Much like everything in life I had to experience the “rebound effect” of extreme dieting first hand in order to actually believe that it can happen to anyone. Back in 2010 I took to the “compete in a my first Figure show” bandwagon. Winning my Pro-card at my second show I was put in a position to “GET BIGGER FAST” with the goal of a Pro Show the following season. Cutting to the chase I figured out pretty quickly that this extreme “yo-yoing” was not the way I wanted to live. Hormonal imbalance is no joke, and for the first time in my life I knew what it was like to truly feel out of control of my body. Many of the women who come to me for nutrition advice are sick of using extremes to lose weight, utilizing all of their self control only to fall off the wagon and gain back the weight. Sure your metabolism naturally slows down after the age of 30, but this doesn’t mean that a leaner version of yourself is out of your reach.
In January of 2015 I began my own online nutrition coaching business. I was helping people in a REAL way, combining the knowledge I had learned from personal experience as well as from my Precision Nutrition Certification. Let me tell you it was motivating AF. I saw my clients body composition and energy levels shift for the better and all of my advice was reasonable and livable. My clients were seeing success with ease! Sometimes I thought it was too good to be true! I wasn’t dishing out the same protocols that had been given to me years earlier.
Here are the biggest lessons I have learned that I pass along to my female clients.
The 80/20 Rule RULES Sustainable Fat Loss
Keep your favorite foods in rotation while simultaneously maintaining a weekly calorie deficit. Don’t make anything off limits. Previously I had lists of foods I was “allowed” to eat. This level of restriction created even more of a desire for these “off limit” foods. As a result I once ate an entire container of peanut butter 1 week out from a show. When you deprive your body of calories to an unrealistic extent, it fights back HARD. This time around I ate pulled pork as well as bread, cheese and greek yogurt on a daily basis. I did this because I like these foods. Find what YOU like and be sure to include THOSE food/drinks in your daily/weekly rotation.
Do yourself a favor and TRACK YOUR FOOD.
You have to know what you are taking in in order to successfully get yourself into a deficit. Once you have tracked enough to see how your eating has gotten you to your current bodyweight, cycle your calories. A constant calorie deficit is mentally challenging and DOWNRIGHT HARD. High calorie training days, along with maintenance days and a low day here and there, can do WONDERS for your sanity. In fact, it MIGHT even make getting lean…dare I say it: borderline pleasurable. The less mentally challenging you can make your goal of getting lean, the better and more manageable your goal is. Total calories matter most, secondly you must prioritize protein at all meals and snacks. Once protein and total calories are established, carbs and fats will always invert each other based on your personal preference. When you start to pay attention to how your body responds to higher fat or higher carb days based on hunger, energy and cravings, you will be able to make an educated decision on your where your fat and carb ratios belong. This awareness is the key to all your future successes because your preference is likely to change throughout your life.
Again, it is total calories that matter most; previously I had adhered to a specific number of meals per day, looking back, this just made me hungrier. This time around I listened to my body, averaging 4 meals per day. Personally I know that I tend to get hungry at night, so I saved my favorite greek yogurt dessert for after my dinner. I don’t think I ever went to bed hungry.
Nutrition is the #1 priority when getting lean. If you don’t believe me review THIS. If you cannot keep your hunger in check while performing 5-6 workouts a week…you are doing too much. If you hunger is manageable then keep doing what you are doing. Think of it as a scale that you want to keep balanced. For the past 4 years I have only trained 3 days per week and loved the strength I was able to gain and maintain. This time around I really listened to my body. If I felt good completing my entire workout for the day I would. If I felt a bit more tired than usual I would prioritize my BIG LIFTS and instead of pushing through the rest of my accessory workout or finishers, I would save them for the next day. In terms of nutrition I would eat my high calories + carbs on the BIG LIFT day and use that fuel the next day to complete the remainder of the previous day’s training session. Therefore my training sessions ended up being shorter and more intense. This left me with plenty of energy to focus on my LIFE and my BUSINESS 🙂 The things that ultimately matter most to me.
Work to gain a decent amount of muscle + strength BEFORE you set out to attain the goal of leanness, especially if you are a woman.
The first time I ever got lean was in my mid- twenties. I thought I had a decent amount of muscle mass, but after another 4-5 years of heavy strength training, getting lean was A LOT EASIER, despite my age. The more muscle you have the more you can eat while maintaining your lean body mass. In my twenties my sex-drive suffered and so did my strength. With the increased muscle mass I was able to keep both, which made me SO HAPPY. In my previous “get lean” phases I didn’t listen to my body enough. I pushed past where my body wanted to go and it pushed back. I gained back the weight and then some because I could not keep my appetite in control.
Remember that stress is stress is stress.
Lowering your calories is a stress on the body. Strength training is stress on the body. These are big stressors to add to our modern-day lives. Counteract them by walking. Yes walking. Get your daily dose of Vitamin D and nature in. I cannot stress this enough. I recommend a minimum of 10,000 steps daily for optimal results. This “walking” thing didn’t happen in my previous attempts until it was too late. My knees ended up bothering me towards the end of my last show prep and I was forced to resort to walking. At this point in my fat-loss journey walking was just another thing I HAD to do. This time around I knew how critical being outside was to my happiness and now that we have Tater it had simply become part of my normal routine. The extra energy expenditure that wasn’t deliberate exercise had no effect on my hunger levels.
Have a plan in place for AFTER you achieve your goal.
THIS is one of the greatest articles I have ever read on the topic, thanks to the recommendation from Jordan Syatt! I recommend that you read it 2-3 times to fully grasp the information 🙂 NO ONE wants to spend the time and effort necessary to achieve their goals and have it all thrown down the tubes afterwards. Still somehow, weight maintenance is NOT A SEXY TOPIC. The goal of weight-loss is rampant in the fitness industry, but weight maintenance is actually our societies biggest problem. I have this discussion with all of my fat-loss clients. I have 2 major goals with ALL OF THEM: I want to make fat loss as achievable as possible AND I want my clients to have a plan in place to make their hard earned progress SUSTAINABLE. Once you have spent a decent amount of time in a deficit, you earn the deficit back. This means that you can maintain your results while adding food back in. Just as the act of fat-loss requires patience + consistency so too does finding your maintenance calories. This means that you don’t want to take yourself so far down the fat-loss spectrum that you feel you must eat a jar of peanut butter in one sitting (as I have in the past).
Personally I didn’t fully understand this awesome energy law until this summer. Initially my goal was to become lean enough to see my abs for the summer months. I got there quicker than expected and wanted to maintain my results. I bumped my calories up by 150-200 per day and paid close attention to the way my physique responded. A month and a half later I got engaged. We knew we wanted to have short engagement and an intimate ceremony so again I made the conscious decision to try to maintain my results for another 2 months. Due to the fact that I had the previous 4 lessons under my belt, I was able to maintain my hard work on 2000-2200 calories a day. I was mind blown to say the least.
***People forget, or simply don’t understand that you CANNOT LIVE IN FAT-LOSS MODE forever. It is critical to your long term success that you cycle through your goals so that you don’t get burnt out. That being said the summer is rapidly coming to a close and I am looking forward to taking a break from tracking and placing my energy on new, fun goals this Fall!
If you have any questions or comments don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, my next online group nutrition coaching program start September 15th!