What works best? Learn from MY mistake!
If you’re a woman over 40 who is just getting started with a fitness program, I want you to know that starting imperfectly is fine.
It’s better than not starting at all.
But knowing what I know now, I would have started differently.
I think I lost a whole year’s worth of progress because of the way I started and I missed an opportunity to do something that I can’t do now.
So here’s the question that I got wrong…
Should you lose weight first and then start lifting or should you start lifting right away?
I was too focused on scale weight.
I didn’t know that you could lose muscle while you were dieting and doing cardio, but that’s exactly what happened.
And less muscle on the frame means your metabolism is going to slow down a little bit, which is not helpful when you’re trying to lose fat.
Also, less muscle means less definition.
I just focused on diet and cardio for the whole first year and I just became a smaller version of what I looked like before.
That toned, athletic body that I had in my mind about my goal, what I wanted to look like – that isn’t what happened at all.
But a lot of people tell me that’s exactly what they want to do – they want to lose fat first.
They’re going to go on a diet, do a ton of cardio, and they’re going to lose weight first and THEN they’re going to start weightlifting.
They are making the same mistake that I made.
They’re not realizing that you’re going to lose some of your muscle during that initial weight loss.
So instead of focusing on scale weight, I’d like you to focus on body composition.
Let me give you a simple example to illustrate the point.
Let’s say someone who is just getting started weighs about 200 pounds and has a 40% body fat.
40% of 200 is 80.
So that person is carrying 80 pounds of stored body fat and the part of their scale weight that isn’t fat is 120 pounds.
So just for the sake of making a point, let’s say this person drops body fat by 5 pounds and increases her muscle mass by 5 pounds.
On the scale, she would still weigh 200 pounds.
But this person would now be down to 75 pounds of body fat and up to 125 pounds of lean body mass.
So her new body fat percentage would be 38%.
So even though the scale weight stayed the same, this person has become leaner.
But I didn’t do that. I lost fat and I lost muscle.
So my scale weight dropped, but my body fat percentage that didn’t really change that much.
And because I lost muscle, I slowed my metabolism down.
After about a year, my weight loss just stalled. It just stopped and there was really nothing I could do about it.
What am I going to do at that point? Am I going to eat less? Am I going to do more cardio?
That’s when I realized my plan wasn’t working and I needed to do something different.
When I learned more, I realized my mistake. I realized that I needed to have a plan to keep my muscle while I was losing fat.
So there were two things I should have been doing from the very beginning.
1) I needed to be lifting and
2) I needed to be eating enough protein so that I wouldn’t lose muscle while I was in a calorie deficit.
Had I started differently, I wouldn’t have had to go back and rebuild that muscle.
To lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit.
That is true.
But if you want to lose fat and keep your muscle, you don’t want to take those calories away from your protein.
Set your protein target to be 1 gram of protein for every pound of lean body mass that you have on your frame.
So that 200 pound person who had 120 pounds of lean mass, their daily protein average should be about 120 grams.
You don’t need more than that, but you need enough so that when your body is looking for protein, it’s not tapping into the protein you have stored on your frame, which is your muscle.
I’m sure you’re going to think of lots of reasons why you want to keep your muscle.
But the couple of things that come to mind right now…
1) It keeps your metabolism where it needs to be
2) As you lose fat, you’re going to create that body that you want underneath. You will start to see some definition and that’s really fun.
3) The things you do to preserve your muscle will also help your skin adapt as you become a smaller person.
So the opportunity that I missed that you still have is that this is all so much easier when you’re a new lifter.
Losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time is just so much easier for people who are just getting started.
But honestly, I think I procrastinated getting started with lifting for other reasons other than just not knowing why I should.
I was a little intimidated by it. It was a little overwhelming.
And I didn’t want to look stupid.
I didn’t know where to go to get information about how to start lifting as a woman over 40, from a woman over 40 who has done it.
If you’re a new lifter and you’d like to learn a little bit more from me, somebody who’s done it, click into the next video below.
Know you need to change, but aren't sure where to start? I created this free training to answer the most common questions women have asked me over the years.
- What to eat?
- Why lift?
- How to stick with it?
- How to get started?
Hi! I'm Tammy! I was a busy, stressed, and unhealthy teacher until I decided to take control of my health. I did not become an athlete until I was in my 50's!
I earned personal training and fitness nutrition certifications, then retired from teaching to dedicate my work life to fitness education for other busy women over 40.
My results are obviously not typical because most people don't train to compete as a bodybuilder.
But I believe everyone can make positive changes with healthy habits! Each of us has a unique combination of strengths and challenges that need to be considered to customize a program that will work for us. Science-based principles, flexibility, and consistency make all the difference.