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I Have Reached A Plateau Of No Gain Or Loss, How Can I Get Past That?
I respect your advice and admire your attention to the questions from bodybuilding.com readers. I'm hoping you can take a few minutes to let me know if you have ever counseled a client in the situation I now find myself.
I am 30 years old, 5'11", 192 lbs with 14%BF. I have been training since early last year, but have only gotten really motivated since this past March. I lift weights 4 or 5 days a week (1 hour sessions), but don't do much cardio (maybe once a week for Â½ hour). I would guess I'm a mix of meso and ectomorph, I've got pretty broad shoulders and a relatively small waist (about 32" on my worst days, 29" or 30" when I'm leaner than I am now). When I started training, I was 162lbs and about 19%bf, so since Jan. of 2001 I have decreased my bf% and gained about 30lbs. I have pretty much been focused on bulking during that entire time.
I eat at least 6 meals a day with the following general breakdown:
50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% fat. I get between 250 and 300 grams of protein a day. Generally, my caloric intake is between 3600 and 4000 a day. I religiously log everything I eat, even breath mints! I supplement daily with creatine, L-glutamine, BCAA's, Uniliver and ZMA, and I use weightgainer shakes and protein powder to get the calories and protein I need. I am and attorney and pretty much sit behind a desk all day.
Anyway, my problem is, despite all the food, and being careful with the timing and quality, etc. of the meals I eat, I seem to have hit a wall. I have maintained between 193 and 189 for about 6 weeks now. Bodyfat is holding steady too. It just seems like everything is in equilibrium all of a sudden. I cannot imagine that I would stop gaining weight with the amount of calories I am taking in, especially since I am not spending much on cardio.
Have you seen this in any of your clients? I'm wondering what might be needed to get past this apparent plateau. Please note that I'm certainly not destined for being a competitive bodybuilder, and I don't really care if I ever see a sub-9% bf level, my goal is really just to put on some decent lean mass to look presentable at the beach, pool or lake. However, I think I need a fair amount of additional lean mass to get to that point and I'm going nowhere at the moment.
Thanks in advance for any advice you may have, its greatly appreciated.
J.A., This is quite the common scenario. Although you think that you should continue to gain weight, even if it is not as rapidly as it was in the beginning, you have to change something. Your program is streamlined but I can tailor it one step further. Before I get into that you have to understand that your body has acquired 30#s of lean body mass (LBM) and although you have increased your kilocalories you now have 30 pounds of new tissue that requires proper nutrition in order to stay alive. What you have done is increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR).
The rate that you burn kilocalories when you are at rest is also known as your RMR. Contrary to what one would believe this is the how we burn the vast majority of our kilocalories, no matter how much exercise you do. The exact word "resting" is not the best way to describe RMR because even when you are sleeping your organs and cells demand energy to fuel respiration, digestion, blood circulation, and mental activity. Therefore, increasing your RMR is going to boost total energy expenditure (TEE) and is one of the reasons that I believe you are in this self proclaimed rut. If you are maintaining your current weight you are at intake and output equilibrium. In other words you are consuming and burning the same amount of energy that it takes to maintain your RMR + your extra expenditure which is your TEE (1).
What you have done is increase your RMR in two ways. We have already covered resistance training and the addition of new muscle tissue requiring extra kilocalories, but you also are consuming several small meals throughout the day. Furthermore, you are meticulous claiming to maintain food logs and such which, leads me to believe that you are not skipping meals. Consuming small frequent meals allows your metabolic rate to be maintained at an even more accelerated rate. By meals I am referring to what most would consider a small meal or snack size portion of healthy food choices (1).
Now that that is taken care of let me tell your right off of the bat that the initial gain of 30# happened over a short lived 7 month time period and it is gone my friend. You now have to pay close attention to your nutrition and training regimen in order to make significant yet small gains of roughly 3-5 pounds each year. Do not let that get you down because it adds up and the reward of a solid gain is extremely gratifying.
Here is what you need to do:
- Continue to track your kilocalories so you know what (X) amount of Kcals is doing to your physique. If you do not gain .5-1# in a 2 month time frame than add 150-300 Kcals to your nutrition program.
- Continue to keep account of your total weight and BF % so that you know how much is lean body mass and how much is adipose tissue (fat). If you are gaining fat and not LMB then decrease the Kcals it just takes time.
- Change your macronutrient ratios to 10% Fat, 50% Protein, & 40% Carbohydrate.
- Follow the guidelines concerning post workout nutrition that I outlined in article #21
- Go read about my current program offered to you called Eating & Training with Dino-Offseason 2003-2004. This will help get you on the right track and assure that you stay there.
- Design you training program based off of the Dino's Training Program section on my website.
To simply answer your question, yes, I see your predicament all the time and have been experiencing it myself for years. Stay positive, motivated, be patient, consistent, and enjoy your gains. Do it right and intelligently you do not need to gain 20 or 30# of fat to make progress as some believe.
1. Gordon S. loose weight while you sleep. Nutrition Zone. Link. 22 Oct 2003.