What if I told you that not only exercise, but also losing weight contributes to a weight loss plateau?
I first heard about this advanced diet and weight loss concept in a lecture by exercise guru Neal Spruce.
Think about it.
Does going up a flight of stairs get easier or harder the more you exercise. It gets easier right? Does not lifting weights get easier? The same workout gets easier over time, as your body adapts by getting stronger.
If you look at the adaptations to your muscles, heart, and lungs, you can easily understand why exercise contributes to a weight loss plateau.
Both aerobic exercise (biking, walking, running) and anaerobic exercise (weight training, sprinting, etc) help make your body more efficient, making your exercise and daily activities easier. This translates to a reduction in calories burned overtime by reducing the effort required for both exercise and daily activities.
The adaptation period for beginning an exercise regime often brings about sore and tired muscles, but after a few weeks or months the same workouts are usually considered less strenuous. This translates into fewer calories burned not only during your workout, but afterward also during your recovery. The less you need to recover (fatigue and soreness), the fewer calories you are burning during recovery.
This is part of the reason people who diet and exercise often see results in the beginning of their regime but begin to plateau rather quickly.
Adaptations to exercise
- Heart Gets Bigger- increased stroke volume
As an adaptation to exercise your heart will enlarge (become stronger) enabling the heart to pump more blood to the working muscles. The scientific term for this adaptation is called an increase in stroke volume. Your heart can effectively pump more blood with each heartbeat.
- Lower Heart Rate
the aforementioned adaptations to the heart are directly correlated with a decrease in your heart rate. Your heart can do more work with less number of beats per minute (heart rate). This translates into a more efficient body.
- Increased muscle innervation
Otherwise known as an increase in strength. As an adaptation to exercise your body increases the speed and number of muscle fibers recruited. As you adapt to your weight training regime by an increase in strength fewer calories will be consumed during and after exercise due to less stress on your working muscle.
- Decrease in hormone activity
Hormones (adrenaline, testosterone, HGH) are increased as a response to stress. Often beginning a new exercise program is stressful to your body causing an increase of hormone activity. As you body adapts to your regime, less hormones are activated. The same routine is simply not as stressful, and fewer calories are burned.
How does losing weight contribute to a weight loss plateau?
Is it easier or harder to walk up a hill with a 20-pound jacket on compared to walking the hill with no 20 pound jacket? Of course, it is easier to walk up a hill without carrying an extra 20 pounds. After losing 20 pounds of your body weight, you are moving easier and your activities are less demanding, which mean fewer calories burned. So, yes losing weight itself contributes to a weight loss plateau.
How do we combat the adaptation to our diet and exercise regime and continue to see results in the way we look and feel? We must continue to push ourselves past our comfort zone both aerobically (biking, jogging, speed walking), but especially anaerobically (sprinting and weight training).
I always tell my clients, other than individualizing their nutrition plan, the best way to get a lean body is to learn to lift heavy weights and run fast, and maintain your muscle mass. Continuing to push yourself past your limits creates adaptation, which means more calories burned before and after your sessions during recovery. This is the most effective means of counteracting your body becoming more efficient via exercise and the reduction of calories burned brought on by weight loss itself.
In a sense, adaptation to exercise makes your body more efficient, thus burning fewer calories. However the overload principal, which entails challenging yourself constantly through your workouts allows you to keep creating adaptation, which will continue to increase your calorie burning potential. Learn more about the benefits of exercise 10 Good Reasons Exercise Is Important.
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