Monday’s are devoted to helping the female begin or continue to train. The concepts in this post are also relevant to males.
Usually the hard part is getting a female into “training” instead of just “working out” (here’s some help for the transition: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). However, we know that optimal success isn’t solely dependent on the training in the gym, but attention to detail outside of it. When a female experiences lingering soreness or even stalled progress, it’s probably more than just the program; her nutrition is likely to blame.
Nutrition can be looked at in two fundamental ways: total calories and macro nutrients. Solely looking at calories is relevant, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture. Macro nutrients — which include proteins, fats, and carbohydrates — can be more descriptive in describing food’s effect on the body’s hormones. In the case of a sore or stalled female trainee, we’re going to focus on protein intake and meal strategy while also addressing some minor food quality issues.
I’ve done various posts on protein in the past. This post cited some of Dr. Di Pasquale’s work in saying that power athletes should get 1.2 to 1.6g of protein per pound of body weight. That’s an impressive amount, yet not exactly relevant to the average training female. Instead, a good guideline is aiming for 1g of protein per pound of body weight. If a female weighs 130 pounds, she should aim for 130g of protein. Simple.
I’ll take this time to remind under-eating females why protein is so helpful and healthy (an excerpt from this post):
Protein won’t make a
girlfemale bulky, especially since she not only hasn’t had a history of accidentally becoming bulky but more importantly females only have 5 to 10% of the testosterone that a male has. Instead, protein is the most abundant molecule in the body that is a major structural component of all cells — muscle, organs, hair, and skin — and helps regulate metabolism, form blood cells, and supports the immune system. The average woman is deficient in protein intake, and she will significantly improve her health by consuming more if it…even without exercise.
The source of the protein also matters. When Courtney Modecki works with female clients, she stresses protein quality. She teaches clients to get the majority of their daily protein from something that “had a soul”. In my opinion, animals don’t have souls, and if they did, they would gladly offer it up for someone like me to devour it (this Dovah would eat souls instead of worlds). Get protein from animal sources; if it ran, swam, flew, fell out of it’s mom’s butt, or walked around clucking like an asshole, then eat it. Personally I hate non-egged chickens; you get fined for killing them with your sword!
The first order of business to quality meal strategy is eating breakfast. If it’s not happening, then make it happen. The best analogy I’ve heard and use is that your metabolism is akin to a fire. In the morning you build that fire by eating breakfast. Every few hours the fire will start to die down so you rekindle the fire with your next snack or meal. Keeping the fire burning hot and bright will keep the metabolism humming.
Breakfast doesn’t have to be an exaggerated endeavor. Fry a couple eggs with some fruit. If you’re smart, you’ll add bacon. If timing is an issue, then cook it the previous night and warm it up in the morning. A person, male or female, who doesn’t eat breakfast isn’t serious about their life. Period. It’s saying, “I’m okay with being a sluggish piece of shit today,” or “I’m okay with not getting stronger, losing body fat, or increasing muscle.”
The second component of meal strategy is to make sure and eat. It can be a habit for some females to, for whatever reason, not eat. Typically females who begin lifting or doing conditioning will find that they get a voracious appetite, but it may take some time for this to occur. Aim for three meals with an additional snack or two. If you’re simply not hungry, just aim for one snack evenly spaced between meals. But do so with one very important qualification: Plan all snacks or meals around a quality protein source. “Quality” means that whole “my food used to have a beating heart” thing.
Even if the rest of the diet sucks, emphasizing protein as the primary part of each meal will improve the macros significantly. If you’re not eating enough, it can help increase the calories. If you ate shitty before, it will help clean the diet up since you’ll eat meat first and not have enough room for lower quality foods. All of the above will have a positive impact on insulin resistance and also improve training. I’ve never had a girl gain fat when using this strategy (and those girls weren’t even conditioning, just lifting).
Marginally Improve Quality
Everything above is very simple and general; the strategies will have the greatest impact on overall nutrition with the least amount of change. However, females should learn what “quality” actually means. Quality means to stop eating the convenient, processed crap that the idiotic feminist magazines spit out. Courtney is big on getting females to “drop the bullshit”: yogurt, granola, lara bars, and whatever else society deems as “healthy”. If your food wasn’t directly involved in the circle of life, then avoid it.
Hydration can also have a positive effect on training and soreness. I wrote about the importance of water in this post, but women often under-hydrate, especially during winter. Colder weather usually means you aren’t sweating, so you don’t think to drink water. Make it a point to hydrate, especially when something negative is happening. Feeling sore? Sick? Light headed? Hungry? Headache? Can’t concentrate? Unless you just chugged some water, do so when you feel bad; it’ll help.
Some females may be new to this whole “training” thing. Others may be training veterans, but have ignored paying close attention to their diet. Nutrition knowledge and practice is mutually exclusive from training, yet it will dictate the success of training. First, ensure you’re getting enough protein. Second, plan all the meals around quality protein sources. Third, start cleaning up the quality of food bit b bit. Remember, nutrition is habitual and difficult to alter, so let’s keep it simple. Taking little baby steps over time will work better than trying to overhaul it over night. Your training will thank you. So will the animals who donated their soul to you.
Thanks to Courtney for some ideas for this post.