1. Bump Up Your Protein Consumption
Don’t be afraid to push protein consumption. Consider increasing your daily protein to 1.5 or even 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Yup. You read that right. Throughout my 17 years of bodybuilding, I have refused to consume less than that on any diet.
Getting in plenty of protein, spread fairly evenly throughout the day, helps protect your muscle tissue from breakdown. When amino acids are floating around in your system, your body senses that it doesn’t need to break down muscle tissue to harvest them. How much is “plenty”? That would be up to 300 grams for a healthy 150-pound woman.
Before you freak out, that’s only 1,200 or so calories, a far cry from your daily total under the plan I lay out below. Plus, recent research has shown that eating five times the current daily protein recommendation (0. 36 grams per pound of body weight) has shown no adverse impact on body-fat stores.
Furthermore, a high-protein diet has been shown to positively impact the number of calories you burn throughout the day. This manifests as an increase in the amount of calories burned through the process of digestion, absorption, and distribution of nutrients, referred to as the thermic effect of food (TEF).
2. Train For Muscle Gain, Not Fat Loss
Spending time doing endless circuit training using light weight for high reps isn’t the best recipe for muscle gain. Instead, focus on integrating compound movements, such as squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows. These moves allow you to lift the most weight and stimulate the most total muscle mass possible, which is why they should be the foundation of each workout. Focus on increasing the weight you’re able to use over time while aiming for 5-8 reps per set.
You can still incorporate higher-rep training, but it should be with a weight that is challenging to complete 15-20 reps with. Incorporating a combination of heavy resistance training alongside high-repetition training is ideal for muscle growth.
3. Cut Your Carbs
You knew this one was coming, didn’t you? Yeah, you’ve got to cut carbs—not completely, but to a point where they’re efficiently used. Many of us have a real problem when it comes to tackling this, which is why the obesity epidemic is worsening as you read this.
Consume most of your carbs when they benefit you the most: two hours before your workout and right after your workout. The rest of your carbohydrates throughout the day should come from high-fiber vegetables. Vegetables will help keep your energy in check and work to stave off hunger.
A good starting place is to aim for 1.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight throughout the day (or 1 gram per pound if you’re overweight). Of course, the amount of exercise you do in a given day will affect this. On nontraining days, consider dropping your carbs to 0.75-1.0 gram per pound.