Dr Susan Baxter
Where Are All My Gains / Losses / Results?
Updated: Feb 28
If you don’t change anything, nothing changes right? But what about if you changed a good deal of things – maybe you have changed EVERYTHING – except nothing has changed in your results?
First off, don’t forget that everyone’s response time to exercise and nutritional changes are not equal. I can understand that making all of these changes to your lifestyle can be been a daunting task, and sticking to it is even tougher, so first of all let's not dismiss this success… A wholehearted well done.
There could be five reasons that you might not be experiencing the results that you desire:
Lack of Progressive Overload or hitting a plateau
I wrote an article on the new research around sleep here on page 64.
There are a number of poor choices when it comes to sleep, and these can all effect your gains or weight loss efforts because sleep is when your body prioritizes repair. These include lack of adequate sleep, interrupted sleep, sleep debt and lack of restful sleep.
Muscles are broken down in the gym by the demands of the workout creating little microtears on the muscle. When the session has finished, the body seeks to repair the microtears in order to cope with the demands of that same workout in the next session, which is why the body becomes more able to do a workout each time that you do it. You can see why if there is a new program (with new exercises) that there would be more of a requirement for more recovery and greater demands placed on the body. In fact, when I commence a new exercise regime, I find that the first week of it requires me to get an extra hour of sleep per night.
Basically the best way to ensure that you are not short-changing your hard work and effort through poor sleep is to:
– be consistent and go to sleep and wake up around the same time,
– get the amount of sleep each night and,
– reduce the distractions and stress around bedtime (such as electrical screens and stimulants like caffeine).
You can check this blog, to know more how sleep affects your gains.
Progressive overload / Plateaus
We just chatted about how a muscle repairs from the demands of a workout when you are at rest. You can imagine that if you do the same workout again, the body will have adapted (under normal circumstances) and will be able to cope easier with the demands of that workout.
When you keep doing the workout, the amount of work that the body requires to repair and adapt for that workout reduces each time. That is you getting fitter, so congratulations! This is why the results that you might have felt at the start of commencing your new health kick have slowed or plateaued.
Picture now if we were to keep challenging the muscle a little more in each session (by adding a little more weight to the bar, by running a little faster or by keeping the weight up for a greater time under tension for the muscle). That is what is called progressive overload or periodization of a program. Therefore to keep getting more results, we need to keep demanding more of our body. Add a little bit of a change-up to your program here and there and change the exercises every 4-6 weeks and you will be laughing at your results.
People can hit this one in either one of two extremes: they are eating too much, or not eating enough.
The problem is if you do not eat enough, your body cannot have enough intensity to fuel your workouts and therefore cannot repair the work you are putting in in the gym. The goal should always be to eat as MUCH as possible whilst still maintaining your goals. So when reducing your calories for a weight loss diet, you need to ensure you do not chop out too many calories at once: consider instead trimming 10% of your calories and never reduce in the space of a week by any more than 500 calories.
On the other hand, if you are not tracking what you are eating you may not know whether you are overshooting your calorie balance. Certainly, eating more healthy food is a good start, but healthy food still has calories. If you replace a small muffin (which might be 350 calories) with 3 apples and 50g peanut butter you certainly are having healthier food, but you are having more calories than the muffin.
Track what you are eating or book a consultation with a nutritionist. MyFitnessPal and other apps that help track calories are also great options. You can also read my ultimate guide on healthy eating.
A typical myth is that more exercise is better. However there is such a thing as too much exercise: beyond the sweet point of the maximum exercise for maximum gains, you simply are pulverizing your body. This can lead to disruptions to sleep, poor mood, inability to get rid of muscle soreness, poor memory, and injury/illness.
If you notice any of these symptoms, think about whether it is time for a rest day, consider a week of deloading the intensity or if in doubt book in to see a personal trainer for a second and expert opinion. Not even All Blacks train for hours on end each day: they train smarter not harder.
Just like one slice of cake won’t make you obese, one salad or one day of exercise won’t have noticeable changes (besides the mood inside of your head!). Results over time might vary but it is the consistency that all adds up.
I do wish that I could give you an exact timeframe that it might take, but even with healthy body fat reduction you should aim for no more than 0.75-1% loss in body fat per week as an absolute maximum for optimal health.
My best advice for this is to take progress photos and measurements once a week at the same time of day with the same clothes on. This will allow you to see the progress that you have made towards your goal, especially when it feels as though progress has stalled.
There you have it! I hope you found these tips helpful and once again: CONGRATULATIONS on your new healthy lifestyle!