A number of clients that consult with me have a similar story; they have cut their food right down, are training four plus times per week and are still not seeing results. Their big question is ‘why’?
The answer could in fact be a number of things; from health issues e.g. hypothyroidism, to allergies, lack of sleep, not enough food or over training, to name a few.
My first response is to muscle test the client to rule out any allergies, intolerances, health issues or inflammation of some sort. Once we have that sorted I go through their lifestyle, nutrition and exercise regime. I’m not going to cover muscle testing in this piece, I’ll leave that for another day.
Today I’m going to keep it simple and cover lifestyle, general nutrition and exercise. I’m also going to keep it extremely simple without going into too much science.
One of the biggest factors in burning fat is getting enough good quality sleep. If you are not sleeping well at least 8 hours per night, this can have a ghastly effect on fat burning.
The ideal setting is:
- Sleep in a pitch black room where you can’t see a single thing.
- Ensure that you have your mobile phone on airplane mode or at least 5 meters from your body.
- Avoid electronics anywhere near your body as this can impact how your body rests and recovers.
- Complete silence.
- Go through a wind down routine in the evening 30-45 minutes before bed to help your body prepare for sleep.
- Turn the overhead light off (artificial sun) and sit by a lamp (artificial moon) to help your brain realise it is approaching bed time and that it needs to produce melatonin to make you sleepy.
- Turn electronic gadgets off (e.g. smart phones, iPads, and laptops) as they omit a blue light that prevents the production of melatonin.
- Have the TV on to help make you sleepy (artificial fire place)
- Read before bed if that helps you relax.
- Other things that can help you relax are meditation, drinking herbal teas, warm bath, writing in a journal.
- Go to bed at least 8 hours before you are schedule to get up in the morning.
More often than not, people that have plateaued are not eating enough.
Each person has what is called a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). That is the number of calories (amount of energy) that is required at rest, in order for the body to be able to perform basic functions such as repair and recovery, fat burning, heart beating, brain working etc.
You then need to add to that any other movement conducted that increases the energy expenditure such as walking, talking, laughing, eating, exercising etc. The total of this plus your BMR is called your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).
Eating in accordance with your TDEE will bring your body into homeostasis (body’s stable internal environment which includes temperature, metabolism etc.) This will help you maintain your weight.
If you have been under eating for a long period of time then you will need to bring your body into balance by eating at your TDEE for a few weeks.
Under eating for prolonged periods of time sends the body into stress mode. This increases the amount of cortisol hormone (stress hormone) that it secretes. Whilst cortisol is elevated the body does not burn fat. Prolonged periods of this type of stress can have all sorts of detrimental effects on the body, with lack of fat burning only being one of them, and actually the least of your problems.
Under eating for prolonged periods can also send your body into starvation mode. This means your body thinks you are experiencing a famine and therefore stores what you eat as visceral fat (fat in the abdomen) as back up fuel.
Prolonged periods for the sake of this article refers to more than three months.
So to help the body out of stress or starvation mode, we need to bring the body back into balance and let it relax there for a while so that it can once again function without this excess stress.
Once we have achieved homeostasis, your body will start relaxing and burning fat again. Then we can start rejigging the nutrition again, cutting or adding food intake as required, taking into account how your body responds and what your exercise regime is like.
People that participate in regular cardio exercise often find themselves plateauing for similar reasons as not eating enough; the body gets stressed.
When you overdo cardio training your body thinks it is in a regular state of panic, running away from something, so elevates your cortisol hormone. As I mentioned earlier, elevated cortisol reduces fat burning.
So as good as cardio is for mental stress relief, health and fitness, it’s not so ideal f your goal is fat loss.
If you are someone that participates in regular steady state cardio, want to lose fat and have plateaued, try changing around your exercise routine to include more weight based training, yoga, or even Pilates. This change will snap the body out of stress mode and get your fat burning firing again.
– Terri Batsakis, founder Terrific Fitness
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