent cause of fat loss plateaus. Adaptation occurs because your body can easily adjust to a training or nutritional program that has been repeated for a long time. At this point, continuing with the same stimulus will no longer will cause an improvement. The only way to bypass the adaptation syndrome is to change your workouts frequently.
The body will adapt to ANY weight training or cardio program very quickly. To avoid adaptation syndrome, you should change one or more variables in your training program every four to twelve weeks. The more advanced you become, the more quickly your body will adapt and the more often you should change.. Your cardio program should be changed any time you've hit a plateau in fat loss. Almost any change will work: The training variations are literally endless. With weight training you can use new exercises, different set/rep schemes, changes in tempo, shorter rest intervals, changes in grip or stance width, etc. In your cardio workouts, you can change the type of exercise you use, the intensity, the duration, the frequency, steady state vs. interval, or the time of day.
Here's another common cause of fat loss plateaus: Your calories are too low and your body has gone into starvation mode. Once you go into starvation mode, no amount of increased training will help. The only way to get out of starvation mode is to eat more. If you know your caloric intake has been very low for a long time and you suspect the starvation response is the culprit, the best thing you can do is raise your calories. Keep your food quality "clean" (don't eat a lot of junk), just eat more of the same good foods. Depending on the degree to which you have slowed your metabolism, you might need a brief one to three day raise in calories before dropping back down (zig-zag method), or you might need to raise your calories for longer period.
One proven way to give a sluggish metabolism a jolt is by using the "Zig-Zag" or "High - Low" method of dieting: that is, eat one to three days of higher calories and higher carbs followed by one to three days of lower calories and lower carbs. On the low calorie/low carb days, you lose body fat rapidly, but before your body can adapt, you raise the calories back up, which increases your metabolic rate and keeps you out of starvation mode.
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