Today’s guest post comes from my good friend and colleague, Nick Smoot. Enjoy! -J
“90% of women don’t want men to see their bodies.”
I heard this the other day during my commute to work.
Kinda crazy, huh?
I’m not sure if it’s true (I sure hope it’s not), but I’ve yet to meet a woman who DIDN’T have something negative to say about her body, so it got me thinking:
What’s the reason so many women are unhappy with the way they look?
Is it their boobs? Their butt? The size of their hands or that pinky-toe that curls in to the left?
How about moles or teeth gaps? Tricep flab or stretch marks? Cellulite or a lazy eye?
Honestly, I have no idea…and I doubt I ever will. But, one thing I have noticed is every woman I’ve ever worked with – not exaggerating here; EVERY WOMAN – has asked me what’s “the fastest way to lose weight?”
Whether they need to lose weight or not? Well, that’s up for debate. But, every woman I’ve coached has made it clear that finding the fastest way to lose weight is something that’s really important to them.
So, ladies, today I’m gonna show you how to do it.
Regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman, there are a few things you need to understand – and accept – before you embark on your fat loss journey:
I know this seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised at the number of people that decide to chase a goal without giving one thought to the work required to achieve it.
Fat loss? It’s hard.
It never stops being hard.
And it requires a lot of sacrifice – in time, money, energy, food, etc. – that not many people are willing to make.
If you are – if you care about losing weight more than you care about the stuff you’ll have to give up to do so – you’ll be successful.
If not, you wont.
This is with anything, but your results aren’t predicated on what you do in a day or a week.
They’re predicated on what you do in a month or a year (or longer depending on how far you want to take things).
If you train hard and eat right on a consistent basis, you’ll wind up with a great physique.
If you don’t – if you’re sporadic with your training or eating, or only stick to a program for a short period of time – you’ll wind up with the same physique.
Why do so many people end up regaining all of the weight they lost – if not more – after a diet?
It’s because they revert back to their old eating habits.
Or their old training habits.
Or they stop training and eating well all together.
Whatever you did to lose body fat is what you’ll have to keep doing – in some way, shape, or form – to maintain it.
Be smart about the methods you choose to induce fat loss.
Because, eventually, it’ll become part of your lifestyle.
And you know what?
Nobody has an unlimited supply of motivation.
What makes someone successful – at anything, not just losing body fat – isn’t an ability to always be motivated.
It’s an ability to just “show up” and put in the work regardless of whether or not they’re motivated.
There are going to be days where you don’t feel like following your diet, going to the gym, or doing an hour of low intensity cardio.
And it’s on those days – not the days you feel awesome – that dictate your success.
I’m stealing this line from Strength Coach, Greg Nuckols: “It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being better.”
Perfection doesn’t exist, and chasing it will only lead to frustration and burnout.
Don’t try to be perfect.
Try to be better.
In the grand scheme of things, that’s all that really matters.
Lastly, understand that just as there’ll be weeks where you drop inches, pounds, and look noticeably leaner, there will also be weeks where you don’t.
This doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
It just means you’ve stuck to the plan long enough to hit a plateau (which means you’ve also made progress).
And when you do, slightly alter your approach.
Now that we have the groundwork laid, let’s talk about how to actually shed body fat.
We’re going to cover nutrition first (since it has the biggest impact on fat loss).
Then, we’ll go over strength training and cardio.
How to make adjustments when fat loss stalls.
And finally, we’ll finish up with some common myths and misconceptions.
Nutrition is the most important fat loss variable, and it can be broken down in to five categories:
- Nutrient Timing
Let’s cover each category individually:
Calories are just a fancy way of saying “energy.”
Everything you eat is made up of calories, and the total amount of calories you consume by the end of the day determines whether you gain, maintain, or lose body fat.
Macronutrients are “major nutrients” – protein, carbohydrates, and fat – and they combine to make up the calories you consume on a daily basis (protein and carbs are 4 calories per gram, and fat is 9 calories per gram).
Each macronutrient has a different function within the body, and the amount of protein, carbs, and fat you eat – in relation to your total calorie intake – has a huge impact on your physique.
Nutrient timing refers to the timing of your meals in relation to the timing of your workouts, when you go to sleep, when you wake up, etc.
It has some impact on fat loss, but not nearly as a much of an impact as calories and macronutrients.
Micronutrients refer to “small nutrients” – vitamins and minerals – and have a huge impact on your health.
Fiber is important for your health too (and for staying regular), and both micros and fiber are found in the foods that make up your daily diet.
Lastly, supplements are just that: supplements to your daily diet.
Protein powders provide a convenient way to increase your daily protein intake.
Vitamin and mineral supplements provide “healthy insurance” for those who don’t eat a ton – or a large variety – of fruits and veggies.
Pre-workout powders provide a boost in energy and focus to help drive intense workouts.
And the list goes on and on.
The biggest thing to keep in mind with supplements is they account for MAYBE 5% of your total fat loss results.
The other 95% comes from eating well and training hard.
Now that you have a simple overview of each category, here’s a step-by-step guide for setting up a nutrition plan:
A caloric deficit (burning more food/energy than you’re taking in on a daily basis) is required to lose body fat, and you can create a deficit by either
- Decreasing your food intake or
- Increasing your cardiovascular activity.
We’re gonna talk about cardio in a bit, so in regards to your food intake, you want to eat the most amount of food possible that still allows you to make progress.
If you know how many calories you’re taking in (i.e. if you already track your food intake), start with a 300-500 drop in calories below maintenance (the amount of calories required to maintain your current body weight), and adjust from there.
If you don’t know how much food you’re eating, you can either 1.) Plug your stats in to an online calorie calculator (which will give you an “estimated” maintenance intake that you can reduce from), or 2.) You can put some healthy guidelines in place that’ll create a deficit indirectly.
Calories reign supreme in your journey to shed body fat, but macros come in at a close second.
Protein is the building block of muscle tissue, and it’s also the most satiating macronutrient (meaning it keeps you fuller longer).
Carbs are your brain’s main energy source, your body’s main energy source during high intensity exercise, and the macronutrient that has the largest impact on your metabolism.
And fat is your body’s main energy source at rest.
You need different amounts of each macronutrient – not only to maximize performance, but also to maximize your physique – so the way I would set them up is as follows:
If you track your macros/calories,
- Set protein close to .8g per pound of body weight.
- Set fat anywhere from .3-.5g per pound of body weight.
- Fill in the rest of your calories with carbohydrates.
If you don’t track your macros/calories,
- Eat a protein source with each meal (size of your palm).
- Fill up half of your plate with veggies.
- Don’t add extra fat to any meals (we don’t seem to have a problem getting enough fat in).
- Try to eat nutrient dense, whole foods as the majority of your diet (fruits, veggies, quality starches, etc.).
This matters more for your health than anything else, but because being unhealthy would trash your ability to perform at a high level (which would negatively impact fat loss), it needs to be accounted for.
The way you ensure you’re getting in enough micros and fiber is by eating nutrient dense, whole foods at least 80% of the time.
Moderation is important.
Flexibility is important.
And there’s nothing wrong with eating “junk” food from time to time.
But, micros and fiber are important too.
And if you want to stay healthy, you need to be – at least the majority of the time – eating “healthy” food.
This comes down almost entirely to personal preference.
If you want to eat three meals per day, eat three meals per day.
If you want to eat every two hours, eat every two hours.
Want to train on an empty stomach?
Train on an empty stomach.
As long as you’re eating in a caloric deficit, consuming the proper amount of each macronutrient (that you need), are able to train hard, are able to sleep at night, and aren’t thinking about food all day, your meal structure/timing is probably fine.
If any of those things are off, make an adjustment.
Again, supplements aren’t going to have much of an impact on fat loss, but protein powder, fish oil, and vitamin and mineral supplements are decent investments.
Probably worthless (at least from a fat loss standpoint).
So don’t waste your money.
Moving on to physical activity, strength training is the most beneficial activity you can do to lose body fat (this is even more true for women than it is for men), and cardio is important for your heart health, work capacity, and ability to create a caloric deficit.
Let’s cover each activity individually:
Strength training refers to any activity that forces you to use your muscles to generate force against an external resistance.
In other words, it’s any activity that has you lifting weights.
For the purpose of this article, those weights can come in the form of your own body weight, dumbells, barbells, or exercise machines (i.e. just a normal strength training routine).
There are two types of traditional cardiovascular exercise:
- Low intensity steady state cardio (LISS)
- High intensity interval training (HIIT)
LISS cardio is characterized by activities that are low in intensity, high in duration, and don’t put a ton of stress on your joints (jogging, walking, swimming, biking, etc).
HIIT is characterized by activities that are extremely high in intensity, short in duration, and are structured with periods of all-out effort followed by periods of low effort or rest (sprints, bike sprints, jump rope intervals, basketball, etc).
Both forms of cardio are beneficial, and both have their place in a well-designed fat loss program.
Now that you have a simple overview of each activity, here’s a step-by-step guide for implementing them in a fat loss program.
Strength training builds muscle tissue.
More muscle tissue increases your metabolism.
And a faster metabolism leads to more fat loss in the long run.
Strength training also:
- Builds confidence.
- Builds strength (duh).
- Improves athleticism.
- Improves balance and stability.
- Improves movement capacity.
- Helps you avoid injury.
It would be too much to discuss programming in detail in this article, so we’ll save that for another time.
Note From Jordan: Go HERE to grab my free guide to strength training for fat loss and performance.
But, here are some simple guidelines to get you started:
- Train 2-4 days per week
- Perform compound exercises as the foundation of your program (squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, lunges, carries, etc.), with isolation exercises thrown in as accessory work.
- Perform 3-6 exercises per workout.
- Perform 3-6 sets per exercise.
- Train in the 3-12 rep range.
- Take 60-120 seconds of rest in between exercises.
- Add weight, reps, or sets on a weekly to monthly basis.
- Change either your exercises or the rep ranges you’re working at every 4 weeks.
- Don’t go to failure (at least not on main lifts).
Strength training is a constant in your fat loss program.
Your food intake and cardiovascular activity will change, but strength training – as a whole – will remain the same.
If you’re an endurance athlete, do as much cardio as needed to perform well in your desired sport.
If you’re not an endurance athlete, do the least amount of cardio possible that still allows you to lose body fat.
For most women, this will be 1-3 cardio sessions per week.
Some will have to do more.
The amount of cardio you perform is directly related to the amount of food you consume – and how lean you are – and we’ll get more in to that in the “adjustments” section.
Just like with nutrient timing, this comes down almost entirely to personal preference.
If you like to dance, dance.
If you like to swim, swim.
If you like to play tennis, basketball, or run on a treadmill, play tennis, basketball, or run on a treadmill.
In most cases, you want to pick an activity that you enjoy and are willing to stick with in the long-run.
The only caveat is you have to be mindful of fatigue.
Your body doesn’t have an unlimited ability to recover – especially when your food intake is limited – so if the cardio you’re doing is starting to detract from your strength training sessions (which is far more beneficial, and therefore more of a priority, than cardio is), you need to change it.
The sections above provide good starting points, and they should get you moving in the right direction.
But, eventually you’re going to hit a plateau, and you can either decrease your food intake or increase your cardiovascular activity to get the ball rolling again.
Doing either will create a further deficit, and re-stimulate fat loss.
The key is to:
1) Decrease your food intake OR increase your cardiovascular activity (try not to do both at the same time).
2) Make adjustments only when you have to (don’t get impatient).
3) Make the smallest adjustments possible.
Honestly, this comes down to trial and error, and you’ll learn what works best for YOU through experimentation.
But, the above “keys” are pretty vague, so here are some simple guidelines:
- When you hit a plateau, decrease your food intake if you don’t want to do more cardio, or increase your cardio if you don’t want to eat less food.
- Reductions in food should come primarily from carbs and/or fats (protein stays constant), and should be characterized by a drop of about 100-200 calories.
- Increases in cardio can come from either adding duration (30 minute session to a 60 minute session), adding intensity (30 second intervals turn in to 45 second intervals), or adding another session (1 session per week to 2 sessions per week).
- Measure progress by 1) What you see in the mirror, 2) Measurements (hips, abdomen, legs, arms, etc), and 3) The scale.
- Keep making adjustments until you reach your goal.
As you can probably tell by now, the recommendations proposed in this article are similar to the recommendations that would be given to a man, and for good reason:
How women and men lose body fat is very similar.
Sure, there are some differences between the two (women store more fat in their hips, they tend to get more emotional about the scale, they have to deal with “that time of the month,” etc.), but not nearly as much difference as most people think.
And a lot of the misguided fat loss advice given to women (eat like a bird, avoid strength training, do a TON of cardio, etc.) is based on a few key myths and misconceptions:
True, but only for one reason: Women tend to have less muscle mass.
If they had the same amount of muscle mass, they would have the same metabolic rate (or close to it).
That’s why strength training is important (it helps women build muscle, which in turn speeds up their metabolism).
And it’s also why – although most women will likely have to eat less food than men because of their smaller structure – they shouldn’t eat like birds just for the hell of it (EAT AS MUCH FOOD AS POSSIBLE).
Most men have a hard time getting bulky, and they have a boatload more testosterone (which is the hormone that drives muscle growth).
Strength training won’t make women bulky.
What it will do however is make them strong, confident, powerful, speed up their metabolism and give them the “toned” and “shapely” look most women are looking for.
The best way for women to get lean is by being in a caloric deficit for a prolonged period of time.
Cardio is useful tool in creating a deficit.
But doing too much of it will start to eat away at muscle tissue and take away from their ability to train hard in the weight room.
And, based on what we’ve discussed about strength training, muscle growth, and the benefits it has on fat loss, that’s obviously not a good thing.
Too many calories make women – and anyone for that matter – fat.
Carbs are extremely beneficial for health, performance, and body composition, and although they’re the nutrient that most often gets cut in a fat loss program (because they’re less “essential” than protein and fat), women should eat as many carbs as possible.
Again, this is completely off base.
See point above.
Lastly, too much “junk” food will make anyone fat, but it’s not really the “junk” food that’s the problem; it’s the total number of calories.
“Junk” food has a high caloric density (high number of calories in a small volume of food), making it extremely easy to overeat.
If women can consume “junk” food in moderation while staying within their target number of calories, they’re fine.
And, because mental health matters just as much as physical health (depriving yourself will get you nowhere), they probably should.
There’s nothing fancy about this article.
And that’s because there’s nothing fancy you ladies need to do in order to lose body fat.
Make adjustments when progress stalls.
And keep grinding.
You do that – while tailoring the specifics of your plan to meet your individual needs – and you’ll have no choice but to be successful.
Nick Smoot is a strength coach and nutrition consultant out of Newport News, VA. He got his start in the fitness industry back in 2012, and since then he’s spent countless hours helping clients become the best versions of themselves possible. In his free time, he enjoys lifting heavy things, eating, writing, traveling, nerding out on video games, and eating.
Visit Nick’s blog, or feel free to connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org,
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