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Fact checked by Andrew Lenau, ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
October 26, 2022
Weight loss can be challenging. First, there's determining a healthy diet of what to eat and how much of it to consume. Then there's figuring out which workouts will best help you reach a healthy weight. And, of course, there's the final step of applying diet and exercise and using extreme discipline to make it happen.
But challenging certainly doesn’t mean impossible. You just need the correct formula to get you there. When it comes to weight loss, the ideal formula involves strength training and diet with some cardio sprinkled in. If you're concerned that you don't know enough about any of those to help you lose weight, don't worry! That's what we're here for.
This article will focus on the best tips to support weight loss for women. In addition, the post will discuss:
It's first important to note that women’s bodies function differently than men's. Due to pregnancy and childbirth, the female body is naturally designed to hold a higher body fat percentage than men. For example, active women will have body fat somewhere between 21-24% on average, with men averaging a slightly lower percentage ranging from 14-17%.
Remember, these are averages, and we are a country with a skyrocketing obesity problem, meaning many women's body fat is higher than the 21-24% range. In addition, since women’s bodies are designed to be ready to grow and care for a baby, fat accumulates more easily in certain places.
As always, this will come down to the genetics and body type you are blessed with. Some women may naturally hold onto less fat than others and vice versa.
The areas where women tend to store the most fat are the butt, hips, lower abdomen, and thighs. This is going to give women more of a pear shape and can make it challenging to achieve the oh-so-coveted hourglass figure.
Women also tend to carry more subcutaneous fat than visceral fat. This means they have more of the fat that is just underneath the skin, and it gives them their soft curved look. Eventually, it puffs up and becomes visible as the skin becomes less flexible. Later in life, this can lead to cellulite problems.
Some general concepts can be considered when discussing weight loss for men and women. It's essential to take a step back and first note that everyone has different genetics. This means that gender aside, everyone holds onto fat differently.
Hormones play a significant role in answering this question. Men will have more testosterone and, therefore, more fat-free mass and muscle. Muscle mass has a higher metabolism than fat, meaning the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. This is why men generally have a higher metabolic rate than women. We’ll touch on this more in a bit, but that’s why women need strength training and to find a workout split they enjoy.
Women with higher estrogen levels may have bodies that gravitate toward a higher body fat percentage. As we said, women will, on average, have a higher body fat percentage than men. Women tend to lose weight first in their bellies, calves, face, and arms. These areas do not have as much of an effect on childbearing as the hips, butt, and thighs, so the body usually gets rid of the fat there first.
Ok, let’s take a step back here. The short answer to this question is yes, women lose weight differently than men. The longer answer is that with the correct process and system, both have the same potential for weight loss if they follow the right formula. Weight loss may be hard, but women can lose weight just the same as men.
The menstrual cycle doesn't affect weight loss or weight gain. Sure your scale may go up a few notches in the wrong direction during this time of the month, but the cycle itself doesn't cause long-term weight gain.
Having said that, your period may cause some changes in appetite and food cravings. Sometimes weight problems occur due to the cravings that accompany this time of the month. During the menstrual cycle, women tend to crave foods higher in fat and carbohydrates, which can be less nutrient-dense foods that are higher in calories.
If you habitually eat fewer healthy foods and more junk food during your period, you're likely adding way more calories to your daily intake. This can very easily cause some weight gain. In addition, if you find yourself more fatigued and decide to skip your 3-day split for the week, less movement combined with more processed foods can certainly affect the scale.
Bloating can also be an issue. Keep an eye on your salt intake, drink lots of water, and make some better food choices to avoid this feeling. Salty foods can lead to your body retaining more water than usual and seeing an increase on the scale.
If you can pick better healthy eating options and do your best to avoid cravings, it should help keep you on track, even if you gain a few temporary pounds during this time.
The key to sustainable weight loss is strength training, a high protein diet with a calorie deficit, and some cardio sprinkled in. This method leads to better body composition and more muscle for women1. Remember that the goal is not simply to see the scale go down. This is a common misconception and an outdated way of thinking.
Earlier, we mentioned that men genetically have more muscle than women, and muscle burns more calories. To make it simple, women will want to build muscle since they are already carrying less of it. This doesn’t mean you have to get huge or bench press 500 pounds. It just means you need to lift for strength since lifting lighter weights has diminishing returns for building muscle and body composition2.
We will touch on this more shortly, but you will need to determine your resting basal metabolic rate. On top of that, determining how much protein per day to build muscle and then hitting your protein macronutrient goals are key for building muscle and maintaining strength while in a deficit.
Women should aim for at least .75 grams of protein per pound of body weight as a starting point. For someone new to this, that will feel like a lot of protein. Do the best you can and progress closer toward your goal each week while tracking your results to see what you need to change. Investing in a good protein powder and some protein bars is an easy way to help you hit your goals.
Strength training is the priority, but cardio has its place as well. It’s important to note that if you lose weight from cardio, you’ll likely lose muscle along with fat. We want to avoid this at all costs. Muscle is sacred and needs to be preserved. You want to keep everything you’ve got and build more little by little.
If you love cardio, that's great. Do whichever form you like, whether it's HIIT or LISS (or a little of both). Just make sure you are prioritizing strength. Cardio should be used as a tool to get rid of that last bit of stubborn fat.
Everyone's calorie goals will be different, so it’s essential to figure out your BMR. You can do this using a calculating formula. A simple Google search will present you with multiple options. They may not be 100% spot on, but they will get you close enough, and then trial and error will take you the rest of the way.
Try dropping 200 calories off your BMR as a starting point for your deficit. Your goal should be to lose 1 pound of fat a week. Slow and steady like this makes it more likely you are losing fat and not muscle.
A pro tip is to weigh yourself every morning and use the week's average to track your progress. We know the scale can be scary, but this will help you understand that daily weight fluctuations does not mean you've gained 5 pounds overnight. Taking your weekly average shows you a more balanced number closer to your actual weight and accurately highlights your progress.
If you are being honest with tracking your food and are using the tools at your disposal to track your average weight week to week, you should be able to see if you are getting results. MyFitnessPal is a popular tracking device that enables you to enter your daily food intake to see your calorie and macronutrient totals.
That’s why honesty and consistency are crucial for losing weight and supporting a healthier lifestyle. If it is early on in your diet and you are not losing, try dropping another 50-100 calories. That's why you don't want to drop too low in calories too soon.
You want to eat as much as possible while losing weight instead of going extreme and potentially developing disordered eating patterns. This is crucial because as your weight loss journey continues, it will be harder to continue losing weight.
If you can diligently track your food for 6-8 weeks and a maximum of around 12, you can develop a skill set that will make it much easier to eyeball and track your food intuitively for the rest of the year.
Think of it as knowing you have a tool in your toolbox that you can use when it’s getting close to beach season and you want to lean out and look your best. Each time you use that tool, it gets sharper and more precise, and the job gets easier. But it doesn’t mean you have to use it year-round.
We also understand it’s not easy for everyone, and tracking can be difficult. At the very least, you need to strength train and ensure that you have high protein low fat food sources, a smaller source of healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables for every meal. If you cut out junk food and cook nutritious options, you will make progress. This aligns closely with the 80 20 rule diet, a meal plan that supports nutritious foods and flexible eating.
Here are 10 weight loss tips that will help you hit your goals.
Compared to men, women are at a disadvantage when it comes to building muscle. They don’t have as much testosterone as men and will have more difficulty gaining mass. This makes strength training even more critical, not only to burn calories but to build toned muscles that you are proud of.
If you're looking for a great routine that combines resistance training, cardio, and circuits, check out Khloe Kardashian's workout and diet!
We touched on this a bit above, but be honest with monitoring your food and counting calories throughout the day. Even if tracking your eating habits is hard, try to find a way to do it, particularly in the beginning.
Track that you didn’t eat any junk food, reduced your saturated fat intake, drank more water, got in more daily steps, or didn’t order fast food for an entire week. Alternatively, you can track that you prioritized the importance of sleep, went above and beyond your physical activity goals for the week, or ate the right food groups.
The key is becoming comfortable finding things that you can point to when wondering why you did or didn't see results during any given week.
This doesn’t mean you have to weigh your food every meal for the rest of your life, but you need to develop a system that helps you hold yourself accountable if you want the results you are after.
Working out is excellent and a massive piece of the puzzle, but what about the other 23 hours of the day? Try to walk 10,000 steps a day or even 5,000 to start if you are nowhere near that. Take the dogs, the kids, or your significant other for a long walk. Take the stairs at work or walk with a group at lunchtime.
Find a set of stairs and get in a quick staircase workout on your way up to the office. There are countless ways to get yourself moving, but you must make an effort to do so. Remember, your body burns more calories the more you move. Plus, as far as your overall health and wellness is concerned, the more movement you're able to get in a day, the better!
We aren’t saying you have to be a high-level pro athlete, but people who find a sport to play seem to have a better overall system for their workouts. Whether golf, tennis, frisbee, marathon training, or whatever else, it's great for your body to move like a kid again.
It helps give purpose to your training and can be a fun way to get moving while socializing.
You don’t need to carry around a gallon jug and chug it all day, but know that a dehydrated body does not function at its best. Drinking water can also cure those annoying cravings that seem to pop up out of nowhere.
Chances are you migrate toward certain junk foods when you have a bad day at work, a fight with your partner, or are just feeling downright weak in the willpower department.
Replace things like desserts with fruit after meals. Or, if a sweet tooth does hit, find healthy protein-focused ways to satisfy it. This could be by making protein French toast or sweet-tasting protein coffee. Also aim to eat more fiber rich foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and beans, as these will help keep you feeling satisfied.
For salty cravings, try something like beef jerky in place of chips. Eat foods that make you feel good, avoiding those that may trigger a snowball effect and turn a bad meal into an entire day of poor eating.
Even if you aren’t going to track everything all the time, do us a favor and weigh two tablespoons of peanut butter. Now compare this to your typical serving size. Chances are, your serving size is way bigger and contains far more calories. The more you notice things like this, the easier it is to eyeball and track your food.
If eyeballing your food isn't working but you also don't like sticking to the same calorie count every day, a plan like the Metabolic Confusion Diet, which offers some tracking flexibility, may be a good option.
Tracking for your weight loss goals doesn’t mean you can’t ever have any of your favorite foods. In fact, overly strict dietary restrictions and eliminating entire food groups can cause you to eventually overeat them and gain weight. Instead, view your favorite unhealthy foods as something you have in smaller amounts and less frequently per week.
It’s okay to reward yourself with these things as long as they don’t trigger the snowball effect we mentioned.
You don’t need to worry about exceeding calories if you are filling up most of your plate with vegetables. You will do great, even without tracking, if your plate has lean protein, healthy fats, and a generous serving of vegetables.
Since something like broccoli contains so many fewer calories, you can eat way more!
It’s important not to do this alone. Find someone to share your struggles with, whether it’s an online group, friends, people at the gym, a trainer, a partner, or whoever else you have that can listen. Remember, this is a journey.
The more you talk about it, the more comfortable you will get knowing that you are not alone and other people have the same goals. Pro-tip: Ensure you have people around who will hold you accountable and don’t always tell you what you want to hear.
Nutrition and weight loss play a huge role in weight loss and helping you stay on track. They're essential to your journey and help you avoid weight-related health problems down the road, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Healthy eating and shedding unwanted pounds can even help prevent breast cancer.
Here's a look at a few of the most popular diets, along with the pros and cons that come with each.
The Mediterranean diet is based on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, nuts, lentils, and olive oil. Poultry, eggs, and dairy products are eaten in moderation. The pros of this diet are that it will ensure you are not eating processed junk or added sugar.
It can be a little bit low in protein and vitamin D, but you can adjust your levels or supplement if needed based on what works for you.
One of the most popular diets worldwide, this plan uses a points-based system assigned to foods based on their calorie, fat, and fiber contents. This can be a great introduction to tracking for people, making it much easier since it has a list of foods and their values that you can choose from.
The flexibility is a plus but also a con, as someone can start eating unhealthy foods based on points instead of eating a balanced diet. The subscription can also add up and be quite expensive over time.
Macro counting is more an eating style than anything and gives users complete freedom to fill in their daily carb, fat, and protein goals with whatever foods they wish as long as they hit their numbers. Think of it as having even more freedom than Weight Watchers, which can lead to the same issues of eating more unhealthy foods.
Its freedom is, however, its ultimate upside as no foods are restricted, and once you get your numbers dialed in for the formula, it will work for as long as you continue following it. And if you set your protein goals, you can make sure to get enough protein per serving at every meal. That's a bonus for sure!
This high-fat and low-carb diet is famous for its abrupt weight loss at the beginning. After people drop carbs, it generally puts them in a deficit, and they will lose some water weight very fast, making them feel confident the diet is working.
Keto dieters can hit a plateau if they start to eat too many high-fat foods. But as long as you keep track and remember fats are nine calories per gram, you can still hit your daily calorie goals following this plan.
And if you feel better using this diet and are seeing results, keep at it. As this diet is not sustainable in the long term, it's also important to come up with a plan to help you maintain weight loss after you're done with keto.
Hopefully, we have hammered this point home enough, but if we didn’t, strength training and exercise go hand in hand with your diet. Toned is a magical word within the fitness industry, but you cannot tone your muscles without having muscle in the first place. This means women need to strength train and achieve muscle hypertrophy to build muscle.
Exercise and strength training will not only help you build muscle but also help you burn calories and ensure you are in a daily deficit. This process leads to fat loss over time. Remember, if you are losing weight by doing cardio or just from dieting, you are likely losing muscle. Nobody wants this. Instead, build muscle so as you shed fat, you can see those strong, toned muscles you've worked so hard to build.
Strength training, like emphasizing building arm muscles, for example, will also lead to benefits such as stronger bones, better overall health, and a stronger immune system, along with many other amazing benefits.
There is no bigger flex in the world than being as fit as you can for as long as you can.
Here's a sample of what a good weight loss program looks like. A mix of three strength training sessions, including one upper body session, one leg day, and one full-body routine, a HIIT routine, and some steady-state cardio, this well-rounded sample program will help you hit your goals.
Remember, honesty and accountability are key. If you have been tracking everything and prioritizing exercise and are still not losing weight, you need to adjust the formula.
You might need more daily activity or a weekly assault bike workout, fewer calories, different macronutrient breakdowns, or better food choices. This will happen more frequently after you lose some weight, as the less fat you have, the harder it is to continue losing it.
When you hit a plateau, ask yourself, “have I been honest with my tracking?” If not, dial it up a notch. If yes, it’s time to see if you need to make some diet or workout changes. If it seems impossible, reach out to a friend or a trainer to see what they can do to help. Even something simple like focusing on meal preparation for weight loss can help keep you on track.
With these tips and your dedication, you're well on your way to weight loss.
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