Exercises and workouts are a big source of contention for many millions of women, especially when it comes to fat loss, fitness, or physique goals. Many feel that the cardio training is the only way to achieve their goals. They will spend hours upon hours on their favorite (or not) cardio equipment hoping to get the results they want. Many women truly enjoy their weekly cardio class/activity and don't want to give it up (even though there are just as many who can't stand it). On the flip side, they may feel like any activity that isn't making them super sweaty just isn't worth the time on their workout calendar.
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They may test the waters of other workout styles, feel unimpressed, and wonder whether they should continue to do something they don't like. And it's not just the cards bunnies that experience this. It's easy for any of us to get super absorbed in the style of exercise that we like (Pilates, Yoga, Lifting, etc), and then completely turn our nose up at any other workout style.
What if I don't like this workout?? Should I still do it?
The short answer is – maybe.
If your goal is simply improved heart health, released endorphins, relaxation or stress relief, then do anything that makes you happy and keeps you moving. Overall health should be a huge consideration in what workouts make you happy. If you love your classes, then keep taking them. If you love running marathons, by all means keep doing them. Happiness is what will keep you motivated to continue to do something.
However, if you have specific goals in mind, there might be workouts you have to do in order to get the results you want, even if you don't like doing it. This means depending on what your goals are, things need to be done to help get you there. Want to run a 10k? Ramp up the endurance work. Wanna compete in a Strongman? Spend a bit more time on strength building. Improved flexibility and core strength? Break out that yoga mat. Looking to get ripped? Gonna need to apply some resistance to those muscles, if you ever wanna see them.
In other words, you're going to have to challenge yourself in new (and completely different) ways to reach each new (and completely different) goal. Even if you don't particularly like the challenge activity in question.
But it doesn't mean that you have to completely eliminate the exercises you do love in place of these.
What it does mean, is that you have to be aware of what you are doing and what results you should expect from it. If you are doing nothing but cardio, you cannot expect to get a ripped and muscular body (and say goodbye to that Strongman!). Cardio will give you a specific body style, but it is likely not the one you are hoping to get!
If you wanna become more flexible, but aren't willing to invest the time in the activities that will achieve better mobility/flexibility, then don't get upset when you can't go quite as deep into that squat – or when you discover that you're a bit more accident prone – than you like.
Bottom line – if you're just starting out, or don't have specific goals: do the activities or workouts that make you feel good and make you want to get off the couch and DO them. If you haven't found what that is yet, keep trying! There are so many different ways to move your body. Find what you love. However, if you are trying to get goal specific (i.e. looking to build muscle and have that “toned” look), then you might need to be open to new workout styles (read: pick up the weights), even if you don't like them.
One of the biggest misconceptions about muscle and fat is that they are interchangeable. It is not uncommon to hear women talking about how they are afraid to lift weights because they fear of their level of fat will just instantly change into solid muscle. In fact, many think they should hold off lifting any weights until they have a lower level of fat on their body for just this reason. On the other side, many older generations will wonder why you bother to lift weights at all because as you get older, your muscle will just turn into fat.
Cannot physically happen.
You cannot turn fat into muscle or muscle into fat!
No matter what you read, fat and muscle cannot be replaced by each other. However you DO need muscle in order to lose fat. Muscle helps keep your metabolism burning high, so the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be. This is important because it means your metabolism burns more energy and thus increases your TDEE (more food!!) On the flip side, the higher your metabolism is, the higher your caloric intake will be in a cut phase which will allow you to lose fat.
If you are coming from a restrictive dieting background, be aware that you need a muscle building phase FIRST before you can tackle a fat loss phase. Most dieters are coming from a muscle deficit, which means there is not enough muscle to accomplish the very goal you're chasing. Muscle building and fat loss are two very different phases and cannot be done together. The process of doing either goal, are complete opposites of each other. Muscle requires more calories (TDEE or higher) whereas fat loss requires less calories (TDEE – 5-15%).
You cannot turn fat into muscle, but you do need muscle in order to lose fat.
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.
I’ve followed the EM2WL method for a few years (with great success!), and then last autumn, race season got a little crazy because I signed up for 2 half marathons. I enjoy running for the sanity-saving benefits (I have 4 kids ages 3-6!) but I LOVE lifting because I love being strong! Since I promised some friends I would run in the half-marathons, though, lifting had to take a backseat while I trained for those races. I was eating “enough” but noticing fat gain/muscle loss and started reducing my calories to try to tweak things. Obviously that was not the thing to do, as my body composition started getting worse and worse, despite eating fewer calories. I never NETTED below 1700 but with how much running I was doing, I still needed more, plus I needed to add lifting back in. (I wish I could go back in time to August 2015 when I started the crazy lowering-lowering-lowering of calories to tell myself to start increasing instead!! But lesson learned.)
Finally, this past January, I complained to my husband about how I couldn’t seem to lose the fat despite decreasing my calories and he asked “do you think you might need a reset? Are you eating enough?” and the light bulb went off. He stated that I can never claim he ‘doesn’t listen to me’ because he remembered my talking about EM2WL and metabolism resets and such a couple years ago! Haha! So at the beginning of February, I started increasing my calories to reach maintenance (2100-2200 based on my Fitbit Charge HR, plus more if I ran). I took pictures of myself before I started my calorie increase (photos on left in comparison shots).
My second half marathon was scheduled for the beginning of April, but I downgraded it to the 5k option because I really wanted to focus on regaining my lost muscle and not worrying about running.
BEST. DECISION. EVER.
I completed a 9 week reset and started a cut at 1900, which I quickly increased to 2000 due to lack of energy during lifts. I had already gained 10 pounds “at a deficit” while training last year that never came off, and then I gained 14-16 pounds during my reset. I started my cut and haven’t lost anything yet, but that’s okay because I’m still making gains in the lifts and that’s what I was mainly focused on. My lowest weight was 132 and I really loved my physique at that weight because I reached it combining running and heavy lifting (calories during cut were around 1800, so definitely following the EM2WL mentality!). Eventually I hope some of the fat will come back off since I’m currently hovering around 156-158 pounds (I’m 5’5.5”). My TDEE has also increased due to my increased weight, I suppose, so now I average 2300 without running based on my Fitbit.
This afternoon I squeezed into the clothes I was wearing when I started my reset, and those are the (tan!) pics on the right. The clothes are definitely tight, but I love how I actually have a better overall SHAPE than I did before! In a week, I’ll be starting a much-anticipated 2-week diet break. My lifting throughout February-April was starting over with StrongLifts 5×5 (since I’d lost most of my strength from running). I’m living in an apartment for about 6 months and don’t have access to my barbell but I did 3 weeks of NRoL Fat Loss 1, and am currently doing your heavy/light dumbbell workout at our apartment gym. Anyway, I just thought I’d share my in-progress story with you!
~mrs_dwr on MFP
A lot of people ask should an overweight person lift weights, or should they wait until they’re smaller. A common misconception is that the bigger you are, the more extreme measures you need to take (bigger calorie deficit, higher amounts of cardio, etc). The thinking is that you should wait until you look like the people that are lifting, before you join in.
Extremes are overrated. Don’t believe the hype.
Should an overweight person lift weights?
Cardio will help you lose weight, to an extent. But it will only create a smaller version of the body you have now, with all the same lumps and bumps in all the same areas. You will shrink, but your body shape won’t change. If you lift heavy; however, you will manipulate your body in such a way that it will not only shrink, but also change shape.
Now remember, the definition of heavy varies person to person. My heavy is going to be different from your heavy. The key is to challenge yourself, within your limits. You should be able to lift increasingly heavier as you progress through the different lifting stages. This is an excellent time to challenge yourself, lifting as heavy as possible — the bigger we are, the more power we actually have to push more weight. Challenging yourself by increasing weight will push your metabolism through the roof.
With lifting, you can actually get more done in less time because your body doesn’t have the same opportunity to adapt as it does when doing cardio. When your body begins to adapt, the only solution is to keep pushing it to the limit. A limit that keeps moving further and further away means longer and longer workouts. But when you lift, all you have to do is to increase the poundage. You don’t have to add more time to your workout. More productive in less time. Isn’t that something we all want?
So don’t be intimidated by the thought of lifting “heavy.” Heavy is relative, but you definitely want to start lifting as soon as possible. Start with what you’re able to lift and work your way up. Heavy two weeks from now should be different than heavy today. There was a time when 7 or 8 pounds was heavy for me! But I kept increasing, and in turn, I gained strength. If you don’t increase, your body will adapt, and stop changing. The initial toned look from your first few weeks of a new workout will become softer.
Your body needs the challenge in order to keep morphing into the body you want and deserve.
Looking for a new challenge to your workouts? Try out our EM2WL Training App!
If you’ve dieted in the past or are currently dieting, you may have experienced (or heard recently about) metabolic issues. Headlines, infomercials, and even your fave fitspo are doling out method after method for how to “fix” the damage done to your metabolism. We hunt for the best foods, drinks, supplements, workouts, and “bulletproof” ways to turn back the hands of time (dang you, aging process!!). Some are in denial, others using it as a crutch – but we can't deny that our metabolisms seem to be doing everything in their power to work against us.
But what if the one aspect that we often glaze over/assume is negotiable when seeking to rebuild our metabolisms, is key to pulling this whole thing off? And where the heck does dieting (and finally losing that weight) come in to play?
When you’re dieting, the amount of calories you burn literally becomes less – anywhere from 300 (average) to 800 calories fewer. This change can happen in as little as a two month time frame because of what dieting does to our metabolism. This adaptation, in addition to the natural aging process of the body that also slows the metabolism, can create the perfect backdrop for what is now trending as “metabolic damage.”
The effects of short bouts of dieting can affect your body for up to a year. Longer/repeated bouts can make this unwanted adaptation last even longer! The approach of eating less and working out more has a failure rate of 95%. For a generation that has more diet plans, health food stores, gyms (and internet access to pics of the fittest people on the planet) than ever before, the obesity epidemic is only rising. And it's not for lack of trying…or at least not in full.
Sedentary lifestyles (thanks again, technology!), of course, contributes heavily to slowed metabolic rates. Hormones also affect metabolism, as do environmental pollutants. Out of all these things, though, your muscles relationship to your metabolism carries the highest weight (literally). Most diets place primary focus (and success rating) on the amount of weight loss. However, twenty to fifty percent of the loss you experience during a typical, low-calorie/high cardio diet is muscle mass. Seventy-five percent of your BMR (basal metabolic rate) — the amount of calories you burn just being alive — is composed of your muscle. Therefore the more muscle you have, the higher your BMR becomes. And vice versa.
This is important to understand in the scheme of weight loss. Striving to lose only weight – while paying little attention to where the weight comes from – is destructive to the maintenance of any perceived success. And if you've ever lost and regained weight before, you know that keeping the weight off is harder than getting it off in the first place. The second you go back to eating “normal,” game over.
So while you may end up weighing less after any given diet, it will be to the detriment of your metabolism. Those who simply lose weight from dieting, require less calories to maintain that weight than someone (of the same weight) who has never dieted. The more times you repeat this process, the lower your calorie requirements are. It's a nasty metabolic game that you don't want to play, and will likely never win.
Kashonna focused on building muscle, and no longer worries about the scale!
Regardless of whether or not you want a muscular look, they key is the look that you want (less fat), without having to reduce calories into oblivion, requires muscle. The point of resistance training is to preserve the muscle mass you have and build more. If your muscle mass is decreasing due to the diet you’re on, then your plan of attack is counterproductive. Set your diet/exercise plan up for success. Dieting with no exercise will result in the highest loss of muscle. If you’re dieting with some cardio, you will lose slightly less muscle. If you’re dieting and doing resistance training, you will lose little to no muscle – this is key!
The bottom line? The best way to fix your metabolism is to build and rebuild muscle mass, not just lose fat (or worse, lose weight). Having more muscle will increase the amount of calories that your body requires, and will aid you in finally losing the fat. If you've already played Metabolic Roulette for longer than you can remember, then the steps to healing your metabolism will eventually become inevitable. Eat and exercise in a way that keeps or adds to the muscle mass you already have and you’ll be heading in the right direction to fix and maintain your metabolism at its highest efficiency.