Most women desire the same type of body.
They want to be lean but not too skinny. They want to have some muscle definition, particularly in their arms, stomach, and legs, and they want to have a bubbly butt that fills their jeans. And, amen! I’m all for that.
But what’s the best way to achieve this type of physique?
Conventional “wisdom” has women basically starving themselves while grinding away on the treadmill every day and working out with three-pound dumbbells (anything heavier and they might get bulky!).
And anyone that has given this approach a serious go can attest to the fact that it does not give the promised results, it is not sustainable over the long haul, and it can actually harm your health.
So, what’s the real “secret” of female fitness? What does it really take to have a strong, lean, athletic body that you can easily maintain year in, year out?
You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that much of the mainstream diet and training advice for women is almost the exact opposite of what they should actually be doing.
What am I referring to exactly? Well, here’s the common recipe for physical disaster:
Because heavy calorie restriction and excessive amounts of cardio burn away large amounts of muscle along with fat, and muscle is what powers your metabolism and gives your body shape and definition.
You see, 15% body fat on a woman with little-to-no muscle to speak of looks VERY different than 15% on a woman with well-developed muscles. The former is likely to look skinny-fat (thin but with no muscle definition or curves, and with everything soft and squishy to the touch), whereas the latter can look like a fitness cover model.
To really drive this home, look at the following picture:
And now look at this:
Realize that both of these women are at approximately the same body fat percentage! The major difference is muscle. The first woman has very little, and the second has a lot.
And even if you think the second woman is “too bulky,” realize that it’s muscle that gives you curves, shape, and definition when you’re lean. The question isn’t IF you should have muscle, it’s just HOW MUCH. That is, how curvy and “ripped” do you want to be?
What I’m talking about here is known as changing your “body composition.” That is, decreasing the amount of fat in your body and increasing the amount of muscle. When done correctly, the transformation can be shocking.
Want an example? Consider the following:
Here’s the shocker: she weighs the same in each of these pictures. That’s the power of losing fat and adding muscle, not just “losing weight.”
Another point you should realize is that you must be lean to have that athletic shape and definition. If your body fat percentage is too high (above ~22%), your stomach will always look flabby, your legs will never look tight, and your arms will forever lack definition.
So, if the common diet and workout advice isn’t the way to go, what is the best way for women to achieve their ideal physiques?
The “magic formula” for stunning female physiques is low body fat percentage (under 20%), with enough muscle to have a round, perky butt; a tight, flat stomach; lean, sculpted legs; and toned, defined arms.
What many women don’t realize is how lean they have to be, and how much muscle they have to add to actually achieve that look.
For most, it will mean losing about 10 pounds of fat and replacing it with muscle (yup, gaining weight but looking better!). And while losing 10 pounds of fat can be accomplished in a few months, it can take upwards of a year of proper weightlifting to add 10 pounds of muscle!
Now, reducing body fat percentage is mainly just a function of diet. If you consume less energy–calories–than you burn every day, you will lose fat. There are right and wrong ways to go about this though.
As you know, eating far fewer calories (energy) than you burn every day causes too much muscle loss and leaves you feeling miserable. The key to proper fat loss is eating enough to feel good and fuel your workouts, while ensuring that you’re in enough of a “caloric deficit” (eating less than you burn) to allow for about 1 pound of fat loss per week.
So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you start with about 180 grams of protein per day, 150 grams of carbs per day, and 30 grams of fat per day (0r about 1,600 calories). You then adjust this up or down if necessary, as explained in the book.
Let’s now move on to building muscle. What’s the best way to do it?
Lifting weights is the most effective way to build muscle. But there’s more: lifting heavy weights is the most effective way.
I can already hear you disagreeing. Women shouldn’t lift heavy weights because they don’t want to get bulky, right? Wrong. It’s incredibly difficult for a woman to ever reach the point of looking bulky, regardless of how hard or often she trains.
Because the hormone that most directly regulates muscle growth is testosterone, and an average woman’s testosterone levels are a mere 5–10% of an average man’s. If you’re a woman, I PROMISE you that you will never wake up one day disgusted with your bulky physique if you lift heavy weights and stay lean. Getting to the point of having large, protruding muscles is a very gradual, grueling process that you would have to consciously work at every day, and it would take years.
The circumstance in which weightlifting, or any form of resistance training really, does not help how you look is if your body fat percentage is too high. If you’re 25% body fat and start lifting weights, you’re going to build muscle, which is going to simply make you look a little bit bigger. This is the big mistake that women make with weightlifting.
In terms of achieving your ideal physique, getting your body fat percentage under 20% is just as important as building the muscle that will give you the shape and muscle definition that you desire.
The benefits of weightlifting and building muscle go way beyond looks, though. According to a study conducted by the University of Texas, here’s what happens to your body when you lift weights regularly:
Maintaining a strong, well-muscled body helps you age better. Research has shown that greater muscle mass percentage in older women is associated with better mobility, lower body weight, and lower body fat levels.
Now, earlier I recommend heavy weightlifting for women. What does this mean?
Well, I recommend that women train with weights that allow for at least 8 repetitions, but no more than 10. Once you can do 10 repetitions with any given weight, you increase it by 5-10 lbs, which will drop you to around 6-8 repetitions. You then work with that weight over the next couple of weeks until you can do 10 repetitions, move up in weight, and so forth.
This “progressive overload” of the muscles is crucial to improving your physique. This is what makes muscles grow.
And in terms of exercises, you can’t beat an intense workout of “boy exercises” such as barbell squats, Romanian deadlifts, and barbell lunges for your legs and butt; deadlifts and barbell rows for your arms and back; and dumbbell and barbell curls and bench press for your arms.
Last but not least, let’s address cardio. While cardio doesn’t become necessary for weight loss until you’re lean and want to get super-lean, it does help speed the process up.
The best form of cardio for weight loss is known as “high-intensity interval training.” This is a form of cardio that has you do short, all-out sprints, followed by 1-2 minute low-intensity “recovery periods.” You simply alternate between these high- and low-intensity bouts.
To learn more about how to do this and why it’s best, check out my article on why high-intensity interval training is best for fat loss.
I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.
You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.
Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.
Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.
So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.
The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.
As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.
Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.
That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.
I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.
For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your efforts to build muscle and lose fat.
Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:
Supplementation with creatine helps…
You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.
If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.
In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.
RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:
You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.
That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)
WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.
I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.
And for the same reasons it’s also no surprise that fat burners are some of the most expensive supplements on the shelves and feature some of the loudest marketing claims, often making big promises of “scientifically proven” rapid fat loss.
The reality is most “fat burners” are junk but there are a handful of natural, safe substances that have been scientifically proven to accelerate fat loss. And that’s why I created PHOENIX.
PHOENIX’s caffeine-free formulation is helps you burn fat faster in three different ways:
It accomplishes this through clinically effective dosages of several ingredients, including…
Through these mechanisms, naringin also works synergistically with synephrine and hesperidin to further accelerate the basal metabolic rate.
The bottom line is if you want to lose fat faster without pumping yourself full of stimulants or other potentially harmful chemicals…then you want to try PHOENIX.
There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.
Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.
Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.
Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.
Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.
The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.
And that’s why I made my own pre-workout supplement. It’s called PULSE and it contains 6 of the most effective performance-enhancing ingredients available:
And what you won’t find in PULSE is equally special:
The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.