Every once in a while, I receive an e-mail from a reader of mine asking for help. They're often confused and frustrated with all the conflicting information they've been reading and simply want some guidance.
As much as I would love to take the time to drastically change the lives of any and all who reach out to me, however, sometimes it's just not feasible for me to sit down, read, and respond to loooooooooooong notes. (As a hint to you folks, if you ever want to exponentially increase your chance of hearing back from someone via e-mail, keep your message short. Like 10 sentences maximum short. I promise you, there will be days when your sagas will be skipped entirely due to its length and length alone, no matter what you have to say.)
But I hate leaving people in the dust - especially if they've taken time out of their day to contact me - so I came up with this idea. Whenever I receive a question(s) that is frequently asked and that I believe can benefit many many others readers out there, I'll post it here on my website. This is the first edition of Ask SoheeFit.
I've left the writer anonymous for reasons of confidentiality and I've taken the liberty to summarize some of her words. I've also added in Oxford commas where needed (yes, needed). You're welcome.
I've just read your about me section on your website and honestly it was a breath of fresh air.
Thank you, thank you. You're far too kind. But keep the compliments coming. (Just kidding. No I'm not. Yes I am. What?)
This year, after having gained about 40 pounds in 3 years, I'm in the worst shape of my life. I realized just talking made me out of breath, so my goal for this summer is to get fit but most importantly stay fit. With all the information on the web regarding fat loss, not only is there conflicting info, but it's pretty hard to filter as well.
Welcome to the Internet, where dweebs will hide behind their computer screens and wave their swords of arrogance and misinformation - all from the safety and comfort of their mother's basement.
I'd like to be lean, but still have my curves. Speaking of curves, I'm so afraid I'll lose one of my assets if you will. What about the behind? How to train it so as to tone it if not make it rounder while simultaneously losing fat?
Aha, that's where strength training comes in and plays its ever important role of making you schmexy. The CliffNotes version of the solution is this: stick to the big lower body movements (think hip thrusts, any and all variations of the squat, and lunges), lift heavy and often, and get in sufficient protein. Assuming that you're already eating a deficit, I would suggest that you consume at least 1g protein per 1lb bodyweight - and the harder you diet (ie. the greater your calorie deficit relative to your current bodyweight), the more protein you should have.
The Glute Guy (also known as Bret Contreras) believes that females benefit the most from full body training sessions executed 3 to 4 times a week. I worked with him as a client last summer and he had me doing some variation of the hip thrust/ glute bridge every session with a little bit of upper body work tossed in the mix. It wasn't easy, but I was able to make my glutes stronger while leaning out at the same time. It's a good deal, no?
I've also dieted successfully (and by "successful" I mean I was able to achieve the butt below) with an upper/lower training split. For this stint, I lifted 4 times a week and also threw in 2 metabolic sessions lasting between 20-30 minutes each. Steady-state cardio was next to nonexistent, and I couldn't be more thrilled about that. I really didn't spend much time in the gym, which was great as I was a full-time student at the time, but I made sure I absolutely nailed my diet. That was key.
And no, running will not give you a better butt. On the contrary. (Although hill sprints are a whole different story - woohoo!)
By the way, if you're dieting and you're maintaining your strength in the gym, that's a pretty good indication that you're retaining your muscle mass. That's a very good thing. The last thing you want is to lose both fat mass and lean mass and end up smaller but still just as squishy as before.
It's just so hard I find to build a meal plan like you've said that fits my lifestyle. I have just recently begun researching the different food groups, what go where (protein, carbs, and fat). The whole macronutrient ratio is hard for me to grasp for my specific needs.
Good timing. This is something I'll be writing articles about shortly. Fitness 101 is what I'll call it. Or maybe Noob Fitness. No0b Fitness? Newbie Fitness? Beginner Fitness? Everything You Need to Know to Dominate Fitness? Okay, so the name's still in the works.
The point is that while it's important that you grasp the basic foundations of nutrition, you don't have to have a PhD in the field by any means. For now, my suggestion would be to hire a nutrition consultant who can provide you with the guidance for the time being and nudge you in the right direction. You'll come to understand with practice and patience what method of eating works best for you.
What should my macronutrient intake be? What should my calorie intake be considering I looking to lose 1 pound a week while exercising 3 times a week? I like your physique and want to achieve a similar look!
Check out my article here on how to calculate your dieting numbers. This is just one way to approach fat loss; there are soooo many different philosophies out there. Different trainers will give you different numbers, but that's not to say that one method necessarily works better than others.
I can't emphasize enough how critical it is that once you plan out a diet for yourself, you stick with it. None of this diet-hopping. Give it a solid 2-3 weeks of consistency, gauge your progress, and then tweak as you go. Give it some time before you decide it isn't working for you and you embark on a no-carb, no-fat, no-fun diet.
I found this workout on the Internet:
Full Body: 2x10-12 of each exercise.
Lat Pull down
Abs: 2-3x8-12 of each exercises. To be performed twice per week.
Weighted decline situps
Weighted knee raises
Swiss ball crunches
Being a beginner, do you think it's manageable for the results/physique I'm looking for? As a newbie when it comes to strength training, how do you suggest I go about it?
Ummm. Well….. Uhh…. I'm not going to say that this training program sucks, but uhh… let's just say that there are better ways of going about things.
There really doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the exercise selection, the sequence, and the set/rep scheme above. Sure it's full body, but that's about all it has going for it.
It's important regardless of your goal (unless your goal is to stick with the pink weights forever and never make any progress) to continue to lift heavy. Not every session has to be in the 4-6 rep range, obviously, but if you want to retain your muscle mass, you have to continue to challenge your muscles - otherwise they have no reason to stick around.
I'd also nix most of the isolation exercises (leg curls, leg extensions, triceps pushdowns, biceps curls) and probably get rid of the upright row too, as they can wreak havoc on your shoulders. A day devoted completely to abs is superfluous as well, and I'd also like to see things like planks as opposed to sit-ups in there.
I'd like to see beginners strength training 2-4 days a week and sticking to primarily compound movements. There are many programs you can find online, or you can hire a training consultant to take care of this for you.
What happens when I've achieved my desired look? How should my HIIT and strength training sessions be structured?
It depends. Depends on what your goal changes to. Do you want to maintain the look, do you want to switch your focus to strength, do you want to switch your wardrobe entirely to Lululemon? (Oh wait, that last part is me.)
If you're happy with the way you look and you want to stay there, I'd recommend continuing to lift heavy (like, duh) and throwing in some short conditioning work a few times a week. Definitely don't need to do any steady-state cardio (ewwwww! gross!).
If you're still confused, I'll tell you this: regardless of whether I'm dieting, maintaining, or intentionally putting on weight, my training doesn't change much. The only thing that really gets altered is my diet.
When it comes to nutrition, I don't plan on taking supplements except for fish oil and possibly a multivitamin.
That's good. Take 6g fish oil and 1 multivitamin per day with meals. Probably a vitamin D supplement as well.
How should my meal pan be structured taking into consideration my targeted macronutrient intake as well as my calorie intake?
That's a question I can't answer for you. In general, try to have a protein with each meal and save the majority of your carbs for post-training. As far as meal frequency, timing, etc. you're going to have to use some good 'ole trial and error to figure out what's most sustainable for you.
Having a sweeth tooth, what do you have to say about cheat meals or a cheat day? How can they cleverly be incorporated into my diet plan?
The post-workout window is a fantastic time for treats. Candy, ice cream, cereal - it's pretty much all fair game here. Just be smart about your portions.
Sorry for overflowing this email with questions. With all my hours of research (it's taking over my life), these questions still remained unanswered.
The last thing I want for anyone even remotely interested in fitness is to find themselves lost and pissed off because no one is willing to help out. I sincerely hope that I've cleared some things up for you and you're feeling a little better about your fitness journey.
I'm always here :)
Yours in health,
Sohee (and Ollie)