Setting up the perfect diet plan for women can be a complex job!
I mean with the vast amount of information (mostly bad) available online it is no surprise that many people are left confused about what diet they should be following.
Sadly, only a small minority of the content online is actually factually correct and backed by science. In that minority, you will see there are some recurring dieting principles females should be following. Some of these points will be addressed later in this article.
While a personalized and tailored diet is obviously key for those wanting to optimize every aspect of performance, it’s not necessarily needed for those simply wanting to lose fat and tone up.
This article will help teach you the basic principles you need to consider when following a diet plan.
Step 1: Appreciate the Importance of Calories
Despite what many authorities and media sources may state, calories are an absolutely fundamental part of weight management.
Many “gurus”, will try to tell you that calories don’t matter and that if you eat certain foods, or avoid others, you’ll lose weight regardless of how much you eat. This theory couldn’t be further from the truth.
The only way this “non calorie” diet approach may work is by indirectly reducing total calorie intake through the elimination of certain foods. As you can see, no matter how you try and word it, calories are pivotal in managing weight loss.
Similarly, it’s a common misconception that if you eat the world’s healthiest foods at every meal you don’t need to consider calorific intake. This is wrong. Simply, if you eat too many calories a day from any food source you will not successfully lose weight and possibly even gain weight.
To highlight this point further, if you eat nothing but candy or McDonalds every day, but remain below your calorie threshold you would still successfully lose weight. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a fast food or processed diet, there are many additional benefits from eating healthily.
One documentary in particular, explored the effect unhealthy calories have on weight management. In this case study, the doctor ate a McDonalds only diet for 30 days.
During this period he actually lost weight and improved some markers of health. Crazy you think! All because during this time he had a reduced calorie intake, causing him to lose fat and improve markers of health associated with the fat loss.
While I’m not recommending this sort of extreme approach, it certainly highlights the fundamental importance of controlling and optimising your calorie intake.
Step 2: Optimize Your Calorie Intake – Everyday
As you now appreciate, it’s vital that your calorie intake matches your goal, everyday.
When calculating calories, there is no one set approach. There are hundreds of factors that affect how many calories you intake and expend each day. In fact, you may be off your estimated calorie intake by as much as 20 – 50 %!
As a very rough calorie calculation to help get you started, take your body weight in pounds and multiply it by 10, the answer will give you a staring point to base your calorie intake round.
For example, 130 pounds x 10 = 1,300 calories per day. This may seem low, but I always recommend slightly underestimating and erring on the side of caution in order to begin successfully losing weight from the start. It’s better to take this approach, than to aim too high and not lose weight, get frustrated and then quit.
From here, it’s extremely important to monitor your calorie intake and continually adjust it. Even after just 1 to 2 weeks of dieting your body will adjust and try to reduce your metabolism in order to compensate for the calorie deficit.
This is the body’s natural survival response though it is a factor many people don’t take into consideration. As a result, weight loss plateaus, motivation dips and the diet fails.
In the 90 Day Bikini Transformation Program, I have strategically manipulated calories on a weekly basis and added in strategic high carb and high calorie refeeds in order to keep metabolism high and fat loss continuous.
Again, monitoring progress is key. I have all my clients, and everyone on the bikini transformation plan, monitor fat loss progress every two weeks. This allows us to make tweaks once our bodies begin to adjust.
Further, by using the advanced fat loss add-ons included in the plan, members can expect rapid weight loss without plateaus.
Step 3: Optimize Your Protein Intake
While the benefits of a high protein diet are quickly becoming common knowledge, some people, especially females fear eating high amounts of protein due to concerns of becoming ‘too bulky’.
But don’t worry this idea couldn’t be further from the truth. Protein is in fact key in helping females lose fat and tone up. A low or ‘normal’ protein intake will actually lead to a ‘skinny, flabby’ physique.
However, this is not the type of physique the majority of females want to achieve. If you want to drop fat and achieve a lean athletic physique (not bulky), then you must be on a high protein diet.
There is a ton of research demonstrating that protein is beneficial for health and reducing disease risk. No side effects, in particular in relation to kidney and liver function, have been cited in healthy individuals. The latter is a common myth, which has no scientific backing.
Again, there is no one set protein intake for everyone. However, as a guide to get you started, I recommend you consume one gram of protein per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 130 lbs, then you must consume 130 grams of protein per day.
If you are not familiar with counting pounds or macros, then this would equate to around 5-6 medium chicken breasts per day. Therefore, if you eat four times per day, you would want to consume 1 ½ portions of chicken or meat or fish at each meal.
I’m also a big advocate of whey protein and protein supplements to help meet your daily protein requirements. In an ideal world, everyone would consume protein purely from whole food sources, however this isn’t always convenient or easy to achieve.
Whey protein or other protein sources are extremely healthy and can be a convenient, fast way to meet your daily protein needs.
Step 4: Calculate your Carb and Fat Ratios
Most people normally obsess over the carb to fat ratio, however once you’ve addressed calorie and protein intake, the carb to fat ratio isn’t as complex as you may think.
Again, it relates to your goal. If you’re an elite athlete or a professional bodybuilder/bikini competitor and need to optimize every last percent of your physique or performance, then the carb to fat ratio is important.
However, for the purpose of this article and if you don’t fall into these categories, then a balanced amount of carbs to fat, combined with calorie control and a high protein intake will be more than enough to get you started!
By this point in the article, you should have established a rough calorie and protein intake.
From here you can calculate the remaining calories. To do this, multiply your body protein requirement in grams by 4, this calculates the amount of calories protein has provided. For example, 130g of protein x 4 = 520 calories.
Now, subtract this number (i.e. 520) calories from your daily calculated calorie intake. For example 1300 calories take 520 for protein equals 780 calories remaining.
With the remaining 780 calories, you can set a carb to fat ratio. To begin with, have 50% of those remaining calories from fat. This will serve as a minimal amount to reap the benefits that healthy fats offer including optimal cell functioning, hormonal balance, brain function and hundreds of other physiological processes.
Continuing with the example: 50% of 780 is 390 calories. Divide this figure by 9 to get the amount of grams of fat per day you should consume. In this case 390 calories divided by 9 equals 43 grams of fat per day.
Then take the other remaining 50% and divided the figure by 4 to get your total carb intake in grams. For example, 390 calories divided by 4 equals 97.5 grams of carbs per day.
As you can see this simple calculation gives you a great starting point to work from. Using this formula and the example given, you will be set up on:
- 130 grams of protein,
- 97 grams of carbs,
- 43 grams of fat.
Step 5: Base the Majority of your Diet on These Food Sources
In your diet, there is always room for a small amount of unhealthy food now and again. However, for the most part you want to focus on healthy, nutrient dense foods.
Healthy choices normally consist of single ingredients, a simple way to rule a food in or out is to look at the ingredients list. If the list has multiple ingredients with lots of additives you can’t pronounce it’s not what you want to base your diet on.
Alternatively, another great method is to ask yourself: “was the food around 50 years ago before highly processed, artificial food became popular?”. If the answers yes, then that’s a great choice!
To begin with, your dieting food list may appear fairly simple and somewhat limited. However, by being creative and learning how to cook and flavour these ingredients you can still make pretty tasty meals!
The key is to get creative, set aside time to prepare meals, use spices and seasoning to add flavor. Enjoying the food you eat will help with long-term adherence and success.
Sticking with bland, unimaginative foods will likely leave you bored and uninspired, craving unhealthy foods leading to huge binges and diet failure. Here is a recommended food list for each food group:[tabgroup][tab title=”Carbohydrates”]
- Sweet Potatoes,
- White Potatoes,
- 7 Seed Bread (Such as Ezekiel),
- Chickpeas, Lentils, Beans etc,
- Brown or White Rice,
- Berries (Strawberries etc),
- Other Fruits,
- All Vegetables,
- Healthy Sugar Free Granola
- Olive Oil,
- Red Meat,
- Oily Fish,
- Nuts and Seeds,
- Coconut Oil,
- All Lean Meat,
- Most Red Meats,
- All Fish,
- Low Fat Cheese,
- Low Sugar, High Protein Yogurt,
- Whey or Other Protein Supplements,
- Beans / Legumes (if Vegan/Vegetarian),
(Related: Here’s a full blog post on how to set up your own diet plan!)
Step 6: Follow the 80/20 Rule
As mentioned, your diet doesn’t need to be completely restrictive. In fact, I don’t recommend that you are fully restrictive with your diet over a long term.
Sure, an elite athlete or someone prepping for bodybuilding competition may need to be restrictive for several weeks or even a few months to achieve their goal. However, this doesn’t apply to you and even if it does, over the long term you still should not restrict your diet on a weekly basis.
As I’ve seen and discussed many times, excessive restriction can lead to excessive cheat meals, binge eating and a poor relationship with food.
The simplest way to achieve a healthy balance is follow the 80/20 rule. In other words, make sure 80% of your meals or daily intake is based on healthy whole foods and save the other 20% for the processed or “bad” foods you love.
Step 7: Now, Advance Your Training
Following these simple 6 steps can fast track your diet for optimal results.
Once you’ve mastered the diet, the next step is to master your training. If your goal is fat loss and toning up, then the use of my Metabolic Resistance Training and High Intensity Interval Training is key.
Luckily, I have a full blog explaining all the benefits of Metabolic Resistance Training, take a read right now!
If you want all your diet, training and supplements done-for-you in an easy to follow program, you may also want to join the 90 Day Bikini Transformation Program.