It is easy to get caught up in a lot of the misinformation out there. When you are trying to get in better shape, especially when just starting out, it is very easy to follow bad advice simply because you just don’t know. Everyone has an opinion, a lot of nutrition myths and false beliefs float around till this day. The internet just perpetuates this even further. It is ok, you aren’t alone!
#1. Starting Your Diet With Too Low Of Calories
One mistake I see a lot of women make is starting their diet too low in calories like men sometimes do. When they fail to see progress after the first three or four weeks when the water was flying off their body it may come to a halt. This is where women hate reducing their calorie intake because they’re fighting their own will, hunger, and cravings so as not to give in. Women may then under-eat throughout the day, eating what they think they need to fuel their bodies and then when they come home their cortisol may be jacked up from lack of nutrition over prolonged periods of time, then they hit a workout which also raises cortisol, making it a ticking time bomb or an explosion to be let out on junk food or treats. While this may be difficult to control for some females, nevertheless you have to fuel your body in an optimal way, and try to focus your primary nutrition and the bulk of your calories around your workout to optimize your results. Giving your body what it needs at those opportune times can really help those who have cravings or who come home to those kind of problems after under-eating all day. Most women will work a long work day, hit the gym, and then come home to finish their chores and prepare their food for the next day. Keep your mind focused, stay on task; remember to pack what you need and hit those calories at the end of the day!
#2 Crazy diet fads and products
Those patches you put on your stomach to magically lose your waist, the diet where you take a few pills a day and you will lose a few pounds a week, the magical grapefruit diet, the liquid diet, or whatever else you see spewed all over the TV can really get to some women and into their minds.
The problem is that most people do not read the small white text at the bottom that usually talks about diet and training; they don’t make sure they correlate this with the supplement or meal plan you may see some girl modeling on TV. The downside is those meal plans you see on TV. You buy the meals, eat them for a few weeks and lose seven pounds. But they produce diminishing returns with a very bad turnover rate as far as success goes, because those programs or ads will put the individual on a very low intake. While they will see instant progress because of the low calories, the second they end that little meal plan or diet plan the rebound will put their weight right back to where they started in a matter of days if not hours from a relatively small initial achievement. A very low caloric intake over a prolonged time period is a sure way not only to lose muscle mass, it will also impair metabolism, and will cause what problem number one (see above) addressed: overeating or immense cravings, from going cold turkey on various foods that could be allotted in moderation if the individual tracked their caloric intake. The key to long term success is to invest in an understanding of caloric allotment, meeting protein, fat, and fiber minimums, and also making sure you intake as much as possible while still losing weight, in order to maintain a healthy metabolism.
#3 Healthy Foods That Aren’t So Healthy – Fake Healthy Foods
Watch some of these commercials and think about what they are trying to state. One thing you may hear is that women may need more protein or fiber, and who ends up making money from that? The makers of those fiber bars or processed and packaged foods that some people will praise as miracle drugs for fat loss success!
If you actually read the labels on those foods you would see that they contain a great amount of sugar and will jack up cravings instead of suppressing them, thus omitting foods that may be lower in sugar, higher in fiber (such as veggies and fresh fruits), or higher in protein (such as whole food protein sources, eggs, beef, chicken etc..).
You should avoid foods such as high fiber, sugar-free, fat-free, gluten free foods that you may think make you fat. That is not the case, when it comes down to it the moral of the story is the energy balance equation and making sure you are meeting proper caloric intake to help maintain your caloric deficit and continue fat loss and weight loss at a consistent rate. Some of the major offenders are Carnation Instant Breakfast packets, RTD shakes, protein cereals, and Special K protein shakes or cereals—,I have seen females eat multiple bowls of these in one sitting—and healthy protein cookies, which could be a disaster if you don’t stop at one. If you want protein, eat more whole foods, those will satisfy your hunger more than any processed or sugar laced pre-packaged food.
#4 and 5 Avoiding Protein and Fat macro-nutrients
Most women who do not track calories or just follow a cookie-cutter meal plan that they have read online, seen on a TV ad, or heard from some random trainer at a gym may not understand how much protein they are really getting or that they are undershooting protein by a large margin. A general rule of thumb to relate to is 1g/lb of protein per that individual’s bodyweight. A typical 135 pound female may eat 75-80g of protein in a day leaving them well short of 1g/lb which is a general rule of thumb for most individuals. When dieting—especially women— if you have never seen how much real whole food is needed to reach that specific intake you are probably vastly underrating in the grand scheme of things. Protein is very helpful for retaining muscle, helping cravings and satiety, it also has a higher thermic effect than the other two macronutrients. Women who undershoot calorie and protein intake are only going to set up a greater risk of catabolizing muscle, and also setting themselves up for hunger cravings which relates again back to topic #1 (above).
Last but not least women with an inadequate fat intake is a big problem that perhaps I should have addressed first. Women think of fat in terms of: “Fat will make me fat why so should I eat adequate fat?” Most women think that low fat, fat free, and low calorie foods are the savior of fat loss when in reality your hormones will be hating you for thinking that in the long run.
Fat has a lot of positive benefits for our nervous system, and also for regulating our hormones. While women may have to go to the extreme in calories to reach a desired level of leanness, if possible try to keep fat intake to a minimum of 15-20% of your total intake. Most females will have to get down to to the 35-40g range of fat—the bare minimum or even a touch lower—to get to extreme levels of low body fat, but in general females should never avoid fat completely.
Fat is very satisfying and aids satiety, just like protein does, it can really help fight off cravings. If women were to avoid fat it would be detrimental to holding and building muscle, causing them to “string” out or reach a point where muscle loss is a major factor (just like a long term low caloric intake and or an insufficient protein intake).
The key take away point is that a fat free diet, or a diet full of fat free foods is not always the best diet, it could be very counter-productive not only for your workouts, your sex life, and your hormones, but also for your overall mood and energy. Women, just like men, should strive for a good balance of omega 3 fat sources (fish or fish oils) including saturated fats like whole eggs, beef, or full fat yogurt products. When women get those nasty cravings it may be because they are negating one or more macronutrients, probably protein or fat, hence another reason why I lumped both facts #4 and #5 together— because of their importance not only in fat loss but also in maintaining and preserving muscle mass.