The headline trickled across my newsfeed: High-Protein Diet Raises Cancer Risk As Much As Smoking.
Bang! That’s my jaw hitting the floor. Are you shitting me? Are you actually serious with this clickbait headline?
Now, I get it. Nutrition is complicated. It’s no secret there are a million diets out there. But demonizing one macronutrient as a carcinogen on par with smoking is insane.
So now I’m riled up, heavily caffeinated, and ready to settle the score on protein once and for all.
Is protein an essential piece of a muscle-building, fat-burning diet?
Or, is it a demonic nutrient guaranteed to destroy your kidneys faster than a Conor McGregor punch?
Among the issues:
– How much protein you need to build muscle
– Whether you’ll lose fat faster by eating more protein
– Do you need to guzzle a shake right after training, or is that broscience?
If you’re confused about protein, you’re not alone. Which brings us to…
Ted’s Protein Story And Why It Matters
Ted is a busy guy who just wants to retake control of his health and look good naked. Three weeks into the training and nutrition plan I put together for him, everything was runnin’ smooth.
Ted dropped a few pounds of fat and texted: “I’m getting rid of this Dad-bod.”
Hell, yeah. He was stoked.
Two days later I opened my inbox to a handful of frantic messages.
“Eric, I’m concerned about my diet. After a friend noticed the results I was getting, he started talking about my diet. I told him we increased my protein intake and he said protein gives you cancer. Is this true?”
Scary headlines and everyone suddenly becoming an infographic-generating nutrition expert on Instagram contribute to the confusion. Eating healthily and transforming your body is more complicated than ever.
But you can’t live life in a double-blind study with scientists nit-picking your diet. I’m going to draw on the latest science and my experience as a coach to hundreds of clients to offer the best possible advice.
What Is Protein?
Stick with me, this is some dry #sciencestuff. Still, it’s essential if you’d like to free yourself from the bullshit-spewing clowns who make nutrition so damn confusing.
Proteins are long chains of amino acids. These structures are the building blocks of nearly every structure in your body, from your nails and hair to your cells, veins, and of course, your biceps.
There are complete proteins, those which have all 20 amino acids, like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, quinoa, and soy.
There are incomplete proteins which are missing a handful of amino acids. This is problematic as there are nine essential amino acids that are not processed by your body. If you don’t get them, you’ll have problems with tissue repair and (gulp) muscle loss. Still, you can create complete proteins by combining incomplete protein with certain plant foods combinations like beans and rice.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients (fat and carbs are the others) which make up the calorie-containing foods we eat.
And what happens when your diet is devoid of protein, as in cases of malnutrition?
Your body will break down muscle tissue into amino acids to support basic bodily functions to keep you alive.
To paraphrase my friends at Precision Nutrition:
All your enzymes and cell transporters… all your blood transporters…. all your cells’ scaffolding and structures…. 100 percent of your hair and fingernails… much of your muscle, bone, and internal organs… and many hormones…
… are made of mostly protein. Protein enables most bodily functions.
Put simply, you are basically a pile of protein.
How Much Protein You Need to Survive
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein intake is 46 grams daily for women and 56 grams for men.
But here’s the catch.
RDA’s are created to prevent malnutrition so your body doesn’t break itself down…not improve your performance, help you build muscle, and be a strong, jacked, badasses. I’d wager you’re hoping to thrive, not merely survive, right? Read on.
How Much Protein You Need to Build Muscle
If your primary concern is building muscle, losing fat, and looking great then “preventing malnutrition” is far from ideal. It’s clear you need more protein than the commonly prescribed RDA’s if you want to optimize body composition.
But it’s less clear how much protein you actually need.
The most common recommendation is to aim for 1g of protein for 1 lb of bodyweight every day. Thus, a 180 lb male should have roughly 180g of protein to maximize body composition.
And for most, this is a fine recommendation because it’s simple, straight-forward, and easy to calculate without a calculus degree.
But is this more than you need?
More and more the answer appears to be yes.
This study by Hoffman et al. (2006) found no differences in body composition, strength or resting hormonal concentrations in strength athletes consuming either 0.77g/lb or >0.91g/lb over a 3 month period.
It appears .82/g/lb of bodyweight is the upper limit of protein needed to derive maximum protein synthesis, according to this 2011 study by Phillips and Van Loon.
So, why the recommendation of 1g/lb/ of bodyweight?
First, it’s easier to remember. And if you’re going to overeat one macro it’s better to overeat protein than carbs or fat.
Second, research can be a finicky little bitch. Protein peddlers who benefit greatly from the sales of protein pixie dust (kudos to Bryan Krahn for the term) fund private research companies who unsurprisingly conclude “more is better” when it comes to protein consumption. Protein candy bars pack with fat and sugar? Sure! It’s good for you. Because protein.
So, what’s the difference between 1g and .82g?
Using a 180lb jacked bro as an example, 180x.82= 147 g of protein per day. Most protein scoops are 25-30 g per serving. And 147+30? 177g, or damn near 1g of protein per 1/b of bodyweight. Not to play conspiracy theorist, but the slight difference makes you wonder.
Consuming .82 g of protein per 1 lb of bodyweight is probably enough.
But if 1g of protein per 1 lb of bodyweight is working for you, it’s fine to stick with it.
If fat loss is your primary goal, getting more protein than the average person has three huge benefits:
It prevents muscle wasting. Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue. If you’re in a calorie deficit while combining low protein your metabolism can plummet, stopping weight loss in its tracks. Combining a high-protein diet with resistance training is the perfect recipe to stave off muscle loss during a diet. Plus, when you retain muscle while carving away fat you’ll finally show off muscle definition, your #shredz, or (gulp) “tone.”
Protein keeps you full. When calories are low and you want to prevent yourself from giving in and crushing three containers of Ben and Jerry’s, protein is your best friend.
Protein burns more calories during the digestion process, as much as 30% more than carbs or fats. If you’ve ever had the meat sweats, this is why: the thermic effect of food. This means if you have 100 calories of fat (25g of protein, like 1 scoop), then your body will burn 30 calories of this amount by breaking protein into usable amino acids.
✅EAT More Protein To Lose Fat✅ . Eating a high protein diet during a fat loss diet will… Help you look better naked. 🤓Yep, seriously. But more specially a high protein diet will… 💥Preserve lean muscle mass. In turn, this supports maintaining a healthy metabolism to prevent 😩agonizing dieting plateaus AND helps you maintain the lean muscle you already have. This helps you show more definition of what mainstream media calls "tone." . 💥High protein foods are generally more satisfying and satiating. When you're dieting and craving 🍦🍫🍕… a high protein snack is a life saver to fill you back up and prevent binge-eating. As a rule of thumb, aim for a protein dense food with each meal whether it's 🥚at breakfast, 🍗 at lunch, 🐮🦄 or 🐠at dinner. 🍼(shakes) Are also a good bet in a time crunch. . —— VEGANS DON'T START w/the protein is bad shit. Thanks 😊—— . 💥While a lesser effect, the thermic effect of protein can play a role in fat loss in beginners. Some studies pointing as far back as 1902 and 1930 (Lusk) indicate you could burn as much as 30% of the calories from protein in digestion as your body breaks protein into amino acids. Jacking your protein up while simultaneously decreasing calories can lead to big changes in the short term… until your body Down- regulate energy expenditure during fat loss to preserve energy. 💥The biggest benefit of them all? High protein diets make it easier to feel full and eat fewer calories (✅the real key for fat loss✅) and have consistently been shown to be incredibly effective for fat loss. So… How much protein? 1 gram per 1 pound of bodyweight is the perfect amount for fat loss. So, is you're 180 pounds, that's 180g. Track your nutrition OR simply use your palm as a guestimation tool, using each "palm" as 25-35g each. Questions? Ask'em. Know someone in need of #protein gains? Pay it forward and tag'em. . . #iifym #paleo #dadbod #nutrition #flexibledieting #southbeachdiet #protein #lowcarb #atkins #fatloss #repost #repostapp #fatlossblog #dadbod #weightloss #sixpacksecrets #protein #onnit #Irma's making me bored so I created an infographic.
In other words, protein retains the muscle you have, keeping your metabolism from dropping and helping you look better once you’re leaner.
Protein keeps you full, helping you stay with your diet. To sweeten the pot, the meat sweats from crushing a lot of protein results in a net consumption of roughly 70% of calories due to the thermic effect of protein breakdown.
So, what does the science say about losing weight and protein?
Longland et al ran a study in 2016 comparing diets of 2.4 g protein/kg of body weight (1g/lb) to a diet containing 1.2 g protein/kg of body weight (.54g/lb).
Those smart dudes in lab coats concluded high protein diets, when combined with resistance training, lead to an increase in lean muscle mass and a decrease in fat mass. In other words, lifting and eating more protein helps you lose fat and build muscle.
Again, calories are king.
I’ve found the greater the caloric deficit (the tougher the diet), the greater the need for more protein.
Eating a high protein diet is generally more satiating, meaning you’ll feel full and satisfied during a fat loss diet. If eating a higher protein diet means you’ll eat fewer refined sugars or calorie-dense fats. You’ll stay in a caloric deficit, then it’s a great idea to eat more protein.
Now, About Those Scary “Protein is Bad For You” Headlines
Here’s where things get interesting. We’ve all seen the scary headlines lie, “bacon is worse for you than smoking” or steak gives you cancer.
Terrifying headlines. That’s why they gained traction.
But are they full of shit?
I’ll let you decide, but I’ll lead with this 2016 study by Phillips et al which concluded:
“Substantial evidence supports the increased consumption of high-quality protein to achieve optimal health outcomes.
A growing body of research indicates that protein intakes well above the current Recommended Dietary Allowance help to promote healthy aging, appetite regulation, weight management, and goals aligned with athletic performance. Higher protein intakes may help prevent age-related sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass, and strength that predisposes older adults to frailty, disability, and loss of autonomy.
Despite persistent beliefs to the contrary, we can find no evidence-based link between higher protein diets and renal disease or adverse bone health. “
If you want to optimize health and look better naked, eat more protein than the meager RDA’s given.
But really, does protein give you cancer?
This idea arose from the work of Dr. T Colin Campbell, author of the China study and research including work by Cell Metabolism indicating a high protein diet in midlife (50 to 65) is linked to premature death.
So, in the best interest of sensationalism and gathering pageviews, bacon=cancer.
They noted higher protein amounts midlife increased cancer risk 4x, yet was completely erased by consuming plant protein instead. But is this the case?
Again, there are multiple variables at play. You can check out the study for yourself, dig into this excerpt from Examine.com’s analysis of the study (read it here):
The study found:
….“A positive correlation between moderate and high protein intakes and diabetes-related mortality, relative to the lowest intake. This persisted, albeit to a lesser degree, when looking at people over the age of 65.
No relation between higher protein intake with all-cause mortality, cancer-related mortality, or cardiovascular mortality overall. A small increase in risk was seen when looking only at people between the ages of 50-65. This risk was reversed for people above the age of 65, where dietary protein had a protective effect against all forms of mortality (excluding diabetes-related).”
What’s the link researchers are attempting to make?
Stick with me on this one. I’ll make sense of all the jargon.
Protein increases the growth hormone 1GF-1, which increases the growth of all cells…from the ones in your biceps to the cancerous ones roaming all of our bodies. So the belief is more IGF-1 equals more cancer.
But here’s the catch: lower levels of IGF-1, which occur with aging, are one of the reasons people lose muscle and become frail.
It’s been well noted that a loss of muscle mass and frailty lead to a loss of independence, an increase in falls and, as you guessed, earlier death.
While completely eliminating protein may reduce cancer risk and extend life, but it sure doesn’t appear to improve the quality of life.
By reducing your intake of animal protein you may limit your chance of certain cancers. But it’s likely you’ll also lose functional capacity, via muscle loss, which in and of itself limits the quality and duration of life. There seems to be a tradeoff of cancer prevention and quality of life.
At the end of the day, over consuming anything leads to imbalances in the body. And in this case, eliminating animal protein for the love of IGF-1 can lead to other dietary imbalances equally likely to cause ill health and yes…death.
What About Organ Damage?
There’s a belief too much protein is bad for your kidneys. This stems from research in 1983 when researchers found protein intake increased glomerular filtration rate (GFR), or the amount of blood your kidneys have filtered per minute. Thus, greater GFR means more stress on your kidneys and voila, harm.
Still, an increase in GFR doesn’t necessarily mean your kidneys are being harmed, especially if you’re healthy. Per this study and the previously mentioned study Phillips et al study in 2016, it was found that a high protein diet doesn’t impact kidney function in individuals with healthy kidneys. In fact, the Institute of Medicine concluded, “the protein content of the diet is not responsible for the progressive decline in kidney function with age” (Phillips et al., 2016).
So, what’s the word, big bird?
If you have any organ damage, kidney or otherwise, then talk with your doctor and a nutritionist about the best course of action. I consulted with my obesity doctor main man Spencer Nadolsky for you. He was kind enough to provide this graphic:
If your doctor lifts, he or she will know these things. – Protein has gotten a bad reputation. – 1. In healthy individuals, high protein diets have never been show to harm your kidneys. In fact, at very high levels done in Jose Antonio's lab, they showed no harm over a year of a very high protein diet. There are some big reviews recently showing the same. I would discuss with your doctor if you do have kidney disease because you'll want to adjust. – People always ask if they can handle more than 30 grams of protein in each feeding. This was started due to protein synthesis maxing out around that level but you also have to look into protein breakdown. Higher levels of protein in a meal my lower protein breakdown and also be used for other things in the body. – The last thing I hear often is how protein is bad for your bones. This is BS … ESPECIALLY if you combine it with resistance training. Eat it up and stay hydrated and lift weights. References https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-016-0114-2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/27465374/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3595342/ http://m.ajcn.nutrition.org/content/90/6/1674.full #protein #weightlosstips #weightlosstransformation #fitness #fitfam #proteins
Claims of organ damage from protein appear overblown. If you have concerns or a pre-existing condition, you should consult with a doctor and a nutritionist. I am neither, but don’t see an issue for healthy people. If you’re healthy, stick to the recommended .82g/lb or 1/g/lb of protein per your body weight and you’ll be fine.
What About Protein Supplements?
Pre- versus post-exercise protein intake has similar effects on how much muscle and strength you’ll gain.
In this study by Brad Schoenfeld et al analyzed pre- versus post-exercise protein intake and concluded:
“These findings refute the contention of a narrow post-exercise anabolic window to maximize the muscular response and instead lends support to the theory that the interval for protein intake may be as wide as several hours or perhaps more after a training bout depending on when the pre-workout meal was consumed.”
In other words, protein timing doesn’t matter nearly as much as the total amount consumed. There’s no need to sprint shaker-in-hand to fill up your shaker bottle. Protein timing doesn’t make a huge difference.
And do you actually need fancy protein supplements?
This study looked at whether protein supplementation leads to more gains in size and strength.
In short, yes….but not if you have more than 1.6g/kg of protein. This is in line with the .82g/lb recommendation mentioned earlier.
Basically, if you’re not getting enough protein, then a shake will help you make faster gains in the gym.
But if you’re already getting .82g/lb/protein, then extra protein won’t lead to more gains in size and strength.
So NO. You don’t need a shake. Go eat a steak instead.
The Grand Finale on Protein
The fitness industry and mainstream media needlessly complicate two simple questions:
(1) Is protein healthy?
(2) if so, how much do you need?
The protein research is not clear-cut. There’s a study to support or cast doubt on most contentions. Anyone who writes about the topic (including me) risks accusations of selective citation.
But here’s the bottom line from where I stand as a coach who simply wants to help you live well and look good naked:
Fitness comes down to science — plus its real-world application within the lives of everyday people like you.
My take? Don’t consider protein in isolation. It’s one factor among many. You also need to consider diet, fitness, and lifestyle options to arrive at a rational decision that works for you.
Make sure you’re eating more veggies, sleeping well, and eating mostly whole foods to begin with. Mix in plant proteins like hemp protein occasionally with your steak and chicken.
And if you want to look good naked?
Then get your protein.
To build muscle aim for .82g/lb/body weight. More is fine if it helps you get the calories needed, but protein itself doesn’t mean more gains.
To lose fat, .82g/lb of bodyweight or 1g/lb is fine. Doing so will preserve lean muscle, help you control hunger, and burn a few more calories.
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- How to gain strength and get lean in less than four hours per week
- The real reason constant dieting doesn’t work…and how to reboot your metabolism
- The best exercises to stimulate massive fat loss without losing strength and muscle
- How to enjoy your favorite foods and still make progress in the gym
- How exercise so it improves your life rather than consumes it
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Get Your Rocks Off With These Studies and Sources
Will a High-Protein Diet Harm Your Health? The real story on the risks/rewards of eating more protein. (2016, August 30). Retrieved August 24, 2017, from https://www.precisionnutrition.com/will-a-high-protein-diet-harm-your-health
Patel, E. K. (2014, March 06). High-Protein Diets Linked to Cancer: Should You Be Concerned? Retrieved August 24, 2017, from https://examine.com/nutrition/high-protein-diets-linked-to-cancer-should-you-be-concerned/
Schoenfeld, B. J., Aragon, A., Wilborn, C., Urbina, S. L., Hayward, S. E., & Krieger, J. (2017). Pre- versus post-exercise protein intake has similar effects on muscular adaptations. PeerJ, 5. doi:10.7717/peerj.2825
Schoenfeld, B., Aragon, A., & Krieger, J. W. (2013). The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 53. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-53
Tang JE, Moore DR, Kujbida GW, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. J App Physiol (Bethesda, Md: 1985). 2009;107:987–92.
Lemon PW. Beyond the zone: protein needs of active individuals. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000;19(5 Suppl):513S–21S.
Hartman JW, Tang JE, Wilkinson SB, Tarnopolsky MA, Lawrence RL, Fullerton AV, et al. Consumption of fat-free fluid milk after resistance exercise promotes greater lean mass accretion than does consumption of soy or carbohydrate in young, novice, male weightlifters. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86(2):373–81.
Campbell WW, Barton ML Jr, Cyr-Campbell D, Davey SL, Beard JL, Parise G, et al. Effects of an omnivorous diet compared with a lactoovovegetarian diet on resistance-training-induced changes in body composition and skeletal muscle in older men. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;70:1032–9.
Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Kang J, Falvo MJ, Faigenbaum AD. Effect of protein intake on strength, body composition and endocrine changes in strength/power athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2006;3:12–18. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-3-2-12. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
Phillips, S. M., Chevalier, S., & Leidy, H. J. (2016). Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: Implications for optimizing health 1. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 41(999), 1-8.
Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S29-38 (2011). Retrieved August 9, 2017,Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation.
Int. J Sport Nutr Metab.,10(1), 28-38. (2000). Retrieved August 9, 2017, from Do regular high protein diets have potential health risks on kidney function in athletes?
Kim HH1, Kim YJ1, Lee SY2, Jeong DW3, Lee JG1, Yi YH1, Cho YH4, Choi EJ4, Kim HJ5, “Interactive effects of an isocaloric high-protein diet and resistance exercise on body composition, ghrelin, and metabolic and hormonal parameters in untrained young men: A randomized clinical trial.” J Diabetes Investig. 2014 Mar 23;5(2):242-7.
Poortmans, J., & Dellalieux, O. (2000). Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. Do regular high protein diets have potential health risks on kidney function in athletes,10(1), 28-38. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10722779.
Rantanen, T., Masaki, K., He, W., Ross, G. W., Wilcox, B., & White, L. (2012). Midlife Muscle and Human Longevity up to age 100 years: a 44-year prospective study among a decedent cohort. American Aging Association, June(3), 563-570. doi:10.1007/s11357-011-9256-y
It’s Tuesday afternoon, 12:30 pm. You’re staring at the at the greasy sandwich and healthy baked chips from the cafeteria, while half-heartedly clicking through emails to get your inbox to zero.
Cheese oozes through your fingers and drips on your keyboard. You look up to see your co-worker Jeff. That damn Jeff chuckles as he walks by, as the aroma of another “gourmet lunch” fills your nostrils.
You know how to cook and what to eat, but what’s holding you back? Jeff does it, why aren’t you?
But Eric, I ‘m too busy to cook. I really don’t have the time! “
Yea, yea. I’ve heard every excuse in the book from clients trying to build an awesome body. They’re intelligent, hard-working college students, executives, and business owners but still lack time management skills to whip up a few healthy muscle-building meals for the week.
It’s not hard. It just requires some a shopping list, halftime during your teams Football game, and a little effort.
I’m gonna hook you up with one of my favorite recipes that’s an easy fix for healthy lunches. I cook this every so often, package it up in portable containers, and throw it in the fridge.
This way, all I have to do is grab the container on my way out the door after my 15 minute morning. Nuke the microwave safe container at work—So we can avoid BPA causing cancer— and voila: Healthy, quick, muscle-building lunch.
What is it?
Chili. Ridiculously tasty and meaty chili. Loaded with fresh vegetables, spices, and copious amounts of dead animal flesh, this stuff has tons of healthy fiber, muscle-building protein, and health promoting phytochemicals.
– 1lb 93% Lean Grass Fed Ground Beef
– 1 lb Lean Spicy Chicken Sausage
– ½ lb Carrots
– ½ Onion
-1 Red Bell Pepper
-1 Yellow Bell Pepper
-1 Green Bell Pepper
-3 Jalapeno Peppers
– 1 Green Chili
– 3 serrano peppers
-1 banana pepper
– 1 Can Beans (Pinto, Garbanzo, or Black)- 15 ounces
– 1 Large Jar whole Tomatoes – 28 ounces
– 1 Tbs Minced Garlic
– Extra Virgin Olive Oil (to taste)
– Balsamic Vinaigrette ( to taste)
Seasonings: Cumin, Chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, onion salt
* Season to taste, I prefer a ginormous tablespoon of each. Or just add a shit-ton of Franks Red Hot, which makes everything taste good.
Puttin’ It Together
Wash, peel, slice and dice yo’ veggies. Heat a giant pot to medium-high heat. Pour some olive oil and add your spices –This helps bring out the full flavor of the spices.
Onions, carrots, jalapeno, green chilis, garlic, bell peppers should be thrown in the pot and crisped for about 10-12 minutes.Meanwhile, open your beans and tomatoes and set aside. Throw in your meat for another 10 minutes.
Decrease the heat to low, adding in beans and tomatoes. Cover, simmer, and stir every 20 minutes or so. Cook for at least an hour.
I find the longer it cooks, the better it tastes. This bodes well for your next week’s lunches as the flavor deepens.
*P.S. This also works well with large groups or as a healthy alternative to Game Day Pizza.
Muscle Building Considerations
Some people like a base with their chili. Both pasta and rice are common options. If you’re needing the calories and looking to add some more muscle stick with rice, or a whole grain pasta noodle. If you’re looking to get shredded, skip the base and eat the chili as is. There’s more than enough fiber and protein to keep you full. Luckily, chili works perfectly into your carb cycling routine as a muscle-building lunch.
Win Eric’s Favorite- Cookbook
Becoming a good cook – I hope I’m not ahead of myself– Is a great skill to have. Not only is it a huge part in making heathy and nutritious meals, it’s fun and a great way to spend time awesome people. Plus, it impresses girls… and their parents. Double score.
Post Inspired by Nate Green’s $17 Buys you Lunch for Days
Recently, I’ve been receiving questions on how females should train. Most have the goal of looking leaner, toned, and a more curvy. In this post, I wanted to answer the most frequently asked question, “Should Women train differently than men? ”
Short Answer: No, not really.
With the questions I frequently get, I have put together 7 considerations for helping sculpt a sexy female figure.
1.) “Toning” and “shaping” are not the answer.
Weight training in popular media for women generally revolves around words such as “toning and shaping.”
Lets examine “toning” This term is used to make muscles appear firmer, and tighter without them appearing bigger. It’s a common, but extremely thawed thought. Routines based upon “toning” likely involve extremely light weights for very high rep amounts. Think pink dumbbells for 20 rep sets of triceps kickbacks. Unfortunately, these routines are not challenging enough to the muscle to force growth and change.
Without challenging you body to grow and change, how will it look any better? With or without excess fat, a body looks healthy and fit with a little more muscle.
Shaping offers a different, yet equally confusing idea. Muscles cannot be shaped; rather, they are pre-determined by your genetics. You can’t physiologically change a muscles shape, only whether it is bigger or smaller.
2.) You should lift heavy.
Certain goals for both men and women are similar. The most common is a firm, toned, sexy look. One of the best ways to get that look, for men or women, is with heavy weight. Lifting heavy weights is the fastest, and most efficient way to build myogenic muscle tone… or the highly dense, toned muscle that you seek.
“But won’t lifting heavier weights make me bigger?” This leads to right to my next point…
3.)No, lifting weights will NOT make you bigger.
Why? Building muscle is very, very, hard. Ask any guy. There is a reason we train year in, year out, eat copious amounts of dead animal flesh, and cherish any small, muscular changes. And that’s with a plethora of hormonal benefits from testosterone helping us out! Unless you have extremely rare genetics you won’t be piling on slabs of muscle and look like Hulk Hogan.
Additionally, there are tons of factors that mitigate muscle growth: Training style (most importantly, muscle tension and training volume), diet, and hormones (as mentioned above.) Unless you are taking external testosterone, training with way too much volume, and consuming a ton of excess calories you won’t be getting bulky.
With that thought, I recommend all women do some sort of heavy training once per week.
Try squats, deadlifts, bench presses, push presses, and rows for 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps with the heaviest weight you can safely do.
4.) There is no such thing as spot reduction
Men and women deposit fat differently. Men generally carry more body fat centralized around the abdomen whereas women carry more excess fat around the hips and thighs. For both genders, spot reduction is a popular topic. In most cases, body fat is lost evenly throughout the body. Therefore, in order to be leaner in a particular area fat loss needs to occur all over.
I find the best exercises for losing fat all over are done in a standing position, such as sprints and high intensity weighting, rather than a seated position like a stationary bike, or rowing machine.
5.) Women have a different weight distribution than men.
Because women carry more weight in their lower body they are generally relatively weaker in the upper body, but just as relatively strong in the lower body. In most cases it’s best to regress upper body exercises, such as a push up or pull up. Rather than watching in horror as a female grinds out worm-ups, regressed the exercise by performing it with a barbell racked off the ground. Just because someone can’t do a full exercise…yet… doesn’t mean they shouldn’t perform any variation.
6.) Women have better stamina than men
Women can handle a higher training density– less rest between sets and a higher volume– than their male counterpart. This may be due to an overall decrease in relative strength. This factor allows women to train at a higher frequency with a higher density than men.
*Note: Training density (doing more in less time) is a huge variable for fat loss.
7.) Women need more protein
I find most of my female clients drastically under-consume protein. Protein does three awesome things for your body: Protein can blunt your appetite to keep you fuller for longer, speed up your metabolism, and help you maintain your muscle (giving you that toned, dense look) while stripping off unwanted fat. I tell my female clients to have protein with any carbohydrate source and shoot for their body weight in grams of protein. This would mean a 120 lb female consumes roughly 120 grams of protein per day.
Okay, I’ve got to run, but I gathered a list of great sites and resources for you to check out. These are some of the best fitness sites for females looking to build awesome bodies. Fellas, you can take a look to and stop giving poor advice to women who ask you :).
Let me know any questions you have and how you currently train!
“Beautiful Crossfit Woman.” List 09. N.p., n. d. Web. 18 Sep. 2013. <http://www.list09.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/crossfit-girl-Laura-Plumley1.jpg>.
Romaniello, John . “Sexy Female Training.” Roman Fitness Systems. N.p., n. d. Web. 18 Sep. 2013. <http://www.romanfitnesssystems.com/blog/6-tips-for-building-a-sexy-female-body/>.
Schuler , Lou, Cassandra Forsythe, and Alwyn Cosgrove.The New Rules of Lifting For Women . New York City: Penguin Group, 2007. Print.
Dude…is it true all this beer is giving me man boobs?
I keeled over and nearly spit my beer all over the table. I was 21 years old, an undergrad in kinesiology and kickin’ back a few beers on thirsty Thursday with my friend Chris.
“No, I mean, seriously. I heard beer has compounds that mimic estrogen. So drinking a lot of beer throws guys hormones off and gives us man boobs. Is this right? At the time, I wasn’t sure. Three beers deep I was tipsy and didn’t really care. In hindsight maybe I was being a jerk. But then again, I wasn’t completely sure.
Do hormone imbalances play a role in where we store body fat? Is excess cortisol the reason some of us have stubborn belly fat that won’t go away?
Is excess cortisol the reason some of us have stubborn belly fat that won’t go away?
Taken a step further, by naturally working to improve hormone levels can we get rid of stubborn body fat to become stronger, leaner, and look better naked?
The more clients I work with, the more I believe hormones play a significant role in body fat and body fat distribution. Before going any further I must note that I am not a doctor. This is no attempt to treat any medical condition; rather, to paint a picture of a few possible reasons for stubborn body fat. That said, using well-planned resistance training, small tweaks in your diet, and avoiding environmental toxins you can potentially improve natural hormone levels for less fat and more muscle. I put together a free guide showing you what to do. Grab it here.
Here are some common issues and questions that my clients bring up when coming in for body composition testing, typically done as skinfold measurements and body circumference measurements.
“My arms and chest are toned and lean, but I just can’t seem to shake this stubborn lower belly flab, why am I lean everywhere but my stomach?”
“I can’t get rid of this stupid fat around my hips, it looks like a muffin top!”
“ Why am I developing
man boobs fat on my chest muscles?”
I’ve heard every combination of slang terminology for fatty deposits around the body. As funny as some of them may be they represent real, common problems that can wreak havoc on both physique and confidence.
Having body fat tested is a great way to get a reliable, quantifiable idea of your current body composition and is recommended for everyone. If this is not an immediate option, make it a priority. Check out this post on how to estimate your body fat percentage based on what you see in the mirror.
Skinfold measurements will provide vital information to track body composition with changes in activity level and diet. These numbers from a skinfold also provide important data that can signify correlations between important body altering hormones in the body and skinfold measures.
Here are the most common trouble spots along with necessary interventions and strategies to correct the issue:
High abdominal Skinfold
- Physiological Correlation: High Stress, High Cortisol
- Intervention: Cortisol Suppression, Stress Control
- Potential Strategies: Frequent protein meals, improved sleep, BCAA’s, stress reducing techniques such as meditation.
High Suprailliac Skinfold (hip region)
- Physiological Correlation: Large Insulin Release w/meals (Likely too much sugar)
- Intervention: Control Carb intake and greatly reduce processed foods
- Potential Strategies: Consider a low carb diet. Better yet, try carb cycling, as outlined in this article.
High Subscapular Skinfold
- Physiological Correlation:Poor Insulin Sensitivity (too many carbohydrates, too little exercise)
- Intervention:Boost Insulin Sensitivity
- Potential Strategy: Add Fish Oils, R-ALA Supplementation, Low Carb Diet, potentially Intermittent fasting protocols
High Chest Skinfold
- Physiological Correlation: Low Testosterone, high estrogen
- Intervention: Support Healthy Testosterone Levels
- Potential Strategy:Adequate caloric intake, adequate dietary fat intake, possible medical referral. Avoid alcohol, beer specifically.
High Triceps and Thigh Skinfold
- Physiological Correlation: High Estrogen
- Intervention:Reduce estrogen levels
- Potential Strategy: Increase exercise volume, add cruciferous veggies (always a good idea), discuss prescription estrogens with doctor
As you can see there is a pretty consistent consensus that many hormonal issues stem from poor exercise and dietary habits. Body composition is very diet specific and using the potential strategies to attack trouble spots can help you lose fat, improve your overall health, and look better naked.
It is important to note that if body fat is high universally on all body composition measurements then correlations are relatively meaningless. You need to lose body fat to improve your overall hormone profile. Our 30-day fat loss transformation plan can help you lose 6-10 pounds in one month. Join us next month by applying here.
If looking to lose weight do whatever is necessary to increase your activity level, but studies show 5+ hours per week is what is needed to optimally lose weight. And if you’re looking for a workout program to maximize your fat loss, here’s a free program to get building your dream body.
Andrews, Ryan, MS,MA,RD. Berardi, John, PhD,”Chapter 12 Interpreting Client Information.” The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. 2nd ed. N.p.: Precision Nutrition, n.d. 316-18. Print.
Below are 5 essential habits via the Precision Nutrition System. These wicked-awesome 5 habits are pretty Kick-Ass! Why?!
Well, they are easy to follow, especially if you looking to lose body fat ( NOT GAIN lotza MUSCLE) and optimize body composition without the work of calorie counting and spending countless hours logging and tracking your food choices (which is still a good idea).
Enough with my blabbing, here is the list.
1.)Eat Slowly and Stop at 80% Full. It takes 20 minutes for brain signals to kick in, take your time and enjoy your meal.2.)Eat Protein dense foods with each meal.
Women- 1 Palm (20-30g)
Men- 2 palms (40-60g)
–This will support positive nitrogen balance, leading to better muscle development, body composition, and metabolism.
3.)Eat Vegetables with each meal. ½ cup raw= 1 serving, aim for 10 servings between fruits and vegetables per day. 2 palms per meal!
–These are filled will all kinds of good shiznit, such as phytochemicals, fiber, and anti-oxidants. Fight cancer, fill up on good stuff, and be healthy!
4.)For Fat Loss, eat most carbs after exercise. Keeping carbs low until aftr exercise will promote burning stored fat before/during exercise.
–Keep carb choices slower digesting, such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, oats, quinoa, and whole wheat if you tolerate them.
5.)Eat healthy Fats Daily. Get roughly 30% of kcals and include healthy fats during each meal.
Get 1/3 from each type of fat, saturated, mono-unsaturated, and poly-unsaturated by varying your sources between lean meats, fish, nuts, and healthy oils.
For more information regarding Precision Nutrition check out my review of their level 1 certification below:
Berardi, Dr. John, and Ryan Andrews. The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. second. Precision Nutrition. INC, 2012. 345-351. Print.