When it comes to fat loss for women, or anyone for that matter, it’s a mental game as much as it is a physical one.
The reason it’s mental as much as physical is for the fact that the two things it takes to lose fat, diet and exercise, require a change in thinking and in habits for fat loss to happen.
Once you’ve made the initial decision “I wan’t to lose fat“, you still need to battle with the various thoughts you’ll experience when it comes to eating, drinking and movement.
Let’s face it, it’s hard to change. Especially when you’ve formed strong habits in perhaps the opposite direction of where you want to go now.
As a personal trainer, I’ve seen and heard it all, and I’ve coached countless women with weight loss and get on track with their goal to having a slim, toned figure.
In this article I’ll discuss each of the important aspects of fat loss, from foundational information through to diet changes and exercises to do to burn fat.
Let’s get into it…
Co-Founder Exercises.com.au, Personal Trainer, Triathlete, Qualified Chef, Father of 5
7 Fat Loss Lies You MUST Know
If you’re all geared up to kick-start your new fat loss program and nutrition plan you’ve likely done your research and feel ready to forge onward.
But, can you trust that research? That’s really the question you must be asking yourself because sadly, much of what you read online about fat loss for women is only going to lead you astray.
There are a number of fat loss lies in the industry that you must be aware of because if you’re not, the chances of achieving the results you want will be slim – no pun intended.
Let’s go over the 7 fat loss lies to know about so that you can avoid falling for them…
Fat Loss Lie #1: Eating Before Bed Leads To Weight Gain
Do you have a nightly cut-off from all food sources? If so, you aren’t alone. Many people often think that eating past a certain time point in the evening will mean direct fat gain.
Basically, if they eat it, it’ll be put on their hips, thighs, underarms, or lower abs.
Nothing is further from the truth. Fact is, it’s your total daily calorie intake that is going to establish whether you gain or lose body fat. It matters less when you’re at these calories, however that said, spreading them out over the course of the day is going to lead to better results thanks to hunger control.
There’s nothing wrong with having a late-night snack provided it satisfies two requirements.
1. It’s accounted for as part of your total daily calorie intake
2. You eat healthy foods you would eat during other times of the day
If you’re noshing on chips, ice cream, or other sweets before bed, chances are you’ll be overeating in calories, therefore this will lead to weight gain. Not to mention these foods are not providing your body with nutrition, so aren’t ideal no matter what time of day it is.
These are the foods, however, most people do eat before bed. Choose smartly and you can have that before-bed snack.
Fat Loss Lie #2: You MUST Low Carb Diet For Optimal Results
The next lie is that low carb diets are the only way to see success. Again, this isn’t the case. While low carb diets definitely do tend to help many people realise their goals, some people feel miserable on them.
And, if they do, the chances they stick to them are incredibly low. Always choose a diet that you feel you will enjoy and be able to follow over the long haul.
If two days on a low carb diet make you want to eat everything in sight, chances are no matter how great that diet is in theory, it won’t be successful for you.
Many people have great success using calorie reduced, moderate carb diets. Don’t fear carbs. Choose them wisely, but do make them a part of your plan if you want.
Fat Loss Lie #3: If Some Exercise Is Good, More Is Better
Now we come to an exercise lie – the notion that if some is good, more is better. Remember, each time you exercise, you place a stress on your body. After that stress is placed on you, you need some recovery time to rebuild yourself back stronger than you were before.
Too much exercise just means no recovery time to get stronger and eventually you’ll be feeling weaker than ever before.
Carry on like this and it’ll only be so long before you can’t exercise and you’re sidelined with injuries, over-training, or just plain burnout.
Rest is a key part of a balanced workout program.
Fat Loss Lie #4: Cardio Should Be Your Primary Focus
Another notion that must be put to rest is the thought that cardio should be the primary focus of your workout protocol. Many women still believe cardio is best for fat burning while weight lifting is for muscle gain.
But, weight lifting is one of the best exercises for both fat loss and muscle gain. The reason? It’ll boost your metabolic rate for up to 48 hours after your workout and it will completely reshape your body.
While cardio training may make you a smaller version of your current self, weight lifting will completely transform your physique.
It should be your go-to form of exercise.
Fat Loss Lie #5: Results Will Be Steady
Another lie to note is that results will be steady. You lose 3 kilos that first week and feel elated. Next week, you only lose two. The following week, it’s down to one kilo. You feel defeated.
What happened? Don’t get too hung up on the exact amount you are losing week to week as it will never be linear. Some weeks you’ll lose more, others you’ll lose less.
Especially when you first get started, there’s a high chance you’re weight loss will be faster than normal.
Instead, just ensure that each week you’re losing some weight overall. If you are, you’re moving in the right direction. It’s only when the scale stands still for two more weeks at once that you should reexamine your food intake and exercise program.
Fat Loss Lie #6: Enough Exercise Can Overcome Poor Food Choices
Another lie that too many women fall for is the thought that enough exercise can help you overcome poor food choices. Basically, if you exercise hard enough, it won’t matter that you ate that slice of pizza or had the piece of cake.
While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence (and no, you don’t have to rush off to the gym to do an hour of cardio to ‘burn’ it off), take note that you will never overcome a bad diet with exercise.
You’d simply have to exercise too many hours in the day and eventually your body would give out. Losing weight will move along much easier and faster if you get your diet under control.
Always remember that you can easily take in 500+ calories in as few as 2 minutes with certain foods choices, but those same 500+ calories will typically take at least 45 minutes or more in the gym to burn off.
Fat Loss Lie #7: You Will Be Miserable
Finally, the last lie that you need to know is the lie that you are going to be miserable. Many women have this idea that dieting is going to be torture and as such, avoid it at all costs.
They put it off, not ready to ‘face the music’.
Get this thought out your mind. Dieting does not need to be torture. In fact, many women will find they feel better while dieting because their food choices dramatically improve.
As long as you steer clear from crash diets – which have no place in a smart plan, there’s no reason to be miserable. Choose a diet and exercise program that you could see yourself using forever and that will be the one you will have success with.
So keep these fat loss lies in mind. Are you falling for any of them? If so, make sure that you make some changes to put them behind you.
Why Your Scales Aren’t Telling You The Whole Truth
One situation that happens to many women on a fat loss diet is they spend the entire week doing everything ‘right’, feel excited about their progress, only to find that when they step on the scale, the number has increased.
Usually, this sets off extreme feelings of disappointment and has them contemplating forgoing the rest of their plan entirely.
After all, why keep dieting if it isn’t working, right?
Before you throw in the towel and go comfort yourself with a litre of rocky road ice cream, let’s go over why your scales may not be telling you the complete picture.
Weight Loss Isn’t Linear
The first reason to not freak-out is because weight loss is never linear. It would be great if we could lose 1.5 kilos each and every week until we reached our end goal.
It never works this way though. Some weeks you may just lose half a kilo while others you might lose 2 kilos. At the end of the day, balance is what you’re striving for.
If over the course of a month you’ve lost an appreciable, but safe amount of weight, you know that you’re right on track. Don’t pay too much attention to one slow week, it’s a trend you’re looking for. If you’ve had a slow month, that’s something to be more concerned with.
Muscle Weighs More Than Fat
Next, note that muscle weighs more than fat, so this can make the scales do funny things as well. It’s perfectly possible that during the beginning stages of your diet plan, you’ve lost fat but built muscle – assuming you are exercising.
If this happens, you may actually see the scales increase, however you will look smaller. This is because muscle is far more compact than fat mass is, so takes up less room on your body overall, but yet is very heavy, dense tissue.
So while you’ve lost fat and look slimmer, the muscle you’ve added is throwing off the change on the scales. This is one reason why it’s far better to go by how you look rather than the simple scales number.
If you feel like you look thinner, that’s your sure-sign that you’re on track and should keep doing what you’re doing.
Water Retention Is Highly Likely
Finally, the last reason the scales may be lying to you is simply due to water retention. Water retention can occur for a wide number of reasons. If you’re highly stressed, expect to retain more water. If you’ve eaten a salty meal the night before, that too can lead to a scale increase.
Women know first hand how much a little added water retention can make on the scale thanks to their monthly menstrual cycle. Finally, even exercise can make you retain water. After a particularly intense workout, don’t be surprised if you see your scale jump a little.
This is simply the result of increased tissue inflammation occurring in the muscles you’ve worked as well as added water and by-product accumulation experienced thanks to that session.
All of this is very good and only indicates that you’re working extra hard in the gym. So don’t step on the scales and get discouraged if the number isn’t exactly what you had hoped for.
Know that if you are following your diet and workout plan and you do look better in the mirror that you are on track to success. If you’re feeling really brave, you might even consider throwing your scales away completely and instead, simply going by how you look and feel.
How Much Exercise Is Needed For Fat Loss?
One question that women often wonder as they go about their fat loss program is how much exercise they really have to be doing.
If you’re one of those people who has no problem cutting back on how much you’re eating and changing your food choices but when it comes to getting to the gym, it’s like pulling a nail out of wood, you likely wish you could do as little exercise as possible.
So you wonder, how much can you get away with?
Or, maybe you just have a busy schedule and trying to fit hours of exercise in each week is a struggle at best. In order to answer this question, you need to keep a few points in mind.
Let’s go over how much exercise you really need for fat loss.
The Type of Exercise You’re Doing
The very first thing you’ll need to look at is the type of exercise that you’re doing. Are you doing strength training or cardio workouts? Or perhaps you’re doing both?
When it comes right down to it, those who are doing strength training will typically need less time devoted to exercise to see results compared to those doing cardio training.
The reason for this being that strength training is going to boost your resting metabolic rate for up to 48 hours and this really goes a long way towards getting fat loss moving.
The only case where this isn’t so is if you are doing high intensity interval cardio training. In that case, you’ll also be getting a strong metabolic boost, which means you’ll be seeing ongoing fat loss as well.
Generally speaking, the more intense the sessions you do perform are, the less total time you will need to devote to the gym.
You’re Aesthetic Goals
Next, you also need to factor in your aesthetic goals. Are you just looking to lose weight? Or, do you want to completely transform your body, looking entirely different than you did before?
If you just want to lose weight, you can do this with diet alone – no exercise needed. If you eat in a large enough calorie deficit, you will begin to lose weight. Jen’s journey to weight loss is interesting and faced by many trying to lose weight.
If you want to lose fat however and firm and tone your body in various places, this will take some exercise.
How much depends on the nature of the goal. Do you want to be very lean and look like a fitness model? If so, expect to put in four to five hours per week if not more.
If you just want to look healthy on the other hand, you can likely get away with four to five, 20-45 minute sessions per week, using a combination of both strength training and cardio training.
This will be enough to help maintain or build lean muscle mass, while burning fat off those trouble areas you may have.
So all in all, how much exercise you need will vary based on your goals. For general health sake though, a minimum of 2-3 sessions of 20-30 minutes of strength training would be a base level program.
This is the bare minimum necessary in order to get body shaping results while speeding up the process of fat loss. After that, everything else you do is bonus and will simply help your progress move along that much faster.
Also always take note that if you aren’t eating right, no amount of exercise is going to help you get the fat off. While you can lose weight without exercise, you cannot lose weight without watching what you eat.
Are You Triggering Your Body To Hold Onto Fat?
As I mentioned above, if you’ve been putting in hours and hours at the gym without much luck, this could in fact be the reason you aren’t seeing the results that you’re looking for.
When it comes to exercise, it’s natural to think that the more you do, the better your results. However, the body often fights back when too much exercise is being performed, slowing down your progress.
Let’s go into the details of why this occurs so that you can see why more really is less.
The first reason that too much exercise can throw your results off is simply because of the energy balance scale. This basically means that your body can only sustain so much of a calorie deficit before it starts to slow its metabolic rate down in effort to conserve as much fuel as possible.
Whether this energy deficit comes from a very low calorie diet or a very high level of activity doesn’t matter too much, it will still happen.
So if you’re eating a moderate calorie diet but doing hours and hours of exercising each day, your total daily calorie balance is still going to be very much in the minus.
So much so that the body may begin to prevent further fat loss from taking place. Your body will perceive this state to be a time of famine, and as such, any weight it does lose will be far more likely to be lean muscle mass than it is actual body fat.
That only results in an even slower metabolic rate, further decreasing your chances of success.
Another big problem to note is that the intensity of your workouts will also go down. The more exercise you’re doing on a regular basis, the less intense that exercise can be.
It’s a basic law of exercise that everyone needs to understand. And, when it comes to seeing optimal fat burning results, exercise intensity is one of the most important factors.
If you aren’t exercising hard enough, you won’t get that post workout calorie burn that you should and that is so important for ongoing fat loss results.
Moderate intensity training does very little to actually change your body. For better results, you need to boost it up. You can only do this however if you are well rested.
Finally, the last point to note is that your strength level will also take a tumble. When you’re going into a workout in a fatigued state already, you simply can’t expect to hit any personal bests.
This is going to mean less actual progress in terms of your physical performance, which can be demotivating in itself.
You can often judge a lot of how you are moving along with your program simply by whether you are increasing the amount of weight you are lifting over time, and chances are that if you are exercising multiple hours each week, this simply isn’t happening.
These are a few of the main reasons why less really is more when it comes to fat loss. Your best bet is to add in 3-4 intense workouts each week and then let your diet do the rest of the work for you.
It will be imperative that you are keeping tabs on your overall calorie level as this is what will dictate which direction the scale moves. So take some time away from the gym when you need it, knowing you aren’t stepping back in progress, but rather, quite possibly stepping ahead.
How To Strength Train For Fat Loss
Fat loss for women comes down primarily to doing strength training (lifting weights). Not only is strength training going to raise your metabolic rate so that you burn more calories each and every day, but it’s also going to also boost your metabolism even higher in the 48 hours post workout.
This means you are literally burning fat while you’re sleeping at night.
Not to mention that strength training for women is the only way to preserve lean muscle while you lose weight so that you can really reshape your body as the process moves along.
This said, strength training for fat loss is slightly different than strength training for strength gains, so let’s go over what you need to know.
Bring Volume Down, Not Up
The very first thing that you’ll want to be doing is bringing the volume down, not up. Many women make the mistake of taking their volume sky-high when they start up a fat loss plan thinking this will help them burn more calories.
What you need to remember however is that the higher the volume of exercise, the lower the intensity will need to be.
And, as far as boosting your metabolic rate as high as possible, intensity is key. A low intensity workout is not going to produce nearly the same results in this regard as a higher intensity session would.
To add to this, you’ll have fewer carbohydrates coming in on a daily basis, meaning you simply won’t have the energy for that much volume. Short but intense is what you’re looking for.
Keep The Weight On The Bar Heavy
The next big error you want to avoid is lightening the weight. What typically happens for women looking for fat loss is they think they should increase the reps and decrease the weight.
This is completely opposite what they should be doing. If you start decreasing the weight, you are sending the message to your body that it doesn’t need to be as strong as it is – the stimulus is gone.
This is the fastest way to start experiencing lean muscle mass loss. If you want to retain muscle while dieting, lifting heavier is key.
Focus On Compound Lifts
It’s also going to be vital that you start dropping out all the isolation exercises you might be doing and instead, focus on compound exercises only. These are going to give you the best fat burning results for minimal time investment, which is perfect for fat loss.
You simply don’t need all those isolation exercises you might have been doing right now. Save them for when fuel is plenty and you are looking to really reshape your body.
At this point, you simply want to stay strong and maximise calorie burn. That is what will get you leaner in a hurry. By focusing on the compound exercises first and foremost, you will do this.
There’s nothing wrong with doing only compound exercises in your workout program if that’s what you choose to do. This will help you get in and out of the gym quickly, keeping your energy level intact.
So keep these quick tips in mind when structuring a workout routine for fat burning. It’s imperative that you train correctly during this time or you may find that the results of your diet were not quite what you were expecting.
How To Choose The Best Fat Loss Program
Now that you’ve got some great foundational information about women’s fat loss, before you run out and start up on the first fat loss plan you find that promises good results, it’s time to put a little effort into choosing your plan.
The plan you choose to use could make or break your success in a number of ways. First, it must be effective in theory. If the plan isn’t designed properly, it may not matter how well you follow it, it won’t bring results.
Likewise, if you can’t follow the plan simply because you don’t enjoy being on it, this too will lead to lack of results.
So this said, let’s look at four steps to take to find a diet plan that fits your situation.
Assess The Calorie Content
The first thing that you’ll want to do when selecting a fat loss diet is to take a look at how many calories it provides. Are you getting a sustainable number? If the diet is any lower than around 1200-1300 per day (for women), this diet is too low for you to be on.
Remember, getting to your end goal is important, but it’s never worth sacrificing your health for. At these levels, you simply aren’t eating enough to get your basic nutritional needs met.
Assess The Protein Level
After you’ve looked at the calorie content, you’ll then want to look at the protein it contains. If the diet is too low in protein, malnutrition will occur and you may begin to lose lean muscle mass rather than body fat.
You want to aim for around 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of body weight at the bare minimum. For active women, you would do better taking in 1-1.5 grams or more per kilo of body weight.
Remember that you can always add more protein to a given diet if everything else looks good.
Assess The Food Choices
Next up, look at the food choices. Is the plan promoting a wide variety of natural foods? Are you required to eat any pre-made foods or supplements on the protocol?
Are the foods you are to be eating ones that you actually enjoy? It’s important that you both enjoy the foods on the plan and that the diet is promoting natural, unprocessed foods.
This will indicate a smart fat loss plan that is easily sustainable and that will provide you with adequate nutrition. If it’s not, know that that plan is only going to be beneficial short term.
Assess The Long-Term Outlook
Finally, you’ll also want to assess the long-term outlook of this plan. By this, I mean how long you think you’ll stick with it. Is it a plan you could see yourself doing for years to come?
Remember, if you want to keep the weight off, you are looking for a lifestyle change here. This means that you may add more food into your meal plan at a later date once you’ve lost the weight, but you will never go back to eating how you did before.
If the plan isn’t something that you could see yourself doing for the long haul, it might be time to keep looking. If you do find such a plan, it’ll make moving to weight maintenance that much easier.
These are four key steps to take to figure out which fat loss diet you should be using. Spend some time looking for the right plan – it will pay off in the end in terms of the results that you see.
Fat loss for women is a popular topic thanks to our sedentary lifestyles and abundance of processed foods on supermarket shelves.
So ultimately it comes down to the lifestyle you choose. A fitness based lifestyle with a sensible healthy eating plan can give you the slim, toned figure you want. Very few other lifestyles will allow you to maintain this slim figure over the long term, unless you’re one of the luck ones with ‘slim’ genetics.
But even genetics can be overridden by a bad diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
Now that you’re armed with more information about women’s fat loss and the mindset, diet and exercise required, where to from here?
Even if you’re not looking for a specific ‘fat loss program for women’ at this point, here’s the 3 things you can do every week to keep you slim and toned:
- Daily Resistance Training (Lifting Weights) – focus entirely on Compound Exercises for maximum fat burning and muscle toning.
- Eat Healthy Foods – eat 95% natural foods (entirely unprocessed).
- Calorie Surplus/Deficit – think each day about what food you’ve taken in and balance this against the amount of either weigh training or general exercise you’ve done. Manage this balance and you’ll never have to ‘diet’ ever again.
If you have any questions, please add them in the comment section below and I’ll respond personally 🙂
Dmitri Simons is a Master Personal Trainer, Head Trainer and Co-Founder of Exercises.com.au.
Dmitri is a qualified PT of 15 years, a qualified Chef, Father of 5 and competes in Triathlons in his spare time. His passion is helping people achieve their health and fitness goals by taking control of their health, eating healthier and engaging in different forms of exercise such as weight lifting, stretching and cardio.