One question I get asked a lot from my female clients is how to get lean without getting bulky. First of all, I want to stress to the women that lifting heavy will not make you bulky. You won’t start looking like the hulk if you start lifting. Women simply don’t have enough testosterone to build huge muscles. The female bodybuilders that you see have to work REALLY hard to look the way they do. Their training is super intense and their diet and supplements (if they use supplements) are planned specifically to support that kind of building.
I think where the confusion lies is when women gain some muscle but don’t lose fat or put fat on due to following the wrong type of nutrition plan. Fat lies on top of the muscle so if you’re carrying extra fat or put fat on you might get a ‘bulky’ look. This isn’t too hard to fix though. Let’s look at what you have to do if you want to get lean without getting bulky.
How To Get Lean Without Getting Bulky
Watch your carb intake.
You don’t need to eliminate carbs but you do need to be aware of what carbs you’re eating and how much you’re eating. Carbs are a very important part of your diet – they provide energy and also help with your strength. You need the right kinds of carbs though. Eliminate processed carbs such as crackers, commercial cereals, desserts etc. Limit your intake of carbs such as rice, potatoes and pasta. Be super careful about grains too as they cause inflammation. If you need to eat bread get sprouted bread (in the refrigerated section). Limit your fruit intake as well since eating a lot of it can result is spikes and crashes in blood sugar. I recommend 1-2 servings a day and consume them early in the day when you’ll be sure to use the sugar for energy. Eat lots of veggies. Try to keep your carbs to about 30-35% of your total daily food intake.
Increase protein and make sure you’re getting enough fat.
We need protein to build and maintain muscle. Did you know that more muscle means a higher metabolism? Try upping your protein to about 40% of your daily food intake. This might sound like a lot but it gets great results for most people.
Fat is another super important macronutrient that too many people are afraid of. You NEED healthy fats in your diet in order for your body to be healthy! Healthy fats are natural fats such as olive oil, hemp seed oil, coconut oil and yes! BUTTER! You absolutely need dietary fat if you want your metabolism to run at an optimum level. Be sure to keep your fat intake to about 20-25% of your daily food intake.
If you want a lean strong body you need to lift heavy! Don’t be afraid of the heavy weights ladies!!!! If you start a strength training program and start to notice your clothes are fitting tighter it’s because your nutrition is off and your body is hanging onto or adding more fat. Remember, working out does NOT justify eating whatever you want. You have to get your nutrition right if you want to get lean. Don’t use the scale as your gage though. 5lbs of muscle takes up way less space than 5lbs of fat, but the scale doesn’t differentiate between fat weight and lean weight.
Don’t overdo the cardio.
I know it’s tempting. Many people, including myself make this mistake. I thought that the way to lose weight and look toned and strong was to do cardio until the weight fell off. This doesn’t work. If anything, it does the opposite. Too much cardio will actually hinder muscle growth. Actually, if you’re overdoing your cardio, your body becomes catabolic and actually starts to ‘eat’ your muscle for fuel! Less muscle means a slower metabolism which leads to weight gain and frustration. Aim for 30-45 minutes of cardio 3-4 days per week.
Another thing that will cause your body to become catabolic? Starving yourself. To figure out approximately how many calories you need per day use this calorie calculator.
A Balanced Approach To Your Health & Fitness
I think where most people go wrong is they assume they have to go extreme at the gym and with their diet in order to get the results they want. Extreme’s not going to work for the average person. You need to eat healthy and exercise in a balanced and healthy way.
Figure out how many calories you need to eat and calculate your macros to be about 40% protein, 35% carbs and 25% fat. Use an app such as My Fitness Pal to track your macros. Track your results. If you’re not getting the results you want try tweaking something – maybe you need a bit less of something or a little more of something.
Get someone to help you design a proper workout program or search for something online. Again, track your results and if you’re not getting what you want out of it try tweaking a thing or two. Every body is different and will react differently to nutrition and exercise so you need to be ready to try a few things before you find what works for you.
Need help? Ask me!