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More and more these days, we’ve begun to hear the axiom that weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise. In fact, more trainers and experts have begun to talk about it online are starting to recommend this strategy for weight loss and weight maintenance. For those of us that have spent most of our adult lives as firm believers that exercise is the true key to weight loss or that more exercise can make up for an non-optimal diet, it can take some time before we come around to the idea that more exercise is NOT better, and in fact, nutrition is the key.
It’s time for us to start paying attention to this 80% figure. Most of us are really striving for lifelong weight maintenance, and for those of us women who’ve been back and forth on the weight loss yo-yo a few (or more than a few) times, it’s important to realize that going on a ‘diet’ is very different than nutrition. Diets are temporary, so they don’t allow for that weight maintenance that we all want. What we really need is a lifelong nutrition lifestyle change – one that doesn’t make you feel deprived so that you can stick with it for life.
So, if weight loss and weight maintenance are 80% diet, what’s the purpose of exercise? I used to be one of those 2 hour cardio marathon girls…and despite repeated muscle and tendon injuries and even fractures, old habits die hard. But, when I came to accept the “80 % diet” rule, I was actually relieved to discover that I could meet the ‘fitness’ side of my health goals with a whole lot less time at the gym.
It’s helped me a lot to think of exercise as having the purpose of giving my body the ‘shape’ I want, and the strength and stamina that help me feel healthier overall, rather than thinking of exercise as the vehicle to weight loss. For example, my focus now is that exercise will get me the lean strong legs and flat belly I want. It will also help me to feel better, since I’ll have more energy , feel stronger and BE stronger. But weight loss? That happens in the kitchen.
Here’s a few tips to help you maximize the 80% diet rule and shift your nutrition goals AND your fitness goals.
This is key, because these smaller meals spaced about every 3 hours throughout the day help you feel full throughout the day. No more energy dips or sugar spikes that will have you bee-lining for the nearest unhealthy snack. Eating small frequent meals also helps boost your metabolism. If you go too long without eating your primitive metabolism actually goes into fat storage mode, because it’s not sure when the next meal is coming – so gotta conserve those calories rather than burn ’em, right? The worst case scenario is skipping breakfast, because you have already gone 8 hours not eating while you sleep, and then tack on 5 – 6 more hours not eating until lunch time. Eating small, frequent meals also has an effect on hunger and weight loss hormones . For more on that, see this post.
2) Fill Up On Vegetables
Once a person begins to eat more veggies, they find themselves actually craving them. Vegetables are not only super nutritious, but their fiber and water help you feel full, too. If you can, make fresh cooked veggies or salad half or more of your plate, meal or snack. I like to challenge myself to include two vegetable sides (not including a small portion of starchy carbs) and some protein at every bigger meal. A snack can be a single fruit or veggie plus a lean protein.
3) Get Your Protein In
Protein is the building block of your muscles – so if you’re working on that ‘shape’ with a fitness plan, protein will help you create it. Here’s a post from last month on how much protein a woman should get, and how it can sometimes be difficult to meet those numbers. Protein powder can help supplement your intake if needed. Protein’s help in satiety is also unmatched – every meal and snack should contain some protein to help keep you full. A protein snack within 20 minutes of finishing your workout helps with fast muscle recovery.
As mentioned above, skipping meals is the fastest way to slow your weight loss progress, because it sends the signal to your metabolism to ‘conserve’ calories rather than burn them. Instead of skipping meals, eat smaller meals more often. Be careful not to overly restrict calories too, which has a similar effect on the metabolism as skipping meals does. Once your metabolism begins to realize you aren’t putting a whole lot of ‘energy’ (in the form of food) in, it’ll go into conservation mode.
5) Don’t Overtrain – It Won’t Help
While training overtime might burn more calories, it has some side effects that make it not worth your while. First, overtraining, and the associated extra calorie burn will make you feel hungrier – lots hungrier – and more likely to overeat the wrong things. It also leads to elevated cortisol hormone in your body which will cause muscle loss, inflammation and signals your body to ramp up fat storage. Overtraining also leads to injuries – and often times those injuries keep you from working out AT ALL.
All of these tenets are central pieces of the Athlean-XX for Women nutrition and fitness plan. First, in our nutrition plan, we emphasize the importance of eating small, frequent, healthy meals full of healthy proteins, fruits and veggies, healthy fats and slow burning starchy carbs (things like brown rice, quinoa and potatoes). We want Athlean-XX to be a plan you continue FOR LIFE, not just for 90 days, so we designed it to be flexible and realistic. There’s no calorie counting and no restriction here – because with healthy nutrition and frequent meals your body will send a signal to stop eating when you’re full, especially since it knows you’ll be eating again in just a few hours. Our fitness plan contains 3 complete 30-minute workouts per muscle group (we work a different muscle group each day) to give you the ‘shape’ you want without overtraining. Fear not, these circuit strength routines are super challenging and will get your heart pumping, so you’ll get cardio and strength at the same time! Finally, both the nutrition plan and the fitness plan are FLEXIBLE. On the Athlean-XX for Women nutrition plan, you can choose to follow the set 90 days of meals we provide you, or use our lists of healthy foods to create your own meals. As for the fitness plan, our unique system containing both DVDs and workout cards allows you to work out at home or at the gym! The FLEXIBILITY and EFFECTIVENESS of Athlean-XX for Women make it a plan that you can follow for not just 90 days, but for life. Join us on Team Athlean now!