Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1


"I'm eating at a large calorie deficit and exercising really hard, yet the scale isn't moving. What gives?"
Plateau, huh? When most people begin a new workout routine, especially to start a new year, many of them begin to see some pretty good advancements in their muscle strength, cardiovascular strength, and of course, dropping some weight right away from losing some body fat.

Once you start to get a few weeks into your new workout schedule, that is when you begin to plateau. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it's one of two things. If you're not dropping pounds, yet your inches are changing for the positive, odds are you are actually losing fat but also gaining muscle. That's what's balancing out the scale.

I know it's a frustrating situation, but if you've been looking in the mirror or putting on clothes, you've probably noticed that you're looking better and your clothes are fitting looser, so it's not all bad.

Another possible reason for plateauing could also be undereating, which can force your body into starvation mode.Our early ancestors (who hunted and gathered) didn't have access to grocery stores, Burger King's or McDonalds'. Because of this, people sometimes had to go for days with little or no food. Evolution would tell us that people who survived these times of famine were the people who, well, survived these times of famine so these bodily mechanisms are now programmed into our DNA. In order to do this, their bodies adapted by slowing down their metabolisms and holding onto emergency fuel supplies (aka "fat") during lean times. This is starvation mode.

Finally, I will discuss the idea of "muscle confusion". The idea behind this concept (which has been around for many years) is that you want to be continually changing your workout plan to keep things fresh and exciting. Every few weeks, you are going to want to change up your usual plan somehow. If, for a few weeks you run on the treadmill, do some bicep curls, a few pushups, etc. Shakes things up, try a stairclimber or an elliptical for your cardio. Instead of pushups, try a bench press, etc. Also, change the order in which you do things. If you used to always do a chest and back routine on a Monday, switch it up to a Friday. The idea is that you want to keep your body constantly guessing. The more variety you keep in your fitness, the more you challenge it, and the less likely your body will become accustomed to repetitive actions. The more you do something, the easier it becomes, so why not change things up?

Just like with everything though, everyone is different. Some people come out of the gate on a new exercise/diet regimen and see results fast and plateau later. Some people plateau at first, then see results after a few weeks. The key thing here is to stick with your plan even through tough times like a plateau!

Diet and fitness should become a full-time job for you for the rest of your life. Plateaus will come and go, and that is normal. But when they do hit, it takes a dedicated person to realize and understand the plateau, and then do something to change their course to continually challenge themselves.

If you attend any of my fitness classes, you will notice that I have new moves and new combinations every week. I like to keep things fresh and interesting because I hate boredom. The more I look forward to trying new things and experimenting with new fitness trends, the more likely I am to stick with it!

-Tyler Robbins