Body transformation is never simple but with the right formula combined with consistency and focus women can have a body they are satisfied with, if not love. Unfortunately, women are at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to the overload of information available giving guidance on how to lose fat. Programs ranging from juice cleanses to fasting to low calorie diets often leave women confused and frustrated.
These are simple rules for women to follow if they want to
lose fat and build muscle or if they just want to be plain old STRONG.
No matter your goal – whether it be fat loss, building muscle, developing curves or increasing strength, lifting weight is essential.
Increasing lean mass is going to help far
more than doing a ton of cardio sessions or sweat-fests. The more lean mass a woman has will increase
her metabolic rate and the faster her metabolism will spin.
So don’t get caught in the cardio trap or
staying in the “fat burning zone” because the goal is to enable your body to
burn more calories naturally and cardio just is not as effective.
Lifting weights can be intimidating especially when performing your first barbell deadlift, barbell squat or barbell bench press. Women often avoid the weight room because they do not know what to do and don’t want to look like they are standing out like a sore thumb.
Trust me, when men are first learning to lift they don’t know what they are doing either. The only difference is they aren’t afraid to start.
Learning lifting form is a skill but it is worth it to learn these big lifts because they are a key part of the formula for transforming your body.
Find a trainer that teaches form really well and is willing to work with you on proper technique. A dedicated and quality trainer will be constantly tweaking your form and teaching you how to recruit the correct muscles to perform the lifts so you do not get injured.
Most people tend to think they need to do hours of cardio to get lean and women are definitely at fault for this.
Long endurance cardio is less than optimal for losing fat and building lean muscle. Long cardio sessions can elevate the stress hormone “cortisol” and actually contribute to further loss of muscle especially when combined with a deficit.
Women get caught in the cardio trap thinking that if they don’t do large amounts of sweaty cardio that they won’t make progress and some think that extra cardio is at the very least – keeping them from gaining weight.
This is the furthest thing from truth.
Instead, use interval training or sprints to help your body transform. You will be able to burn twice the amount of calories in half the time AND it helps so your body stays hormonally balanced.
This does not mean you cannot go for walks or hikes – just don’t use cardio as a means to lose fat and transform your body.
This sounds impossible – doesn’t it? Some forms of stress we cannot control but other forms of stress is very much within our control.
Long term stress is detrimental for women who are trying to lose fat as hormones begin to compensate in order to handle the effects of stress. Large deficits combined with cardio/endurance workouts are a recipe for metabolic stress. Studies show that while deficits combined with aerobic cardio may benefit men enabling them to lose a large amount of fat – women tend to have very poor outcomes with the same approach.
The hormonal compensation and alteration that occurs from long term or large deficits combined with intense training or long cardio sessions can easily inhibit fat loss and leave you not only frustrated but feeling awful.
Most women when given the option to choose their own weights tend to pick weights that are 30% lighter than what they should be doing.
If the weight is too light then much energy is not used to perform the lift resulting in few calories being burned.
The heavier the weights the leaner the body will become. If you are nervous about lifting too heavy because you don’t want to get “bulky” then you need to keep your nutrition in line. Women cannot get bulky because we simply do not have the hormones needed to build that kind of bulk.
If you are concerned that you will become injured from lifting too heavy then take the time to get some training from a professional that is good at teaching form.
Lifting is a skill – it takes time to learn but it’s a skill that will literally help you grow younger each year.
So many women are restricting food or they are “resticter/bingers” – trying to “be good” and eat less but then eventually the combination of stress and hunger wins and a mini-binge or all-out binge happens leading to inevitable cycle of guilt, frustration and shame.
When calories are cut too low your body will adapt pretty quickly and downregulate metabolism and burn fewer calories at rest. As a general rule of thumb, never go below your RMR (resting metabolic rate) especially if you are exercising.
Often when calories are increased stress is reduced and the body can comply with the losing fat. As counterintuitive it may seem – it’s true. It is more important to properly balance the amount of carbs, fats and protein to eat based on your height, weight, age and activity level.
While estrogen can be beneficial for body composition and overall health – estrogen levels that are too high or out of balance with other hormones such as progesterone and testosterone can contribute to weight gain.
This condition is known as estrogen dominance and can contribute to mood swings and irregular periods. Estrogen dominance can also lead to weight gain as it can affect other hormones involved in metabolic rate.
Women do not lose fat the same way that men do and more surprisingly is the fact that most of the research done on exercise and energy metabolism has been done mostly on men. So most of the exercise guidelines are based on studies done on men but research is emerging on how very different women respond to exercise vs. men.
Due to the differences in hormones,
metabolism and body composition men do tend to lose fat more easily and quickly
than women. Women’s bodies tend to fight
the release of fat due to higher levels of estrogen.
Men tend to burn more fat during rest while women tend to burn more glucose at rest. Conversely, women burn more fat during exercise (especially weight training and sprint/HIIT training) while men will burn more glucose during exercise. Consistent training is essential for women because it teaches their body to increase the use of fat for energy.
These are just some of the differences between men and women when it comes to exercise prescription and metabolism.
When women find the proper
macronutrient ratios for their body by taking in just enough carbs so they do
not feel depleted but are low enough in carbs so their body can begin to burn
fat for energy – they find the road to losing fat much easier.
Lowering overall carb consumption
and eliminating processed carbs while raising protein and fat consumption often
helps women to begin burning fat.
Suggested macros start with 40% carbs, 25% protein and 35% fat –
adjusting form there based on progress.
Going to extremes never works. A consistent approach with a good strategy that is targeted to your unique situation will get you where you want to go.
1. Blaak, Ellen E. “Gender Differences in Fat Metabolism.” Semantic Scholar, 1 Jan. 1970, www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Gender-differences-in-fat-metabolism.-Blaak/6327cae359b2441190a50049c1cc7beef093672c.
2. Reynolds, G. (2010, June 30). Phys Ed: What Exercise Science Doesn't Know About Women. Retrieved from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/30/phys-ed-what-exercise-science-doesnt-know-about-women/