Fed up with a lack of progress in the gym? I’ve worked with many different people on different goals, a lot who come to me disheartened by their lack of progress. Sometimes they will have been training 5-6 days per week and eating healthy and still not seeing the changes they want to see. This could be fat loss, lean muscle gain or strength gains.
Usually we can get to the bottom of it, and with a few small changes they can break through the plateau. Here are some common reasons I’ve seen why people aren’t getting the results they are looking for.
You’re overcomplicating things
Unless you are training for something very specific, most people do not need to be taking a million different supplements. Instead, focus on eating good quality, whole foods. Don’t worry too much if the avocado you are eating is high in fat; just stay away from the donuts you’ve been binging on in the afternoons! Taking a protein powder supplement is not a magical answer which is going to help you lose weight or put on muscle. It’s not an excuse for you to eat whatever else you want, nor an excuse to skip a meal. I’ll tell you a little secret that the supplement companies don’t want you to know: supplements will not help you if you are not eating and exercising properly. I always advise my clients that instead of wasting money on supplements, they should first focus on fixing their nutrition and spend the money on high quality foods. They should spend their time on training and making sure they get enough rest. Which brings me to my next point:
You’re not sleeping enough
Did you know that sleep is necessary for the growth and recovery of your muscles? Without sleep, you will find it difficult to maintain the level of exercise intensity that you normally train at, and your body won’t be given the time it needs to repair muscles.
I’ll go so far as to say that you can be training and eating perfectly, but if you aren’t getting enough quality sleep, your progress will stall.
Lack of sleep will lead to an increase in the hormone cortisol (the stress hormone). Increases in cortisol will make your body break down muscle mass (see here for reasons why you want to have as much muscle as possible). Furthermore, high cortisol levels can also lead to fat storage – especially around your stomach area.
You’re not taking rest days
This one is a little tricky – as wouldn’t it make sense to try to train as much as possible? Unfortunately it isn’t that simple. More training doesn’t always mean more gains. Especially if you are not eating enough protein and getting enough sleep to recover properly. Sometimes training too much can lead to overtraining. Some of the warning signs of overtraining are:
- Your athletic performance is getting worse and you are getting weaker instead of stronger
- You are taking a long time to recover from your workouts
- You are getting sick all the time
- Severe fatigue
- Loss of libido
- Amenorrhea – missed periods
(Please note that all of the above *could* be symptoms of other underlying problems. Please see your doctor if you are concerned).
You should listen to your body and adjust your workouts accordingly. If your legs are still hurting from your leg day, then it would probably be best not to train legs again. You could still go for a walk/swim or do some ‘light’ training (also known as active recovery), but this would be at a much lower intensity than your normal workouts. You are especially prone to overtraining if you are training more than once a day, your nutrition is not on point and you aren’t getting sufficient sleep.
Your nutrition isn’t on point
For your workouts to be successful, you must be eating enough good whole foods to fuel your strenuous workouts. Your body needs fuel to function, so I never recommend skipping breakfast before your workouts. If you are working out more than once a day, then you need to adjust your diet accordingly. If you are training once a day for around an hour, I would recommend for you to eat a healthy and balanced diet – and most importantly be consistent. Try to aim for whole and unprocessed foods.
I often see people making mistakes such as cutting out carbs completely or crash dieting. If you are one of those people who has tried that and not got the results you wanted, why not try eating a healthy, balanced diet (including carbs) and keeping this up for the long term? Nothing beats a healthy lifestyle and crash dieting for short periods of time can actually hinder your progress because it will ultimately mess with your metabolism and make it easier to put on weight after you finish the crash diet.
Consistency is key
At the end of the day, if you are eating healthy, training hard, getting enough sleep and adequate rest – then you will eventually get the results that you desire. Your body will reflect a healthy lifestyle. Don’t compare yourself to athletes whose job it is to train full time, or to people who have been doing this for 10 years if you have just started. Do the best that you can do and work towards achieving your own goals.