CRITICAL PERIODS FOR FAT GAIN: PHYSIOLOGICAL

Breaking through plateaus. The first process in dealing with plateaus is an acceptance of the fact that this is a normal and natural process. Provided there is no increase in fat mass, the plateau can be countered by attacking the causes. Dietary and exercise habits should be revisited and physiological adaptations to change can, at least theoretically, be ‘shocked’ into change. In terms of exercise load this will mean making physical activity less efficient by changing:

• intensity—increase the speed a regular movement is carried out

• duration—carry out the exercise for longer periods

• frequency—move more regularly (e.g. by adding ‘incidental’ exercise)

• type—vary walking with cycling, swimming, aerobics etc.

With food intake as the other side of the energy equation, plateaus might be countered by:

• decreasing energy intake—but only where this is still high

• increasing energy intake—by re-feeding where intake is excessively low (i.e. under 1000 kcal/day), and has been so for long periods

• decreasing fat intake further

• reducing alcohol intake

• changing food type—eating foods with which the body may not be familiar.

These changes might help an individual break through a plateau then restart and continue reducing fat. The introduction of resistance training as a form of exercise at this stage of a program may also be useful (if desired by the client), not only because of its ‘shock’ value, but also because of the potential maintenance of lean body tissue which can help counteract the physiological adaptations leading to plateauing.

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