In my experience as a coach, women typically don’t have too many problems when it comes to dropping weight if that’s their goal.
The problem, though, seems to be dropping the right kind of weight while maintaining (or gaining) lean muscle.
For example, let’s say you’re over the myth that says “women shouldn’t lift because it makes you bulky” and you’re lifting weights. But, since you’re in a calorie deficit to lose some weight you’re not getting the same results you were out of your workouts.
(Side note: if you do still think women shouldn’t lift weights much, or at all, check out my article “All Women Should Lift Weights”, here.)
Maybe you’re not feeling as strong.
You look a little flat.
(A reminder that the above line says flat, not fat. 😂)
It’s possible you aren’t liking how you look at all.
Why could that be?
Well, let’s break it down.
First off, it’s important to remember that when you’re in a calorie deficit that means your body is burning more calories than you’re taking in.
Calorie Deficit = Energy Deficit
What that means for you is that it’s completely normal to feel a little off during workouts or a bit sluggish in general.
Caffeine can help big time here. Higher volume, low calorie foods can help to keep you full longer, too. Check out this infographic of high volume low calorie foods below.
Your protein intake, or lack of protein intake, is the likely culprit in whether you’re feeling good while cutting weight or not.
I’ve worked with hundreds of women, including my wife, and I can’t remember one time where one of them was getting enough protein in their diet whether they were cutting or trying to maintain their weight.
In fact, most of the time their daily protein intake was about half of what I would recommend them to get daily!
To illustrate this point, I ran a Facebook poll that came up with the following results:
Let’s make a (safe) assumption that those who “have no idea” are under 100g/day. That may not be the case, but my experience tells me that without tracking, protein is typically low.
If only calories were typically low without tracking.
Am I right?
That means that close to 4 out of every 5 women who voted on the poll are at or below 100g of protein/day… AND I left a male who voted in the poll for over 100g/day because who am I to judge. This number is troublesome, especially for the women who are trying to lose weight while maintaining (or gaining muscle).
My stock recommendation falls between 1g/lb of goal bodyweight and 1g/lb of bodyweight depending on the individual.
This means that if you weigh 160 and want to weigh 135 I would have you between 135-160g of protein/day.
It’s a lot of protein.
I get it.
But, there is no way you’re going to maintain the muscle mass you have worked so hard to get if you’re only getting 60-75g of protein each day.
Why does protein matter so much?
Proteins are organic molecules made up of amino acids – the building blocks of life (and muscle).
Without sufficient protein, your body will not be able to repair the muscle tissue breakdown that happens in the gym. And if it can’t repair the muscle tissue you have, your body most definitely won’t be able to build new muscle.
On top of protein being the building block of muscle, protein typically makes you feel fuller longer (satiety). As you know, if you’re dieting, being able to feel full is a major key.
Check out this Recommended Food Guide for a list of protein sources:
If you’re not into counting macros/weighing your food check out this portion control guide from Precision Nutrition that can help you hit your protein goal.
Protein powders are another great avenue for hitting your daily protein goals.
They’re super convenient and can be more appetizing than choking down 3 day old chicken breast from the fridge.
Know what I mean? So. Dry.
As a meal replacement powder I like 1st Phorm Level 1 because it digests a bit slower, post workout I like 1st Phorm Phormula 1. Their flavors are incredible and the way they’re made is the best in the biz. You don’t have to use 1st Phorm, it’s just what I recommend for my coaching clients.
Just be sure that the ingredient list is as short as possible, sugar content is low and has a low carb content. I don’t know about you, but, I’d rather get my carbs from some yummy fruit or oatmeal any day.
The women I have coached that changed their eating habits to include enough protein were blown away in as little as a week. And, anecdotally, I noticed more fullness in their muscles, as well as increases in strength and endurance when they did this.
Track your protein over the next couple of days to get a baseline of where you are when you eat normally. Then, you can start to look at meals where you can increase it if needed.
Start stocking quick protein sources you can grab on the go such as:
Having quality protein sources that are ready to go that require little to know prep (or thinking) can be the difference maker you need for fat loss success.
Not only do these taste delicious, but they’re surprisingly filling and only have 170 calories/container. Great on the go option and super smart to have on hand if you struggle to hit your daily protein goal.
Jack Links Sweet & Hot Beef Jerky–
Each of these bags only have 3 total servings with each having only 80 calories. So, if you’re like me and have the self-control of a 5 year old it won’t kill your calories too bad if you eat the whole bag like I did this morning. The entire bag is only 240 cals with 30g protein.
1st Phorm has treated me well since I started using them earlier in the year, the taste is phenomenal and you can’t beat the quality. Protein powder should always be something you have in the pantry whether you use it regularly or not. It can be a lifesaver when you’re pinched for time.
Organic Valley Low Fat Cottage Cheese–
No prep needed for this delicious snack. A serving (or two) of low fat cottage cheese can give you the boost you need without the gut busting extra calories that are so readily available at every gas station on the side of the road.
These are just 4 of my favorites and I want to know yours!
Leave a comment below so I can steal your marvelous ideas.
Important: It’s worth mentioning that the protein goals talked about in the article are based on the goal of fat loss and being in a calorie deficit.
Once you reach your goal weight the daily protein number can drop some if you wish, but it doesn’t have to go down.