10 Top Tips for Fat Loss on Women
Fat loss for women can be tricky at times and while it is convenient to say that so-and-so just isn’t getting results because she is non-compliant or she is just lazy, this is simply not always the case. For example, many times clients are 100% compliant with a program and are seemingly doing everything “right” and their measurements are not budging.
We have seen this frequently in women, and even more frequently in women who have been engaging in long-duration exercise for many years.
Their bodies do not respond as they once did to the same volume of exercise, and often they will have to do even more exercise in order to simply maintain their weight.
This phenomenon points out a glaringly obvious flaw in the traditional weight loss model of calories in versus calories out.
Many times these women are actually operating in a huge caloric deficit every single day (eating less than they are burning via exercise), and yet they are struggling to even maintain their weight.
Operating in a significant caloric deficit day in and day out is a guaranteed way to activate the body’s natural tendency to hold very tightly to precious fat/energy stores.
So ladies, it’s time you took a different approach–well, several different approaches–since the old way of doing more and more exercise and eating less and less food obviously does not work in the long run.
So here are my Top Tips for fat loss for women:
1 – Lift Heavy Weights
You have heard it before and you still don’t believe!
Women want to tone, right? Guess what–if there is no muscle to be toned, then the whole thing is an impossibility anyway.
Toning and bulking are separated by diet and total body fat percentage.
That means that bulking can and does happen if there is no attention paid to fat-burning (both via exercise and diet).
However, enduring miles and miles of reps using a 1kg will only build muscular endurance, not volume nor definition. Incorporating heavier weights in your lifting regimen will not only build the lean muscle needed to see visible definition, but affect hormones like growth hormone and testosterone that can increase your fat burning potential while at rest.
2 – Healthy diet is not the same as a fat loss diet.
Many believe that if they eat healthfully, they will lose fat. And almost anyone you ask claims they eat healthy. But how come most people in Ireland are overweight and our A&E’s are overcrowding.
The easy explanation for this is that most people overestimate the healthfulness of their diet, which is usually true. However, the more important distinction is that “healthy” eating and fat loss eating is not the same thing. And if you are eating healthy, you are not necessarily going to be burning fat.
There are several foods and food groups that are healthy—meaning they contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals as well as healthy fiber or good fats—but will do very little to help burn fat. In fact, though some people are able to effectively lose fat while eating healthfully, susceptible people may see their fat loss stall as a result of incorporating them.
3 – Customize your approach–find your unique Female Fat Loss Formula
This is an extension of #2 above, and it has to do with hormones.
For example, different women store fat differently. Some have lean upper bodies and cannot budge fat from hips, thighs and glutes, while others have lean arms and legs and carry almost all their fat in their middle.
It’s time we recognized that there is no one-size-fits-all plan, and each woman’s response to exercise and diet is completely her own. To assess your specific sensitivities, you must be in tune with your body. The idea that food has an effect on how you feel–energetic or tired, moody or happy, cravings or satisfied, sick or healthy, etc–is completely foreign to many people.
In order to understand how food and activity affects you, ask yourself:
what foods or activities affect my fat loss?
How do I look, feel and function after eating or drinking something?
Am I tired or energetic today?
What did I eat or do differently that might be making me feel that way?
How do I feel when I eat carbs versus protein versus fat?
How do my clothes fit? Also, take a look at your schedule and figure out what 1 or 2 reasonable steps you can take to implement the fat loss lifestyle. It is all about finding what works for you–there is no “right way,” only what is effective for you.
4 – Address your estrogen to progesterone ratio
If you are someone who stores fat in your lower body and/or breasts, your estrogen to progesterone ratio may be elevated, affecting your ability to burn fat.
In order to lower estrogen relative to progesterone, increase foods that help detox estrogen like cruciferous veggies and green tea.
Limit non-organic coffee (or cut coffee out altogether!), limit your exposure to pesticides by incorporating more organic foods and avoid drinking out of plastic bottles if possible.
Also, high cortisol levels from stress may impact this ratio also, so try to lower cortisol by walking, doing restorative activities like yoga and Tai Chi, and having quiet time to destress.
Implementing high intensity exercise like weight-training and HIIT can help lower cortisol over time, as well as increasing testosterone, a fat-burning/muscle-building hormone that women need to help burn fat.
5 – Get enough protein
Foods containing higher protein content slow the absorption of carbohydrate into the blood, preventing major dips in energy while also keeping you fuller for longer.
Higher protein foods also utilize more calories during the digestion and absorption process (protein has a higher thermic effect of food).
For women, protein means lean muscle maintenance–a huge factor for a healthy, fat-burning metabolism. I recommend trying to get 1g of protein per pound of body weight; try 5-6 small meals, each containing 20-25g of protein.
6 – Encourage the legs/glutes/thighs out of hiding using training techniques
Admittedly, this is not one of the easiest feats, but using training strategically can get the stubborn fat in these areas moving (along with sound nutrition).
For my female clients, I use a variety of training strategies, which basically boils down to varying the reps, sets, load, frequency of training, and incorporating uni-lateral exercises.
The underlying principle is variety. Example: Begin with 4-6 weeks of training legs very heavy 1x/week, 6-8 reps per movement, using big compound movements like barbell squats & lunges and leg presses. Then move to 2x/week with moderate weight, 8-12 reps for 4-6 weeks, using step-ups, walking lunges, split squats & single-leg movements.
Finally, move to 3x/week with moderate to lighter weight, 12-15 reps incorporating plyometrics, bodyweight exercises and fast-moving circuits for 4-6 weeks.
7 – Do intense cardio intervals 2-3x/week
No more, no less. Intense interval training or HIIT is more effective at boosting fat metabolism over longer duration moderate intensity cardio.
Gone are the days of zoning out reading a magazine while leisurely walking on a treadmill through 60 minutes of cardio!
The most effective fat-burning cardio is short (20-30 mins max) and intense.
This allows the intensity to be self-regulated and safe, and importantly, adaptable to anyone regardless of their fitness level.
The fittest people will sprint for 60 seconds and rest for 30s, while someone new to exercise might only push for 20 seconds and rest 1-2 minutes.
8 – Keep nutrition clean 80% of time
And 20% of the time, indulge in the foods you feel like you miss or love.
Always try to ask yourself, what is “worth it” and go find that. Don’t just gobble up any stale cake at the office just for the sake of cheating…make a ritual of enjoying the 1 or 2 things you simply love. This method of reward meals works best when you are clean on your nutrition plan 80% of the week, counting bites and using your metabolic burner type.
The reward meals help reset key regulatory hormones to ignite a sluggish metabolism, and the rewards also act as a psychological reminder of how bad eating crap can make you feel once you have adopted a clean, consistent nutrition plan.
9 – Monitor alcohol intake
Ladies, I know you love your wine. But if you are serious about losing fat, this needs to be monitored.
For all intents and purposes, much of the calories from alcohol are metabolized directly into fat storage.
Not to mention, alcohol affects electrolytes and can have you retaining water for several days after a boozey night. For best results (if you need to drink at all), limit alcohol intake to 1 night per week (maybe as part of your reward meal?), and keep it to a 2 drink maximum.
10 – Do not starve yourself
If there is one thing that I constantly tell people, it is that the “eat less” diet does not work in the long run and can at best turn an overweight apple shape into a smaller apple shape.
Cutting calories (i.e. the weight loss approach) does little to improve body composition and will lead to muscle burning, and an ultimate slowing of the metabolism.
Eating a small protein-and-veggie-rich meal every 2-3 hours helps to preempt hunger and cravings, stabilizing blood sugar and allowing your body to easily give up its fat stores without worrying when the next meal is coming.
By Brian Roache