You’re exercising, eating well, and steadily losing pounds. Then all of a sudden… Boom! The scale seems stuck, week after week. Yes, the dreaded plateau. Don’t think you’re the only person this happens to (although most people DO believe this only happens to them) – nearly everyone trying to lose weight experiences a phase when the scale won’t budge and there’s still 5, 10, 15 pounds to go. So, when this happens, you’ve got a choice to make. You can either call your diet a success, or keep plugging away. If you’ve lost quite a bit of weight – even though you still have that last 10 pounds to go – and you’re sleeping better, feeling good about yourself, have lots more energy, feeling good about how you look, then maybe you’ve already achieved your goal. But, if you have some more pounds to go, here are ten strategies you can use – try one or any combination – to melt the last 10 pounds.
Keep Track of Your Training Sessions
This is one of the most powerful tools to help you stay on track or get back on track. It can help you see where you are perhaps going over or under on your number of points for the day. Use your log as a detective tool: Had a good week? Look over it at the end of the week and try and see what you think contributed to that success. Had a not so good week? Again, look over your log to see what may have contributed to you playing a little looser with the program. Look at last week’s log for clues too, sometimes it takes a full week before the effects of a blown week show up. Using a detailed log on a consistent basis is the best way to make sure that you’re really eating the amount of food that you think you’re eating, which can be two different things sometimes.
Is Your Diet Math Correct?
Look at your food choices, are you really getting a wide variety of foods in? Remember, your body needs nutrients from lots of different sources and if you’re eating the same things all the time or too much of one type of food, you’re probably not getting the proper nutrition your body needs. How is your protein to carb ratio? Most people have some kind of formula on nutrition intake, if you don’t there are nutritional calculators to help you figure yours.
Read Labels and Measure Out your Food Portions
Too many times our portions have gotten bigger without us realizing it, using measuring cups and spoons and weighing out our portions can give us a better idea if our portions have suddenly grown bigger than we’re counting. Remember, portion size does matter. Serving size on the labels matters to your goals, especially if you depend on workout supplements, such as whey and creatine.
Too many refined carbs?
Are you eating too many sources of simple and refined carbohydrates, the stuff that’s heavily processed and no longer looks like its natural food source. Think of it as the difference between whole grain bread and processed white bread, brown rice vs. white rice, popcorn cakes vs. corn on the cob. Try to include more of the natural sources of carbohydrates in your diet stuff like beans, yams, potatoes, brown rice, and whole wheat anything rather than so many crackers, pretzels, and chips (even low fat chips). This is not to say you can’t have any refined carbs, just try to limit the amount of them if you’re having trouble losing weight.
Getting Five Servings of Fruits and Vegetables Per Day?
Eating the zero point veggies can often help us to fill up so that we’re not eating the other higher points foods instead. If you’re hungry, try non-starchy veggies first. Try a glass of V8 juice before a meal during the summer when soup sounds too hot. Variety is good here too, try a new fruit or veggie each month to expand your repertoire.
Cut Your Rest Time
Something as small as changing your rest periods can make a huge difference in your progress. Cut your rest time by 15 seconds each week until you start seeing new progress. For hypertrophy, I wouldn’t drop the rest period much lower than 30 seconds, or else the loads you’re forced to use might not be sufficient to stimulate your powerful, Type II muscle fibers.
Add Isometric Holds, At least 20 Seconds
Your muscles are weakest at the extreme ends of a movement, when a muscle is fully shortened or lengthened. This is why you see so many people do partial range-of-motion reps in the middle range of a movement. It’s just easier that way. Try to add 20-second isometric holds in your movements in order to maximize the demand on your muscles. For example, camp out down in the bottom of a squat, or keep your shoulder blades pinned back when the barbell or handle is closest to your body in a row.
Try 7-5-3 wave loading to shake things up in your routine. This is when you adjust the load up and/or down within subsequent sets of the same exercises. A wave-loading protocol allows you to creep up in weight while the reps go down, allowing you to take advantage of neuromuscular adaptations that occur over multiple sets.
Periodize Your Calories
Everything in your program, even your calorie intake, should be periodized if you want to see consistent progress. Bump up your calories for four weeks by 250-500 each week—depending on your current intake and your caloric needs. Then bring them back for two weeks. This is like taking two steps forward, one step back—but in a good way. It’s an excellent way to help make lean muscle gains without the blubber.
Muscle grows when you sleep. If you shortchange your sleep time, you shortchange growth. Your cortisol levels get out of whack, too, which promotes fat storage, not muscle growth. Set a bedtime that permits eight hours of sleep and stick to it. That means for weeks, not just days!