Fat Loss Plateau? Time For A Training Break

Fat Loss Plateau: Discover why training break is essential to your health and how rest is just important as your fat loss training program.

That’s right. Everyone else is telling you to get in the gym. I am telling you to make sure that sometimes you stay home! Many people forget that rest is just as important as your fat loss training program itself. Rest is a big factor in making sure you don't hit a fat loss plateau.

Here is a checklist of some signs that you may be overtraining:

  • Aches and pains in your muscles and joints
  • Lack of motivation and energy (beyond what you consider “normal”)
  • Fatigue
  • Frequently catching cold and flu viruses
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Elevated morning pulse
  • Headache
What many people fail to realize is that without proper rest, the body cannot recover and attain maximum results from an aerobic and weight training program. In other words, if you don’t take time to rest, you are cheating yourself out of some serious fat loss results! How, you ask? When you lift weights, your body is actually breaking muscle tissue down. You must give your body the rest time it needs in order to repair and rebuild the muscle back up. In addition, we need rest for the following reasons:
  • Shock to the system, keeps body guessing.
  • Mental, sanity check.
  • Prevents injury from overuse.

The dramatic role of hormones

Arguably the most important reason for rest, besides muscle repair is the delicate balance of your hormones. Lack of rest and over-training can induce abnormal hormone levels, such as an increase in cortisol, which is an adrenal hormone, as well as reduced testosterone and DHEA. We will talk more about the integral role of hormones in a minute.

How much rest is enough?

It is recommended by many fitness professionals that you take a break from exercise:
  • At least 1-2 days out of the week.
  • In between strength training days.
  • Once every 4-6 weeks for a week long break. Yes, seven whole days, after every 4-6 weeks of an intensive aerobic and resistance training program. That means no running, no lifting, no exercise beyond normal everyday activity.

For example, a program designed for adequate rest might look like this:

Week 1: Strength training M-W-F, cardio on T-S, rest on TH-SU.

Week 2: Strength training M-W-F, cardio on T-S, rest on TH-SU.

Week 3: Strength training M-W-F, cardio on T-S, rest on TH-SU.

Week 4: Strength training M-W-F, cardio on T-S, rest on TH-SU.

Week 5: Full rest. Rinse, and repeat.

Calorie intake during rest week

When taking a break from training, it is important to note that this also means taking a break from dieting, or eating in a deficit. This means that during that week of rest, you should eat at maintenance or even above. The reason for this dieting break ties back into the all too important role of hormones. When you are dieting, your leptin and thyroid levels fall, which tends to lower the metabolism, and therefore fat loss. Raising calories to maintenance or even just a bit above maintenance allows the body to reboot. This is one of the main reasons why you tend to see great results the first few weeks of a fat loss program, and then your results may plateau. This happens because of the lowering of these hormones. If you allow your body a week of full rest, the hormones return to normal levels, and fat loss will begin to take place once again.

When I was on a fat loss program, I often would lose fat in my rest week, even while eating my maintenance level of calories! For help on figuring out proper calorie intake, check out this article.

Resource: The Fat Loss Troubleshoot

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