Matt does everything right. His diet is on point, he never misses a training session and is still lifting every day. Despite this, he stopped gaining muscle and found a new layer of fat around the belly. Matt is a perfectionist. His trainer tells him to do something….he does it. Perfectly.
He is taking the best supplements (BSc of course) and doing everything right but has plateaued, and he doesn’t know why. When we asked Matt what was going on, his frustration was palpable. “I’ve upped the intensity, my diet is perfect, and in the last few months, the only gains I’ve had have been around the belly. I don’t know why” he said with a heavy sigh.
It turns out Matt recently got a promotion and his new job has taken him out of his comfort zone and made for long stressful days and lots of late nights getting reports done for the big boss. His attention to detail has always been fantastic, and since taking over his new role, he is overseeing thirty other people. Many of which don’t share his passion for perfectionism. It’s stressing him out, and he ’s taken the attitude of “if you want it done properly, do it yourself”. His workload has exploded and, although he still makes time to train, there is no room for fun in his life, and he’s on the fast track to burnout. Matt is suffering from an overload of toxic stress, and the plateaus in his results in the gym are making it worse. We all heard about the stress hormone cortisol.
It’s a natural part of everyone’s stress response, and it is a key player (along with adrenaline) in the fight or flight response. The problem with cortisol, it that it ’s only designed to be in the system for short bursts. Matt’s chronic high levels of the hormone are the reason his fitness goals have stalled. You see, cortisol’s job is to help us prioritise the body’s needs. In high-stress situations, cortisol turns off the systems in the body that you don’t need to run or fight. You don’t need your hair to grow. You don’t need your immune system to work (that’s why stress makes you sick) and your body becomes less efficient at digestion. Matt’s gains have stalled because he has too much toxic stress, his digestive system isn’t doing its job, and he is flushing his supps down the toilet. He isn’t digesting them because his system is too busy dealing with the cortisol from stress at work. The worst thing is, he is now also stressing about his lack of gains in the gym. What does Matt need to do? Get better at stress.
Understand the things that he can and can’t control and try and accept that not everything is perfect. Let others do their job and allow a bit of imperfect into the office. In short, he needs to calm and disarm his body. Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises will help, but most of all Matt needs to understand that it’s the duration of stress that is causing the problem, not the stress itself. By utilising his stress correctly, Matt will get the full benefit from his supps and end the plateau that has inhibited his gains.
Reading Stress Teflon will help Matt understand the origin of his toxic stress and help him look at it in a way that will allow his digestive system (and his Supps) to do their job effectively. We have all had the experience of hitting a plateau in our training. Could a poor relationship with stress be the cause of yours? Check out the article is stress making you fat for more info on stress and fitness go to www.bodyscience.com.au/blog