Metabolic Myths Keeping You From Losing Weight

Metabolic Myths Keeping You From Losing Weight

Read time: 10-minute

Looking to feel healthy, energized and (maybe) lose some weight? Myths are rife in the fitness industry, so I am here to bust the most common myths around metabolism for you.

First of all, your metabolism as we are referring to here, is the fire that burns through food and drink. The higher it is, the easier it is to lose weight. Chronic dieting down regulates your metabolism, which makes it HARDER to lose weight. So, believing these myths will keep you from achieving your goals, and that is why we are covering them 🙂

Let’s start with the most common one;

Myth 1: I’ve tried everything and can’t lose weight 

Metabolisms simply adapt to your lifestyle. Anyone can lose weight, they just need to take a metabolically friendly approach. (if you want to learn more about this, check out my Nutrition course where I cover it, and help you fix it, in detail.)

The issue with most women, without getting too deeply into it, is that most women don’t eat enough calories, or enough nutritiously rich food on a daily basis, to create the foundations of a healthy metabolism.

When daily health targets aren’t met, cravings come in and we often over-indulge in hyper-palatable foods, pushing daily calories over the top into a surplus (more than you need). Fad diets are often leaned on too, when women find themselves believing this, as they want to get the ‘diet’ out of the way as soon as possible.

It’s not possible to just ‘get it out of the way’. Eating well and eating well regularly needs to become a lifestyle, not just a one-time thing for a period of time. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you start to feel leaner, stronger, healthier, and more energized.

Additionally, most women who say this, have never tried a measured, slow-going health-focussed approach, approved by a professional. What they mean by ‘i’ve tried everything’ is that they have tried every fad diet, trendy group challenge, or extreme methods.

Always keep in mind, the truth is a hard sell. It’s not romantic, fancy, quick or easy. You may have noticed this by now though with the content I’ve shared with you so far!

 

Myth 2: Your metabolism slows as you age 

 

The great news is that this is totally false, IF you continue to remain active.

Your metabolism is a reflection of your lifestyle. Generally speaking, as people age, they become less active and after age 30, they start to lose muscle. In women, it’s been suggested that this could be up to 15% by the age of 50, further declining after that.

If you remain active, continue (or start) weight training to maintain muscle and continue to fuel your body, with a nutrient rich diet, your metabolism simply will not slow down all by itself, it will respond to what you’re teaching it, and require it to do. End of story.

 

Myth 3: Exercise boosts your metabolism

 

Ok, so there is some truth in this one. Post exercise, there’s something that we call EPOC (excess post-exercise energy expenditure). This refers to the increase in energy (caloric) demands after a workout and essentially, the harder the workout, the greater the EPOC. But we’re only talking about around 60-extra calories over a 16-hour period, not a whole bucket of hot-chips worth 😉

When you have a sluggish, highly adapted metabolism and your body is under stress, this kind of intense exercise will actually just cause more stress on your body.

So it’s better to look at it like this:

Exercise increases the amount of energy you expend on that day only. For example, you burn 250 calories on the stepper, it hasn’t ‘increased’ your metabolism, it has simply burned through more calories than you would have had you remained sedentary that day. That means, you can eat 250-calories more that day, if your goal is to maintain your weight. 

 

Myth 4: Weight training increases your metabolism 

This is true, but it’s not dramatic. Increased muscle mass from weight training has been shown to have an effect on improving metabolism, but it’s not a huge amount when it comes to building muscle naturally.

For example, it’s been estimated that one kilogram of muscle can burn up to 12 calories while at rest. 1kg of fat burns around 4 calories per day. If over time you were to increase muscle mass by 10kg, this means you’ll be burning 120-calories more per day. Keep in mind this may take you a few years to achieve, so the effect is slight. You will look and feel a lot different though, that is for sure, due to changes in body composition resulting from your training efforts.

Look at it like this; weight training improves the quality of the body overall, and when more muscle is built, performance improves and training sessions are more effective. This has an impact on how we can transform our bodies over time, but not so much an ‘overnight’ effect on the quality of your metabolism

 

Myth 5: Metabolisms ‘break’ 

False. Refer to myth 1 – ‘I have tried everything and can’t lose weight’. 

Your metabolism isn’t ‘broken’, it’s just efficient. Remember that an efficient metabolism is one that adapts really well to its environment.

If your metabolism is sluggish and you’re gaining weight easily, it is not doing what you want, it’s doing what it thinks you need. It’s protecting you from a famine, keeping you as safe as it possibly can.

Why does this happen? There are generally three reasons; 

  • Your body is under stress, be it physical or emotional.
  • You aren’t consuming the right kinds of health-based foods
  • You are under-eating regularly and on purpose
  • You aren’t training in a way that optimizes your health (over-training)

Fun-fact – it is actually rare that someone with anorexia reaches a skeletal body composition. This is a genetic factor, and many who are treated with anorexia aren’t that skeletal at all, they’re just undernourished. So simply not eating does not help everyone lose weight. 

 

Myth 6: I can boost my metabolism with (insert food or drink here) 

This is true, but not in the way you think. We hear a lot about spicy foods, caffeine, and pre-trainers causing an increase in metabolism, but all they really do is speed up your heart rate, or increase body heat. This doesn’t ensure that your metabolism will speed up!

You could say this statement has some validity, due to what we call the ‘thermic effect of food’ (TEF). These foods require more energy to break down, with protein, and particularly animal protein, being the primary example.

Foods that are high in nutritional quality can also have a more positive impact on metabolism than processed, under-nourishing foods, as they are less-likely to inflame and damage the gut lining, or maim your healthy and helpful gut bacteria.

Healthful, whole foods are metabolically nourishing, and fast-foods can be destructive. Note also, that how destructive it can be is relative to the individual, their current state and stress levels, so for some people junk food is fine in moderation, and for others it is the last thing they need. 

 

Myth 7: Multiple meals per day will speed up your metabolism 

This is false, and studies have shown that your metabolism will remain the same whether you eat 6 meals per day, or just one.

In saying that, I believe it makes a difference for women to have a few meals per day to prevent blood sugar crashes, and increase the chance of adherence. Women’s bodies are most often more prone to stress, and when you spend many hours without a meal, it can heighten that stress, especially when your metabolism isn’t particularly healthy.

So if you’re stressed, or if feeling hungry makes you feel stressed, stick to more frequent meals. If you’re not stressed, eat however you like!

 

Myth 8: You should eat ‘fat-burning’ foods

Sorry, but fat-burning foods don’t exist. Calorie-control is the only way to make the most out of a weight loss journey. As mentioned above this means fat burners, coffee, and berries won’t make your metabolism speed up and body-fat to drop off

Fat-burning occurs when your body has a low enough amount of food coming in from healthy sources, without it feeling unsafe. When this happens, in order to make up for the deficit in energy your body will tap into fat cells and use them for fuel instead.

So, the optimal ‘fat-burning’ foods for you are, the ones that are most nourishing and least stressful for your body overall. 

 

Myth 9: Carbs are the enemy when it comes to a healthy metabolism

False, false, false.

Although we can survive without carbs, it’s very hard to thrive without them. Especially if you’re physically active.

There are no short-cuts. You can’t bypass your body’s physiology with a simple trick. The basics work time and time again, you just need to be consistent and patient!

Ignore the influencers, your mum, your friends (who aren’t qualified), and trust the methods that have been working for years on end.

Save your valuable time and energy for getting results!

13 Tips Helpful Additions to a Fat Loss Dieting Phase

13 Tips Helpful Additions to a Fat Loss Dieting Phase

Read times: 6 minute read time

Dieting can be hard work! But there are lots of things you can do to make it easier for yourself. In this post I am sharing 13 things that make dieting, or fat loss phases, easier. 

No matter what your body goals are, you need to enjoy your food and lifestyle enough to keep it in the long term. There’s no such thing as an eating style you hate that can get you the body you want in the long term. 

Want to master this topic? Check out my super-affordable mini-course on Fat loss: Wildly Strong Women

Most of the tips are food related, but I guarantee they will help!

1. Egg Whites

This is really about volume, and in a way you can keep your egg-based meals the same in weight and volume without the calories. The yolk in an egg is around 50 calories, but the equivalent weight in egg whites is around 20 calories

 They can be rubbery so if you use whites only, you will need sauce. The yolk contains fat which is what gives eggs a creamy flavour and texture

 I used egg whites in oats and rice porridge, to create more volume and a fluffier texture. I used it in protein pancakes, and every couple of weeks I made an egg white pizza! So, they’re great. You can buy them in a packet in most supermarkets.

2. Protein Custard

Protein custards are fun because it’s like having a whey protein shake, but it thickens up just like custard, so you can eat it with a spoon, more like a dessert. 

 I used vanilla flavour to make really thick smoothies and smoothie bowls (which is something you can’t do on low calories as you need heaps of banana or avocado to make it fluffy). The texture of the custard will thicken it up, without the added calories.  

 My favourite brand is Red Dragon Nutritionals, and the vanilla custard flavour is to die for! Muscle Nation is also super popular. 

 I also use the custard to top my oats, or have some with muesli, berries, things like this. Or, you can just have it on its own.

3. Air-Fryer

I got an airfryer after deliberating for months. I am terrible with the oven (and super impatient) so throwing potatoes into the airfryer was amazing for me. I made crispy white potatoes, but also sweet potato chips almost every day. All you need to do is spray them with a little olive oil cooking spray, and cook them on a super high heat for 10-15 minutes. Sometimes I had a little sour cream and light sweet chili sauce, and sometimes I had them plain with salt. 

 You can make lots of other things in the air-fryer but the chips are my go-to.

 

 4. Zucchini

This is another volume trick, just like egg white zucchini is high volume and flavorless, so it’s highly versatile. By the end of my prep I was having both egg whites and zucchini in my oats, because it made the portion size bigger but without the calories.

Zucchini can also be used as noodles (we call these ‘zoodles’!) if you’re wanting a bolognese style meal, but can’t fit the pasta into your macros. 

5. Low-calorie sauces

This includes low-fat dressings, low-sugar dressings, and things like this. My favourites during my prep were Callowfit, and I used them on everything!

Keep in mind when you diet for some time, you don’t actually have the same taste buds as when you’re not, and your pallet gets quite bland. So as much as you usually would prefer a full-calorie balsamic vinegar dressing, know that the low fat version will be amazing when you’re in a dieting phase. When you go back to the real thing, it’s almost too much at first!

6. Flexible Dieting

This is an eating principle that saves everyone on a diet. In the old days we had set and rigid meal plans for fat loss, they worked but were impossible to stay with in the long term. Bodybuilders were the go-to people for fat loss, because people didn’t want to get smaller, they wanted to get ‘toned’. So to cater for this market, we would just prescribe these diets that were working for us.

I only did that on a handful of occasions before working out that a wholesome diet is better for the everyday person (one who is not obsessed with the gym), so not long after I started implementing variety. This was better, but also still restrictive.

I then brought in flexible dieting, which is where the person on the diet determines what they eat, whilst still sticking with calorie and/or macro targets. This way you eat your favourite foods on the daily, and you don’t miss out on things. You can make it more of a lifestyle, you learn about food, what your body likes and needs, and you’re likely to stick with it in the long term.

7. Save your TV shows for cardio

This one isn’t food related but, leave the TV for your cardio sessions! If you have to do a few per week, find a show you want to watch and wait until cardio time to watch it.

In the past, we used to walk on the treadmill 40-minutes per day, while staring at the walls! Or we would have to bribe someone to walk with us, or to stand next to the treadmill and entertain us as we walked. There were no iPhones, netflix, movies to watch on the treadmill. So do all of us old school dieters a favour and make the most of this technology.

8. Sugar-free maple syrup

I used this on egg whites with oats, and on protein pancakes. I also made french toast on a few occasions. It’s extremely sweet and as I said in the previous point, you won’t notice that it’s not the real deal when dieting.

9. Natvia brown sugar

This is totally random but I use it on everything – I sprinkle it on my oats, put it in cups of tea, and use it in my protein pancakes. It’s super sweet but with this brown sugar flavour which in my opinion reminds me of the real thing.

I also mixed it with cocoa powder to make a super low calorie hot chocolate (which I will get to in a minute).

Note this is a natural option which has not been shown to be harmful to your gut health, which many other sweeteners have been. It also doesn’t spike your blood sugar like real sugar or artificial sweeteners can do and lastly, it’s a plant, and it doesn’t make you crave more sugar.

10. Lot of veggies and big salads

You can eat a lot of vegetables to create high volume meals. Cooking them in a pan or in the oven makes them sweeter and crunchier too.

Keep in mind also that almost any vegetable can be eaten in a fat loss diet. Bodybuilders do broccoli, but as a normal human being, you don’t have to do that!

11. Rice Cakes

Rice cakes are another highly voluminous food. You could switch out 1 cup of rice for 8 rice cakes and you would be munching away for ages. In dieting you get to a point where you only have 10 gms carbs allowance in a meal, so two rice cakes is perfect for that.

I used mine with nut butter, protein custards (that was fun), tuna, light cream cheese and cinnamon, and more.

12. Popcorn

This is similar to rice cakes in that you can eat a lot of popcorn for not very many carbs. I made mine fresh in a pot and added cinnamon, paprika, himalayan salt and natvia brown sugar. It was delicious.

13. Cacao powder

Pure cacao powder is amazing as a treat, especially if it is cold. I used 1tsp with 1tsp Natvia brown sugar, boiling water and a little milk for a hot chocolate treat. You can also mix it into oats when you are really craving chocolate, and if you want even more chocolate add a square of dark choc as well.

Other honorable mentions; 

  • Powdered peanut butter (I like YUM Natural best)
  • Avalanche hot drinks (though be careful with your gut here)
  • Sweet teas, or teas you add Natvia to (I like Rooibos)
  • Use spray olive oil to cook with, or on potato, veggies, etc. 
  • Sugar free drinks on occasion

Those are the main tips I have for making a dieting phase easier and more enjoyable! Let me know if you have any of your own that you want to share. 

There is a video version of this too, if you would like to learn more!

Lessons From A 25+ Year Health and Fitness Journey

Lessons From A 25+ Year Health and Fitness Journey

Read time: 10-minute read

I’ve been in the health and fitness game for a long time. I’ve made every mistake, and paid for those mistakes time and time again.

It pains me to see everyone making those same mistakes, as there is so much ‘new’ information online, and none of it addresses the root of what it takes to sustain a healthy lifestyle in the long term.

In this post I have reflected on this, so here 10 of my top lessons from my 25 year journey. 

1. Emotional Regulation should be your number one priority

It starts in the mind (which stems from the BODY), so you can’t be healthy if your mind-body isn’t aligned ⁠

This is first because this is KEY. I learned this after many years of perfect eating and training, when I developed chronic fatigue. As I explored the mechanisms behind this illness I learned of how dysregulated my nervous system was, and it was this dysregulation that led to my condition.

I already had depression, anxiety, ADD, and PTSD diagnosis, but because I was so removed from my body, it didn’t click until I was physically unable to function. 

What does this look like?

  • Learning to feel into the body
  • Healing and or facing childhood trauma
  • Asking questions about your uncomfortable emotions
  • Seeing a therapist if you need to
  • Taking time to reassess your job, relationships and life choices. 

These things aren’t easy, they’re a journey, but I can assure you there is freedom (and better results in all life pursuits) if this one is explored in its entirety.

2. It’s a PROCESS. No one masters the habits overnight.

We all fall backward and have to jump back on the wagon again. ⁠

Rome wasn’t built in a day! Along your journey there will be setbacks, as it is impossible to just ‘decide’ to change and have no problems. Think of change like an onion, as you peel back one layer another appears.

So you start eating better, now you have less inflammation and more clarity to see the waves in your emotional state or those things that trigger it. When you’re triggered, you may spiral back to old habits in order to regulate yourself. In noting that, you need to develop a new habit to regulate, rather than leaning on those things you’re trying to quit – cigarettes, alcohol, sugar, etc.

Be patient with yourself and think of it like you’re going on a quest, and on this quest you want to uncover all those things that are holding you back from your dreams, and work through them one by one. As you do this, work to be happy and grateful for what you already have, and this takes the pressure off!.

3. We all have different needs and genetic capabilities – learn yours. 

This is KEY! We all have different muscle shapes, strength capacity, waist size, abdominal shapes, body fat storage limitations, sensitivities, and histories. Your past will influence your present, which is why the first point is so important.

If you’re wanting to change your body, then knowing those who excel in physical endeavors are built differently. They most likely don’t share your story. They most likely have more responsive bodies, lower body fat set-points, a faster metabolism and better levers for lifting. Don’t compare your journey to anyone else but your own. 

4. Nutrition is the number one variable you can control (in a sea of environmental toxicity – so start there)

If you don’t eat well, you really have no chance. There is no other way to say it! We are all impacted by our environment, epigenetic suggests up to 95% of our health outcomes are related to just that. It’s hard to avoid pharmaceuticals, petrol fumes, and some of us have high levels of emotional or psychological stress, but we can all control our diet.

This means; low refined sugar, no seed oils, no fried foods, no trans fats. It’s not that hard to do, but it’s hard to accept as those foods are SO addictive. So, start in the kitchen!

5. Weight training has positive carryover into ALL aspects of life

Weight training is beneficial for; 

  • Bone density
  • Injury prevention
  • Cardiovascular fitness
  • Mental health
  • Strength levels
  • Sports performance
  • Hormone function
  • Nutrient uptake

And, it can make your body more resilient. When you train well, the nervous system upregulates and has to return to normal again. The more you do this, the more it can stretch, the more you can take on in your everyday life. 

6. Being lean is NOT where the happiness lies

I have been shredded three times. The first time I was miserable as I had major body image issues and I had hedged all my bets on being lean. When I arrived there, I was more disappointed than I had ever been. The next time it was a little better, and the last time I was well aware that it was for the sport and the enjoyment, and so it was great, but I would never choose to live that lifestyle in order to stay lean, as the sacrifices I had to make were too high. Same goes for you!

7. It’s important to identify what you’re willing to do and how you want to live, and weigh that up against how you want to look.

And then, you want to work on accepting how you look. 

⁠How you look is largely genetic, and most people won’t tell you this. This means you won’t buy their programs or sign up to their weight loss diets. I tell my clients this, they understand what is realistic for them and what it takes to achieve the body they desire to have.

For me personally, this means being around 70-73kg, I have a nice shape, but I have no real visible muscle despite when I am lean looking very muscular. After a lifetime of chronic dieting and stress, I have to accept that this is what my body considers to be safe.

So ask yourself, what about this weight is safe for me? If there are realistic changes you can make to be healthier, then it’s likely you will lose weight as you make those changes. If you’re already living a truly healthy lifestyle, then understanding any further leanness you may achieve will not necessarily stick around.

Keep in mind also, that obesity is never safe for the body. Our bodies carry healthy amounts of body fat, but this is never in excessive amounts.

8. Community is essential – you need to have a safe people in your corner.

No-one can make it on their own!⁠

If you don’t have people in your corner cheering you on, it will be hard to change. I have experienced both sides, where I had friends that were not egging me on at all, in fact behind my back hoping I would fail. This means that when I would change, I would feel disconnected and with that disconnection came me ditching my efforts in an attempt to fit back in again. 

Recognise that good connections are people who; 

  • Support you
  • Listen to you
  • Compromise with you
  • Don’t need to be right all the time
  • Ask you how it’s going
  • Point out positive changes in you

They are not people who criticise, put negative ideas in your head or hold you back.  

9. SAFETY is needed for any lasting change.

Safety for me is something I only learned in 2022 as I heal my childhood trauma. I had no idea I didn’t have safety, and no idea how to recognise it.

SO this what safety is, for anyone who doesn’t know; 

  • It is having non-judgmental people in your corner
  • It’s being able to speak your mind without fear of negative consequences
  • It’s people who have a genuine interest in your life
  • People who can be present for you 

If you feel you lack safety, then this is where I would start! Seek out a therapist as this can be a great way of learning what safety feels like, and I’ll give you a tip, it feels strange but also very right to your nervous system.

You may have heard me talking about this alot of late, particularly as it relates to weight loss. Safety is key for any physical goal, as without safety we have chronic stress, and in chronic stress the body is surviving, not thriving, and you can’t achieve things that your body deems unnecessary when it is simply trying to keep you alive!

10. Your needs will change with each phase of life.

One minute it feels important to be skinny, the next it’s important to be strong, then suddenly we care more for mobility. Ride the waves and don’t judge your earlier choices as you occupy new spaces. ⁠

Changing your preferences is normal, and it’s important to embrace this and not fight against it. I see really often people posting about how they once cared about how they looked, but now they don’t, but rather than sharing in an empowering way, they’re mocking the girl who thought weight loss would make her happy.

Weight loss doesn’t make you happy, but your belief in that was your only hope for safety in that phase of your life. What you did in the past was what you did to survive. There are no right or wrong things to do if they lead you to your best life.

I have done; 

  • Cardio and fun runs
  • Weight training and bodybuilding
  • Powerlifting
  • Strongman
  • Walking only while I had chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Back to bodybuilding
  • Now back to walking only really light training as my body recovers through trauma therapy 

I have resistance every time I can’t weight train, as it is my preference but at the same time i have to ride those waves – if the body doesn’t want to do it, then I need to give it a rest. My point here is, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ exercise routine, food, training style or phase to be in. Do what your body can do at the time.

So those are my top 10 tips for you! I hope you gained some new insight.

There is a video version of this too, if you would like to learn more!

Keys to Building Muscle as a Female

Keys to Building Muscle as a Female

Read time: 8-minute read

There are a million reasons why you should build muscle, including; 

  1. Bone density
  2. Protection from injury
  3. Metabolic health
  4. Healthy body composition
  5. Nervous system resilience 
  6. You can pick stuff up
  7. Confidence!

So with that being said let’s go deep into how you build muscle. Let’s start with what you should do; 

  • Eat at maintenance calories or above
  • Lift weights 
  • Focus on recovery
  • Sleep well

And what you shouldn’t;

  • Diet 
  • Do lots of cardio

With that in mind, let’s get on with the article. We are going to cover; 

  • What you should do training wise
  • What you should do food wise, and 
  • What you should do in terms of recovery

Training!

Your training needs to be focussed on lifting weights! I wrote a post a few weeks back on ‘5 reasons you’re not seeing results in the gym’ – check that one out after you finish reading this one! 

When it comes to lifting weights, you really need to train every muscle group twice per week, even three times if you’re a beginner. You also want to focus on your posterior chain. Lastly, you want to be consistent. So that is; 

  1. Train each muscle group twice per week
  2. Focus on your posterior chain
  3. Be consistent! 

Note the main muscle groups that we train include are; 

  • Glutes
  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves 
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Abs

So you want to do at least two exercises for each muscle group twice per week. If you went three days per week that would be either three full body days, or one lower, one upper and one full body. If it were 4 days/week you can do two upper and two lower, or just split the muscles up in a way that you train them each twice per week still. This ensures everything can be trained twice per week. 

Then we have my second point of focussing on the posterior chain. This is when you have passed your introductory phase but here you really want to focus on; 

  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Back
  • Abs. 

And you want to be able to do a hip-hinge movement, you can find a link to what this is by clicking here

From there you can learn to squat and deadlift, as these are the movements that will bring you the lasting results (and motivation) when it comes to training. Understand these are hard though and there is no point in doing them if you can’t do them correctly. Hire a professional for these or start really light and work your way up from there!  

Also on the topic of training we have cardio, and the main thing I want to point out is that cardio is counterproductive for muscle building. It increases cortisol, which is a catabolic (ie muscle wasting) hormone and if the more frequently you do cardio, the less need your body feels it has for muscle. It thinks it’s best to lose it, as it’s not sure how long you’re going to run for and muscle is not as important as body fat for your survival. 

Walking is not catabolic, if it’s not excessive. Running is. Biking is the most likely to preserve muscle mass out of all of the moderate-intensity options, but again you don’t want it to be excessive, and you want to ensure you’re eating enough food to fuel it. 

HIIT training is only good if controlled, you’re conditioned for it, and eating well. Otherwise, avoid it. It won’t help you put on muscle. 

Then you want to make sure you’re consistent!

This means, whatever training program or schedule you have that meets the above criteria, you want to be consistent with it. Follow the same routine and try to lift more weight, or complete more repetitions each time you do that particular workout. You won’t always be able to increase, but the point is you try to. This is what we call progressive overload. My clients follow programs for 8-12 weeks before changing. 

So to recap, that is; 

  1. Train each muscle group twice per week
  2. Focus on your posterior chain
  3. Be consistent! 

Now we want to look at food! 

The main thing here is to eat enough! When it comes to muscle, this is what you need to know; 

  • You need to eat maintenance calories, and
  • You need to eat protein

When it comes to maintenance calories, this is the amount of food you need to eat on a daily basis to survive and do your activities (many women don’t eat enough here!). If you multiply your bodyweight in pounds by 16-18, this will give you a rough idea of how much to eat on a day you’re active, the higher number on a weight training day and the lower number on a ‘rest’ day. 

If you need to work out your weight in pounds, this is your weight in kilograms, multiplied by 2.2. 

Keep in mind that for a woman, muscle is not essential to our survival, nor do we have the hormonal profile to gain excessive amounts of muscle, so we need to create the environmental conditions to make that possible. 

Protein is essential as this is the building block, and contrary to popular opinion it is animal protein that is key here. I have had three pescatarian/vegan clients in my life, and they got less results as far as weights are concerned. If you follow a vegan bodybuilder and they’re amazing, understand it’s not their diet it’s their genetics (so they’re outliers), or performance enhancing drugs. 

So protein should be your weight in pounds in grams, so if you’re 130lbs, this means you need to eat 130gms of protein per day. Use a calorie tracking app for this. 

Note if you are in a deficit, your weight training is only going to serve you as muscle maintenance, not building, as there is no excess fuel available to build ‘unnecessary’ muscle tissue. 

Lastly, we have rest!

Sleep is KEY. As we sleep we release growth hormone, which helps us build muscle. If you don’t sleep, you miss out on this powerful hormone. 

If you don’t rest, then the same applies. When you train, you tear the muscle and they grow back stronger as a protective mechanism. They need a day or two to rest in between sessions, and you want to train them again once rested. 

If you train on top of sore muscles, there is just not the same benefit 

The same goes for beginners who train to the point of debilitating soreness. This is not necessary, you want enough stress to elicit a response, but not so much that it takes you a week to recover. 

So sleep, and rest. More is not better when it comes to building muscle!

In summary; 

  • Training wise you want to focus on weights, and limit cardio
  • Food-wise you want to focus on eating your maintenance calories, prioritising protein
  • Recovery wise, you want to focus on getting good sleep, and rest in between sessions

Keep in mind that things like; 

  • Pre-trainers
  • Keto diets
  • Vegan diets
  • HIIT cardio

….are not the key to building a lean, strong physique. They have nothing to do with it really. 

What you need is patience, consistency, and mastering the basics and you’ll see muscle growth over time!

Want to master this topic? Check out my super-affordable mini-course on Female Training.

 

How you REALLY Burn Fat (and Keep it Off).

How you REALLY Burn Fat (and Keep it Off).

Read time: 5-minute read

I am going to start this article by telling you that losing weight is generally not that hard.

But, how do you keep it off? I want to help you understand the foundations, as this is where the problems come in.

We often hear the term ‘all diets fail’, or ‘diets don’t work’. Diets do work, it’s our approach that is the problem, as we often lean on quick fix solutions, trying to lose the weight as soon as possible. Other issues that arise are; 

  • We don’t intend on maintaining the lifestyle once the diet is ‘over’
  • We simply can’t’ maintain what we are doing once it’s ‘over’
  • We lost more weight than we needed to, and now the body is concerned about your safety (a competition prep, for example), 
  • We lost weight too quickly or pushed calories too low, and now the body is concerned for your safety, or 
  • We didn’t work on the underlying issues whilst doing the diet, so the behaviour that led us to becoming overweight returns as soon as the diet is done. 

So the problem is not in the diet.. The problem is perpetual dieting, a lack of personal growth and leaning on quick-fix solutions that add more stress to the body overall, and diets that make us so miserable that we can’t wait to get off them.

Now that you know why they ‘don’t work’, let’s look at what is essential for all fat-loss processes to be successful.

We will start with how to lose weight if you’re just aiming for general weight loss – that is, you just want to be smaller, and are not concerned with muscularity in the end.

If you are concerned with looking lean and muscular, and want to build a body that looks strong and fit, then all these principles apply, but there are an additional two tips I will cover afterwards.

What do we need to focus on if we are to lose fat, and keep it off? 

A healthy metabolism

This is the number one thing – your metabolism needs to be healthy. Without a healthy metabolism, fat loss is impossible and if it is, a metabolism can turn on you and your body goals, causing you to put all the weight back on.

There are two ways you can ‘damage’ a metabolism; 

  • Excessive dieting, and
  • Excessive stress

If you have dieted your whole life, then it is likely that your body believes itself to be in a famine, that is – undernourished and starving for food. This can also happen if your diet is high in junk food, as you aren’t getting your essential proteins and fats (not I didn’t say essential carbs, as I hate to break it to you, they aren’t essential). If you want to know more about this topic, read the article, or check out this video.

If you have excessive stress, this disrupts your hormones, which include hunger and satiety hormones, and can disrupt your gut. When in stress, the blood is focussed on pumping blood to your arms and legs so you can run, and in this case your digestion takes a back seat.

Excessive stress also means excessive cortisol, and this hormone blocks fat loss when it is chronically high. It makes adherence difficult, as it upregartultes your desire to eat carbs (as they support the lowering of cortisol), and it disrupts your sleep.

Additionally, trauma can impact how you metabolise food, in particular, carbohydrates.

So, you want to have healthy stress levels and resilience in order to have a healthy metabolism. And you want to stop dieting and eat at maintenance calories for a while if you’re someone who is chronically dieting. This signals to your body that it is safe, so when you go on a deficit, which is the next point I am going to highlight, the body does not freak out.

Calorie deficit

You must be in a calorie deficit. This means you must eat less food than you burn off per day. A 400-500 calorie per day deficit is enough to trigger fat loss, but this number can’t be dropping below what your body perceives to be essential to your survival.

Note that the lengths you can push a body into fat loss depends on your genetics, but also how much your body knows about the process. Our determination or willpower can sometimes be so strong that it overrides the body signal to stop dieting as well (in the case of eating disorders, for example).

A body that diets for the first time will not have a conditioned response to it, so it is likely you will be able to push it further. Once it works it out however, you’re toast, and it will become harder each time if you don’t take a structured and measured approach.

You must also know your maintenance calories if you are to have any idea what your deficit calories are. So this means you need to eat the same amount of food per day as you burn off for a while, pushing that number up until you reach a point where you’re relatively full, feeling good and energised, and not gaining or losing weight.

Once you find this number, you can subtract 400-500 calories/day off your maintenance calories via activity, less food or a combination of both, and the body will make up that difference with your body fat. 

Track your food

If you don’t track, you won’t lose weight and keep it off because you have no data to fall back on.

There may be an exception to this rule, being that if you’re overweight, say 120kg and you simply change to a whole food diet, it’s highly likely you’ll lose weight without tracking, but for most women I meet this is not their struggle. They’re generally slightly overweight, just enough that it is uncomfortable, and in this case, calories need to be tracked.

You can use an app like MyFitnessPal, ensuring you’re eating the same amount of food each day which is a deficit, so the 400-500 calories per day under than your maintenance calories (which you will have established before your diet). 

You also learn a lot about food! Like how 1 tbsp peanut butter can be up to 200-calories, and how you may be easily eating 1500 calories per day of snacks and cappuccinos, without even realising it.  

Eat whole foods

When you eat whole foods you ensure the body gets all of its essential proteins and fats for the energy day person, and also carbohydrates for an active person.

You also ensure your hunger hormones remain healthy, as when you eat processed foods they are designed to override these signals. The more fat cells you have from eating junk food, the more out of control the situation with food cravings becomes.

We also have gut bacteria like Candida for example, that often overgrows in women who have high stress levels and eat too much sugar, and as these critters feed on sugar. They are so clever they can send signals up through your enteric nervous system to the brain, telling it to eat more sugar (for their survival, not yours). These things generally don’t occur in a whole food diet.

Whole foods also ensure you are more satiated in a deficit, and have less cravings.

You want to have a consistent routine which is repeated week after week. 

For a fat loss routine, it’s important to do the same thing over and over, week by week. Check in once per week, and so long as it’s working, you just repeat. There is no way to ‘speed it up’ and if you don’t keep it consistent it is confusing to the body and it will likely backfire on you. It’s also confusing to you (and me, as a coach).

Get in a good rhythm and repeat, over and over, until you have a two weeks plateau in measurements and weight, then you want to change something (generally, increase the deficit as the metabolism has adapted).

So, those are the essentials for any fat loss goal. If you want to take it further, and see changes in musculature or finish your fat loss with a ‘toned’ look, you must also; 

Lift weights 

Lifting weights ensures you gain muscle in maintenance phases, and maintain muscle in fat loss phases. Cardio is catabolic, so too much cardio will actually have the opposite effect. It also increases cortisol, which as you now know is problematic in fat loss pursuits.

If you do fat loss without weight training, you will be smaller but soft. If you don’t care about muscle, this is totally fine! For many of you though, you want to look toned and if this is the case, you must lift weights.

Track macros, so protein is really important 

You must also track macros, rather than just calories. This means you eat a consistent amount of carbohydrates, fat and protein on a daily basis, with protein being the key nutrient that must remain consistent.

Protein is the body’s building block, and this should come mostly from animal protein as it is the most anabolic (meaning, it has the highest amount of Leucine, an amino acid that is essential for building skeletal muscle).

So within your calorie targets you want to hit protein, fat and carbohydrate targets. This is exactly how bodies are built, as different macronutrients have different effects on the body’s health and aesthetic. This is also why I love bodybuilding, as we use these macronutrients to create bodies that look like masterpieces!

I hope that helps you to understand what it required, and quit chasing after the quick fixes!

If you’re trying to lose weight and aren’t doing any of those things, I suggest you start to take the process more seriously and either enlist some professional help, or if you’re knowledgeable in this area create a long term plan.

Always remember that your body is smarter than you and being lean is not its number one priority

Just a couple more things to add! 

  • You want to be patient. Some weeks you will drop, others you may go up in weight. 
  • You want to track measurements as well as weight, as weight is unpredictable. 
  • For body recomposition if you’re a healthy weight, your focus is on LOOKING different. Not lowering the number on the scales. This is a focus if you’re trying to lose excess body fat. 
  • 400gms per week is a really healthy amount of weight loss, where it’s not a big enough deficit that it triggers a binge, and just enough weight loss that you are seeing results from week to week. 
  • You want to hire a professional if you’re not educated in this area

So that’s all on how to lose fat and keep it off. 

Want to master this topic? Check out my super-affordable mini-course on Fat loss

There is a video version of this too, if you would like to learn more!

Why it’s Hard to Lose Fat with an Unhealthy Metabolism (and How to Fix it)

Why it’s Hard to Lose Fat with an Unhealthy Metabolism (and How to Fix it)


Read time: 4 minute read

Often women want to diet without understanding the key driver in this process – metabolism. So let’s start there. 

Metabolism as it pertains to body composition refers to the amount of calories or kilojoules we require on a daily basis to carry out basic functions. We all have a baseline metabolism, which us professionals refer to as our Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR for short. 

This metabolic rate keeps our heart beating, digestion firing, brain functioning, and moves our bodies from the bed to the couch. The more movement we have in our daily lives, the higher this metabolic requirement is going to be. 

For a 65kg person, the average BMR is around 1500 calories per day. This is assuming that the person is not doing anything. This is the amount of food required to survive. As you add activity, you require more food to survive.

When it comes to fat loss, it’s important to understand that metabolism is highly adaptive, and it can lower with excessive dieting or stress. If you eat too few calories for a long time, your metabolism will simply adapt to that – it will lower the speed in which you do things – movement, thoughts, motivation, digestion, in order to keep you alive. 

It is a gradual process and you will likely not even recognise that it is happening. We see this in competition preparation a lot – slow movements, slurred speech, and obsessions about food. We want to stay shredded but would literally die if we tried.

Now we get to the issue of body-fat

Subcutaneous body fat, which is the fat you can see under your skin, is not a direct threat to your survival. This is particularly true when it’s in moderate amounts. However, we often feel that those healthy, moderate amounts of body fat are too high by society’s beauty standards.

We feel uncomfortable, left out of fashionable movements, and sometimes a little gross. We want to be lean, light and fast, without any bulging bits. What is wrong with that!?

Moving beyond that fat you can see, we have visceral fat, which hugs our internal organs.This is unhealthy, and associated with drinking alcohol, and eating refined sugar and fried food. As this is a threat to our survival, the body will lose this first

Often people start dieting and they feel better but look the same, this is because this fat is breaking down first. We get frustrated here, and quit the diet, blowing out on junk because ‘what’s the point!?’ It hasn’t even had a chance to get to your ‘other’ fat yet, the fat you hate so much.

So we have visceral fat that your body wants to lose, and subcutaneous fat that it doesn’t care about.

Then we have the issue of losing weight when you’re overweight, vs losing weight when you’re a healthy weight. 

Unhealthy and burdensome body fat levels are easy to lose, with simple caloric reduction or increased movement. Even switching out the sugar, vegetable oils and alcohol will help, short of even worrying about your calories. 

This is because in order to reach a particular level of unhealthy body fat or obesity, excess caloric consumption needs to be there, along with high stress levels, impaired sleep, low movement and a high level of inflammation. Often the gut is impaired here too. 

In this case of unhealthy levels of fat, and particularly visceral fat, losing weight is actually important for the health of the organism, so there isn’t really a ‘wrong’ way to go about a diet. The body will feel happier if you lower its toxic load, take it for a walk, or diet. The fat on your body will replace the calories you stop consuming, and use those for fuel instead. 

If you’re a healthy body weight with a relatively healthy diet, then changing your body composition becomes somewhat of a scientific process. Lowering calories will not just ensure you lose body fat, as your body doesn’t want to lose that fat.

If you have a history of dieting, and you are constantly trying to limit food intake so no ‘not gain weight’, then your body will have adapted to a dismal calorie level in order to survive. 

In this scenario if you choose to diet, it looks like this; your metabolic rate is already low, and your body doesn’t consider that to be healthy. You cut the calories lower, below what you need to survive, and the body, rather than losing that body fat you don’t like (but which your body does like), it increases cortisol (stress hormone), lowers energy expenditure, holds on to bodyfat, and in more serious cases where your willpower supersedes this survival mechanism, it starts to add more fat cells, in preparation for that time that you do decide to eat again. 

So in summary, if you’re unhealthy weight, dieting will not add to stress, it will reduce it. If you’re a healthy body weight, then dieting is more likely to add stress to the body. 

Now we get to the (unpopular) solution…

To lose body fat in this circumstance, the only option you have is to increase caloric consumption for as long as needed in order to return the metabolic rate to a healthy place. Once it has adapted to higher calories, you can then lower them in order to stimulate fat loss. 

Just as a metabolism downregulates when calories are chronically low, it will upregulate when calories are becoming chronically higher (to a point, as once over this point we gain body fat). 

Dieting is not simple when you’re a healthy weight, and it’s even less simple when you have been dieting for your whole life. The only solution is to stop dieting and increase your food. 

Remember that as women, our job is to create life, and we need body fat for healthy hormones, and a healthy menstrual cycle. The body does not care what you look like, it cares if you can carry a healthy baby full term. 

For some women, this body fat level is 18%, but for others it is 30%. For those of us with 30%, this sucks and it often causes us to constantly diet, to no avail. Constant dieting increases the stress in your body, lowers your metabolic rate, and signals to your body that it is in danger, and when in danger, fat loss goes out the window. 

Also note that those bodybuilders you see who look absolutely insane, and diet from year to year have a few things going for them, including genetics, and drugs. Their bodies don’t feel unsafe when they’re leaner, and the drugs override these ‘danger’ signals anyway as they take the woman away from being a woman, and closer to being a man. 

Getting lean as a woman is a much more sensitive process than it is if you’re a man. 

In summary, if you’re an unhealthy weight, any diet will do, as you are decreasing the stress on your body by dieting. The key is to stop dieting and return to higher calories once you’re done. 

If you’re a healthy weight, whether or not it’s a weight you like, then you are increasing the stress on your body by dieting. So your job is to find a way that minimizes this stress, and most often this means you need to take time out to repair your metabolism before you even attempt to lose weight. 

If you don’t repair your metabolism, and you start dieting from a poor metabolic position, each dieting attempt will just prime your body to store more fat, as the more fat it has, the more fuel it has available for the next famine that comes around. 

Remember your body doesn’t know what you want psychologically or emotionally, it knows what it needs, physiologically. You think you want to fit into your favourite jeans, but your body thinks you’re lost in the jungle with no food in sight – again – and it will hold on to that fuel in order to protect you, and provide essential energy to keep your reproductive capacity alive. 

I hope that helps 🙂 

Want to master this topic? Check out my super-affordable mini-course on Female Training

Jen x

 

 

 

 

 

 

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