At 47, years “young” I have to say I am in the best shape of my life. I not only feel stronger during my workouts but I also look better than I did when I was in my 20’s. This is very apparent when I’m outside of “the box” and dressed in regular clothes. I’m often approached by women commenting about my arms. They are inquisitive about what they can do to get them. This often makes me laugh because the rest of me is pretty awesome too! I’m not sure if they are expecting some magical secret they have never heard before but when I tell them I do CrossFit, I get two looks. First one is, “What is CrossFit?” and the second one is a look of disbelief when I tell them how much weight I lift. They can’t believe I lift the kind of weight that I do. My back squats are in the 275 pound range and the heaviest I’ve bench pressed is 140 pounds. The normal response I get is, “I don’t want to look like a man. I just do light weights and cardio”. Well the fact of the matter is, you will never build muscle if you lift 5 pound dumbbells and walk on a treadmill for 2 hours. I can go on and on but that is not the reason why I’m sharing this information with you. I am encouraging women to lift heavier weights so they can build lean muscle mass which will help them burn body fat.
As you see in the photos below, I am wearing a dress. No muscles are bulging out of control. Actually what you see is a sleek feminine physique. As stated earlier, the secret is simple. You must build in order to burn. What does that mean? It means you have to eat a proper diet with balanced protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. It also means you have to eat more than just a couple of light snacks and a bunch of coffee. Yes, ladies you have to actually eat to burn as well. I know it sounds crazy but it’s true. You know the old myth of 6 small meals a day? Well that is actually not too far off. Think of it this way, there should be 3 solid meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner. In between those meals should be small snacks and before you go to bed there should be a source of protein consumed (usually a protein drink) to help repair the body. Now the tricky part is if you workout, there is a system that you SHOULD stick with. It’s not easy but it has been shown to be effective. Here are some examples of how you should eat if you’re going to workout and want to get the best results from your training.
Before a Workout
Fuel up your bodacious machine with starches before and after your training. If it’s an early morning session, stick to a light portion of a grain cereal or some starchy carbohydrate (oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potato). To get your protein in, see if you can mix your protein powder with your oatmeal. Another option would be a small Greek yogurt in the morning along with a banana. These are small subtle ideas but you get the idea about how you can mix things up!
During a Workout
Stay hydrated! If you find yourself out of gas during your workout, this is where you ask yourself, “Did I eat enough during my pre-workout feed?” If not, consider how much you consume and make an adjustment the next time your workout begins.
After a Workout
Your workout is finally over! Time to hit the post-workout drinks ASAP! Smoothies are the best because they are easily digested into the body right after a workout. Fruits (bananas, berries, mangos, apples), vegetables (yes, I went there) and a high quality fast acting protein (whey protein is the best to use). You should be consuming 25 grams of protein and try to drink it within a 30 minute window after your workout it over (this is the window of opportunity). After that, eat a whole food meal about two hours after completing your workout. Your post-workout meal should contain lean protein (chicken breast, egg whites, lean steak, turkey breast), some high quality clean carbs (brown rice, sweet potato, quinoa, Ezekiel bread) and some squeaky clean high performance healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, flaxseed, almond butter).
Simply put, you have to incorporate some heavier weight training in order to overload your muscles and make them grow. Lifting lighter weights for a high number of repetitions does have its place but don’t fool yourself into thinking that’s all to it. Building muscle helps support the saggy skin that unfortunately happens once age and gravity kicks in. Too often I see a lot of women fall into the same cardio trap without incorporating any weights into their routine. The physical appearance many women achieve by following this type of cardio only routine is what I call “stringy” or “skinny fat”. All of the cardio these women are doing is not only burning some body fat but it’s also burning up important lean muscle tissue as well. The skin starts to sag and it’s not a balanced look. Not to mention that based on the description of how one should eat when they are working out, most women are probably not eating the right amount of protein to build up their muscles. The current trend is functional fitness. Muscles are not just for aesthetics but to actually function as well. Exercises like pull-ups, bench press, box jumps are a few examples that most women can’t stand because they are not easy. However, these exercises are some of the best movements to build lean muscle fast giving that lean and athletic look that so many women are trying to achieve.
Cardio or Not To Cardio
I am not saying cardio is bad nor am I saying one should start lifting like they are preparing for a show (unless you are, then carry on). What I am saying is to find a nice combination that works for you. Also, don’t be afraid to vary your cardio. Change it up. Maybe 30 minutes of rowing then hit your resistance training. Perhaps one day of outdoor activities such as swimming or bike riding for cardio instead of jogging. One of my favorite forms of cardio is doing wind sprints. These are very effective and don’t require hours to get your burn on!
In conclusion, the point that I really want to get across is that you have to build the muscle to burn the fat. It will help you develop lean muscle as well give you a younger, tighter and firmer look. In order to do so, develop a balanced training program which incorporates a heavy and light split resistance training regimen along with cardio. This way you can hit it from all angles and achieve your dream physique!