After rigorous training, spending months in the gym, most men find that their progress plateaus. While it’s not uncommon, it can be a difficult journey to lose those last few pounds and get your body to the “ideal” size.
After weeks of maintaining a healthy diet and dedicating to the gym five or six days a week, you find yourself thinking: What the hell? My regimen worked before, so why isn’t it working now?
The answer is simple. As your body fat diminishes, so does the routine you use daily.
When you’re planning your weight loss and/or body sculpting journey, it’s important to prepare for each milestone with phases. If your first milestone is to lose weight, you should prepare yourself for a workout and routine that promotes weight loss.
However, once you’ve completed that stage, your goals should shift to the next stage. Rather than focusing on losing weight, your gym and eating habits should focus on helping you lower your body fat percentage.
Here are some of the top ways to help you get past that plateau and get the results you want.
- Understand That This is a Journey and Lifestyle Change
Now that you’re nearing the finish line, it’s only natural to slack off a bit on your journey. However, understand that this is a journey and that it is a permanent lifestyle change. So, you don’t have to conquer your goal all in one night. It’s going to be a tough journey at times, so embrace it and enjoy it.
Just remember to get back on course if you’ve gotten slightly off track. This journey only ends when you give up on it. Continue to persevere, even when you feel stagnant with your fitness goals. The long-haulers always succeed.
- Eliminate the Booze Completely
Listen, guys, while having a few drinks may not seem like a “big deal”, it can hinder your results significantly. I know, you don’t want to hear it because you are a “weekend drinker” or “social drinker”, but it does matter.
Common knowledge: Alcohol doesn’t have any nutritional value. BUT what you may not know is that alcohol carries twice the number of calories than proteins and carbs and the same amount of fat. This is where the significant game changer comes in for body transformations.
Guys, sadly we consider alcohol to be “empty calories” in our diet and it’s going to wear on your body. Plus, most of us regret it the next day, so you’ll feel the difference if you go for the club soda with a splash of cranberry next time you go out. You can save your calories for food that has nutritional value and will promote your body goals.
- Don’t Overanalyze Your Scale
Ok, so if you’re goal is to lose weight, then the scale is vital to measuring your success. However, as you lose more weight, the scale begins to lose its importance. Initially, your body will shed fat, but it eventually begins to build muscle more rapidly as well.
Once you’ve hit your target goal weight – which should be adjusted by how you feel during each weight loss milestone – you’ll want to put the scale away completely or avoid it.
Instead of looking at your goal as numbers on a scale, translate those numbers to your overall body mass index (BMI). Initially, your journey to becoming a fitness god – or at least achieving a decent athletic build – involves shedding the extra pounds first.
However, to lose that last bit of wait and end the plateau tyrant that is blocking the success of your business goals, it’s time to think BMI. Now that you’ve shed those pounds, it’s time to bulk up and lean out your muscles. The little “excess” pounds can help you with this process.
As you train your body, you will begin to eliminate the fat content and begin to increase your muscle density. This is where the scale becomes problematic. Since muscle weighs 18% heavier than fat, if you use a scale, it will show an increase in weight. This can deter your motivation and stop your current routine since you’re scared of gaining pounds (especially if you’ve hit near your “goal weight”).
Therefore, visiting a fitness professional or medical expert to measure your BMI once a month is ideal. If your overall fat percentage decreases, you’ll feel positive and confident about your results and continue toward success with your fitness goals … slightly modified of course.
Remember, those last few pounds should be focused on a BMI scale and not a weight scale. You may increase a few pounds, but you’re more likely to be slightly thinner and leaned out by the end of it.
- Water is a Weight Loss Miracle
Throughout the years, there have been many men who’ve complained that hydrating yourself too much can cause bloating. So, essentially most guys limit their water intake daily or don’t worry enough about drinking water. But, this can be a slight hindrance with your goals and achievements.
Drinking water daily, and monitoring the times of the day when you’re drinking water, helps promote weight loss. Steven Aitchison wrote a blog about how drinking water throughout each day helped him lose 12 pounds. He didn’t switch his diet nor exercising habits – he simply included water in his diet.
Sure, you may be thinking: “Duh dude, I already knew this.”
But trust me, there is a little magic to it and, unless your drinking water constantly, this plan could help with slimming down and getting past that plateau. Not to mention, working out dehydrates you, so it’s imperative to get down as much water as possible to prevent any major health risks.
- Carb: Protein: Fat Ratio and What it Means to You
Eating healthy sounds much easier than what it really means. When you’re looking to push forward with your fitness goals, macronutrients are the real magic behind your results. These include carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
If you’ve ever wondered why people are on “meal plans”, it’s not for show. This helps with managing all the appropriate percentages of carbs, proteins and fats during each stage of your fitness goals. So, here’s some help on how to manage your ratio per your goals.
Fat Loss Macronutrient Ratio
When you’re going through your initial weight loss stage, your diet should be consistent of low carbohydrates and high proteins and fats. Here are the recommended percentages for fat loss.
- 40-50% protein;
- 30-40% fat;
- 10-30% carbohydrates.
Bulking Macronutrient Ratio
Once you have those last few pounds to lose, you’ll want to begin bulking for 4-to-6 weeks. This is where you’ll begin to train your muscles and turn the underlayer of fat into muscle. This is important and requires a higher carbohydrate percentage. The extra carbs will fuel your body and give your muscles the necessary energy to power through workouts.
Here are the recommended percentages for bulking:
- 40-60% carbohydrates;
- 25-35% protein; and
- 15-25% fat.
Leaning or “Cutting” Macronutrient Ratio
After you’ve worked on forming your muscles, it’s time to lean them out and eliminate the last little layer of fat concealing each area. We refer to this as “cutting” since you’ll literally be cutting your fat content and finally show everyone how ripped your body really is now.
During this phase, you’ll want to eliminate more carbohydrates and replace them with more fat content. Why is this? Carbohydrates may give you more energy, but they also prevent your body from looking ripped.
Fats play a large role in your hormones. First, they help improve your mood, which will help steer your motivation to success. Secondly, they help with increasing your metabolism and support growth and development throughout the body.
When you’re looking to shed fat during your cutting season, you’ll need to rely on fats. Ironic, isn’t it? But an increased metabolism only helps remove the fat, but the increase in development and growth stimulates the muscles to grow even more.
Within weeks, you can have the perfect body once you’ve hit this stage. Here are the recommended values for each macronutrient during cutting season:
- 30-50% carbohydrates;
- 25-35% protein; and
- 25-35% fat.
- Eat Only Healthy Fats
Ok, so eating healthy isn’t always as simple as it looks. But once you get the hang of it, it’s going to be second nature to you. Let’s begin what it means to eat “healthy” fats – and no, it’s not a pile of crap that’s being made up either.
Healthy fats consist of three categories: monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides. Now, let’s break this down a bit on what that means to you.
One of the most important fats you can add to your diet is monounsaturated fats. The healthiest forms of these fats include the following:
- Egg yolks;
- Olive oil;
- Canola oil;
- Sunflower oil (High-oleic);
- Nuts; and
- Peanut Butter.
These are some of the best fats that also contribute to other important nutrition. Most importantly, these fats contribute to lowering cholesterol and keeping it balanced. While, on the other hand, saturated fats contribute to elevated cholesterol and clogged arteries. Therefore, it’s imperative to know and understand more about fatty oils guys.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid
Omega-3 fatty acids are divided into three categories: EPA, DHA and ALA. EPA and DHA are found in fish, while ALA omega-3 fatty acids are primarily in plant sources. Not only do these fats help promote a fitter body, but also help your body in a plethora of ways.
Diets high in EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids help with relieving depression, asthma inflammations and symptoms of ADHD. Like monounsaturated fats, they also help with managing and even lowering, bad cholesterol levels.
While there are supplements available, it’s better to consume the omega-3 fatty acids from your food. Here are some of the most common food sources to get EPA and DHA fats from.
- Lake trout;
- Sardines; and
Fattier fish, such as mackerel, shark and swordfish, may contain more omega-3 but should be avoided for their high levels of toxins and mercury. Higher toxins can also be found in farm-raised fish, so it’s best to eat wild fish if possible.
ALA omega-3 fatty acids are often overlooked as the “unimportant” omega-3, since it lacks the number of bonds that EPA and DHA have, giving it less potential. However, some studies about ALA omega-3 fatty acids say it is as effective in treating cardiovascular diseases (which is most common in men).
Vegetarians can find ALA omega-3 fatty acids from the following foods:
- Flaxseed oil;
- Soybean oil; and
- Canola oil.
These are some of the most prevalent sources of ALA omega-3 fatty acids.
The next important fatty acid you can add into your diet are medium-chain triglycerides. I know you’re thinking, “Seriously, what the heck is that?
Also called MCT oils, these oils absorb into the body quicker than long-chained triglycerides. Plus, they are less likely to be stored in your tissues, which will help with maintaining your weight. Certain oils even have the potential to promote your weight loss even more.
Significant sources of MCTs include the following foods:
- Coconut oil;
- Palm kernel oil;
- Olive oil;
- Butter; and
Only consume MCT’s in the form of dairy if you can tolerate it. If you notice your stomach becoming more upset after switching your diet, try to switch to oils for your MCTs to see if you feel any different.
- Evaluate the Carbs You’re Eating
Next on your eating list are your carbs. Carbohydrates play an imperative role in providing your body with energy. However, certain carbs can quickly diminish the results in your body or cause your body to reach a screeching halt with progress.
When you’re cruising down the grocery aisle, you’ll come across three types of carbs. Each of these carbs has a different and unique effect on your body. These include sugars, starches and fiber.
Sugars are the most basic since they have short chains. These are quick, immediate uses of energy available to your cells. Starches are long-chained sugars that eventually break down to small chains so cells can use the energy. Both sugars and starches provide direct energy for your body and can be stored (as fat) for energy.
Fibers, however, work slightly different. While they don’t provide your cells directly with energy, they do provide friendly bacteria in the digestive system with a food supply. They use this food to produce fatty acids that can then be used as energy by cells.
So, let’s consider the “good carbs” and “bad carbs” that could be hindering your results.
Whole Carbs and Refined Carbs
As you learn more about carbs, understand that not all of them are created equal. Beyond their roles as sugars, starches or fibers, carbs break down even further into two categories: refined and whole.
So, now that things are slightly more complicated, you’re probably thinking, “Alright bro, so which should I eat?”
Whole food carbs should consist of 90-percent of your total weekly carb intake. You can make a few exceptions with refined foods, just to diversify your meals up a bit.
Here’s why per Harvard’s School of Public Health:
“The healthiest sources of carbohydrates—unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans—promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients.”
By being unprocessed, whole foods still have their fiber, which can help with getting a full-range of carbs rather than just sugars and starches. For your digestive system, this will also help increase your metabolism since you’re feeding the friendly bacteria in your body. The more you take care of them, the more they take care of your digestion.
When your goal is to lose body fat, the healthier your digestive system, the more fat you’ll drop. Since refined foods go through a process where their fiber is stripped away, it provides no added benefit for your intestinal system. Even worse, most of the vitamins and minerals are eliminated during this processing phase, so it’s eating even more empty calories than needed.
“Unhealthier sources of carbohydrates include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods,” says Harvard alumni, “These items contain easily digested carbohydrates that may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease.”
If you’re struggling with losing those last few pounds, this could be the reason you’ve plateaued. It’s common to eat white rice (processed) over brown rice (unprocessed) and white-floured pasta (processed) over whole wheat/grain pasta (unprocessed). But those small, minor differences can make a huge impact on the results you get with your fitness regimen.
- Diversify Your Protein Sources
Okay, so sure, you know that most protein comes from eating meat. This isn’t a surprise for most of you, and you’re probably thinking, “Dude, I already know how to pick the best proteins. Chicken, turkey, eggs, protein shakes and tuna.”
Sure, all the above work perfectly when you’re sculpting your body. But, it’s not always that easy. First, your diet should be diversified with plenty of protein sources. Knowing a range of foods, you can consume for protein is vital to your long-term success. Let me explain what I mean by this.
While five or six protein sources are great, your body eventually adapts to those foods. If you don’t diversify your meals, you will slowly start to see progress halt and, eventually, stop altogether.
Why is this?
Your body has its own memory that can work against you at times. When you’re eating the same meals, or doing the same exercises, your body basically becomes immune to it. The lack of variety prevents your body from going into overdrive and burning the fat you need it to burn to drop those last few pounds.
So, let’s look at how you can improve your diet with new protein sources.
How to Pick Your Protein Sources
To better understand how to eat the right protein sources, begin with understanding the basic principles of protein. Dissecting it down, protein is made up of amino acids. There can be as many as 20 amino acids in any protein source. But, out of these 20, your body can only produce 11 of them.
The other nine (9) amino acids are considered “essential” for our bodies. So, you need to find these from your food sources guys. But, not all sources of protein contain all nine (9) of these essential amino acids. Therefore, you need to know your protein sources so you can learn how to get all nine (9) throughout the day.
Vegetarians need to be especially mindful since plant sources contain less of the essential amino acids than animal sources. But, with a full, well-rounded diet, you can easily learn how to mix and match your foods to get all the essential proteins. Check out this guide on getting complete proteins from vegetarian sources. The more you know about your protein sources, the more nutrition you can add to your diet.
Meat sources like pork and beef should be eaten sparingly while eating leaner meats is highly suggestible. This can also have an influence on your overall weight loss.
- Include a Cheat Meal
Losing those last few pounds isn’t always the easiest. For most guys, they eliminate all unhealthy food from their diets and stick with a strict meal plan. Sure, this sounds like a great idea … right?
Wrong. Although eating clean foods is highly recommended, it’s not suggested to eliminate all unhealthy and refined foods completely.
Your body learns and adapts to new changes over time. When you’ve started to eat an entirely clean diet with no refined foods or empty calories, your body begins its transformation. But, if you don’t add what is considered a “cheat meal” every week, it can cause your results to become stagnant over time.
Cheat meals help with adding variety and balance to your diet. One or two cheat meals throughout the week will throw your body off. Since it’s acclimated to your new healthy diet, this slight variation gives your body that little “oomph” to continue burning calories and fat.
“How do I incorporate a cheat meal as part of my diet?”
It’s simple. You eat one meal throughout the week that you wouldn’t typically eat. This could be pizza, a burger or even pasta. This is your one meal to splurge and get that craving in for the week.
But, be mindful guys, a cheat meal is just that. It’s one (maximum of two) cheat meal per week. Splurging more than this will not help you lose the extra pounds. In fact, in can completely hinder your results. So be mindful each week on what you’re consuming and how much of it so you can get more progress on your body.
- Eat More Meals Throughout the Day
Instead of eating three meals a day, it could be wiser and more progressive for your goals if you eat more meals throughout the day. Now, listen up guys, don’t mistake this for eating more calories throughout the day.
Eating more means eating less per meal and dividing up the calories and nutrition throughout the day into smaller meals. If your goal is to lose those extra few pounds, this could be a huge step in the right direction for you.
Eating three meals throughout the day leaves your body in a brief intermittent “lull” period where it isn’t actively digesting anything. Eventually, this slows down your metabolism and will cause your body to store more fat throughout the day. So, even if you’re eating healthy and working out, you may be burning off today’s calories, but you’ll be stuck with the constant extra few pounds.
Split your meals into three main meals with three snacks in between each meal. The snack should be light but should keep your stomach satisfied until your next meal. Try drinking water before each of these meals and snacks to decrease any hunger cravings you may be having throughout the day.
Something as simple as eating more meals can help push your body past the plateauing effect.
- Incorporate Meal Times
Not only is preparing your meals ahead of time ideal, it’s a great way to help manage when you should be eating throughout the day. Meal times dictate when you need to refuel for more energy and ensure you don’t skip any meals or nutrition on even the busiest days.
Fuel up with a meal every two to three hours. Here’s an example meal planner that can help you better understand:
- 7 am – Wake up
- 7 am – Meal 1
- 9 am – Snack 1
- 11 am – Meal 2
- 1 pm – Snack 2
- 3 pm – Meal 3
- 6 pm – Snack 3
This schedule works ideally if you’re an early morning type. Your meals stretch out throughout the times you will be most active, giving you the energy and fuel you need to make your day successful. Plus, the last snack gives your body enough time to digest and prepare itself for rest later. Try to keep your last meal no later than 4 hours before you head to bed.
- Do Your Workout at the Same Time Every Day
Whether you’re the type of guy to go to work out once or twice a day, you should always be sure you have a strict schedule for yourself. Working out every day around the same time gives your body a schedule. As your body adjusts itself to your new fitness regimen, it will conserve and store energy throughout the day to manage your workout.
Heading to the gym at the same time each day will also ensure your body gets enough rest between workouts. For example, if you do a workout at 6 pm today but decide to work out around 3 pm the next day, you’re shortcutting your body 3 hours of rest and relaxation. These lost hours could be the difference between your body being fully rested and prepared for your workout and you struggling to finish it.
If you’re looking to shed a few extra pounds, you need your body at its peak every workout. So, keep that in mind as you set up your fitness regimen.
- Switch Cardio for HIIT Workouts
If you’re able to commit to the gym twice a day, split your workout into two sessions. The first session should be your cardio, while the second session should be strength training. This allows you to maximize your results since you won’t have to sacrifice energy or performance doing both in the same session.
Instead of just aimlessly running on the treadmill, though, you should switch your cardio workout to a High-Intensity Interval Training (“HIIT”) workout. This technique helps you burn the most calories in the shortest amount of time. But, it doesn’t just stop there, though. They also help with burning more calories within the next hour or two of your workout than any other technique, giving you quicker results with your body.
So how does HIIT work exactly?
Working out for about an hour, you will switch between 5 minutes and 1-minute intervals. For five (5) minutes, use at least 90-percent of your maximum effort and strength into the workout. Then, for 1 minute in between, lower the intensity immensely or stop altogether to catch your breath. Rinse and repeat until you’ve completely a 60-minute cardio session.
Vigorous training helps you overcome your plateau, especially if you follow this technique with your cardio. You are guaranteed to burn no less than 1.5 times the amount you would doing a medium- or low-intensity interval training.
- Reps Per Exercise Matter
Depending on where you are with your fitness goals, you may need to evaluate the intensity of any strength training you’re doing. A number of reps in a set can say a lot about the type of results you can expect.
Here’s why: The number of sets you’re capable of doing will determine how your body responds to it. If you’re looking to gain muscle right now, you should keep your reps between 8 to 12 per set. This is the proven optimal range to increase muscle hypertrophy (muscle building). Doing more sets with fewer reps will increase your mass exponentially.
If your goal is to lean out and lose weight, then you’ll want to do between 14 to 18 reps per set. Depending on your current stage – bulking or cutting – will determine which of the two you should follow. Bulking requires 8 to 12 reps while cutting involves 14 to 18 reps per set.
Be sure to switch your regimen as you progress through your goals guys. It’s important if you’re serious about losing those last few pounds.
- Take a Day Off
Ok, so even the most determined man needs to learn how to take a day off from working out each week. Taking what we consider a “rest day” in fitness can make a significant difference in results. This one or two days out of the week will allow your muscles to rest and repair itself. Plus, it prevents you from getting worn out with exercising, keeping you motivated for each week.
During the most difficult parts of your fitness journey, this day off may be the only hope you have of keeping yourself on schedule. You know you may be a little beat for the day, but you will push yourself throughout the six days because, subconsciously, you know you have one day to look forward to and do nothing but relax.
Failing to take at least one rest day may seriously affect your body’s progress and leave your body stagnant.
- Consider Hiring a Personal Trainer
If you feel that you’re overwhelmed with your options and you’re not sure where to begin your regimen refresher, you always have the option of hiring a personal trainer to help you out. Now, this doesn’t mean that you’re less of a man if you must ask for help.
A personal trainer’s job is to help instill more progress and knowledge to the client. This can help you understand the mechanics of your body so that, eventually, you won’t need their services. Take on as much information as you can and understand the technique if you hire a trainer. Soak in the information and use it to your advantage.
- Persevere and Hold Yourself Accountable
As you go through this process, this little piece of advice is going to keep you focused and on the right track. Persevere no matter how tough things get. When you feel like quitting, remember why you’re doing this and what your end goals are for your body. You could be having a bad week and succumbing to it only hinders you from achieving your goals.
Never forget to keep yourself accountable and stick with your workout schedule and meal plan. Within the next month, you can almost guarantee that your body’s results will improve drastically.