The Female Guide to A "Toned" Figure
Would you rather listen that read? Here’s the podcast version just in case!
Ladies, I’ll be honest, you have it tough.
I consistently hear things like:
“It’s so much easier for guys to lose weight,”
“My husband lost 10 lbs and I haven’t lost any.”
“I know I’m being consistent; I just don’t know why the scale isn’t showing it.”
We live in a social media world where the market preys on women and their frustrations which unfortunately only leads to more confusion in the end.
You’re promised results through ridiculously low calorie diets that wreck your metabolism, detoxes that force the scale to go down through laxatives rather than fat loss, fat burners that take your anxiety to the next level, ridiculous booty band workouts that don’t do much after the first week, and the idea of “toning” through 5 pound dumbbells and punishing yourself on a cardio machine.
Lost & Lifting has worked with 100’s of females at this point inside their fat loss journeys. I can promise you we’ve never used the above protocols to produce results like this:
Today’s blog is going to break down the step by step process to lose fat as a female and create the “toned” look you’re looking for without the fluff. Just cold hard facts so you can start achieving real results inside your efforts like these ladies above.
Let’s get into it.
Controlling your body's energy balance
You’ve probably been told to eat as little as possible to lose weight or that you need to cut carbs, gluten, sugar, dairy, processed foods, and anything else deemed “unhealthy” if you want any chance at losing fat and creating definition.
This works for a minute. You stay consistent, maybe even see the scale start to go down a little, but then ravenous feelings of hunger and cravings settle in and your left with a choice:
- Suck it up and deal with it
- Give in and satisfy your overwhelming sense of hunger and craving for normal people food
Either pick isn’t one you’ll ultimately be satisfied with. It’s a continuous “lose – lose” scenario that you’re stuck in.
To break the cycle, understanding the importance of balancing your caloric intake each day while including foods your body will thank you for, paired with foods your taste buds will be happy about is key to a stable nutritional foundation.
Calories in vs calories out is a real thing. When you stop ignoring the fact that it’s the overruling denominator to your body composition, you can begin using it to your advantage and include the foods you actually like to eat while creating the result you’re looking to achieve at the same time.
This is the “win – win” scenario that will fix most of your frustrations.
Recklessly cutting out entire food groups because you think they’re the root of your problem IS the actual problem. Including ALL foods and keeping track of the energy in them (aka calories) will allow you to understand your body composition for what it is instead of for what you “think” the problem is.
Finding an effective caloric intake for your situation doesn’t mean cutting calories as low as possible either. Setting up your caloric intake at a place that supports a healthy metabolism, keeps your hormones and hunger levels in check, and allows for some flexibility to your food choices is key to a sustainable result.
If you’re following a 900-1200 calorie diet, you’re asking for trouble and a result that is ultimately going to be VERY hard to sustain given the punishment your metabolism and hormones will endure throughout the process. From experience, I’ve found most women can be anywhere from 1400 all the way up to 2500 calories per day dependent upon their individual lifestyles and body composition to create weekly progress.
Again, caloric intake is extremely individual to your current weight, lifestyle, exercise regimen, diet history, and more. You can figure out more about where your starting caloric intake should be inside of The Macro Starter Kit (an L&L free resource).
The higher you’re able to start with calories when trying to change your body composition, the more successful you’ll ultimately be. Many get caught up in wanting “quick results,” but when you place a sustainability first, you’re able to create progress that lasts a lifetime.
Efficient Protein Intake
Before you begin worrying about carbs, fats, sugars, times of the day you’re supposed to eat, etc.; pay attention to your protein intake. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of things that don’t really make a significant difference to your goals which unfortunately is where a lot of the fitness industry puts there marketing towards because it creates an easier sale for a product. In reality, just paying attention to your caloric and protein intake consistently will create the leaner body you’ve always hoped for.
Why is your protein intake important?
A couple reasons:
-Protein helps maintains current lean tissue and supports additional lean tissue. This creates fat loss inside of a caloric deficit and not just weight loss. Have you ever seen someone go on a long successful diet, but end up with a soft, or “skinny fat” appearance at the end? This is because they lost weight (lean tissue & fat tissue), not solely fat loss – there’s a difference and it will change your appearance drastically.
Losing a lot of weight will leave you with the soft appearance without much, if any, definition. Losing fat will preserve your lean tissue, potentially add more lean tissue, which will create the defined and/or “toned” look as you keep progressing.
-Protein is also the most filling of all the different macronutrients. Without getting too nerdy here and diving into the science of the digestive system, it takes longer for your body to break down and digest protein than it does carbs and fats, meaning it will keep you fuller for a longer period of time than any other type of food. It also creates a bigger thermic effect while digesting it than fats or carbs because of the extra work it takes to break down the amino acids inside the body. Meaning the net calories from protein is ultimately lower than the net calories from carbs or fats. Not something to be extremely concerned about but is a bonus to a higher protein intake.
Generally, somewhere between .75-1 g of protein per pound of body weight is necessary for most females. You can find further details for your individual needs of protein intake inside The Macro Starter Kit as well.
Prioritize Resistance Training
Look, any sort of activity that gets you up and moving is better than the alternative, but if the goal is to create definition, or the “toned” appearance, you can’t get around the fact that it’s going to take consistent resistance training and building strength at your foundation. There’s been a long-time misconception inside the female fitness community that you should spend most of your time with light weight and high reps, or on a cardio machine if you want to create the “toned” appearance.
Don’t want to get too bulky and look masculine, right?
This is 100% false and why so many females never end up looking the way they truly want to look. I will admit, this is getting better and more awareness is being brought to light by good coaches in the industry, but we need more of it.
As a female, you aren’t going to get “big and bulky” by getting stronger and adding lean muscle to your frame. Your natural genetics and hormones won’t allow it. Now, if you went messing with your hormones through an unnatural substance of some sort, you absolutely could end up looking in a way that you probably wouldn’t desire.
But if your natural female hormones are kept in place, your femininity and female figure will always shine through. You won’t end up with the “bulky” or masculine appearance many have the fear of that leads to only doing group cardio classes, body weight exercises, and the overuse of 5 to 10-pound dumbbells.
Take my wife, Claira, for example. She’s also a coach for Lost & Lifting and has placed most of her focus on resistance training over the last 6-7 years.
She can squat over 200 pounds, deadlift over 225 pounds, hip thrust over 275 pounds, Overhead Press over 90 pounds, and rip out 6 to 8 body weight pull ups in a row. Those lifting numbers are slowly going up each year by the way. She continues to focus on getting stronger because it allows her to eat more food because of the long-term increase in metabolism through the added lean tissue, added definition it creates in her feminine physique, and long term benefits it provides like functional strength for every day living, confidence, and the power it shows women truly have and how strong your body’s can actually be.
If you’d like an idea of what a progressive resistance training workout should look like, you can download a preview of an upper body and lower body workout here to help you get started.
Gauging Progress & Making Adjustments
Now you’ve got everything lined up, you’re golden, right? Not so fast. Just because you’re doing things correctly doesn’t mean you should deep dive without coming up for breaths to gauge how things are moving along.
As a female, there are a couple different ways to gauge the progress you’re making from week to week dependent on your current body composition and prioritization of goals.
If you have a larger amount of fat to lose (roughly 20+ pounds), aiming for 1-2.5 pounds of weight loss per week will be nice steady progress that you should be able to sustain. The earlier you are in the process, the higher amount of weight loss you’ll be able to hit. The longer you’ve been at it, the closer that number will drop down to the lower spectrum per week.
If you have a fair amount of fat to lose (between 5-20 pounds), aiming for .5-2 pounds of weight loss per week will be nice steady progress that you should be able to sustain. Again, the earlier you are in the process, the higher amount of weight loss you’ll be able to hit. The longer you’ve been at it, the closer that number will drop down to the lower spectrum per week.
If you don’t have any fat to lose, but need to build muscle to create definition in your already slender frame, aiming for 1-2 pounds of weight GAIN per month paired with steady increases in strength in the gym will lead to the “toned” appearance you’re looking for through added lean muscle.
If keeping track of your progress through the scale absolutely terrifies you, you can always gauge progress through pictures and measurements as well. But through a lot experience with clients and myself over the years, the scale is the easiest way to track progress overtime. Here’s a previous blog I wrote explaining how to use the scale most effectively and ditch the frustrations that come along with it:
STOP LETTING THE SCALE MESS WITH YOUR HEAD
Throughout this journey, progress will slow down and adjustments are going to need to be made accordingly. The metabolism adapts given enough time with ANYTHING you do.
If you don’t seem to be getting any leaner and losing any weight over a few weeks’ time, you may need to drop calories slightly, or add in additional cardio for a higher caloric output.
If you don’t seem to be getting any stronger, you may need to add calories slightly, or adjust the exercises, frequencies, intensities, and/or volumes being used.
Adjustments will always be needed at times throughout the process to keep pushing along progress in a linear fashion, but with that said, it doesn’t mean you should adjust just because you’re being impatient. Changing your body composition takes time and requires A LOT of consistency.
Before you go adjusting anything, there’s one key question you, or your coach, should be asking first:
Are you following the plan the way it was intended and it isn’t producing the result intended, or are you not follow the plan the way it was intended and that’s why it isn’t producing the result you wanted?
Those are two very different questions that will require two very different adjustments.
If you aren’t sticking to the plan day in and day out, you’ll need to assess your “why” and have a hard conversation about getting back on track and finding ways to be more consistent.
If you are being consistent day in and day out, then the adjustments mentioned like decreasing/increasing calories, adding in cardio, or changing up the training program may be needed to create further progress in your situation.
Just make sure to take a hard look at yourself and your efforts before doing anything drastic.
Giving Yourself A Timeline (Periodization)
This is where most females get stuck in the weeds. Most fall into the trap of looking at their body composition in only a 1, 2, or 3-month timeline. Big mistake if you’re wanting to create a lasting result.
You will start creating a more “toned” appearance within a couple months by following this approach and making the correct adjustments like mentioned but understand you can’t progress in a linear fashion forever.
This is where “periodization” comes into play and is so beneficial. Instead of looking at your body in a short-term perspective, you’ll be far better off pulling the curtain back and looking at things from a long-term perspective which is what truly takes your body to the next level for the rest of your life.
Periodizing your body composition goals simply means placing emphasis on different aspects of your goal at different times. When first beginning, you’ll want to follow the above guideline in part 4 where I touched on gauging progress dependent upon if you need to lose weight or VERY SLOWLY increase weight.
Where many go wrong is by not setting a following goal after the initial goal. What this does is leaves you short sited thinking the work is “done” when sustaining an improved body composition will always take some amount of work.
This doesn’t mean you’re going to have to keep working as hard as you did to accomplish the goal of creating a leaner, more defined figure, but you’ll need a plan to maintain it.
To escape the “yo-yo” affect, don’t underestimate the power of periodization.
If calories were dropped low throughout the fat loss phase, a reverse diet will be needed to rehabilitate the metabolism up to its full function and bring hormones back to healthy levels dependent upon how severe the caloric deficit became.
This is where periodizing the goal becomes pivotal.
Let’s create an example to give you a better idea of how I’d map out a “periodized” plan for a female who has never followed the above guidelines looking to “tone” their body and has 20 pounds they’d like to lose in the process.
Looking at this over a timeline of 6 months, this is how I’d map it out in a perfect world:
Month 1: Primer – maintenance calories, goal body weight in grams of protein, progressive strength training
Month 2-4: Fat Loss Phase – caloric deficit, goal body weight in grams of protein, progressive strength training, 2-3 cardio sessions per week
Month 5: Reverse Diet – weekly increases in calories back to maintenance, body weight in grams of protein, progressive strength training, 2 Cardio Session per week
Month 6: Maintenance – maintenance calories, body weight in grams of protein, progressive strength training, 1 cardio session per week
Throughout this periodization scheme there was a primer to get the metabolism and hormones functioning at full speed to create the most efficient progress once entering the caloric deficit.
Then there was a plan and timeline to exit the caloric deficit in a way that would allow the body to maintain the result that was created through a proper reverse diet back to a maintenance level of calories to get the metabolism and hormones back to functioning at a high level to make the result easier to maintain.
6 months may seem like a long time, but when you begin doing things right instead of trying to do things fast, you end up creating a result that you only need to put the work in for once.
If you have questions, I’d be happy to answer them for you down below. The more detailed the question, the better the answer I can give.
If not, it’s my hope that you take these teachings and go out and begin creating that “toned” body once and for all that you’ve been looking for.
Thanks for reading!
Chaz is the co-founder/owner and head coach at Lost & Lifting. He also owns his own gym - Fit Factory, located in Preston, Idaho (his hometown). Chaz works with clients all over the world to take control of their body composition through evidence based and sustainable strategies. His passion has turned from building his own body to educating and helping others do the same through his online coaching platform.
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L&L Talk (hosted by Chaz), is the Lost & Lifting podcast where we dive deep into nutriton, training, and lifestyle to help you become more educated inside your journey to produce the result you want faster, and in a more sustainable manner