Spinning you wheels and not getting the results you seek in the gym or your lifestyle routine? If so, you are not alone, so I thought I would dedicate this post to all the ladies out there who are busting their butts but can’t work out what’s missing!
Essentially, results come from consistency, adequate training with progressive overload and plenty of recovery, and for most people, really good nutrition.
Let’s start with the first, consistency.
You’re not consistent enough
Consistency is key, and the main reason results fall short. This probably comes more under ‘mindset’ but without it, you can’t get results. Building a body is a long-term endeavour, it can’t be fast-tracked or skipped, you just eat and train, train and eat, and be patient.
All professional bodybuilders can attest to the time and dedication it takes to build a physique, particularly one that turns heads. On the plus side though, a body built over the long term is something you get to walk around in.
The reason people fall short on consistency is because they chase the fads – fasting, no carbs, double workouts, HIIT sessions. These things have benefits yes, but when it comes to the long-term results, eating well, and eating a lot of good food, daily and consistently and pairing this with a solid weight training regime is the only way.
There are outliers, yes, those who do this kind of thing and look great, but this is not why they look great. If they look good with these methods it’s their genetics that have allowed it.
You’re following poor programming, or have poor program balance
Training should always be a strength-based development program with cardio as a ‘topper’. Cardio should never be the focus – including HIIT. This is not the way to build a strong, lean physique.
Programming should be progressive and not random, so you need to follow a program which is within your capabilities and where you aim to increase strength in each exercise over a period of time. The program that follows that will be more challenging in either exercise order, volume, load or all three, but it won’t be completely different from the first one if your focus is to get results.
I believe the ideal time period for a program is 8 weeks if you’re in the first year of training, as you can progress a lot more quickly within that first year. I even do 4-week blocks for brand new clients. Once established and stronger all over, I find 12-weeks to be a great time-frame to commit to each program.
If you break it down over 12 weeks, it takes around 2-4 weeks to find the ideal weight and learn a new exercise, and then 8-10 weeks following that to really push your capabilities with those exercises. Just as you start to get bored or plateau, it’s time to change in up. This is where patience comes in, changing your program all the time because you’re ‘bored’ or ‘impatient’ will only hinder your long-term progress.
Changes in body composition are even more dependent on food intake than training. If you don’t eat enough you will have inadequate nutrition to recover and build muscle from your sessions, but if you eat too much you will gain body-fat.
You also need to determine what kind of constitution you have – can you handle dairy, processed foods, gluten and wheat, or not? For some people, a whole-foods diet is essential for progress but for others they can be more flexible. You need to work out where you fit here and stick within reasonable boundaries if you want your body to respond positively.
I always try to get my clients eating as much food as they can, whilst still feeling good, and not gaining body-fat. For some women this is 1700 calories, and for others it’s 2300. Everyone is different and unique differences are uncovered not with a calculator, but with consistent tracking, patience, and check-ins where we look at weight, measurements, photos, and strength progression.
This applies even when dieting – you want as much food as you can get away with, and you don’t want to be eliminating food groups unless your body tells you they need to go (and there are professional ways to approach this).
Back to training – you can’t build a physique if you don’t have good technique.
I get that is feels good to enter a gym in your first week and put a 60kg barbell on your back, but if you’re not doing it properly all you’re doing is ‘impressing’ the people around you whom also have no idea and sabotaging your results in the long term.
Most women don’t naturally have the structure for weight training, they need to build it. This means developing the glutes, hamstrings, abs and back muscles to a point where your posture is sound, and those muscles are working just as hard as (or harder than), the muscles that are naturally developed like the quads and traps. See my post on the posterior chain here, to dive a little deeper into that.
Some women take 12+ months before they can squat 60kg, and others take 3 months. Some need to do months of mobility and postural correction whereas others need minimal. If you want to learn good technique, you need to hire an experienced professional. Just because someone has a gym or 300K followers on Instagram does not indicate experience – it indicates cash in hand and time spend on their phone, posting things that trend and interacting with other accounts.
Research someone’s history and understand the industry is very new, and the more years spent mastering their craft, the more you’re going to get for your money. The overall point here is, good technique will have you burning more calories, and building way more overall muscle (in all the right places) than poor technique will. So don’t skip the fundamentals and again, be patient.
You are training too much!
Lastly here we have over-training. It is not that common to over-train in a way that is damaging for athletic performance but it does happen, particularly when there is poor programming or if you aren’t eating enough to fuel your activity.
Where I find it most common is amongst gym people who are trying to change their body composition. Doing ‘more’ is not always the answer. Well, it’s rarely the answer. It is crucial to choose an exercise load that your body can handle, and that you are nourishing for. If you eat as little as you can, and train as much as you can in the hopes that this will ‘speed up’ progress, you are misinformed.
My philosophy with my clientele is always to give them as much food as possible, and as little training as possible, that is needed to get results. I never through extra training in, particularly cardio, in the hopes that they will get more out of it as this just isn’t the case Long story short, over-training can leave you falling behind on your goals and it just isn’t worth it.
What to do if you’re doing any of these things…
Stop. Reset. Restructure your approach. Seek professional help if you must but avoid continuing down a path that isn’t working well for you! Send me an email if you want more information about any of these topics
The posterior chain is a group of muscles that make up the back (posterior) portion of the body structure. They include the back, glute, and hamstring muscles. The abdominals (mostly the inner portion) tie this chain together into one functional unit. Most people, and especially women, have a weak posterior chain, and these are the muscles you need to strengthen when you want to improve performance, body composition, health and posture. They are also extremely helpful in pregnancy as your weight will be pulled forwards with the baby, so maintaining strength through the posterior makes child-bearing less uncomfortable. Exercises that require a strong posterior chain in order to do them well include the squat, lunge, bench press, push up, pull-up, and deadlift. Interestingly, these are the movements most people seem to want to start on. I never program these exercises until a client has a strong enough posterior chain to handle them well. Personally, I have never met a woman who doesn’t have ‘symptoms’ of weakness in these areas, and who isn’t experiencing issues with their hips, knees, or lower back when they start training with me.
IDENTIFYING IF YOUR POSTERIOR CHAIN IS WEAK
In posture, you can identify it through forward-rounded shoulders (palms tend to face backwards when relaxed), kyphosis (the upper spine is over-rounded and hard to extend), lordosis (where the lower back arches inwards creating what you may call a ‘duck butt’), and/or collapsed feet, which usually come with inwardly rotated knees. You may have one, or all of these imbalances. When you train, weakness can be noticed if performing weight training causes upper body discomfort including your lower back or upper traps (top of your shoulders), or lower body discomfort such as painful knees, hips, or tight hip flexors. When squatting or lunging, if your glutes and hamstrings are weak your knees will want to rotate inwards, and you will want to push back up with your toes. You may over-arch your lower back in order to press back up to the beginning of the movement. You may feel like you never get the ‘burn’ through your glutes that you are aiming for. When pressing or rowing, you may find that you never feel your back muscles the way you want, or your upper traps and neck might feel painful and inflamed the next day. Shrugging your shoulders when performing upper body movements is a sure-fire sign that your posterior chain is weak Abdominally, you may find your lower back hurts, or your hips and thighs take more weight, and ‘burn’ more, than your abs do when you’re trying to strengthen them Essentially, if too train on a weak posterior chain, although you may get stronger at first you will find that eventually you will stall in progression, as your body isn’t in it’s ideal position, and the larger, stronger, supporting muscles whose job it is to perform those movements, are hindered or inactive.
IMPROVING THE STRENGTH OF YOUR POSTERIOR CHAIN
Strengthening the posterior chain is simple but can take a bit of messing around depending on how out of line your posture is, and how tight you are in the ‘wrong’ places. Below are the steps you would take, and that I take with my clients, to get their posterior chain working efficiently;
- Learn how the movement is supposed to look and where you are supposed to feel it, for any exercises involving the glutes, hamstrings, abdominals, or back
- Choose a weight that is light when you are learning. Leave your ego at the door. It is also a good idea to keep your learning to machine-based exercises until you get the basic principles, and move on to things like squatting and deadlifting later on when you’re ready. If you are re-learning, then you will need to lower your weight compared to where you were at before, if you aren’t feeling it in the right muscle groups.
- Note where you are feeling the exercises, if it’s your back, glutes and/or hamstrings, this is correct. If it is your neck, upper traps (shoulders), lower back, knees, or hip flexors, this is incorrect.
- Use stretching and activation exercises for the muscles that aren’t ‘switching on’ for you. This includes band exercises, bodyweight exercises, ball or foam rolling, static and dynamic stretching, and some basic/light strengthening movements.
- Continue this process until you ‘feel’ the muscles you’re aiming to feel. Once you feel them on basic exercises, then move on to harder ones such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, or other full-body movements.
Keep in mind, results won’t come unless you take the time to master this
Remember that results, whether you are seeking a muscular look, posture correction, enhanced performance, or any other objective, come when you do the movements well, regardless of how heavy the weight is. I have had women come in and see me who are squatting 80kg+, but in order to get their glutes ‘working’ and supporting the movement, we have had to drop the weight down to 30kg and, much to their shock, they find this harder When your posterior chain is ‘activated’ and functioning as it should, your nervous system will become more resilient and powerful, as will your body in general. Heavy weights should only be lifted once technique is perfect, as building more muscle on unsupported foundations creates more work in the long run to correct it, and trust me when I say this, at some point, you will have to correct it. Hope this helps you to accelerate your results in the gym 😉 Jen x
In January this year I was interviewed by Bulk Hackers, they were interested in my philosophy and background and how I overcame chronic fatigue. Here is my interview:
Tell us about yourself and your training
My name is Jenifer Lee, I am 36 years, living in Australia. I specialize in women’s health and lifestyle change. My education centres on nutrition, personal training, and naturopathy, as well as energy medicine. I have been training for 20 years and a personal trainer since I was 18.
I own my own holistic health coaching business, which combines multiple health disciplines to offer women health, body and mindset transformations, both online and in person, locally and internationally.
I approach all coaching from a whole-health perspective, aiming to restore balance in both body and mind whilst my clients chase their individual goals. A large portion of my business is in body re-composition, including bodybuilding competitions and prepping for photo-shoots.
Outside of that I enjoy writing, drawing, painting, playing music, travelling and reading. I practice meditation daily and always strive to learn more about the world.
Training wise, I have tried everything from dance to martial arts, cycling, powerlifting, bodybuilding and strongman. I was once a cardio bunny totally addicted to the ‘runners high’ until I learned about the value of lean muscle and eating to help your body grow strong.
Since finding a balance with weight training and nutrition, I haven’t pursued any other forms of exercise as this brings the most benefit for me in both body and mind.
Describe a typical day of training
My training philosophy is based on a combination of powerlifting and bodybuilding, which I’ve developed over the last 10 years of coaching. I focus on weight training and building strength, and prescribe nutrition to fuel that.
For me personally, I follow that same philosophy, but I train for fun now and not with the intention of competing. My training split varies but generally the balance is legs twice per week, back and shoulders twice per week, and chest/arms once per week.
I do some cardio for fun but I don’t prioritise it. My favourite exercises are for the posterior chain; deadlift movements, squats, lunges, and rows.
I like to train alone, as I train clients most days. It’s my time to focus on myself and my own health and well-being.
At the moment, I am training intuitively, since I just recovered from chronic fatigue. I don’t like to set targets for myself and risk over-doing things. I generally remember all the weights I lift anyway and thus don’t log it, though when I had competition goals in the past I logged everything in a diary.
As I am predominantly weight training, I don’t focus so much on measuring heart rate, just session times and energy expenditure, to ensure its consistent week to week.
How do you keep going and push harder?
I don’t necessarily push my limits in training any more. I suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for around five years and only in 2019 was recovered enough to train again. I used to be all about pushing as hard as I could, whereas now I maintain a healthy balance and focus on remaining strong and enjoying myself.
I think in order to stick at training for the long term, you need to spend time finding a routine and discipline that works for you. People tend to love cardio for the ‘high’ you get afterwards, but in my opinion it is fleeting and you have to keep training hard to get it again.
Weight training is the easiest to invest in long term, but you do need to spend some time with a trainer in the beginning, building foundations and a split that works with you in order to really feel the benefits of weight training that you can benefit from in the long term.
Another tip to keep the momentum going is to ignore what’s going on around you. Train for yourself and eat to be strong and healthy, but don’t over commit or put too much pressure on yourself to look a certain way.
A healthy body looks fabulous no matter what percentage of body fat you carry, and I think women sometimes get discouraged by the fact that they don’t look like a professional within the first year.
It takes a long time to build a physique, but your efforts never go unnoticed and once you are consistent enough to feel the benefits, the motivation to continue comes easily!
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
If I could start over in my bodybuilding/fitness journey, I would do a lot of things differently. I came up in a time where very low calories and high amounts of cardio were the norm in exercise prescription for women, as well as very restrictive food choices.
I used to eat around 10 different foods as they were considered ‘clean’ foods. I don’t think these methods are beneficial for women at all in the long run (not even really in the short term), so I make sure to pass on better wisdom to my clients, and also ensure I never go down that road again myself!
My goals for the future are just to remain strong and healthy, and focus my energy on building my business. I love sharing my knowledge and supporting women in their journeys to becoming healthier, stronger, happier women.
How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
I train consistently in a split that works for me, I have never been injured but in saying that I have had a lot of postural issues that took a lot of correcting along the way. I don’t push beyond what I consider to be good technique, because doing that only sets you backward in the long run.
I have been out of training for a period of about four years due to chronic fatigue, and I managed that through natural therapies and light training, until I was well enough to build my training back up again.
I think listening to your body and training smart is the key to longevity in training, and many people get caught up in their egos and miss the signals their body is sending.
I generally sleep around six to seven hours per night, and this is plenty for me. I started turning my WiFi and phone off at night, and avoiding lights after dark as a management tool for my chronic fatigue, and since recovering I maintained this habit as I sleep much deeper, and wake up feeling rested.
When I travel, I either cram my sessions in on the days I am home (if I’m away only for a weekend), or if its longer I either have active rest or do full body sessions only a few days per week. It really depends on where I am and whether a gym is easy to get to.
How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
My diet consists of primarily whole foods, I don’t like to eat processed foods, mostly because my body doesn’t agree with it and after battling health issues, I have learned that low-inflammatory nutrition is essential for optimal mind and body health.
The only supplements I use are a Evolve WPI (Whey Protein Isolate) and glutamine. My favourite brand is Evolve by Australian Sports Nutrition (all products), and NoWay protein by ATP Science. I leave the rest to my food. In times of stress, I supplement with magnesium and zinc, and around my cycle I take a liver supplement to support detoxification. I take a more specific approach these days, rather than taking all the traditional training supplements, as I find it more beneficial for me now.
What has inspired and motivated you?
I am inspired by learning more about the mind and body, and inspired by supporting others to see and experience their own potential. This is what keeps me going and what I invest all my energy in.
I am inspired by music and other health professionals as well. Learning new information and applying this to my business and myself is key to keeping me inspired and motivated towards the future.
Music wise, I listen to a broad range, for training it’s mostly 90’s RnB, but in my free time it’s Soul music and a lot of world music. I read a new book roughly every two weeks, and frequently listen to podcasts on health and well-being.
My favourite books to read include Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, and You Are The Placebo by Dr. Joe Dispenza, Mind over Medicine by Lissa Rankin, and anything by Paolo Coelho, as he has so much wisdom in his stories. I actually have a list of my favourite books in the ‘free resources’ section of my website.
Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
If you want to improve yourself, the best advice I could give is to find a mentor. When I started out, the Internet was new and there was not much knowledge going around. Progress was much slower and in most cases, a result of trial and error.
Doing your research into a good mentor will fast-track your journey in ways you can’t imagine, and I think skipping this step is a big mistake. Self-research, YouTube, and free online programs just don’t cut it (especially if you have the added difficulty of a health condition, or a history of disordered eating).
I often think to myself, imagine how different my life would be if these people were around when I was younger!
I have had at least 10 significant mentors in my health and fitness journey, including a psychologist, naturopath, chiropractor, homeopath lifting coach, and energy medicine practitioners. I learned a lot from them and as much as it costed me money, I would not have the knowledge or health that I do now had I not learned from them.
The biggest mistakes I find are those who self-prescribe strict eating regimens, try to train way ahead of their training age, not paying attention to their body signals, underestimating the importance of eating healthy food, and not eating enough calories to fuel their training.
Are you taking on clients right now?
I am currently at capacity with my coaching, as it is all one-on-one and I only have so much time every day to commit to my business! I do have a waiting list so when spots open up, I offer them to the next person available.
To go on the waiting list, I have a short interview process that I run through, to ensure that person will be a good ‘fit’ for my coaching. I think it’s important to make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to expectations, before beginning any coaching journey.
Click here to see the full interview
I have been a Personal Trainer for 17 years, and full-time for at least 10. I have always been obsessed with weight loss and body transformation. From the moment I spotted the first bit of fat on my body (around 12-13 years old), I became hooked on exercise, calorie counting, and beating myself up in the mirror.
I was naturally ‘curvy’, meaning a bit soft and not very muscular. Being this shape in the 90’s meant not fitting into fashionable clothing brands, not being able to find bras and swimmers that fit, and finding that even the sportswear that did fit, made me look ‘chunky’. That’s what I thought anyways.
There was also ZERO representation of averaged-sized women in the media. Remember, no internet in the 90’s 😉
I bought into all the teen magazine hype and observed how ‘happy’ all the skinny girls in school seemed to be, and formed the belief that being skinnier would make me happier and that I would be treated more positively if I looked ‘better’. So I went about achieving the perfect ‘fitness body’. I was willing to do anything to achieve it, regardless of my overall health. I mean, health had no mention in the fitness world anyway; it was all about how you look.
I did get pretty close to reaching my ‘perfect body’ but I did so at the expense of health. What came as a rude shock is, I still hated my body, even at 12% body fat. I just saw more flaws. I still felt like an imposter. I still felt not good enough.
Body-image issues are rooted much deeper than outer appearance, and all women need to realise this.
How much does our body image impact our lives in general?
A study conducted by Dove including 13,000 participants, found that an astounding number of women and girls allow their body image issues to determine whether or not they participate in important life activities, and how they assert themselves or express their opinion to others.
It also stated that most women of this mindset will consciously stop themselves from eating, whether or not their health is at risk. These are disturbing statistics, but I see this kind of behaviour in the women I coach on a daily basis. As you can see, I also felt this way myself.
So this means that women aren’t reaching their full potential, when they’re constantly worrying about their bodies.
Are we actually happier when we are skinnier though? No, we are not.
Who, or what, is to blame?
We could certainly blame the media, who flood us with images of beautiful, unrealistic, heavily edited bodies. But that wont help us. Research into the topic, and deeper inquiry into my own issues lead me to understand that the problem is much deeper than ‘the media’.
Generally speaking, when we feel unhappy or out of control, we tend to turn our attention to the ‘outside’ world. We try to mold ourselves to what we believe is socially acceptable. We attach our unhappiness to tangible things that we have conscious control over – more money, fancy car, a hot body, etc.
We lose sight of what’s important and believe that by changing ourselves, we will somehow become happier, or more worthy. We forget that it’s who we are that counts the most.
When we are happy with how we look, the rest of the world mirrors back to us that exact same feeling. People love you, when you love you.
Being skinny will not make you happier, but being healthy will
By reaching a healthy weight (20-25% body-fat, or even up to 30% for some women), we are definitely closer to reaching our full potential due to increased energy, health, lowered inflammation, improved sleep, and the greater overall emotional wellbeing that accompanies hormone balance.
Achieving a healthy weight also requires us to develop a healthy relationship with food, which is never a bad thing.
What can I do to start healing my relationship with my body?
Firstly, stop looking at all these perfect women and wishing you could be just like them. Unfollow anyone that triggers you to feel low self-worth. Assuming they’re the picture of health and happiness can be detrimental, as you really don’t know what these people do behind closed doors. You can’t actually know if they’re a true inspiration to you, or if they are being honest.
Switch your focus from calorie restriction and crash dieting (and beating yourself up) and focus on improving your health and vitality. Work out how many calories you need to eat for optimal health and start re-fuelling. You body composition will change all by itself if once you start nourishing it. I get all of my clients to increase calories and nourish their bodies before focusing on weight loss goals.
Start looking within. Try to remember when it all started. Was it in school, or after carrying your first child? Was it something your mother always worried about? Once you identify where it started, you have better awareness and conscious awareness is the first piece of the puzzle when it comes to healing.
For me personally, when I started attacking my body I was already experiencing some depression and anxiety. I had very low self-esteem. I kind of just decided it was my body because it looked different to other girls’ bodies, and I fixated on it. Additionally, my mum always hated her body, and complained about being ‘fat’. In a way, making my body look good was my way of proving I was high value to the world around me.
How I coach women now
I still coach body transformation, even after this journey. I love it still and love working with women to optimize their health and body composition. I see it as kind of art form, a fun project you can work on and that you can carry around with you everywhere you go.
What I have changed though, is my approach. I replaced the all-or-nothing, get-the-best-body-in-the-shortest-amount-of-time-possible approach, with one that focuses on reaching goals in a healthy way – adequate calories, no overtraining, and with a positive view of self. Almost always with my clients, some work has to be done here in the beginning stages, but the end result is that we build bodies they love and in a healthy way.
It is unfortunate that we live in a world that values appearance over health, but it is pretty inescapable, especially with the addition of social media. Rather than getting angry about, it, or feeling victimised by it, we need to find our space within it to heal and nourish ourselves, so that when we see these ‘perfect’ women, we still feel great about our amazing selves!
Over the past 10 years of coaching women in weight loss and body transformation, I see the same mistakes being made over and over again. In todays post you’ll find 5 fundamental nutritional principles that can’t be avoided if you want long-lasting results.
You may have never heard of them, as in 2020 we live amongst a sea of misguided, unregulated, sales-oriented miss-information. Especially in the nutrition space. Accurate information is often overlooked as it doesn’t grab attention like a quick-fix does. We get addicted to extremes and to thinking that in order to make progress we need to go ‘all out’. But guess what? You don’t.
These fundamental principles are really all you need to get started, and I apply them to every client I work with.
1: EAT MORE FOOD, AND EAT OFTEN
I have met only a handful of women over the years who were eating even close to the right amount of calories for their fat loss goals. On average, numbers range from 1100-1500 calories per day, and often with a couple of 2700 calorie days thrown in there.
Women generally believe that the less they eat, the better their results will be. What they don’t factor in is their body’s physiological needs, most importantly a need for safety, and a need to reproduce. Safe bodies can make babies, unsafe bodies cannot. A ‘safe’ body for most women, is one that has enough body-fat for hormone regulation. If your calories are too low, your body won’t feel safe, and you won’t lose weight.
Women also fail to take into account their activity levels. Ladies, if you want to train like an athlete, you need to eat like one.
With almost all new clients, I increase the quality of food, the amount of calories eaten on a daily basis, and the size of the individual meals. Often my clients can’t finish the food in the first week, but are surprised to see weight loss at their first check in. That’s about all it takes to realise that eating more, and more often, is key. It’s also not long after that when they find themselves asking when their next calorie increase is!
How to implement this:
Firstly, track your food intake for 7 days, including everything you eat. A good calorie tracking app is MyFitnessPal and it’s free. Secondly, calculate your basic metabolic rate, by multiplying your weight in pounds by 12. That is the number you should be eating, on a rest day, to maintain your weight.
Eg I am 72kg; 72 x 2.2= 158 (weight in pounds). 158 x 12 = 1896. That’s approximately how much I need to eat in a day to maintain my weight, if my metabolism is healthy.
2: EAT MORE PROTEIN
Protein is the body’s primary building block. It plays an important role in weight management, helping your body repair and build tissue (the key one here being muscle from training). It also makes ‘dieting’ easier as it increases satiety.
Also very importantly, adequate protein intake ensures you don’t lose too much muscle when losing fat. When you diet, and are on a calorie deficit, your body burns your fat stores, but it also taps into your muscle stores. Ensuring you have enough protein, and are lifting weights, is the best way to ensure that the majority of your weight loss comes from body fat.
I personally recommend animal protein as a priority. It is the most anabolic, meaning your body uses it more efficiently than plant protein in building and sparing muscle. You want to eat around 1.5-2x your bodyweight per day. I personally prescribe 2x bodyweight for most clients, unless they’re not used to eating protein, or have trouble digesting it, in which case I start them off with the lower target.
How to implement this:
Track your food for 7 days (as above), and check how much protein you’re eating. Use the example below to calculate an ideal amount of protein for you.
Eg I am 72kg; 72 x 1.5 = 108. 72 x 2 = 144. I need to eat between 108-144gms per day for best results.
3: TRACK YOUR FOOD
If you’re not tracking your food intake, and you have no idea how much you’re eating, you’re kind of like a Powerlifter without a barbell. You can’t do anything.
You may lose weight simply by removing large amounts of food, or food groups (such as carbs, animal products, sugar, etc), or exercising like a maniac for a period of time but once this progress stops, you have got nothing to work with. And that’s assuming you can keep the restriction up long term.
In order to optimize your fat loss or muscle building, you need to learn how much fuel your body requires, what foods work best for you, what nutrients different foods contain, etc. The more you learn about food, and how your body uses it, the better your success will be. Body transformation is all about finding a calorie target that works for you, and then manipulating it over time.
Don’t mistake what you see on social media with real life. ALL body transformations that stick, or involve considerable muscle gains, require consistent food tracking, followed by adjustments where necessary, followed by more consistent food tracking. This also applies to the women taking performance enhancing drugs. There are no exceptions.
Food tracking is a time consuming practice, which involves planning, organizing, and making sacrifices. This is a practice that can be difficult to learn, but becomes easy over time with great reward.
How to implement this:
Download a calorie-tracking app, such as MyFitnessPal, and start entering all your food (as above). See how much you are eating. Eat that much consistently (or using the calculation from the first point), and track your progress with weight and measurements.
4: EAT MORE FIBRE
Fibre is a carbohydrate (‘carb’), but it is not digested in the small intestine thus it acts differently to your most-loved carbohydrate friends, starch and sugar. Starch and sugar provide us with glycogen (fuel), whereas fibre makes its way all the way to your large intestine, bulking up your stool (poo), and feeding your good bacteria.
If you don’t eat enough fibre, not only do your good bacteria starve (and in some cases resort to eating your own gut lining), you also risk constipation, as the food in your bowel can’t move through properly. When you are constipated, your body can’t eliminate waste efficiently, thus leaving you feeling tired, bloated, and sometimes, in pain.
How to implement this:
Include fibrous foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. A typical fibre target that works well for most people is 20-30gms per day, more if you’re heavier, and less if you’re lighter. Again, you can track this on a calorie app.
5: EAT MORE VARIETY
When I came up in the bodybuilding world, there was a lot of emphasis on eating ‘clean’. Specifically, our diets consisted of, and were limited to, the following foods; beef, chicken, fish, eggs, oats, rice, sweet potato, rice cakes, apples, broccoli, peanut butter, whey protein, and Udo’s oil (a horrid tasting omega 3-6-9 fatty-acid blend). All other foods were ‘bad’.
I basically choke of the thought of eating like that again, and also cannot believe we were that stupid, as it turns out you can achieve amazing results, and in most cases better results (if you factor in health, vibrancy, and sustainability), by eating almost any food, provided that, you can track it (point 3).
These ‘clean’ diets work well because there is little variation, thus getting to peak condition (lowest body-fat possible for you) is easier. However, this is not an approach that’s required for your every day competitor, or a woman who just wants to get the most out of her body.
The negative side of ‘clean’ eating, is it’s hard to maintain, it’s socially isolating, and falls short nutritionally in the long run. For my friends and I who ate that way, relentless cravings for other foods lead to binge eating, and punishing ourselves for eating ‘non-optimal’ foods (I’m talking things like strawberries and avocados). So, this kind of eating comes a set of problems.
I have never recommended this kind of strict approach (with the exception of two or three week periods, right before a competition for my clients with more stubborn bodies), though many coaches still do as it’s the bodybuilding way. I am strict on the total calories and macronutrients, but not their source. I have had countless clients make it to the comp stage, and win, without adopting this kind of strict ‘clean food’ eating regimen. Variety is key in long-term success.
How to implement this:
Eat a variety of foods. When it comes to meats, mix it up, eat the rainbow when it comes to vegetables and fruits, understand that different foods come with different nutritional profiles. If you love chocolate, include it. If you love ice cream, include that too. SO LONG as your macros/calories are accounted for, you will still lose body fat.
So that’s it ladies, my top 5 nutritional tips. Notice that supplements, fad diets, intermittent fasting, and heavy calorie/nutrient restriction, don’t make an appearance here. They aren’t required, nor are they healthy and sustainable long term.
If you want me to expand further on any of these points in upcoming posts, let me know!
For nutritional consultations, contact me for more information 🙂
So often women are caught up wondering what it the most important thing when it comes to planning nutrition. When do I eat? How much? What about supplements? Below is a list of priorities when it comes to meal planning;
PRIORITY #1: BALANCE
Vary your meats, plant products, grains, and sweets. Don’t get caught up thinking you need to eat chicken and broccoli for every meal. Flexible dieting is encouraging variety and enjoyment, to prevent food cravings and feelings of missing out on the foods you love
PRIORITY #2: YOUR CALORIES/MACROS SHOULD BE ACCURATE
If you find the macro-counting aspect to overwhelming, or your goal is to simply look smaller and leaner, then just hitting calories will still give you results. Studies have shown that the TOTAL INTAKE of calories is the most important variable when wanting to lose body-fat. Hitting carb, fat, protein and fibre targets will bring extra results, especially when you are hoping to add muscle. Overall, if you focus on accuracy and consistency, the results will come.
PRIORITY #3: MEAL FREQUENCY
Meal frequency is personal preference. Old assumptions used to be that eating 6 meals per day would ‘speed up your metabolism’. This has now been proven to be untrue. You could eat all your calories in two sittings or 6, so long as you are consistent. I personally design meal plans with 5 meals per day because women love food, and I find they have more success when they can eat more frequently. It also lowers the chance of you bingeing if you don’t get overly hungry.
PRIORITY #4: MEAL TIMING
Studies have shown that this makes about a 2-5% difference in overall results. This is really only something you would worry about if you were an elite athlete or a bodybuilder towards the final stages of prep. Whether you factor it in or not is up to you
PRIORITY #5: SUPPLEMENTS
Supplements are just that, supplements. This means they make a good supplement to an already-solid macro or calorie-controlled program, coupled with physical activity. They don’t do much on their own, so keep them minimal and focus on you adherence instead
Hope that helps!