Whether you’ve been working out for 8 weeks, 8 months, or even 8 years, it’s not uncommon to experience a plateau in your fitness journey. However, not seeing results when you’re putting in the work is frustrating and may lead you to quit. Instead, use the situation to learn more about your body and what could be going on inside.
So let’s review some of the most common reasons for a fitness plateau and I’ll share my tips on what you can do to speed up your progress and reach your fitness goals.
- Not Eating Enough– Often we think that to lose weight or get more “toned” we need to cut our calories. However, it’s likely not the number of calories that is the problem but where you’re getting your calories from that really matters. If you’re eating foods that spike blood sugar and promote insulin release, you’re not going to lose much fat. If you’re building muscle, you need to feed your muscles with protein and carbs. Cutting too many calories causes your metabolism to ultimately slow down and conserve energy, which leads to weight gain.
- Too Conditioned– Need to change up the routine. Doing your same fitness routine for a long period of time will cause your body to become conditioned, or used to the activity. If you’re running 3 miles at the gym every day, it’s going to get easier and you’ll burn fewer calories each time you do it because your body is accounting for this activity and setting calories aside to get this workout done. This is why we need to change it up! Try new workouts like HIIT, Spin Class, Weight Lifting, Power Lifting, Resistance Bands, Pilates, and more!
- Doing Cardio Only– Unless you’re a marathon runner, cardio only will likely lead to a plateau fast. Cardio gets easier over time because you become conditioned to it, which means burning fewer calories and seeing fewer results. Add in other types of workouts that stimulate muscle growth like weight training.
- Not Lifting Heavy Enough– Even with weight training you can become conditioned and plateau. Progressive overload will help prevent the plateau. Progressive overload means that you are going to keep inching your weights up to keep making it harder. If you’re always moving the same 10 lbs of weight, you won’t continue to see progress. Muscles only grow to the size they need to be, so if you’re trying to lift more weight, your muscles will have to get stronger.
- Overtraining/No Rest days– Overtraining and not allowing your body to rest will stunt your results. The rest and recovery phase is when your muscles actually repair and grow. If you aren’t allowing your muscles to rest and rebuild, they won’t grow. Rest days are just as important as training days.
- No Mind/Muscle Mental Connection– Moving the weight without mentally engaging those specific muscles will cause you to compensate and likely use more momentum instead of muscles during your lift. Instead, mentally focus on where you should be feeling the burn and concentrate on only burning out that area. If you’re working out and thinking of all the tasks for the day you’re not present and you could be halting your progress.
- Dehydration– Muscles need water to grow in addition to protein and carbs. Water is required during the muscle growth phase to repair and build new muscle fibers. Being dehydrated can lead to muscle breakdown and possible injury.
- Stress– High-stress levels, actual or perceived, releases more cortisol. Cortisol is known as your stress hormone, which is released from the adrenal glands to prepare your body for the Flight or Fight stress response. This causes glucose to be released into your blood for immediate energy, but it also spikes blood sugar levels and causes insulin to elevate also, thus storing more fat.
- Sleep– Lack of sleep causes the same release of cortisol and blood sugar as stress does since sleep deprivation puts your body in a physical state of stress. Sleep is when your body recovers. During sleeping hours your body is rebuilding and repairing damaged cells and your immune system is fighting off foreign invaders. This means that if you skimp on sleep, you’re not only likely to gain more weight, but you’re also at an increased risk for chronic disease. See my Top Sleeping Tips.
- Inconsistent Training- If you want drastic results, you need to make drastic changes. If you’re only working out here and there you’re not going to see the results you want. Consistency is key when it comes to fitness and can take months and years to reach your goals. Just take it one day and one workout at a time, be consistent, be patient, and the results will come.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health conditions without consulting your healthcare provider. Information used is based on experience and opinion, not 100% evidence. Always consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website. Some links in this article may contain affiliate links.