There are no magic foods that burn fat, and there are no must eat foods for optimal results. However, if there was a must-have food group or category of foods, it would be:
Protein – one of the three main macronutrients that I always seem to be talking about.
9/10 times when I first meet with a female client or go over the food journal of a client online, the first thing I notice is not enough protein.
Protein is super helpful in fat loss and then the subsequent weight loss management for a few different reasons.
- It is key for building muscle.
- It has the highest thermic effect of the three macros – meaning it costs about 25% of the calories from protein during digestion compared to 6% for carbs and 2% for fat.
- It helps you feel full sooner at a meal, and helps you feel more satisfied after the meal – so you don’t have to go and snack 1 hour later.
So how much protein per day are we talking?
Well, study after study shows that 2g/kg of Bw is best. For those of you who aren’t down with the kilos, that is your BW in pounds, divided by 2.2.
Let’s take a 150 pound woman, divide by 2.2 = 68kg x 2 = 136g protein
In other words, my usual recommendation of .8-1g/lb is useful (120-150g)
How does one eat 136g of protein per day?
It may seem daunting, and there are many ways to do so, but I recommend breaking it down into more manageable windows.
Let’s say you sleep 7 hours per night (you better be!). Wake up at 6AM, and go to sleep at 11PM.
Now we have 17 hours left in the day to eat. Break that up into 3 windows (136/3= 45ish)
- Window 1 – 6AM-11AM
- Window 2 – 11AM – 5PM
- Window 3 – 5PM-11PM
Now your goal is to eat 45g of protein within each one of those 3 windows. Much more manageable to be honest.
This might be one meal in each window, or 2 meals in each window, or a meal and a snack in each window…this isn’t as important as just getting enough protein in the day. It comes down to what works best for YOU.
Lastly, your sources. When we talk about protein, we mean LEAN proteins. Peanut butter, nuts, and fatty sausage have some protein in them, but they are NOT good sources of protein.
Why is this?
Peanut butter = 1 serving = 8g/protein and 16g fat. Most of the calories in PB come from fat.
Chicken Breast = 3oz. = 27g/protein and 3g fat. Most of the calories come from protein.
Other great sources:
- Sirloin beef – 4oz – 21g
- Chicken – 3oz – 27g
- Cottage Cheese – 1cup – 28g
- Egg whites – 1/2 cup – 10g
- Greek yogurt – 1 cup – 20g
- Pork loin – 5oz – 20g
- Salmon – 4oz – 23g
- Tofu – 1/2 cup – 10g
- Protein powder – 1 scoop – 20-30g
Use those sources for most of your protein intake, figure out your three windows, and spread your needs out over those windows and you will be good to go!
What is the 2nd thing?
Strength training to build muscle. Not fluffy exercises, not hours on the cardio deck, not the latest late-night tv gadget – the iron. The dumbbells, the barbells, the kettlebells… the things that many women still fear.
Don’t fear them. Embrace them, embrace your strength, and celebrate what you can truly accomplish in the gym.
The gym is not a place to punish yourself, make up for meals eaten, or work out until your sins have been forgiven.
Strength training with heavy, compound movements, and yes – resting.
By properly strength training AND eating enough protein as described above, you will turn your body into a fat-melting machine, that burns more calories at rest than your friends who seem to spend hours and hour at the gym running their knees away.
Strength training requires effort, enough effort that produces tension, and that tension creates some fatigue in the muscle – and that muscle is adequately fueled with protein. This is how muscle grows.
Strength training requires YOU to challenge yourself, not the other way around. What do I mean by this? Look no further than this excellent quote from my friend Clifton Harski:
One reason that most group fitness relies on high rep / cardio-slop type workouts is that people FEEL like they are working hard…because EVENTUALLY if you do anything long enough or without enough rest, things FEEL hard.
The difference with STRENGTH training is that it should be hard/difficult almost immediately, and people are NOT often willing to work hard and push themselves.
They wait for HARD TO HAPPEN.
Instead of making HARD HAPPEN IMMEDIATELY.
The strength training approach will lead to more physique and physical capability changes OVER TIME.
And it requires that people increase their effort and intensity over time as they earn it.
Cardio slop HIIIT stuff is always hard because people just try and work at a pace and level they cannot sustain. You might even argue that because of that they never actually recover so it just keeps getting harder and their gainz keep being a thing of dreams.
I couldn’t put it any better.
You need to be willing to step up and challenge yourself in the gym – not waiting around for that 100th rep of tricep kickbacks to make your arm feel like it is falling off.
One final example to drive this home…
Let’s say your goal is to do 8 squats. First, make sure your form is perfect. Then how much weight did you use? 20 pounds. Ok – how hard was that?
Using a scale of 1-10 how hard was 8 reps with 20 pounds?
1 being no problem at all
10 being “all out effort, I cannot do another rep!”
For your working sets, you should be at 8 or 9 on this scale. 1-2 reps “left in the tank”.
If you have never actually given strength training a chance, what is there to lose? Give it a go, and give it time – you won’t be sorry!
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Stay healthy my friends,