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Took today off and after reading the below article this evening don't feel so guilty now. Article can also be found at and

The Secret to Busting Through Your Plateau, Part 1

Source: Ben Greenfield
Bio, More Articles
Case Study #1 is a 40 year old woman attempting to lose weight. Let's call her Mrs. T. Two years prior, Mrs. T hired a personal trainer to design an exercise program for her. An absolutely fantastic program, it helped her maximize calorie burning while giving her a total body workout. She also developed a nutritional plan that she follows in precise detail, logging her diet each day and ensuring she maintains caloric balance while eating healthy, natural foods.
Mrs. T is a very busy person. She has 3 children and works as a restaurant manager. When she's not working out, she is at full speed with her career and family, and often finds herself having panic attacks during traffic jams and long lines at the supermarket. She works late into the night on her computer at home, and typically goes to bed around midnight, then is up at 5:30am to eat breakfast and hit the gym before a long day of work.
Despite her active lifestyle and good diet, Mrs. T has not lost weight in 8 months. Actually, she's gained 7lbs of fat. She also has low energy levels, poor focus, and often has to grit her teeth to even begin her exercise program. She doesn't mind eating healthy, but is becoming depressed that her perfect diet is not working for her.
Case Study #2 is a competitive young triathlete named Flash. A collegiate swimmer, Flash has competed at the multi-sport level for 6 years. Due to his superior swim technique and physical dedication, Flash did very well for his first 4 years of competition. He trains 2 hours a day, allows himself adequate rest and recovery, and keeps his energy stores high with consumption of endurance athlete carbohydrates like bagels, toast, pasta, bread, and sports drinks.
But the last couple years have been different. Despite a good training regimen, Flash has plateaued, and can't seem to add any speed to his workouts or races. He's not overtrained, but simply feels like he's reached a plateau that he can't overcome.
Guess what? Both Mrs. T and Flash have the same problem.
They lack syngery.
Huh? What's synergy? I define synergy as balance - a proper balance of lifestyle, activity, and nutrition. When these three components are perfectly dialed in, there is absolutely no barrier to achieving your performance, weight loss, or health related goals. But even if you're perfect in one area, or even two, if you don't have all aspects of synergy in place, you will fail. And most people fail.
Nearly every person that walks into my office, e-mails me, or phones me for help is doing *something* right. Most have decent exercise programs. Some have healthy lifestyles. A few have acceptable diets.
But it's strange - I have never, NEVER in the history of being a wellness advisor and coach, come across an individual who has all synergestic elements in place, but still needs help. These individuals do not exist because they have discovered the secret to achieving their goals. Everyone else, on the other hand, must be empowered with the knowledge to lock in place the three components of success. After that, any goal that they have will become a reality.
Next week, I'm going to spill the secrets on how to take the three concepts of synergy, and apply the nitty-gritty details to your personal goals…this is going to be the magic element to busting through your plateau!
Read part II

The Secret to Busting Through Your Plateau, Part 2

by Ben Greenfield on December 13, 2006 in Triathlon Training, Health & Nutrition

In last week's article, I introduced you to Mrs. T, the busy restaurant manager who seems to have her exercise and nutritional habits completely perfect, with a rigid fitness program and sound nutritional practices. However, not only has she seen few results on the weight scale, but she is actually experiencing a disturbing increase in body fat as time progresses, which has put significant negative stress on her already stressful life. Although there really aren't really any problems with her exercise routine, Mrs. T is unaware that a combination of frequent physical activity and a hectic lifestyle can actually result in a severe catabolic effect on the body.
What do I mean by this? While some may think that the more you do and the faster your lifestyle, the "skinnier" you'll be, this is simply not the case. Exercise can result in significant muscle fiber tearing, the production of damaging free radicals in the body's tissue, and build-up of toxic metabolites. In the absence of proper recovery and adequate sleep, cortisol hormone levels become elevated and thyroid function decreases. Elevated cortisol levels decrease blood sugar stabilization, decrease utilization of fatty acids as a fuel, decrease testosterone levels, and increase deposition of adipose tissue in the waistline. Low levels of active thyroid hormone can depress your body's basal metabolic rate, or the total amount of calories you burn throughout the day. The result is not only a feeling of chronic fatigue, but also a propensity to gain fat and lose lean muscle tissue.
Combine these effects with the fact that lack of sleep can depress key neurotransmitters involved in regulation of appetite and food cravings, such as serotonin and dopamine. Furthermore, inadequate rest and recovery can decrease leptin (the "fat control" hormone) and increase ghrelin (the "eat more" hormone).
I used a word last week called "synergy", and referred to it as an optimal combination of Exercise, Nutrition, and Lifestyle. Unless all synergestic compenents are in place, results are impossible to achieve. Mrs. T is deficient in the "Lifestyle" component of synergy. As you can see, she is not only setting herself up to "plateau", and see no results from her rigid exercise and nutrition program, but she is, in fact, leading what should be considered an unhealthy lifestyle.
So let's say that Mrs. T calls me on the phone, e-mails me, or walks into my office desperate for advice on how to fix her weight gain problem. Here are my thoughts for her:
Begin by altering your exercise program to allow for more time in the day to complete your other tasks. 20 minutes of high intensity cardio combined with 20 minutes of high intensity, full body exercise is enough for the busy person to maintain a healthy, lean weight. This would be even more successful if split into a "two-a-day" type of routine.
Ensure that all your healthy snacks are prepared and packaged at the beginning of each day, so that maintaining a sound diet takes very little extra time and energy. This may mean going to your job at the restaurant with a small backpack that contains a ziplock of almonds, a cucumber/tomato wrap, one pear, one banana, and a healthy snack bar.
For optimal neurotransmitter levels, try to maintain as natural a circadian rhythm as possible with your sleep cycles. This will mean going to bed around 10 or 11pm, and rising at 5-6am, allowing for at least 7 hours of sleep, and orienting your body to a normal light-dark cycle.
Be creative with time management. Skip your daily newspaper reading and opt for an audio news podcast on your mp3 player during your cardio session. Work while you eat, such as filling in your dayplanner while you drink a fruit smoothie. Switch to loudspeaker and perform your daily stretches during phone meetings.
Ask yourself whether certain parts of your busy lifestyle are worth the weight gain and constant fight against stress and fatigue. How much are you enjoying life vs. running in a rat race?
By adopting a synergestic approach to her goals, Mrs. T can and will experience success. Often, my job as a personal trainer or coach is not to "write out the perfect exercise routine" or "recommend the ideal diet", but rather to assist in finding creative ways to achieve an optimal lifestyle for goal setting and achieving. There are often multiple components of an individual's life that simply go unnoticed as enormous barriers to success and wellness.
In last week's article, I also introduced you to a young triathlete named Flash. Despite good training, fuel replenishment and lifestyle, Flash has experience improvement in quite some time, and is, in fact, feeling fairly drained during his training routines and experiencing performance deficits in his racing. Next week, I'll tell you what Flash's problem is, and how he can fix it.
Read part III

Ben Greenfield
Ben Greenfield is recognized as one of the top fitness, triathlon, nutrition and metabolism experts in the nation. In 2008, he was voted as the Personal Trainer of the Year by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), an internationally recognized and respected certifying agency for fitness professionals. Ben hosts the highly popular fitness, nutrition and wellness website at, which features a free blog, wellness podcast, and fitness product reviews from Ben.
Pacific Elite Fitness ( is an online portal where Ben coaches a wide range of triathletes and assists people from all over the world with personal training for nutrition, fat loss, muscle toning, and general fitness. Ben also oversees the physiology and biomechanics laboratory at Champions Sports Medicine ( which offers metabolic-based weight loss, bicycle fitting, running gait analysis, swim stroke analysis, VO2 max testing, blood lactate testing, resting metabolic rate analysis, and other cutting-edge procedures for weight loss and human performance.
Ben holds bacheler's and master's degrees in exercise physiology and biomechanics, and is a certified personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach, sports nutritionist, and bike fitter.

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