Muscle training, not fat reduction.
If you want to build lean muscle, then train with that motivation in mind. Reducing fat does not automatically guarantee a toned, muscular body. People who train with only fat reduction in mind end up rewarding themselves more often after a workout. An added benefit is that exercise geared towards building lean muscle can keep your metabolism rate high post-workout. These exercises also help trigger hormones responsible for fat reduction.
The effects of estrogen.
High levels of estrogen lead to fat storage, but balanced levels improve our body composition and health. Excess estrogen often comes from plastics, and due to lack of movement and unhealthy diets. So, get rid of the plastics and start consuming antioxidant-rich foods such as broccoli and honey.
Do not skip the multi-joint lifts.
More than often, women engage in isolation exercises to train a specific part of their body. These exercises, while beneficial, do not contribute much to reducing or maintaining metabolism. Start doing deadlifts, pull-ups and squats to build strength and create a good after-burn. Back extensions, presses and rows can help focus on different muscles, increase flexibility and make you more agile. Adding extra weight to your body using a vest can burn more calories within the same workout routine.
For cardio, consider doing modified strongman training or sprints. Things like sled training burn calories faster and create an after-burn that can last several hours. These exercises will also trigger fat-burning hormones and encourage protein synthesis. Thus they help burn fat and build muscle at the same time.
Use carbs and fats as your energy source.
One way to make your body do this is by reducing the calories received from carbohydrates. Increase protein and fat intake to replace these carbs. Just be mindful that you consume complex carbs and healthy fats.
The deal with your diet.
Building lean muscle requires energy and eating less deprives you of it. You will still need to have a balanced diet according to your BMI, health condition and genetics. When you eat less, your metabolic rate slows down increasing cortisol in the process. Unfortunately, as a woman, you have probably been told to eat less at some point in your life. It is common among women to keep a strict check on their calorie count and feel anxious as a consequence. Experiencing stress and anxiety causes cortisol level to rise, which are responsible for those carb-cravings. Remember to stay relaxed, and have a high-protein low-carb diet.
Your body needs fats, but healthy ones.
Low-fat diets can be appealing to any woman wanting to lose weight and develop lean muscle. Fats are, however, an essential part of your daily diet. Cutting off your fat sources causes you to crave for carbohydrates, due to the same cortisol-induced mechanism. Keep ingesting fats from healthy sources like milk, eggs, nuts, fish and avocados. The only fats you should avoid are the processed ones and trans fat, often found in packaged foods and deep-fried items.
What needs to go?
We have mentioned carb-cravings two times, and so far, the implication is to avoid them. Not all carbs are unhealthy because you only need to stay away from the refined ones, such as cereal, pastries and white bread. These refined carb eatables are a staple in our daily diets, but they have high amounts of sugar. They quickly spike your insulin levels, cause you to gain weight and eventually harm your health in the long run.
The carbs you should consume are whole ones, often found in vegetables, organic grains and fruits. The good, fiber-rich carbs increase your blood sugar slowly to just the right amount to elevate insulin sensitivity. These rich sources of energy essential for a balanced diet will also leave you feeling fuller for longer.
How often should you eat?
Do not stay hungry for periods longer than 16 hours at a stretch, that is, avoid intermittent fasting. Even though intermittent fasting is a new fad in the fitness community, long duration of hunger will disturb your cortisol levels and reproductive health. Instead of that, stick to shorter periods of fasting so that your body has just enough time to burn calories without having adverse effects on your health. The ideal is to plan your meals within a 10-12 hour window as per your preference.
Developing a lean body at the cost of your health is never ideal. A workout goal is supposed to make you look and feel healthy. Unfortunately, women often have to compromise their health to fit ever-changing beauty standards. A rule of thumb in any workout routine and diet is to make sure that it is positively affecting your life. If any of the exercises become unbearable, then take a break from them. It is also necessary to consult a health care professional before making drastic changes in your diet.
Ally Cooper, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian with a Master’s in Human Nutrition. Ally is also an advocate of real vs fake supplements. Ally has been featured and quoted in publications like Parade Magazine, The Healthy, Fitbit.com. ALly is passionate about fitness and when she is busy reviewing supplements, she listens to her favourite music and chill. 🙂