The Female Guide to Getting Lean
The following is a guest post by Tami Bellon of Squat Goddess:
So many times women ask me, "How can I lose this?" while they're pinching whatever area they want gone. While no one is exactly the same, there are a few general tips that I can throw out there for you that do the trick whether you're leaning up for aesthetic or performance reason.
If you weigh 200lbs and are only eating 1,200 calories, you are not eating enough. That doesn't mean break out the donuts, that means increase your protein consumption – to start. A general guide for calorie intake is your bodyweight times ten to twelve. Example: 200lbs x 10 = 2000 cal.
You may be thinking this is a lot of food, but it is not. Women have been taught that starving themselves will make them lose weight. In reality, we don't just want to be smaller do we? Don't we want to be leaner, too? I'm not saying bodybuilding lean, but enough to see a little definition in your arms and/or abs. Most women would answer me with a very loud, “Yes!”
Calorie intake is just one component of many that go into this machine we call our body. The body is much smarter than the average person. You may trick it once or twice, but it will learn how to overcome what you are trying to do to it. The body will combat under eating by hording everything you feed it. Then you jump on a piece of cardio equipment and pedal your little heart out for extensive amounts of time, and still - nothing. Why is that? Keep reading!
Drop the Carbs Down
You don't have to completely eliminate them; doing so would only set you up for failure. Do you even know how many you get in a day? Do you have a food log? Are you logging on a site like Fitday.com or MyFitnessPal.com? Do you know what foods are considered high in carbohydrates?
The foods to reduce in this category would be sugar, which includes candy, cakes, pies, etc. But it also includes fruit. I hear so many people say how healthy they eat and then proceed to tell me they load up on fruit. Fruit is mostly sugar. Natural sugar is still sugar, and it still makes you fat if you eat too much of it. Okay, so we have sugar clarified. More foods that are sugary: pasta, potatoes, some other veggies - research those. Don’t forget rice and bread are sugary, too.
Another misconception is that brown rice and pasta and whole grain breads don't do the same thing as their regular white counterparts. Truth is - they do. They just have a little more fiber and digest more slowly, so you don't get quite the same insulin spike, but they are still a carb and they can still cause fat gain if you overeat them.
So what we have learned is to drop carbs down. In general, I start people out at 25-30% carbohydrates in their diet and assess from there. How are you going to do that if you don't know how many sugars and carbohydrates are in what you're eating? Start logging your food on one of the sites I mentioned above. Take responsibility for what goes in your mouth.
Increase Your Protein and Don’t Fear Fat
Beef, chicken, turkey, fish, etc. There are studies out now that are proving our governments “lean meat only” consumption isn't necessary.
- CLA is a substance that accumulates in the fat of grass-fed ruminant animals-fats like butter and tallow-that has anti-cancer effects.
- Industry apologists have now done an about-face and are campaigning against the trans in favor of the liquid oils - while using this opportunity of heightened public interest to continue demonizing the fats we should all be using, the natural saturated animal fats in animal foods and tropical oils.
Increased protein helps maintain the lean mass (muscle) you already have. You want to keep this, as it increases your metabolism. Adding a little more lean mass is usually a good thing. As a general starting point, I think 40% of daily food intake should be protein. I have seen great results with this.
Ladies, listen very closely: you will not bulk up from resistance training. If you start getting bigger, it is most likely because you are also eating more. You may put on a little lean mass, but it should not cause you to outgrow your pants. In fact, if you clearly know what foods are acceptable, watching your nutrition, and doing resistance training, you should be getting smaller and leaner.
Just because you workout doesn't mean it's time to go get a pizza because you “just worked off the calories.” It's simple, if you have a high body fat percentage, you are eating too much, unless there are medical reasons surrounding your weight in which case you should be even more attentive to your food intake.
Resistance training has some proven benefits:
- Improved muscle strength and tone
- Weight management
- Prevention and control of health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis
- Pain management
- Improved mobility and balance
- Improved posture
- Decreased risk of injury
- Increased bone density and strength
- Reduced body fat
- Boosted metabolism
- Improved sleep patterns
- Increased self-esteem
- Enhanced performance of everyday tasks
A Little Cardio Goes a Long Way
Women today go way overboard with cardio. I have a simple explanation for what this does to your body. It is well known to those of us in the industry that excessive cardio (meaning more than 45 minutes steady state or 30 minutes of high intensity interval training) is too much for the average person. After this amount of time, your body will start to become catabolic, which means it starts to eat muscle for fuel instead of food recently eaten and fat stores. All those ladies you see on the cardio equipment day after day, who always look the same, are actually eating up their muscle.
Do you realize what this means? They are lowering their metabolism because now they have less lean mass. Basically, if you would give them a body composition test, they would be fatter.
Becoming catabolic also happens when we don't eat enough. Starving yourself will only make you carry more fat. When you can't stand starving yourself anymore and go back to “normal” eating, don't expect a positive result. All the scam diets that tell you to drink nothing but shakes or eat only five hundred calories a day, they make you catabolic and set you up for failure. Don't be lazy. Take control of your body.
All of it comes back to being balanced and approaching your health and fitness from a variety of angles. While these guidelines are general, they work and they are a great place to start whether your goals are athletic or aesthetic. Cardio, strength, and nutrition are all important and all build upon each other. Focusing too much on any one aspect while leaving others at the wayside won’t have you be the best athlete you can be.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.