Probably bodybuilders are the last group of people most overweight women would think of asking for advice on how to transform their bodies. Why? To put it bluntly, most women don’t want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in drag. However, observing the habits, training, and eating patterns of bodybuilders can work wonders for women and help them either jump-start their weight loss program or break their plateau.
It is often said that weight loss is easy – simply eat less and exercise. It is true that weight loss is easy, but what any bodybuilder can tell you is that fat loss is extremely difficult. Most weight loss by women produces muscle and bone loss. The key to any successful diet and exercise program is to burn off the fat while maintaining muscle and density-mass, which is a constant challenge for bodybuilders on diets. This article will demonstrate how the principles that are common sense in the bodybuilding community can be used effectively by women.
Having a clinic in Santa Monica, California and working out at the infamous Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach, I have a pretty good sense of what drugs bodybuilders are doing. The interesting thing is that what drugs are popular among my overweight female patients and dieting bodybuilders are very much different. While much of the country was going crazy over the Phen-Fen craze, it never became popular in the bodybuilding community. When Fenfluramine was banned, pharmaceutical companies rushed to come out with Meridia and Orlistat. While many overweight women were eager to try these new drugs as the latest miracle solution to their obesity, bodybuilders have basically paid no attention.
Why the apathy among bodybuilders towards these prescription diet drugs? Two words – Caffeine and Ephedrine. From my reading of the scientific literature and by my patient’s experiences, it is my opinion that the simple Caffeine/Ephedrine stack is safer and more effective than any prescription diet drug. Since Caffeine/Ephedrine products are cheap, highly effective, and available over the counter why would you bother paying $100-$200 for products such as Meridia and Orlistat that have never been proven to be more effective than Caffeine and Ephedrine?
Many women are reluctant to use Caffeine/Ephedrine products simply because they tend to be marketed toward the bodybuilding market rather than to women. One of the most popular Caffeine/Ephedrine products features a muscular male torso with bulging veins, not exactly the way to win over the Weight-Watchers crowd. However, Caffeine and Ephedrine may be more effective and important for overweight women than for bodybuilders. One study showed that Caffeine and Ephedrine is extremely effective at preserving muscle in overweight women on low-calorie diets. As mentioned above, weight loss is easy, fat loss is hard. Caffeine/Ephedrine is one of the best ways to insure that the weight you are dropping is from fat rather than muscle, at least for overweight women.
I personally recommend pharmaceutical-grade Ephedrine Hydrochloride over herbal formulas containing Ma Huang. This is because most of the research has been done on pure Ephedrine rather then Ma Huang Extract, which varies in potency from batch to batch, containing many other alkaloids besides Ephedrine. Several products also contain Norephedrine instead of Ephedrine, which is a good alternative for people who get to jittery from Ephedrine. Although Norephedrine may be a great appetite suppressant and, it has not yet been shown to have the same muscle sparing effects as Ephedrine.
Have you ever seen a bodybuilder drink Slim-Fast? I didn’t think so. Whenever I see a women drinking Slim-Fast or any other commercial diet product I know her diet is doomed to failure. Drinking products high in sugar and low in protein such as in Slim-Fast is a sure-fire way to destroy any dieting program.
Many top bodybuilder writers and gurus were kicking themselves after the success of Barry Sears and his “Zone” diet. While this diet is indeed effective, there was nothing new about it. Low carb, high protein diets have been advocated in bodybuilding magazines for decades before this latest low-carb diet fad.
Many women make the huge mistake of dropping protein from their diets since they don’t want to become muscle bound. In truth, women should make a special effort to maintain or even increase their consumption of protein when they are dieting to maintain or increase their muscle mass. The combination of low total calories, aerobic exercise, and decreased protein intake will cause the body to literally strip muscle off of your body – a mistake no bodybuilder would make.
In addition to preserving lean mass, protein offers numerous other benefits to dieters. The biggest one is reduced appetite. This is the main reason why low-carb/high protein diets work. Protein foods such as lean meat, fish, and egg whites are extremely filling, whereas starchy and sugary “diet” foods such as fat-free potato chips or Slim-Fast shakes will only cause you to become hungrier by spiking your insulin and causing swings in blood sugar levels. Increasing protein intake at the expense of carbohydrates almost always means lower total calories. Women wishing to lose weight should throw away most of their “diet” foods they purchased at the grocery store, and start stocking up on egg whites, chicken breasts, fat-free cottage cheese, and other lean sources of protein.
This is the most controversial part of this article. Of all the articles I have written for different health and fitness magazines, the one that I have received that greatest response from is my . I hope this is a sign that my views on testosterone are becoming more and more mainstream.
I am not suggesting that women inject themselves with massive doses of testosterone. However, I do believe women can learn quite a bit from bodybuilders by understanding the importance of maintaining a proper testosterone/estrogen balance. Far too often, women unintentionally sabotage their diet by taking birth control or estrogen hormone replacement pills. These pills will lower testosterone levels to barely detectable levels, while causing estrogen levels to soar. Any bodybuilder will tell you that this is a quick way to make yourself fat and bloated. Burning fat becomes difficult to impossible when you have no testosterone to preserve muscle mass and mobilize fat, but plenty of estrogen to increase fat storage. No bodybuilder in his or her right mind would take estrogen while dieting for a contest. Estrogen is even used by farmers to fatten up their livestock.
Almost all post-menopausal women wishing to lose weight can benefit from testosterone replacement therapy. While I have been prescribing testosterone to women for years as part of my overall anti-aging programs, the pharmaceutical company Unimed will soon be coming out with a testosterone gel for women call Relibra. I am excited about this development and I believe that this new gel will change many women’s lives for the better. In the meant time older women show benefits from taking DHEA or 4-androstenediol, both of which can act as testosterone precursors.
It is extremely difficult to convince women to incorporate weight – training into their workout routines. Bodybuilders never remove weight – training from their workout routines, no matter how desperate they are to burn fat. Weight training is perhaps the single best way to preserve muscle while dieting, and can also increase your metabolic rate for many hours after your workout is over (and can raise your metabolic rate even more by increasing muscle mass). However, there seems to be an irrational fear in women’s minds that lifting weights a few times a week may make them look like an unfeminine professional bodybuilder overnight.
My message has always been this: women do not have to fear lifting weights. Most women lack the genetics to look like a professional female bodybuilder even if they wanted to. The often manly looking female bodybuilders are genetically prone to growing large muscle and take large doses of anabolic steroids. Even with more muscle, a woman won’t look muscular unless she has very low bodyfat levels. Women naturally have more bodyfat than men, which is what gives them their feminine curves. To get the masculine physique seen by some female bodybuilders, you must diet down to extremely low body fat levels and take diuretics to remove unwanted water from your body. In other words, adding weight training into your workout routine will not make you look more masculine and is essential for long-term fat loss. Even if a women does somehow put on more muscle mass than she wants, it will come off very easily. It is very easy to bulk down – bulking up is what’s difficult.
I would suggest that any women serious about losing unwanted fat should throw away their copy of Fit and read some informative and unbiased bodybuilding magazines such as MESO-Rx. I am concerned that the diet programs advocated by the medical establishment and by most nutrition professors lead to anorexia and/or actually increases in obesity. It is truly scandalous that the very simple and obvious concept that it is fat loss rather than weight loss is lost among most dieticians and health-care professionals. Only a program that includes weight-training, adequate protein intake, and proper hormone balancing will result in effective and permanent fat loss without significant loss of muscle or bone mass.