February is here and that means it is time to shed the winter pounds and start getting ready for summer. Starting early will give you the best opportunity to lose the weight in the healthiest way possible. There are so many fit teas, pills, and programs promising to help you loose 30 lbs in 30 days, but at what cost? The truth of the matter is that leaning out and getting in shape takes hard work, there is no easy way, just sweat and dedication, so without further ado, let's get to it!
1. Get on a Weight Training Program
I lift weights. My sister does cardio. I cannot tell you the number of times she has said "I want to get defined but I don't want to have muscle like you do." She means this in a loving way. The truth is, most women are just like her, they want to be "defined" but they are scared to lift weights. For those of you who have this thought process, it takes a lot of work, and I mean a lot of work, for women to put on muscle size. Therefore adding in weights to your training regimen will not get you bulky, it will get you the defined look you are going for.
The more muscle you have on your body the more calories you will burn at rest which translates into greater fat loss. Additionally weight training is geared towards increasing lean tissues which is metabolically stressful and causes the body to burn greater calories during the post-workout recover period. Finally, studies show that those who lift weights versus those who just partake in cardio, don't compensate by eating more calories. Scientists attribute this to the fact that those who do cardio typically just want fat loss while those who engage in lifting weights want to get strong or build muscle, and therefore don't reward themselves with additional food after their workout
2. Don't Drastically Cut Calories
There is so much bad information out there, that it is no wonder the majority of women think they should be eating less than 1,200 calories a day, because Jennifer Aniston said that is how many she consumes. Therefore, when women begin a weight loss program they immediately cut calories and starve themselves.
This is an awful approach because the body will downregulate your metabolism in order to preserve fuel stores and you will actually burn fewer calories. An individual should never consume less than the amount of calories your body burns at its Resting Metabolic Rate (aka what your body would burn if you stayed in bed all day).
There are tests that help you figure out your RMR, but if you don't want to pay for one, the RMR of an average normal-weight woman who doesn't exercise is about 1441 calories a day. That is the absolute minimum women should eat. When working out, you will be burning more calories and thus should eat more. The exact number depends on so many factors such as body composition, genetics, diet composition, physical activity, type of training, etc. Due to these factors it is worth it to get your RMR tested to give you a baseline.
3. Try to Refrain from Obsessing About Calories
Every woman is guilty of obsessing about calories at some point in their lives. The truth is, this stress can actually be a reason you are holding onto weight! Counting calories raises anxiety and makes your body feel threatened. When your body is in stress, you release more cortisol. Calorie restriction also elevates cortisol levels.
High cortisol is bad because it triggers cravings for high carb foods and engages the body for fat storage in the abdominal area. Create a diet that allows you to feel satisfied and avoid hunger. Most people accomplish this by having a diet higher in protein and lower in carbs because the protein leads to a better release of hunger-reducing hormones.
4. Add Good Fat to Your Diet
Fat is not bad for you. In fact, when fat is avoided, people tend to eat more carbs, which causes blood sugar fluctuations and raises insulin, thus reducing fat burning. Secondly, not consuming enough good fat can lead to hormone imbalances. Natural fat sources such as butter, eggs, and fish provide essential nutrients that the body is able to absorb and use. When you don't get enough of these nutrients, hunger cues are elevated.
5. Increase Your Estrogen Metabolism
Estrogen, when balanced with other hormones, is good for the female body. However, excessive estrogen causes problems and can lead to increased fat storage. Women who have poor diets, lack physical activity and lack muscle mass tend to have poor estrogen metabolisms.
Getting plenty of physical activity through cardio and weight training as well as having a diet high in protein with plenty of vegetables will help increase your estrogen metabolism. Additionally, staying away from toxic estrogen exposure through personal care products and plastics is also beneficial.
6. Cut Unhealthy Carbs and Add Fruits and Veggies
The problem with refined carbs is that they spike your insulin and turn right into sugar once they hit the blood stream. Any extra that the body is unable to burn right away will turn into fat. When you eat these foods too often, your cells become resistant to insulin, which primes the body for fat storage.
In contrast, healthy, whole carbs, especially vegetables cause a gradual elevation in blood sugar and provide nutrients that increase insulin sensitivity. They also contain fiber which is filling and slows digestion.
While fruit and boiled grains are also healthy carbs, they are more calorie dense than vegetables. It is important to be mindful of portions and eat them when the body is most sensitive to insulin, such as after a workout.
7. Increase Meal Frequency
Again, the strategy is to avoid hunger. Therefore space out your meals. Many people advocate for intermittent fasting, and while it has its benefits, fasting periods of 16 to 20 hours can lead to hormonal dysregulation of both cortisol and reproductive hormones in women.
Eat within a 12 hour window and divide up your meals. Some women like 3 meals a day and others like 6. There is no magic number, just make sure each meal has protein, low carb veggies and a healthy fat and is keeping you satisfied throughout the day.
8. Get Metabolically Flexible
Metobolic flexibility is when your body is able to readily burn both fat and carbs for energy. This is the ideal state because it makes it easier to reduce body fat while avoiding low energy levels. When your body is not metabolically flexible, it is more difficult to burn body fat and you need to eat carbs every few hours for energy. Again, running your body on carbs leads to higher insulin levels, which puts the body in fat storage mode and leaning out is MUCH harder.
To combat this, you need to strike a balance between the two energy sources.This requires your body to develop adaptations that improve fat burning. You can accomplish this by first reducing the proportion of calories you get from carbs in favor of protein and fats. This will increase your fat burning capacity. When you do eat carbs, choose healthy carbs over refined carbs. Secondly you need to exercise, because it capitalizes on the fact that fat burning increases during exercise. Over time, your body will adjust and become metabolically flexible.
9. Incorporate The Classic Lifts
Many women stick to training one muscle group with dumbbells or machines, which has a purpose, but these exercises are not metabolically stressful and they elicit minimal afterburn response.
Classic lifts, which include squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, etc., have a high afterburn response. These exercises tend to use more of your body and are more metabolically stressful.
10. Interval Training
Interval training is superior to steady state cardio for fat loss for three main reasons. First, it burns a lot of calories in a short time period and triggers a large afterburn effect so that calories are burned at an accelerated rate during the 24-hour recovery. Second, it triggers protein synthesis so that you can improve lean mass and sustain a healthy metabolic rate when losing fat. Finally, it leads to the release of growth hormone and catecholamine adrenaline hormones, which are the primary fat burning hormones.
Sustainable fat loss takes time, but doing it the correct way will help you keep the fat off for longer! Follow these tips and you will be in bikini shape in no time!