As with most things in life, what works for a man doesn't necessary work for a women, and vice versa.
Women don't chill out on weekend camping trips with a fishing rod and can of beer, while men don't usually unwind with a facial, foot scrub, and a good hard dose of retail therapy.
But when it comes to the world of fitness and weight loss, this rule goes out the window, with both sexes reaping HUGE benefits from the same thing - resistance training, aka lifting weights!
But that's just the beginning. Obviously cardio and diet are important, and we'll go into detail in regards to them later, but here's the most important thing for females:
IF YOU WANT A GOOD BODY, WANT TO STAY TONED AND LOSE WEIGHT, THEN LIFT WEIGHTS!
One of the most popular fitness myths is that lifting weights as a female, will make you bulky.
It won't! It's like saying if you run fast enough onto the ocean, you'll be able to run right across it, but we all know what would happen if we tried that!
LADIES, REMEMBER THIS: You have only one tenth the amount of testosterone of a man (1).
Considering how hard it is for men to pack on muscle naturally, despite years of a good diet and consistent lifting, you can now imagine just how hard it is for YOU to gain muscle by lifting weights.
Those "freaky" bodybuilding girls that you dread looking like DON'T just lift weights to get that size - but rather rely on copious amounts of injected testosterone to achieve their look.
You need to lift weights to grow muscle.
Muscle is important because the more of it you have - the more FAT you burn.
CELLULITE Cellulite isn't celebrated by ANY woman!
But guess what?
You CAN reduce it by stimulating blood flow, lymph movement and drainage.
And guess what does that?
Yep - weight lifting.
A program with plenty of squats, lunges, and dead lifts to attack those effected areas is just what you need. SURELY by now you're convinced.
What you put in your mouth is absolutely critical to how you'll look.
Workout your optimal macronutrient balance to ensure you're getting enough protein, fat and carbohydrates for optimal results - and for heavens sake - make sure you're having your favourite "junk" foods as well!
It'll make the whole weight loss process a lot easier.
In combination with your training, this will put you in a healthy calorie deficit - enough to make you lose fat. It's all about calories in vs calories out.
Now you'll notice I recommend eating carbs.
DON'T be scared of carbs.
Carbohydrates give you energy, which you'll need in order to lift weights and perform high intensity Interval training, aka HIIT, which primarily uses glycogen as a fuel source.
Without carbs - your training intensity won't be as high (2), which could very well lead to POORER results.
No carbs = No performance = No results.
Carbs have got a bad wrap amongst the public - especially females - with many a celebrity being an advocate of the "no carbs" approach.
Also - it's a MYTH that carbohydrates make you fat. They DON'T. It's a CALORIE SURPLUS that makes you fat, NOT carbohydrates.
If you burn 2000 calories a day, yet eat 1500 calories of carbs a day - you will NOT put on weight.
Now obviously - this isn't recommended - it's purely just to prove the popular myth wrong.
Furthermore - you can't get to your destination without petrol in your tank.
This is the same when it comes to your ideal body and carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates will give you the ENERGY to train to BURN FAT, and provide the vital anabolic INSULIN SPIKE, to help you build more muscle which in turn will help you BURN FAT.
I'd recommend THREE weights sessions every week in combination with 2-4 cardio sessions.
In the gym, you should be hitting your legs, back, and chest once a week.
With the application of compound movements - you'll be working EVERY muscle in your body every week.
WEIGHT LOSS WORKOUTS FOR WOMEN
Two of your cardio sessions should be HIIT sessions, and two should be what's called LISS - which stands for low intensity steady state cardio - for example, a 45 minute walk at a moderate pace.
HIIT training involves short periods of ALL OUT intensity, followed by a short period of rest - eg, 30 seconds of sprinting, followed by a minute of rest.
Workouts range between 10-25 mins, and can consist of sprinting, swimming, skipping, whatever you like.
However, for BEST results, I'd really recommend sprinting for 15 minutes - 30 seconds all out with a minute of rest.
And the best part?
HIIT is a superior method to an endurance type of cardio training when it comes to FAT LOSS (3).
Cut the fat - in a quarter of the time!
SUPPLEMENTS FOR FAT LOSS
Supplements are a convenient, low calorie option on the war against body fat.
Here's 3 you should certainly consider:
BCAA'S stand for Branched Chain Amino acids - in which there are THREE of them: leucine, iso-leucine and valine.
These are the MAIN amino acids oxidised by skeletal muscle during exercise (4), not mention they'll help you build more muscle (5), and burn MORE fat (6).
You get these three amino acids via all the protein you eat, but you are in need of more at vital times, not to mention how convenient they are in a powdered form.
However, on the subject of vital times, when you're low on fuel for those morning workouts, BCAA'S are vital.
You should NEVER train in a fasted state, as nitrogen losses DOUBLE in this instance (10), which is detrimental to muscle gains. Training FASTED to INCREASE fat loss is a MYTH.
Caffeine will help you burn more fat (7), and delay fatigue (8), meaning you can train harder for longer, possibly leading to superior results.
Go with coffee or a caffeine supplement.
3. FISH OILS
There's nothing fishy about this wonder of a supplement.
The fat in fish oils work by creating an outside fat layer that protects your cells.
Other dietary fats like saturated fats, trans fats, and omega-6 fats all do this too - however metabolism and cell function is bolstered if it's omega-3 fatty acids making up this layer - as they enhance the actions of insulin.
This leads to better body composition, as it promotes improved insulin sensitivity.
Research has also found fish oils to assist in fat loss in conjunction with exercise (9).
The other important reason to take fish oils, is because restricting your calories can lead to you missing out on your essential fatty acids (omega 3's) that your body cannot make up, and that MUST be obtained via your diet.
Taking a fish oil supplement can solve this problem!
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Here is what a week should roughly look like for you:
MONDAY - LEGS (Don't forget to squat!)
TUESDAY - Morning: LISS (don't forget your BCAA'S before hand!)
WEDNESDAY - HIIT
THURSDAY - BACK (make sure there's CHIN UPS in there somewhere!)
FRIDAY - LISS
SATURDAY - HIIT
SUNDAY - OFF
Begin the first few weeks by just doing one HIIT and LISS session to ease your body into things.
The reason you're not performing four HIIT sessions, even though they are superior to LISS, is because of recovery.
With the additional weight training too - you must give your body the chance to recover.
If your body can't recover, then you can throw any results out the window.
Try bringing in the 4 cardio sessions after 3-4 weeks. Also - feel free to add in another weight training session if you feel you're up to it. But remember this, especially if you're a beginner - START OUT SLOW.
NOW GET TO IT!
Don't think about it - just do it.
Put this no-nonsense into practice for some serious results!
Stay Fit, Stay Flexed!
(1) Kryger M. "Women and testosterone." Wellness MD, 2006.
(2) Miller SL, Wolfe RR. Physical exercise as a modulator of adaptation to low and high carbohydrate and low and high fat intakes. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1999 Apr;53 Suppl 1:S112-9.
(3) Tremblay A, Simoneau JA, Bouchard C. "Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism." Metabolism. 1994 Jul;43(7):814-8.
(4) Karlson HK et al. Branched-chain amino acids increase p70S6k phosphorylation in human skeletal muscle after resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2004 jul;287(1):E1-7. Epub 2004 Mar 2.
(5) Shimomura Y, Murakami T, Nakai N, Nagasaki M, Harris RA. Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise. J Nutr 2004;134:1583S-1587S.
(6) Stoppani, J., et al., Consuming branched-chain amino acid supplement during a resistance training program increases lean mass, muscle strength and fat loss. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2009, 6(Suppl 1):P1, 2009.
(7) Acheson KJ, Gremaud G, Meirim I, et al. Metabolic effects of caffeine in humans: lipid oxidation or futile cycling? Am J Clin Nut 1980:989-997.
(8) Ivy JL, Costill DL, Fink WJ, Lower RW: Influece of caffeine and carbohydrate feedings on endurance performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1979, 11:6-11.
(9) Hill AM et al. Combining fish-oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Am J Clin Nutr. May;85(5):1267-74.
(10) Lemon PW and Mullin JP. Effect of initial muscle glycogen levels on protein catabolism during exercise. J Appl Physiol 48: 624–629, 1980.