A few weeks back I wrote the following on my Facebook Eatercise page and I received quite a lot of positive feedback on it:
Hey girls, eating 1200 calories a day, a bowl of no-fat yogurt with berries and cornflakes or muesli for breakfast (where is the protein? and PLEASE DON'T tell me it's the 8 grams in the yogurt!!), running on the treadmill for 10 km a day + a couple yoga sessions a week with no weight training whatsoever, is not going to give you that athletic lean body you are after. If you want to get rid of your soft squishy triceps, if you want toned legs and a nice set of abs you need to give your diet an overhaul and start lifting some weights. Yes, you can do circuits, you can mix things up with a bit of cardio. No, you don't have to go to the extreme with the weights or be a powerlifter, only ever doing bench, squats and deadlifts, but you have to give your muscles some form of weight training in order to get those results. You also need to eat a lot more protein than you are eating. You also need to stop listening to the fitspiration girls on Instagram who are telling you that they eat 1200 calories a day consisting of all low-fat everything and hardly any protein, and stop following their body-weight only jumping circuits with 5kms of running every day. They are lying to you. You might get skinny-fat, soft and thin, and lower your metabolism from following them. If that's what you are after then carry on. But if you want toned legs, firm arms, an athletic body with a nice set of abs, you need to lift weights and eat a proper amount of food with enough protein. Stay tuned for my new training program coming soon, especially for women!
I wanted to turn it into a blog post and add some more points. This post is geared toward women as I know a lot of ladies struggle with these issues, but I am sure many men will find it helpful as well.
I understand not every woman wants to be a competitive weightlifter. Nor does every female want to have the physique of a bodybuilder or big muscular arms. There is nothing wrong with this. You can still be strong and healthy and have different goals. Many of my female clients over the years have just wanted a toned body with lean legs. They want to look fit and lean and have ab definition without looking too big and muscular.
From my experience training many different women over the years, in order to get the results they are after there are a few very common misconceptions that they need to let go of before they get what they are after. The following points are things women need to know and understand IF their goal is to firm up their body and have some lean muscle definition. If this isn't your main goal, and if say, for example, you are running 10km a day because maybe you just really enjoy running, or perhaps you are training for a marathon, then carry on. But if you want to change the shape of your body, then accepting and understanding these things is important.
So, without further ado, it’s time for some straight-talk.
1) You have to get a handle on your diet. You can't be so haphazard with it, going through every phase in the book (or every diet book out there). No, you don't need to be super strict and eat steamed chicken breast and broccoli for dinner every day. You can eat yummy foods, have treats in moderation etc. But you do need to have a basic understanding of what you should be eating and how much, and you need to stick to it 90 % of the time. And you can't keep binging and then compensate with starving yourself again and again. If you want decent results you need to have some good ol' consistency with your diet.
2) Almost all of you also need to increase your protein intake majorly. Most of my clients had their macros all screwed when they came to me. They were eating a high carbohydrate diet with hardly any protein (thinking that it was healthy" and "mostly unprocessed"). For example if your daily diet consists of coffee and a piece of toast with organic jam for breakfast, low fat yogurt with a big fruitsalad for lunch, chickpea salad with a small piece of chicken for dinner, you are doing it wrong. You need a lot more protein if you want a firm body. Doubling the chicken and having a serving or 2 of good quality protein powder everyday is a good start.
3) Speaking of fruitsalad, going to a fruit/salad and juice bar every day for lunch and getting your fruitsalad with muesli and zero fat yogurt is not "nutritious". It's not healthy "chick food". You are basically eating only carbs for lunch every day. Not that there is anything wrong with fruit or carbs at all, but you need to balance your macros. You need fat and protein too if you want a good body.
4) If you need to lose or are carrying more body fat than you are comfortable with, be honest with yourself and with your trainers/those close to you so they can help you. I have noticed with my clients over the years, that in general men seem to be more upfront about their diets, their mishaps, overly-indulgent weekends (or weeks/months) etc. than my female clients. Of course you shouldn’t obsess or be negative about your weight, but you do need to be honest with yourself if you want to get results. You need to change your lifestyle habits if you aren’t losing weight (assuming you want to lose weight). Or if more and more weight is creeping on and you aren’t happy about it there is no point ignoring what is happening, telling yourself and your friends that you are “happy the way you are” or that you are at a “healthy weight” when you know you aren’t. Delusion never got anyone the results they wanted.
5) This one is for all the fat/carbs/calorie-phobics: Calories are not a bad thing. They are your body's fuel and you need them if you want to look fit and healthy and have energy. Stop making calories a negative thing. How did “calorie” become a taboo word? Why do you automatically pick the lowest calorie version of every food in the supermarket to eat? Calories are extremely important. They are responsible for life and energy. They aren't little evil creatures living inside your food. Can we please stop making calories a bad word?
6) So you don’t want to gain too much muscle, you just want to “tone up”? Saying this makes ME cringe, but I'm going to go along with it because I know what you ladies mean when you say it and I'm not one to get hung up on semantics. Let’s talk “toning”. To me, toning up simply means getting lean enough that the underlying muscle can be seen. Pretty much, you want to build lean muscle and burn fat. When you think about someone looking bulky, it’s usually either because the amount of fat on top of their muscle is a little more than desirable to you, or it could be that there is water being retained; hence the puffy or “bulky” look. There is also the very ripped, lean look that comes from LOTS of dedication and time spent training hard (this is not easy to get!). Either way, what you really want by saying “toned muscles” is visible moderate muscle definition without too much fat alongside it, resulting in firm but smaller overall arms, legs and torso. Am I right? Ha, I knew it. Here is the thing, if this is your goal, you definitely need to do resistance training. Maintaining and building valuable muscle is important, since lean muscle is what will give you that “toned” shape. Which brings me to my next point:
7) Put down the 1 and 2 kg pink dumbbells! I have nothing against the colour pink but the way manufacturers always make the tiny dumbbells pink pisses me off. It makes women think these are the weights they should be buying to get results. 1-2 kg dumbbells will do absolutely nothing to change your physique. They're a waste of time, end of story. You don't need to deadlift 100kg in order to get results, but you do have to do proper resistance training. Your muscles need to have some time under tension on a regular basis. That doesn't happen with 1kg dumbbells.
8) Yoga in and of itself will not give you the amount of definition you want. Sure it will give you a little bit initially, and if you are eating in a deficit at the same time you will lose weight, but yoga itself won't change your shape, give you that round booty, or tone up your legs and give you the firm definition you are after. I am a big proponent of using yoga as part of my training program for other reasons (stress relief, flexibility, alignment, breathing techniques etc.) but it shouldn't be your sole training program IF your goal is to firm up your body.
9) Stop running for an hour and a half every time you go to the gym. How do you think pounding your feet on a treadmill over and over is magically going to change the shape of your triceps, abs and thighs? The most it will do is burn some calories and maybe define your calves a little bit initially. It won't change your body shape. This does not mean cardio is bad. Cardio can be an essential part of an overall fat loss plan, but it needs to be used appropriately. Long-duration steady-state cardio on its own isn’t your best bet for fat loss. You might lose weight, but with it you are usually losing muscle too if that is all you do. Combining smart cardio choices with resistance training is very effective both with burning fat AND changing your physique at the same time. Doing workouts that have a high metabolic cost are great to add in to your training regime for gaining muscle and burning fat (things like well programmed circuits, supersets, tri-sets, drop sets, finishers, metabolic conditioning etc).
10) The lemon detox diet is shit. All detoxes, juice cleanses, fat burning pills are SHIT. If you decide to take that route then be prepared to say goodbye to your sweet metabolism and any firmness/definition you have or want to gain. "Cleanses" and "detoxes" will ruin your life. Yes I'm being dramatic...and for a good reason. Don't touch them!
11) Stop worrying about the extra stuff like meal timing, intermittent fasting, "alkalising" your body, supplements, etc before taking care of the basics. There is no trick. There is no magic pill. If anything says "lose 10-15 kgs in one week" written on it, run far far away. Get the basics sorted, be consistent with the fundamentals first, then after you can play around with some of the extras if you like.
12) If a food claims to have "fat burning properties" it's utter bullshit. How is this even possible? There is no such thing as a negative-energy food. All foods contain calories(energy) in different amounts, including all the nutrient dense foods. Now I understand “super foods” and I guess I am okay with this label, lol. I like good nutrition. I love adding nutrient dense powders like Vital Greens to my food and smoothies. I add beetroot powder, chia seeds, maca powder etc etc to different drinks. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get extra nutrition in your diet, but just don’t fool yourself into thinking that there is such a thing as a “fat burning food”. When I hear ads advertising fat-burning foods on the radio, spoken by well-educated adults, my faith in humanity dies a little bit.
13) Not eating late at night because you're worried your body is going to "store the food as extra fat" is false and silly. Your body will digest the food in just the same way regardless of what time you eat. If you are in a calorie surplus (eating more food than you are burning) you will put on fat no matter what times of day you are or aren't eating. It's about total calories at the end of the day, NOT what time you eat them.
14) Realise that chocolate block or that Ben and Jerry's, or whatever it is you want to indulge in is still going to be there tomorrow. Why do you need to buy 3 blocks of chocolate or EAT ALL THE ICECREAM in one night? No one is going to take it away from you. You don't have to deprive yourself of it for another month after this. It's always available, so why not just have a little bit, enjoy it and be okay with knowing that no one is going to take these joys in life away from you, so there is no reason to overdo on them or act like it's the last dessert you're ever going to eat. Letting this mindset go will do wonders for you!
15) Last one. Always remember, the more extreme your weight-loss measures are, the less sustainable they will be. Think about that before you go on your next crash I-need-to-lose-10-kgs-before-my-sister’s-wedding-diet. Give yourself more time to reach the goals you are after and do it the right way. It will make the journey more enjoyable and make your weight loss more sustainable.
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