I’m going to say something controversial.
If you focus mainly on your weight as a measure of exercising successfully, you could be wasting time, energy and effort to achieve very little.
Let me explain why.
The weight myth.
Who do you think looks better?
Woman A, who weighs 60kg and has 20% body fat
Woman B, who weighs 50kg and has 30% body fat?
If you answered A, congratulations! Your body fat levels make or break your physique much more than your weight.
We all have different body types and body weights. Trying to fight this is usually futile and causes anguish for so many women, who don’t look like the mainstream media “normal”. Your structure is your structure, learn to accept it, work with it and become the best version of YOU!
You might be “bigger” than average but if you are lean and have low body fat, you’ll look amazing – athletic and possibly Amazonian 🙂
The eating less myth
If you decrease the amount of food you eat dramatically and continue for a long period of time, eventually you’ll lose fat, but you’ll also lose a lot of lean body tissue. Fat is the most energy-dense part of our body and we’re designed to burn it only as a last resort.
Being in a chronic starvation mode the body slows down and holds on to fat, trying to preserve energy. Muscles require fuel, starving body cannot afford to fuel muscle, and starts burning it, leaving fat for the last. As result you end up looking skinny and soft, a combination known as skinny-fat. I don’t know about you but this is not a desirable body shape for me.
Learn to eat the foods that work for you. Eat more, train more than you eat, and watch fat melt off. Choosing the right foods is down to you, I lose fat best on a lower carb diet but I know others respond better to a higher carb option, for some the magic pill is simply decreasing sugar – their body can only process a small amount and any extra turns into fat. The way to work out what works for you is to track and measure your weight and body composition whilst adjusting what you eat. You will see and feel the difference, your body will let you know!
The “cardio” myth
Ladies, we’ve been conned by the mainstream health and fitness media to believe that cardio burns fat. I’m here to tell you that’s mostly wrong. The body can run on stored fuel, called glycogen, for anything up to 20 minutes before it even taps into fat reserves, and even then, an hours cardio will typically only burn a few hundred calories. Considering that one pound of fat can contain anywhere between 3000 to 4000 calories, you’d need about six to eight hours of cardio to burn one pound of fat. And if you get tempted by a doughnut after your workout, you’ve lost any cardio benefit you have gotten!
Cardio is great for loads of things – your heart, your lungs, and very often it’s just FUN! But if you are trying to get rid of fat, then the cardio you see in most classes is not going to work for you.
So if cardio and dieting is not very effective, what do we do? This seems like a catch 22 situation but it isn’t. There is a simple, two part solution (simple, but not necessarily easy!) to changing your body composition.
The primary solution to the fat burning contradiction is to have more muscle. Muscle actively requires fueling so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn just sitting there! So putting on a few pounds of muscle will turn your body into a fat burning machine. It will also fill out those areas we want to fill out a bit more. Who wouldn’t want that shapely rear or a pair of well defined shoulders? Putting on muscle will make you hungrier 🙂 and the trick is to eat foods that fill you up for longer, rather than just eating more.
If you’re in good shape, train at your anaerobic threshold (at this pace, you should find it hard to talk and train at the same time), three times a week. Doing this pushes the body into a state called Excess Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). This is where the body has an increased rate of oxygen consumption after intense exercise, to flush lactic acid out of the system, restore cells and repair muscle. And, as you’re putting calories into your system (as opposed to starving yourself on a diet), the body is happy to burn that stubborn fat to fuel this process!
Putting it all together
Like most women, I don’t have time to spend hours in the gym, so my training time has to be focused and effective. Here is what I do for my own workouts if I’m limited for time. If I have more time, I’d add in more conditioning work – using things like the TRX or medicine balls.
This programme is the minimalist phase 1 that builds lean muscle. This is a programme for me, so if you have any specific questions, get in touch with the form below!
Warm up on the rowing machine. I aim to get a sub 5 minute 1km row which gets my heart pumping and a bit of a sweat going 🙂
Deadlifts. These are the best full body exercise, no doubt about it. It will tone and strengthen all the muscles on the back of your body – your calves, hamstrings and butt, your back and even your triceps! If you’re short on time, this is all you really need to do.
Angled Shoulder Presses. These are my preferred upper body exercise. It’s especially good if you’re worried about bingo wings. Done properly this will even give your abs a bit of a workout.
Core finishers. I do two or three variations of my favourites – cable hold, swiss ball stir or barbell oblique twists.
Stretches. All in all I can be in and out of the gym in half an hour maximum which is plenty of time for the rest of life’s important stuff too!
Feel like training after reading this article? Get in touch with the form below