Over the course of a month or two, you ate all the right foods and worked your tail off at the gym and it's showing. Your numbers are down on the scale and your friends are noticing how great you look.
Lately, however, you've noticed the pounds are not coming off as easily as they were when you first started your healthy lifestyle change. Don’t get discouraged; you’ve hit a plateau, but there are ways to get past it.
Once you start losing weight, your metabolism slows down due to the loss of muscle. You need to either increase activity or decrease the calories you eat. If you lost some weight already, you may need to lower your daily calorie requirement. Talk to your doctor or dietitian before lowering your caloric intake to make sure you still receive the proper amount of nutrients your body needs to sustain a healthy, active lifestyle.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your exercise sessions as you become more fit. As you become more fit, your body adapts to the training, so it's important to vary your workout program to avoid the plateau. You can vary your workout by adding some new elements. For example, if you’re running 2 miles per day, try short bursts of intensity (sprints), followed by a short recovery (walking), and repeat.
Once your body is conditioned, changing your training program at regular intervals to keep your body working harder is your best bet for steering clear of a plataeu. This can mean anything from increasing the speed and amount of reps you do for each workout to shortening your rest periods in between exercises.
Strength training is another great way to get off a plateau, ACE says, because muscle is much more metabolically active than fat, which means the more muscle you add, the higher your metabolism will be. Cross-training will keep your body challenged and will engage muscle you don't normally use during your regular workout.
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