December 1, 2013

Fat Loss For Females | Rachel Hobbs

December 1, 2013
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Fat loss for females: The basics

As Dr John Gray stated in his bestselling book “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus”. As I am sure many of us would it agree at times it seems like males and females are from utterly different planets. The truth is, males and females are different, physiologically, hormonally and metabolically; therefore it seems absurd for different genders to follow identical advice to achieve their health goals.


What is the most common female health goal?

The majority of female clients I see request “weight loss” and “toning” on their initial consultation, they explain that they have been reducing calories and increasing their cardio but their weight loss has plateaued and they still have a chubby tummy and love handles…sound familiar?

After guidance and implementation of that guidance they will learn that in actual fact their goal is not “weight loss” but FAT LOSS. In order to reduce the number on the scales quickly they could simply cut carbohydrates from their diets; carbohydrates store 4g of water for every 1g that is consumed – therefore by cutting out carbohydrates they lose water and weigh less BUT this doesn’t lead to a reduced body fat nor improved “tone”, in fact it will do the opposite. The body is less able to utilise fat for fuel if the body is dehydrated.


So why does consistently increasing cardiovascular exercise and decreasing calorie intake not lead to fat loss?

Cardiovascular exercise requires energy, this energy has to be obtained from somewhere in the body. If we are fuelled e.g. have consumed food prior to exercise that energy will be obtained from that food. However if we are on a low calorie diet we may not be able to provide enough fast acting energy to fuel the exercise so we start to make fuel from body stores. Initially we will utilise any stored carbohydrate, next moving on to fats (sounds good hey?), however if exercise intensity is too high, fat cannot be broken down to energy. Fats are also large molecules and take a long time to break down and therefore the body will start to use protein stores to assist fuelling exercise. This protein comes from our lean muscles . Our lean muscle stores are what keeps our metabolic rate (the amount of calories we burn to carry out essential functioning) as high as possible. Therefore if we reduce our lean muscle mass, we reduce our metabolic rate and therefore reduce the amount of calories we need to maintain weight, ultimately making it is far easier to store excess calories as fat.

A second reason for the weight loss “plateau” is the damage that may occur to the thyroid gland with excessive cardiovascular exercise and/or extreme calorie restriction. The thyroid gland plays an essential role in hormone production; the crucial one in this instance is Triiodothyronine, otherwise referred to as T3. T3 plays a major role in maximising our metabolic rates, not only does it allow the body to utilise fat for fuel by breaking it down by “lipolysis” as well as increasing the breakdown of glucose (carbohydrate) for fuel BUT it also stimulates muscle protein synthesis. So adequate T3 enables the body to decrease body fat and increase lean muscle protein. HOWEVER by being a low energy state such as restriction of calories the body reacts by suppressing thyroid function and therefore decreasing the release of T3. This allows the body to become more efficient at producing energy in order to preserve fuel for essential bodily processes thereby dropping the metabolic rate.

To put it simply, the human body is an incredibly intelligent natural machine made for maximum survival and if put in a state of low energy it will adapt in order to increase chance of survival.


Rachel Hobbs


So what are the best ways to lose fat and get the “toned” bodies many females desire?

Primarily to maintain and increase lean muscle mass I would always recommend a women to start resistant training – yes working out with weights! This will not make a woman “bulky” as females simply to do have the high testosterones levels that the species from Mars have!

Here are my top ten tips dietary tips for reducing body fat percentage whilst maintaining lean mass and optimising metabolic rate:


1. Start the day right

Say goodbye to sugar coated cereals advertised as “low fat” and say hello to a cooked breakfast. Starting the day with a moderate protein, high fat breakfast will program the metabolism to use to utilize fat and carbohydrates for energy throughout the day, known as metabolic plasticity”. If you choose a high carbohydrate breakfast such as honey on toast the body is programmed to rely on carbohydrates for energy for the day and therefore will struggle to metabolize fat stores.


Try these ideas:

  • Cheese and spinach omelet
  • Greek yogurt with natural almonds and cinnamon
  • Bacon and eggs


2. Protein timing

Long gone are the days of eating mini meals eight times a day, instead eating larger quantities less often may not only fit in with most people’s lifestyles better but also increase protein synthesis (more lean muscle – higher metabolic rate). Aiming to consuming 1g protein/lb of body weight is adequate and split this into three or four meals.

For example a 150lb active individual that needs 150g protein could consume it like this;

  • Meal 1: 4 egg omelet with 30g hard cheese
  • Meal 2: 200g turkey and sweet potato
  • Meal 3: 200g beef mince with basmati rice
  • Meal 4: 250g Greek yogurt

physique boss omelette


3. Start carbohydrate cuddling

Carbohydrates are not the enemy, eaten in excess they can indeed lead to fat storage but they are crucial for workout recovery. Eating the majority of carbohydrates in the meal after a workout and some prior to training will ensure that the energy they provide is used to fuel the activity and replenish muscle stores instead of being stored as fat. Pre and post training meals should be low in fat to prevent prolonged absorption of much needed nutrients as well as to reduce blood glucose (from dietary carbohydrates) mixing with blood lipids (from dietary fats) mixing as this can lead to fat storage.


4. Drink more water

This has been said over and over again and that’s because it is so important. If the body is in a dehydrated state its ability to use fat as energy is reduced. Aiming to drink 2.5L un-caffienated fluid daily will support fat loss.


5. Think about the inside too

Gut health is a subject that has been getting increasing interest lately due to its link with many chronic diseases. The gut plays the essentials roles in the body of digestion, acts as a barrier and has a major part in the body’s immunity. If gut health is not optimal there is a chance of malabsorption of nutrients and increased inflammation in the body, both preventing fat loss goals being reached.

To improve gut health try:

  •  Eliminating potential toxins from the diet – processed oils and soy
  •  Including a probiotic in the diet
  •  Including a prebiotic in the diet such as Sauerkraut
  •  Increase fermentable fibres in the diet


6. Drink your milk

Calcium effects the way a body burns fat, with several studies showing it increases the body’s ability to use fat for fuel and reduces appetite. By consuming calcium rich foods such as milk, yogurt and sardines and kale it ensures that not only bone health is optimal but also promotes fat burning.

Milk physique boss


7. Get fishy

Omega 3 contained in fish such as salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna and sardines as well as flaxseed is a fat burning necessity. Omega 3 is an essential fatty acids which can increase the body’s sensitivity to storage hormone insulin, this means that the body’s ability to restore blood sugar levels after eating is improved and reduces the chance of excess blood glucose being stored as fat.


8. Lose the fat phobia

For years we have been told to reduce our fat intake to lose weight, ironically since this advice was written both obesity and cardiovascular disease has increased. To list just a few of the benefits, fats are required for brain function, to make hormones and to absorb vitamins. Specifically related to fat loss, dietary fat is “metabolically benign”, by this I mean that when it is eaten in isolation is does not affect blood sugar levels and therefore will not promote fat storage. It is when fat is consumed alongside fast release carbohydrates that there could be a danger. Fat is also incredibly filling due to the time it takes to digest. So including lots of nuts, avocado, coconut oils, beef and pork are all great sources of fat and energy…oh and so is chocolate (yes I am telling you that in order to lose fat you should eat chocolate!). Aim for at least an 85% cocoa content to ensure that it is not loaded with sugar.


Fat Loss For Females | Rachel Hobbs


9. DIM

In this modern day females are likely to be carrying excess estrogen due to stressful lives, contraceptive drugs, and pesticides. Excess estrogen unfortunately will prevent fat loss. However the inclusion of Diindolylmethane (DIM) will help metabolize any excess estrogen in the body. Try including cruciferous vegetables daily in the diet to help restore hormonal balance.

  •  Broccoli
  •  Cauliflower
  • Sprouts
  • Asparagus


10.  Get spicy
Not only can adding herbs and spices to food improve their taste but choosing the right ones can impact fat loss too. Including cinnamon in the diet can help aid with insulin sensitivity and normalize blood sugar levels. Black pepper contains a substance called piperane which studies suggest blocks the formation of new fat cells forming. Casperine the compound in chillies has also been found to increase metabolic rate as it increasing body temperature. So what are you waiting for ?…. Get cooking!


Love this article?

Then why not drop Rachel an email or give her a shout out on twitter – you will find her contact details below!

Rachel HobbsWritten by Rachel Hobbs R.D.
1)  Walden, A 1990, Effects of a very low calorie diet on weight, thyroid hormones and mood
2)  Volex JS, 2002, Body Composition and hormonal responses to a carbohydrate restircted diet
3)  Tagliaferri M, 2001, Subclinical hypothyroidism I obese patients; relation to resting energy expenditure, serum leptin and body composition
4)  Serog P, 1982, Effects of slimming and compositions of diets on VO2 and thyroid hormones in healthy subjects
5)  Young M, 2010, Macronutrrient composition of breakfast on fuel utilization 


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