Working Hard, Hardly Eating, and Not Seeing Results?

Are you working hard, hardly eating, and not seeing results?  This is very common.  My friend, Cindy, came to me with this very issue.  Read through below to find out what I recommended for her and then try it for yourself!

Meet Cindy

Cindy committed to losing weight 17 months ago.  She was told by doctors that she was headed for diabetes and death if she didn't make some serious changes.  She cut the junk food and started working out.  Now, 17 months and 103 lbs later, she is still eating clean and working out but feels she is losing muscle instead of fat.  She isn't happy with her results or where this might lead her down the road.  She has been told by her trainer that she needs 160g of Protein per day but she is currently only getting around 60g per day.  She's not sure of the best way to add more protein to her diet.

What Cindy is Currently Doing in Her Weight Loss Efforts And My Suggestions for Change

Current Workout (since January):

  • Three times a week - Incline treadmill interval sessions of cardio for 25 minutes followed by either arms or legs on the weight machines.  When she can't get to the machines she does abs, lunges, squats, etc.  
  • Once a week she takes a cardio fitness class where they run stairs, do jumping jacks, squats, lunges, weight lifting and abs.  
  • Saturday mornings she takes a beginners zumba class.

My Workout Suggestions:

First let me say - You are doing a great job!  

  • Treadmill intervals - These are great for helping to keep your body guessing and they keep your heart rate going up and down which is great for burning fat as well as heart health.  I would suggest that you change at least one of the treadmill days for an elliptical day.  Same concept on the elliptical - do intervals at a high incline.  Go as hard as you can for 40 seconds then rest for 20 seconds.  Do this for 4 minutes then give yourself a 1 minute rest.  Repeat for total of 8 rounds or 32 minutes.
  • The cardio fitness class - Keep doing this.  I'm sure the instructor has you doing different stuff during each session which is great for keeping your body guessing.  Ask yourself if you are working as hard as you possibly can.  Consider wearing a heart rate monitor and make sure you are working in the 80-85% range for maximum benefits of the workout.
  • Zumba - Although I am sure this class is fun and has it's benefits I would suggest you drop this class and do a full body cross-fit style workout instead.  Basically you'll pick 4-6 exercises and do them at full blast for a whole round.  Then rest for 1 minute and repeat.  Try to make the workout be 30 minutes.  With this type of workout you will be burning a shit load of calories and building strength at the same time.  For an example of this type of class check out this post.  I'm currently doing a 30 day challenge that emphasizes working harder and smarter instead of longer.  Each day during the 30 day challenge I will be posting the workout of the day which will be 30 minutes or less but will blast fat and build muscle at the same time.  Subscribe to NoSkinnies to get an email of the daily workouts or just watch for them on Facebook on the NoSkinnies Facebook Page.
  • Strength - It sounds like you are already doing 3 days of strength training which is great.  What I would say here is make sure you are mixing it up and not doing the same workouts over and over.  Also maximize your workout by pushing a heavier weight with less reps instead of a low weight and lots of reps.  Pushing yourself with the heavier weights will keep your heart rate higher while you are working out.  In addition, the more muscle your body has the higher your resting metabolism and therefore the more your body burns fat when you are not working out.  Don't worry about "bulking up".  You won't!  Girls have to work really freakin hard to bulk up.  I get so sick of hearing "but I don't want to bulk up"!  Ugh.  Muscle is your friend!

Current Food

  • 700-800 calories per day
  • Protein from chicken, turkey and fish for dinner, skim milk at breakfast (8-9 g protein), and protein water mix from gym (15g).
  • Breakfast - Cheerios with fat free milk and stevia
  • Lunch - Salad with fat free turkey, fat free cheese, and fat free dressing plus special k chips and an apple
  • Dinner - Chicken or fish, green beans, green leafy veggie (either salad or cabbage)
  • Snack - Animal crackers (3 or 4) or rice cake and 1/2 tsp of peanut butter
  • 100 plus ounces water per day.

My food suggestions:

Girl this is where you need to have a "Come to Jesus" meeting with yourself.  You damn well know better than to be eating only 700-800 calories per day!  I weigh 116 pounds and I eat 1500 calories per day and usually think that's not enough!!!!  There is no chance in hell you will ever build muscle and obtain the lean body you want unless you get those calories up.  Your trainer has suggested you get 160g of protein per day and he is correct.  You can't get that amount of protein on the very few calories you are currently consuming though.

  • Change your breakfast to this cereal with blueberries .  17g protein, 5g fiber, 285 calories

Total so far:  285 calories; 17g protein

  • Mid-morning Snack:  Try a protein shake.  Use 1/2 serving of protein powder mixed with water and ice (approx 12.5g protein and 100 calories).  Total 100 calories and 12.5g protein.

Total so far:  485 calories; 29.5g protein

  • Lunch - the salad you are currently eating is fine but make sure you are getting enough good lean protein with your turkey.  Not sure how much you are using now but I suggest you use 8 ounces of lean turkey (280 calories, 60g protein).  Leave the cheese off if you want to save on calories.  Your lettuce and fat free dressing aren't adding enough calories to worry with.  Let's just say they are 50 calories.  That brings the total of your calories for this salad to 330.  You can also add a protein shake here for another 100 calories and 17g of protein (or save the 100 calories and have your protein water that you usually get at the gym).  Lunch is now 430 calories and 77g of protein.

Total so far:   Calories 915; 106.5g protein

  • Afternoon Snack - Mix this up a bit.  Here's a link to easy sources of protein.  But here's one suggestion:  1 cup of Edamame beans - 100 calories and 8.5g protein plus.  

Total so far:  Calories 1015; 115g protein

  • Post Workout Snack - Here's a link to easy sources of Protein.  My favorite post workout protein snack is an EAS Strawberry Shake which has only 100 calories but a whopping 17g of protein.  I buy these at Wal-Mart (Disclaimer - I am not promoting Wal-Mart....but it is a necessary evil.  LOL).  These protein shakes are already mixed so you just pop them in the fridge and pull one out when you are ready.

Total so far:  Calories 1115; 132g protein

  • Dinner:  Lean Protein and Veggies.  Example - 4oz turkey breast (140 calories, 30g protein) and 1 cup green beans (100 calories, 10g protein).  This might not seem like much for dinner but remember - you just had a post workout protein shake so you'll probably not be as hungry as you expect when you sit down to dinner.  If you still feel hungry after dinner or feel like you need a sweet treat try having a cup of sugar free, low calorie (20-25) hot cocoa.

Total for the day:  Calories 1355; 172g protein

I know you are freaking out about the calories.  Try not to.  Just try this for 4-6 weeks and see what happens.  If you feel like you are not making progress then cut back on the calories.  Remember that as you lose more weight you don't need as much protein so you can cut back on the protein as you lose weight.  Trainers usually recommend 1g of protein per pound...so if you are 160lbs then you want 160g of protein.

Who's going to try this approach?  Leave your comments and let me know what you think of the plan.  If you have tried it then let me know what your results were!