Losing weight is great but if you want to tone up as you trim down, fat loss is where it’s at.
If you're a woman over 45 on a weight loss journey, it's almost certain you'll be saying “Bon Voyage!” to some muscle mass and not just fat. And that can be a recipe for disaster.
Fortunately you can counter act this phenomena by losing weight slowly, giving your body enough calories (aka energy), increasing your protein intake, and regularly working out.
When I work with my clients on weight loss, the goal is to lose the fat and maintain as much valuable muscle as possible. Because the truth is, the more muscle you have, the better able you are to burn fat.
How fast should you lose weight?
Most experts agree, losing an average of one to two pounds a week is healthy and sustainable weight loss, enabling you to lose the fat and keep valuable muscle. Dropping weight any faster puts you at risk of losing more than fat. You’ll wind up losing muscle too, which translates into a slower metabolism and increased risk of weight regain too.
Why is protein important to lose weight?
Protein is the not so secret weapon in the war on fat.
First, protein satisfies hunger and takes longer to digest, so you stay feeling full longer and are less likely to mindlessly snack or go back to the kitchen to refill your plate.
Second, protein is essential to repairing and strengthening your muscles after you exercise. Working out builds lean muscle mass which increases your resting metabolic rate and your ability to burn calories at rest.
Third, it takes more energy to digest protein which means you burn more calories while eating. Talk about awesome.
Fourth, protein helps you burn fat, not muscle. Research shows that in order to effectively burn fat, your body needs a nudge from either protein or carbs. Eating protein will help preserve your lean muscle mass while your body burns off fat.
If you want to lose fat and nourish your muscles, you MUST eat enough protein. Balanced nutrition is essential to building muscle and burning your stored fat.
What's the key to burning more fat?
Build more muscle. The key to maximizing your fat burning ability is to increase your muscle mass. You do that by strength training and eating a balanced diet that consists of lean plant and animal proteins along with complex carbs, fruits and vegetables. The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolic rate and the more calories you burn. Yes, even at rest.
So how do you nourish your muscles?
First answer is before AND after you workout.
Most folks work out first thing in the morning. It’s just more convenient to get up and get it done before you get on with the rest of your day. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, that means working out on an empty stomach and that is like sending your body an engraved invitation to break down muscle instead of burn fat.
When you work out, your body gets its energy from the carbohydrates you eat. The carbohydrates get converted to glucose and the glucose you don’t use immediately is converted into glycogen and stored in your liver and muscles. If you don’t fuel your body, it has to break down the muscles to get to the stored glycogen for energy. To rebuild those muscles, your body needs more fuel.
What should you eat before you work out?
To maximize your fat burning potential, you need to eat a meal that contains carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and healthy fat about an hour to an hour and a half before you work out.
Some good pre-workout combinations include:
Greek yogurt with nuts and berries
Scrambled eggs with veggies and avocado
Oatmeal with fresh fruit
Cottage cheese with fresh fruit
Whole grain toast with nut butter and sliced bananas or strawberries
Water packed tuna or chicken with whole wheat crackers and a low fat cheese stick
Turkey meatballs and veggie sticks and hummus
Low sodium turkey breast with light cream cheese
Ants on a log: celery sticks with nut butter and raisins or dried cranberries
What should you eat after you work out?
After you've worked up a sweat, you’ll need to replenish your body with another nutrient dense combo of protein and carbs to refill your energy stores, rebuild muscle and ramp up your metabolism. Your post workout snack or meal helps strengthen and rebuild muscles after they’ve spent their glycogen during exercise. So within thirty minutes to an hour after you finish crushing your workout, you’ll need to eat again.
Research shows that waiting two hours to fuel up decreases your muscles ability to replace their stored glycogen by as much as 50%. So plan ahead for refueling!
Try these post workout snack ideas:
A Green Power Smoothie: click here for the recipe
Chicken breast and sautéed veggies
Quinoa bowl with black beans, veggies and
A hard boiled egg and fruit
Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with low fat cheese, greens and hummus
Dried fruit and unsalted nuts
Whole grain crackers with hummus and a light cheese stick
A brown rice cake with light cream cheese and grapes
Tuna packed in water in a whole grain tortilla with veggies and avocado
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites: click here for the recipe
How do I get motivated to exercise?
This is the age-old question and something that we all struggle with from time to time. Check out these 7 Surprising Ways to Get Motivated to Exercise and then get your body moving. While exercise doesn't have a huge impact on weight loss, it has a drastic effect on your health. So just do it!
Bottom line: the key to promoting fat loss is to balance your nutrition and nourish your muscle, especially before and after your workouts. Whenever someone sets out to lose weight, the goal is to burn fat. No one wants to lose muscle tone, particularly women over forty.
You can fight back by setting realistic weight loss goals. Don’t set out to lose ten pounds in two weeks! Eat enough calories and protein each day to ensure your body is burning fat, not muscle, and incorporate some form of regular strength training. And you don't need a gym membership: any weight baring exercise that helps you build muscle counts.
Are you tired of starting over every Monday, hopping from diet to diet, wondering if you'll ever get it "right" so that you can lose the weight and become the best version of you? I’ve got you friend! Come join me inside my FREE women’s-only Facebook community: Eat Better with Coach Mindy. It's for busy women who are ready to lose weight, gain energy, get healthy and fit -- without restrictive diets or punishing food rules.