Posted on May 27 2019
Losing weight is all well and good, but when you're looking for the scale to drop, you are most likely wanting to lose fat, not muscle. So how do you make sure you're shedding fat and also maintaining lean muscle mass? It takes a concentrated effort to dial in your nutrition, get moving (specifically, hitting the weight room), and doing other lifestyle factors such as sleep and managing stress.
We spoke to some experts who reveal what it takes for women to lose fat. Here are some of their most helpful and actionable tips. Even if you just incorporate a few of these into your lifestyle, you're bound to see results.
"You have to strength train," D. Rosenthal, ISSA, personal trainer, told us. "Think of strength training as your way of telling your body to preferentially burn body fat for fuel, keeping that precious lean muscle tissue and maintaining a high metabolism."
He went on to explain that if you only do cardio, the weight loss you experience will be both fat and lean muscle. "Decreasing your lean muscle will slow your metabolism and make further fat loss super difficult," he said.
Although he recommends strength training at least twice a week, J. Michaels urges women to strength train even more often at four days per week. Start with a couple times a week and work your way up until you find a routine that works for you. Here's an example of what a week's worth of strength training looks like.
Eat in a Calorie Deficit
You need to focus on consuming fewer calories than your body needs. Set your calorie range by multiplying your body weight by 10 to 12. Your caloric intake should fall somewhere within these numbers. Another way to calculate your calorie deficit is to figure out your TDEE (total energy expenditure, which is the number of calories your body burns each day) and subtract 500 calories. This will help you lose about a pound a week. However, make sure you're always eating more than 1,200 calories each day, even more if you're working out regularly.
Figuring out an appropriate calorie deficit will take some trial and error, so monitor your calorie intake for two to three weeks, and if you don't see a change, decrease by five percent.
Eating Fat Won't Make You Fat
"It's important to know that eating fat will not make you fat, however it does have a lot of calories so you want to limit fat in your diet to no more than 30 percent of total calories," J. Johnson, RDN, told us. Obviously this is for people who are trying to lose weight the traditional way, not with the popular high-fat, low-carb keto diet.
"Choosing the right fat is crucial," she explained. "Stick to healthy fats found in fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados, etc., rather than saturated and trans fats found in butter, margarine, fatty meats, and fried foods that can lead to heart disease if consumed in excess."
Get Plenty of Sleep
"The easiest thing women can do to lose body fat is get adequate sleep," D. Delos Santos, CSCS, told us. "Admittedly, it's not a sexy answer, but lack of sleep is prevalent in women who struggle with fat loss."
Not getting enough sleep can make you crave unhealthy food the next day and cause you to overeat. Adequate sleep also lets your body rest and recover, which is when you are more likely to put on all that muscle you've been working hard to build at the gym. Aim for at least seven hours a night.
In times of stress, our bodies release cortisol, Dr. Ch. Seltzer, a physician board-certified in obesity medicine, told us. Cortisol is also known by its alter ego, the stress hormone. "By itself, cortisol does not cause weight gain," he explained.
"It is a catabolic hormone that causes weight loss by breaking down muscle and fat." But that, unfortunately, doesn't mean that more stress equals weight loss. Cortisol is actually an appetite stimulant, Dr. Seltzer said, which explains why when you're stressed, you want to eat. And you can have a harder time saying no to carb-y, fatty junk foods.