Your Frequently Asked Fitness Questions Answered
If you have fitness questions, I have answers
If this is your first time here, Hi! My name is Emily and I am an online health coach, group fitness instructor, and national level bikini competitor.
I have spent the last year and a half helping women just like you transform their body and their lifestyle with customized nutrition and training programs.
It's safe to say I have a good grasp on the common struggles that are keeping women from hitting that goal weight and building that dream body! And I am well versed in how to get you results the healthy way - no dangerous lose weight quick gimmicks and no unhealthy weight rebounds post diet!
If you have fitness and nutrition questions you need answered, this article is for you!
Between online training and nutrition clients, group fitness participants, and my mailing list, I receive a lot of questions around exercise and nutrition so I thought I would offer up some answers here. Consider this a one stop shop for the answers to some of the most common questions I encounter from women looking to lose weight and build muscle.
Q: How do I pick the weight I use for my exercises? How do I know when to increase the weight?
A: The weight you use should be challenging but you should also be able to perform all prescribed repetitions with good form. I tell clients to pick a weight that they can use to successfully perform all reps and 2 more reps (if they had to) with good form.
This ensures that that the weight challenges them but that they aren't taking every set until failure. If you're failing on the last rep of every set, you could lose out on the full benefits of the exercises at the middle or end of your workout due to extreme fatigue.
Plus, muscle recovery will be significantly harder.
You also don't want to pick a weight that allows you to pump out an additional 5-10 reps because then you're not receiving the intended benefits of the reps you were prescribed (rep ranges matter to your goals!) and you're not creating any progress if you stop before the muscle has to work.
You should increase the weight when you begin to feel like you could pump out 5 or so additional reps with your current weight. Note that you will need different weights for different muscle groups and exercises.
You will also be able to increase weight faster and slower depending on the muscle.
For example, your legs can handle a much heavier load for a barbell squat than your shoulders can handle for a dumbbell lateral raise. You can expect it to take you longer to see progression overall with the weight you use for upper body movements. But it WILL happen.
Keep track of the weight you use each week and be mindful when the movements start to feel too easy. It means it's time to switch weight or increase the intensity another way!
Q: What should I be eating to lose weight?
A: Guess what? You can eat whatever you want and lose weight. No joke. If you really wanted to and had no regard for giving your body proper nutrients, you could live off of chocolate bars alone and lose weight. Of course, we don't want to do this. The point is weight loss is a result of QUANTITY NOT QUALITY.
Quality still matters when it comes to maintaining good energy levels and giving your body what it needs to perform optimally. You just don't have to eliminate any "dirty" or "fun" foods from your diet.
I recommend applying the 80/20 rule. 80% of your calories should come from whole, nutrient dense food sources. 20% can be the fun "naughty" foods you love. This allows you to manage cravings and MAINTAIN weight loss long term.
People that eliminate sweets, carbs, fats, etc. to lose weight end up rebounding post diet because they've restricted themselves too heavily.
Focus on 80/20 and get started on a flexible diet. It will change your life!
Q: Why did my weight loss stop?
A: There's a lot of potential reasons. But there's one big reason for long term weight loss plateaus.
If you've been dieting for a while or have a previous dieting history, your metabolism gets used to your lower intake over time. Your body finds ways to do more work with less energy (burn less calories.) This means that in the past, you might have been losing 2 lb a week with 3 weight training sessions and 2 10 minute cardio sessions. Now, it might take 4 weight training sessions and 3 10 minute cardio sessions to achieve that same weight loss per week.
Sometimes, a short diet break is all it takes to rev up the metabolism for weight loss again.
Many times though, a reverse diet is necessary to get calories back to a healthy intake and repair the metabolism so weight loss can continue. If done gradually enough, you can mitigate and in some cases avoid weight gain altogether as you reverse diet.
Then you jump back into a calorie deficit to continue weight loss. It's worth doing as you will be able to diet down on significantly higher calories!
Q: I put 2 lb on this week even though I stuck to my diet and training. Should I be worried?
A: Not necessarily!
Chances are, if you really did stick to your diet and training, the weight is just water weight.
You can put water weight on for a variety of reasons. If you eat a meal out or eat something particularly sodium heavy, your body will try to restore your sodium/water balance by retaining extra water.
You could also put extra water weight on due to your menstrual cycle. This is a common one! And chances are you put on the same amount of weight every month and then it promptly comes off. Monitor weight before, during, and after your period and record how it fluctuates. You'll begin to realize this isn't "real" weight gain and can avoid a freak out.
You can see some common causes of weight gain HERE.
Q: What should I do if I struggle with bored eating?
A: Try low calorie, volume heavy foods for times when you feel like bored eating.
It will keep your hands and mouth busy without throwing you off track. I am personally a big fan of popcorn when I need to eat something low calorie and high volume to combat bored eating. Just don't load it up with butter. I like skinny pop because a serving is around 3-4 cups. It almost feels difficult to eat a full serving plus it's high in fiber, which will make you feel more full.
Other great options include strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and carrots.
When it comes to a full meal, try putting your protein on a big bed of lettuce and with some other veggies thrown in. It will add serious size to your meal without a ton of extra calories.
Q: How much water should I drink?
A: I recommend to all my clients to aim for 2L of water each day. If you're an overachiever, try for a gallon each day!
Pro tip from someone who body builds and has to drink 1-2 gallons each day on competition prep: try marking your water bottle with times. That way, by each time, you have to have consumed a certain amount of water and it spreads your intake throughout the day.
It makes it much easier to stick to your water goal and you won't find yourself loading up on H20 right before bed time (which never makes for a good night's sleep, am I right?)
Q: Can I build muscle effectively on a meatless diet?
A: Of course you can!
There are plenty of great meatless protein sources out there.
Q: How many days a week should I workout to lose weight?
A: This depends! So many factors go into what it takes to lose weight: age, genetics, gender, dieting history, etc.
If you are new to working out I suggest taking it slow. Start with 2 to 3 days per week. Do that for at least a month. Once you've proven to yourself you can stick to that, THEN start adding additional sessions if you choose to. Consistency is THE single most important factor when it comes to changing your body and your health.
Slow and steady wins this race.
Q: How many calories should I consume to lose weight?
A: This also depends. Your metabolism, dieting history, and training regimen all determine how much of a calorie deficit is necessary to lose weight.
Spend a couple of days logging your intake and use that information to set a small starting calorie deficit. You can take it down as little as 50 calories and go from there.
Q: What can I do to lose weight quickly?
A: This isn't the right question but it gets asked a lot. The real question is how do I lose weight effectively?
It's not that you can't lose weight quickly. But many times, when women focus too much on taking weight off as quickly as possible, they take drastic measures. These drastic measures might lead to quick, short term loss but almost ALWAYS lead to a weight rebound (their starting weight or more.)
At the very least, they will hit a plateau much quicker and have to take even more extreme measures to continue losing long term. If you look at the big picture, the slower more gradual the weight loss, the greater the cumulative weight loss in the long term.
Q: How do I build muscle as a woman without getting bulky?
A: You won't get bulky naturally!
Your body simply doesn't produce the hormones to create the manly muscular look you're thinking you'll end up with if you lift too much or too hard. You will build lean, feminine muscles naturally. Your body will look tighter. You will be able to change your entire shape to something more hour glass if you choose.
But you physically cannot develop a bulky look without performance enhancing drugs or the addition of more hormones.
Q: Can I drink alcohol and still lose weight?
A: You sure can! This comes back to flexible dieting.
I wrote a whole article about this and how to track alcohol intake HERE.
Of course, I wouldn't suggest making a regular habit of consuming alcohol but every now and then enjoying a couple drinks at dinner or out on a Friday night is harmless to your weight loss goals. Just track it correctly and you're good to go!
Q: How important is diet to my weight loss?
You can be in the gym 7 days a week but if you're eating more than you burn, you won't lose weight.
This is why I won't offer potential clients Workout Only Coaching Programs. Weight loss comes from the combination of training and diet together so if you want to ensure you see results, you should plan to closely monitor and control both.
Q: How do I build the booty?
A: I have a more extensive article about this HERE.
But the short answer is isolation movements and food.
Many women run to squats when they want to build the glutes. This actually isn't the best way to build them. Your glutes are only notably involved at the very top of the movement when you're returning to the starting position. Glute activation through the rest of the movement is small to none. It's actually mostly quads and hamstrings.
There are endless other movements to help you achieve glutes though! You want to opt for movements that isolate the glutes. This is because the glute muscles are extremely underachieve on most individuals. During compound movements like squats and lunges, your body will recruit the stronger quads to pick up the slack and move your body the way you want. Your body will always find the easiest way to complete the motion your brain is asking it to perform.
With isolation exercises, you do just that: you isolate the glute muscles so that the quads and hamstrings can't take over the movement. Some great ones include glute kickbacks, hip thrusts, glute bridges, fire hydrants, and clam shells.
You also need to be eating enough if you want to build glute size! It's not impossible to build the glutes in a calorie deficit. However, you will see results much quicker if you eat at maintenance or in a calorie surplus.
Q: How do I get rid of unwanted belly fat?
A: This question is probably top 3 most common questions I am asked.
Unfortunately, you cannot spot reduce. So when you see articles on Pinterest that claim "Do these 3 exercises to burn belly fat fast," those claims are false.
We cannot choose where the fat comes off first and different people will lose fat from different areas first, second, and last.
If you want to lose belly fat, your best strategy is to put yourself in a calorie deficit and incorporate a consistent training and cardio routine each week. Ab exercises will not help burn away the fat around your abdomen but they will help to develop the muscles there!
I have a more extensive article about this HERE.
Q: Should I do cardio first or weight training first?
A: This depends on your goals.
Someone who considers weight loss their biggest goal should opt to complete cardio first.
Someone who wants to develop their muscles or build their body or specific body parts (like the booty) should start with weight training.
Whatever you do first is going to get the best of your energy levels. So plan your schedule around what matters more to you: weight loss or muscle.
Want More of Fit Tips?
I've been helping women just like you reach their body goals for over a year - from weight loss to competition goals to metabolic rehabilitation to muscle gain.
If you're ready for the rest of my workout and nutrition secrets and want to transform your body the fun way, APPLY HERE for a customized training and nutrition program. I will be there to coach you every step of the way so we can get you better, lasting results.
Not convinced? Check out some of these amazing success stories from women JUST LIKE YOU. Stop telling yourself you're too old, too far off, too busy, too tired. You are NONE of these things!
No more waiting for the perfect time. There will never be a perfect moment. The time to make a change is always RIGHT NOW! Let me show you what you can do.
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