Ok. It's officially time to stop avoiding this one. Yeah…I'm talking to YOU.
You've tried just counting calories. It didn't work for long. Now you're stuck. You have taken your stab at high carb, low carb, paleo, weight watchers, intermittent fasting, clean eating, more cardio, less cardio, more lifting, no lifting…and that was just last month. You have probably tried EVERY trick in the book, but progress is a no-go.
How do I know? Because I am you. Not being the biggest protein fan, I've struggled most of my fit-seeking life trying to find any way of eating that would get me results…without having to establish the one habit I needed most: eating enough protein.
Protein tends to be one of the often ignored elements – the one that most of us have heard about, but keep downplaying. Protein is the cornerstone to the most successful diets, and is one of the most agreed upon proponents of fat loss, muscle gain AND a healthy metabolism. It's a total no brainer, yet many of us totally dismiss its importance – in our constant pursuit of shiny (and quick!).
Those of us who have accepted it, still shrug off the concept thinking that we probably eat “enough” protein already. Maybe. Maybe not. I fooled myself for years thinking that I was eating enough for my goals…even though hitting 100g on a good day was tough for me. I thought that having some protein at every meal was sufficient. As I hit the research a bit harder, I discovered that despite all that I'd accomplished, I wasn't even coming close. Finally accepting, and attempting to truly step up my game has been a game changer.
My clients now know that before tackling ANY other area (including lowering cals), they must exhibit the ability to hit their protein goals consistently. I tell them plainly, that if they can't hit the protein goal eating at maintenance, there's no way they'll be able to eat enough with even less calories. Since protein needs increase as calories decrease, skipping this step is devastating to progress.
The 7-Day Protein CHALLENGE
I learned a few tricks along the way, that can help ANY carb queen (or king) become a Macro Master (title claimed by my hubs when I taught him these same tactics). I've picked the top seven and turned them into a 7-day challenge that you can do as many times as you like, until the habits form. Habits that will ultimately catapult you to the next level. The challenge also includes a 16-page guide to help you nail your goals any time, anywhere. The goal: to get to the point where you are applying ALL of the tips effortlessly as a part of your new lifestyle.
Eating a higher protein diet is a huge key to the FAT (vs WEIGHT) loss puzzle.
Many of you have already signed up and stepped up to this challenge. The rest of you…what are you waiting for? If you find it impossible to even consider eating 1g per pound of bodyweight (150+ pounds and still struggling to get in 100g? Not gonna work), this challenge is for you.
If you think that you need implement multiple changes, I encourage you to first get yourself to the point where you are hitting your protein goals every week (based on your weekly average) for at least 6-8 weeks straight. Then if you need to change something else, go for it (but keep the protein at that level).
Until then, come join us!
We'll be using the hashtag #em2wlproteinchallenge to share and hold each other accountable. Come on…you can do anything for 7 days!
In our previous blog post, we discussed three main reasons why many women struggle with fat loss:
– Women are more focused on “weight” loss, rather than fat loss.
– Hormones can play a big role in how fast and where the fat loss can occur.
– Women generally have a lower muscle mass than men do.
While we could have certainly ended the conversation there, (solving any one of those issues could result in a shift in fat loss for most ladies), we feel compelled to bring the topic home by pointing out the elephant in the room: The Diet Mentality. Even if most ladies understand the central theme behind developing a less stressed, “muscle-based” mindset, they still want to go about solving their fat loss issues with extreme diets and unrealistic deadlines.
When we choose to diet in a way to lose “weight,” (remember reason #1!) we typically select very extreme methods to do so. (*cough* 1200 calorie diets!)
Whenever you embark on a low calorie diet your body is forced to make less food spread farther, so it often has to make budget cuts to survive (literally). Because muscle requires more calories to maintain, extreme “budget cuts” can put those precious muscles you're striving so hard to hold on to, in jeopardy. When the body is faced with a low calorie (especially low protein) diet – it has to break down muscles in order to “find” the protein it needs to survive (essentially getting rid of those dang “expensive” muscles, so that the budget can spread further!).
Most women (whether on a diet or not) prefer a high carb, high fat diet with very low protein incorporated. When coupled with little to no resistance training, and repeated bouts of super low calories, many women are living in a perpetual “muscle wasting” lifestyle. Rejecting the 1200 calorie insanity, and increasing the protein is a great starting point for most ladies seeking fat loss. Protein not only keeps you fuller longer, it helps to keep the metabolism from burning up the proteins in our muscles, thus making our workouts more effective, and allows the muscles to build up instead of break down. Once weight lifting is sprinkled in, it's icing on the cake! (Note: I didn't say anything about getting rid of cake…)
Because many of the diets that we tried in the past helped us to lose weight “fast,” it's honestly tough to NOT lack patience. Thanks to our microwave society, we tend to want alllllllll. the. things. RIGHT. NOW. We can’t understand why men can lose weight so quickly, or why younger women are dropping pounds faster than us. The media knows this, and makes sure to taunt/target/tempt us regularly with quick fixes (and we just keep taking the bait- even when we know better). We want things that happen as fast for us as they did in the past – to have the losses we did when we went on our first diet.
We say we're willing to do “whatever it takes” — but never for “as long as it takes.”
Having patience is about being willing to build/maintain muscle mass and actually stop stressing about it. It means focusing less on weight loss, more on fat loss. It's about finally settling in and doing things right by your body. It's about reaching your goals in a no-nonsense way that does not backfire in the long run: eating enough food, eating enough protein, getting enough fiber, lifting and doing workouts in a way that are built to maintain the muscle mass you already have, and maybe even encourage more muscle growth along the way.
So there you have it. The five biggest reasons why women tend to struggle with fat loss. So remember this on your journey to a better and healthier you. Dieting will lead you down a path of never ending gain/lose cycles, constantly frustrated with the lack of progress. The goal of the Diet Mentality is to make you stop enjoying your life to its fullest. A change in your diet focus, throwing the scale away, and taking the time to build your muscle mass back up while living your life now, will all put you down the path to success. The path just winds along the rose gardens, rather than plows right through them.
It's not your imagination. Women have fat loss struggles that seem to elude their male counterparts. Many of us have been known start to the “hey let's do this diet together” – only to end up frustrated when we plateau and they…don't. Of course this is an oversimplification of gender (not all men lose fat super easily — but dang it sure feels like it at times!), but men definitely have a few advantages over us.
Over the next two articles, we'll explore five main reasons why women have a harder time than men when it comes to shedding the fat.
Women are often more focused on weight loss over fat loss, which means they pay a lot of attention to the scale. And if you're constantly looking at the scale, that can skew what you think is progress. Men tend to not be focused on the scale when it comes to their weight. Most of the time, men just do one or two simple things and the weight seems to fall off of them (more on that later!) By eliminating the need to see a number on the scale, men do not get as obsessed about a certain “goal number” than women do.
You can lose weight in almost any way. You can lose weight by losing muscle mass, or water, or you can even lose a limb and see the scale drop. If the loss is coming from fat, then it actually keeps your metabolism on track. But if that loss is coming from muscle, it's actually slowing your metabolism down, which is what happens to a lot of people.
Obviously we all want to blame gains on hormones and whine “Women have it so much harder!!” Our hormones are more sensitive to stress than men's hormones may be. So when we add stress into mix, (because let’s face it, we are more prone to stress about things) our hormones actually react in a way that stops us from losing weight. It actually causes us to often gain weight, especially in the belly. Women normally tend to hold onto fat in the belly area, but when under stress this area refuses to let any fat go. (This is referred to as a “Stress Belly”)
Guys may have a hormonal advantage because of their testosterone, but if we keep our stress levels low, we can use estrogen to our advantage, and help trigger the fat loss. Unfortunately, most forms of extreme dieting exacerbate stress – lower calories, higher exercise exertions, constant weigh ins, are all forms of stress which can, in turn make it incredibly hard for women to lose fat, especially in the belly area.
Another HUGE reason for why it's easier for guys to lose weight than women is because of their muscle mass. Women naturally have less muscle. The time our muscle mass is at it's highest is when we are young teenagers. That is, unless we do something about it – unless we choose to actively seek a lifestyle that builds and maintains our muscle mass. We want to see that scale go down because we think the scale is what is going to make us skinny. This typically means that we're not focused on muscle mass.
Just like Melanie, you could be losing fat even when the scale isn't moving!
Muscle equals metabolism, so when we start putting on muscle mass, the scale may not move at all, or even go up. It's mentally tough to put focus on our lovely new muscle gains when that darn scale is going up/staying the same, so this is where we tend to self sabotage. When it comes to muscle, you can actually gain weight AND look better because the increased metabolism will help you burn fat even faster, burning calories at rest. Muscle is what keeps everything toned and tight and compact underneath your skin. Simply losing weight doesn't do that. If you lose muscle you may get smaller, but you get softer looking. (skinny fat)
Releasing the grip that the scale has on you, managing your stress/hormone levels, and focusing on building muscle mass are three major keys to conquering the female fat loss code. In our next post, we'll touch on two other ignored-but-critical factors that play a major role in female fat loss.
click here for part Two!
Our last blog post touched on five workout tips to prevent (or breakthrough!) the inevitable plateau. Today let's take a look at how our eating habits can also cause a plateau, and 3 ways to avoid derailing our progress.
3 things to focus on with your EATS
Just as when mapping out how to workout for plateau-prevention, your food focus breaks down to three main areas of focus: Load, Frequency, and Type. Here's what to pay attention to for each area:
Load – This is how many calories you should eat. This varies person to person and no one should be in a blanket calorie range (uh hello 1200 calorie plans) By using our calculator, you can find out three different things, how many calories you need to maintain your weight (TDEE), how many calories for fat loss (Cut) and how many calories for muscle building (Bulk)
By knowing these numbers, you can cycle your intake around when you are on maintenance, when you are planning a cut and periods when you are building muscle.
Frequency – This is the amount of calories you eat, for whatever phase you are in, and when to change it up. Like our load, we need to change the amount of calories we eat at times to prevent a plateau from occuring. When in a fat loss phase, we should be taking a “diet break” (eating at TDEE) every 8-12 weeks for a period of 1-2 weeks. This will “remind” the body what maintenance is, so as we start to lose weight, our Cut amount doesn’t become our Maintenance amount.
Type – I’ll just say one word – Macros.
The type of food we eat does make a huge impact on our progress or our plateaus. Protein, Fat and Carbs are the most important ones to focus on to help make better quality food choices. If you are just starting out getting your macros into focus, plan on putting your protein goal front and center. Focus on one thing at a time and build up the habit, and this will set up your natural progression for better food quality.
By paying attention to these variables in our eating, we can stop a plateau from sending us down the rabbit hole and derailing any progress we might have had.
Plateau Prevention 101: Workouts
When it comes to hitting plateaus along your journey, it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.” Knowing that plateaus will come should prevent you from the all-too-common mistake of trying to change too many things at once.
This is difference between amateurs and pros. Pros know start small, tackling one bite sized chunk after another. This not only helps them have a plan in place before they plateau, but assures that they can actually stick to the plan — progressing for years to come. Amateurs try to move ahead “faster” by biting off more than necessary. This not only gives them nowhere to go when they plateau (because they’re already doing the MAX, when the minimum would have given the same result), but they also burnout very early on in the process, and give up. Over. and. over. Instead of approaching your journey in the all-or-nothing way of the amateur, let’s level up and attack your workouts like a pro this year.
Tips for preventing plateaus:
5 ways to add challenge/variety/levels to your workouts
- Rep ranges – Don’t just stick to one. Try alternating short periods (daily, weekly, monthly) of one rep range before moving to another. Don’t get nostalgic or think that one rep range can do it all. It can’t/shouldn’t. (common rep “ranges” to alternate: 1-8 reps, 9-12 reps, 13+)
- Amount of weight you’re using – Every time you change rep ranges, the amount of weight lifted should change. Higher reps = lighter weight, lower reps, heavier weight. If you’re sticking to one rep range for several weeks, you should be seeing weekly increases. At the very least, your weight by week 4-6 should be heavier than weeks 1-3. If your weights aren’t increasing, time to take a break from that phase.
- Rest periods – Rest periods are not set in stone, they can range from no rest, to 3-5 min of rest depending on the above. If you’re lifting heavier weights for lower reps, you’ll need longer rest periods to keep hitting it hard. If you’re lifting light weights for high reps, less rest is needed.
- Exercise type – Compound vs isolation movements. Each has benefits, so don’t be extreme, or expect any one exercise movement to be a holy grail. But as a general rule of thumb, beginners should stick with more compound movements (1-3 yrs), and advanced lifters (3+ years) can benefit from some isolation work.
- Cardio – be strategic, add it slowly, if at all, based on preference. Your body quickly adapts to traditional forms of cardio, so adding in a ton from the jump makes it have a less of an impact in the long run. Unless you’re an endurance athlete, or just love cardio (and fully understand/accept it’s limits/diminishing returns), you may want to consider cardio as an occasional, “finish line,” or recovery-only basis.
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