T Nation

Fat Loss Advice Needed


#1

Hi,
I am a 24 year old female, I am sitting at around 150lbs now and 18.5% bodyfat.
I train intensely 5/6 times a week, with about 30mins light cardio per day, plus an active job.

Current macros: 160g Protein, 70g Carbs, 40g Fats.
Eating oats, whey protein, fish, vegetables, sometimes beef.
I was 165lbs and 24.5% bodyfat when I started in November, so these macros has obviously changed over that time as I have gradually lowered my carbs.

My concerns are, a) I still feel very watery and lose, b) I feel like my results are fairly slow progress. I know that slow progress is better than no progress, but I would have expected slightly more noticeable results based on how I am eating/training.

Just after any tips that may help,
I have been told I am holding a lot of water - I drink 3 litres a day. Would potassium supplementation help perhaps?
Not taking any fat burners etc, just multi vitamin and whey protein.

Ultimately I’d like to be around 15% bodyfat
Any advice would be appreciated!
Thank you!


Fat Loss Info for My GF?
#2

If by “train intensely” you mean weight lifting, you might be building muscle and losing fat at the same time. There are plenty of times when my weight loss looks more like a jagged line than a straight one. If you lose a pound of fat and gain a pound of muscle, your weight scale can’t tell the difference.

And sometimes when I take a day off from exercises, I look better the next day because my body has had recovery time. But then everyone has a slightly different genetic foundation to work with.


#3

Hello there, lifter40. It’s nice to see young women lifting.

Congratulations!! About 9-10 months, and you’re down about 15 pounds? Lifting weights during that time, so you’re putting on muscle, and have dropped body fat overall. That’s fantastic progress. Slower weight loss is much more likely to be sustainable.

A couple of things immediately stand out to me.

According to your macros, you’re eating about 1280 calories per day? Is this correct? If so, it’s not very much food for a woman who weighs 150 pounds, and is only 24 years old. Are you still dropping weight? That should be a significant deficit for you. Total calories is the biggest factor in fat loss.

I would expect you to be able to eat a minimum of 1500 calories per day, and to be loosing weight on that since you’re exercising regularly, and have an active job.

Are you accurately measuring and weighing foods, or guestimating restaurant meals?

How often do you cheat, go off plan?

IMO, your macros need adjusting. According to the macros you listed, you’re eating 22% carbs, 50% protein, and 28% fat.

I have eaten around 40 percent protein before, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
I prefer something close to the Zone macros, which is 40% carbs, 30% pro, 30% fats. For 1280 calories, that would put me at 128g Carbs, 96g Pro, and 43 g fat.

Some people do well with higher fats, and lower carbs, something like Atkins diet. I don’t have experience doing that, but you can find lots of people here who prefer that. I prefer to have carbs be my main energy source. Your other option would be getting into carb cycling, where you have higher carb days when you’re lifting, and keep carbs lower on off days.

You can play with total calories and macro percentages here. https://bioketo.com/macro-calculator/

The guideline of 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, or .8 grams per pound is adequate for muscle gain and maintenance, in my experience.

@ Feeling bloated, retaining water.

You expect normal fluctuations depending on what you eat, high carbs and high sodium meals, but I’ve never had an issue with just holding water over time. You may want to ask your potassium question in the nutrition forum.

I hope that helps.

Best,
Puff


#4

@BrickHead, I haven’t seen you here lately! Hope all is going well, and you’re enjoying your family. The little boy sure is adorable.

Tagging you since you know nutrition inside and out.

Puff


#5

@anon71262119
Thanks, really helpful information.
Yeah I have been precisely measuring every meal and 1200-1300 calories is about right, and I tend to have a cheat meal most Sundays.
I’m currently stagnant when it comes to weight loss. Fluctuations in water weight of course but no more fat loss.

I will play around with the macros and also increase calories.

At the moment my carbs only come from oats and vegetables/pulses, would you suggest adding some more typical carbs like rice/potato? The only reason I eliminated them in the first place was I was feeling bloated and tired after eating.


#6

Hey, you’re welcome.

At your weight loss plateau, that has me stumped a bit. The calorie math always adds up for me. I always know why my weight is going up or down, or staying the same. If you aren’t loosing weight, you’re not in a deficit, so this is strange that you’re not seeing more weight loss at 1200-1300 calories per day. One reasonable cheat meal shouldn’t sink you, given you’re not binging like a crazy person.

Yeah, I would NOT drop calories lower than where you’re at. I’d probably try adjusting calories up a bit, at least on training days. Maybe stay closer to 1300 calories on days you rest, but I’d think you could eat a bit more on days you’re training.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to stop loosing for a few months and just maintain as your body adjusts to a new lower weight. Thinking out loud here.

Errrggg… I’m not sure why you’re on a plateau. Let me tag @mertdawg here. He’s often willing to give time troubleshooting in the nutrition forum. He may have some ideas. Most of the men rarely come in this forum, so they’re unlikely to see your post.

Edited to add -
@ Food choices. Rice and potato are excellent carb sources in my opinion. Lots of people have gotten lean using them.


#7

How did you determine your bodyfat percentage to be 18.5%? If it is accurate, that is pretty darn lean for a woman. Top female athletes are typically in the 15-20% range, and I have known female athletes who started to suffer health problems in the strictly measure 14’s. Under 25 is typically going to look very “fit” for a female.

I also would estimate your daily calorie needs to be at least around 2200 calories given your age, and reported activity level, body weight and leanness.

Anyway, IF that is an accurate bodyfat percentage and bodyweight then at your macros I would expect your muscles to be fairly flat and you may even be retaining water from chronically high cortisol levels.

How tall are you?
How did you determine your bodyfat%
How strong are you? Again an 18.5% bodyfat 150 pound female would typically look and be tremendously fit and powerful, like off season gymnast or if you are taller, like professional volleyball lean.


#8

@mertdawg thanks for the reply, much appreciated.
I am 5ft 7".
I measure my body fat using calipers. I use 8 different methods, then find the average of these.
Strength wise, last time I checked I benched 96kg,deadlift was 125kg and squat 110kg - all strict form.
I don’t tend to train to failure often, so this was a few months ago.

I would agree that I probably look flat - and I was thinking cortisol could be playing a role - I guess there is no way around this except to try and relax!?


#9

OK, I was picturing a beginner without a lot of muscle for some reason, not someone with a build and athleticism of a @brute_fury or @Bronwen . I usually ignore BF estimates because we’re used to seeing wildly inaccurate estimates in beginners using those scales at home, or guestimating BF.

Those are some very nice lifts, especially your bench! So, again that makes me think you certainly should be able to eat WAY more than 1200-1300 calories. That has me a bit stumped. You have enough muscle, you should be a metabolic furnace. I’d try to maintain BW for a few months, and bring calories up on training days for sure. Also, I haven’t seen pictures but you may be already at the limits of anything sustainable.

Just for comparison, I’m in my late 40s and 5’2", BW 111-115 and I can eat between 1300-1800 calories as maintenance.


#10

Oh wow! Thanks for the compliment Puff!!!

I don’t have anything to share except getting fixated on a bf% can be just as deceiving as getting stuck on bring a specific WT ( unless it’s for competitive wt class stuff for meets etc).

Some people walk around with much higher or lower %'s just be due to their particular genetics. I’d go for feel and performance over a % as nothing is exact. You might find you look and feel freaking great at 25%, it’s unreliable to do bf testing even with very fancy methods.

Alan Thrall did a vid showing different example of what % looks like on different people. I think it’s a great perspective on things!

It sounds like your doing great with your lifts!!! It takes a long time to make big body composition changes that last, like years and years. This is as natural lifters that is.

As long as you keep being active and lift with a decent diet, you will look better and better, it just takes time! For women I think the older you get the better it will get too if you keep lifting up. Keep it up and enjoy having the coolest hobby around!!


#11

Thank you very much. I have not been able to post as much since my commute time to work significantly increased because of the purchase of new home farther away from my job than before, stuff to do around the home, and taking care of my son. I wish I could post a pic of him on here but this is the wrong forum and you know… it’s a website… for bodybuilding, not a private IG account. Lol.

I am actually limited on time right now writing this but I added the total calories for the OP and they came out to 1,280 calories, an awfully low-calorie diet for someone 150 pounds and active five to six days per week with cardio AND an active job.

OP: what do you mean by “feel” watery and loose? The mirror and scale tell all. And a woman with 18.5% bodyfat is not fat!

You likely will have slow progress in anything with such low caloric intake.

I will try to add more later.


#12

Right off the top of my head you’re going to have to do a few things:

•Drop the cardio down
•Cut back working hours (if that’s possible)
•Slice off 1-2 days of training
•Intensify workload (e.g., go up in poundages)
•Tack on an extra 200-400 calories a week

Not in that order, and not all of those things will apply. You more or less have to dip your feet in the water and figure out which one, and for how long.

Just from reading that you work, do cardio everyday, AND train intensely, you’ve got too much going on.

This was proving effective when you started, as it should, but I’m willing to bet those newbie gains are pretty close to being exhausted, and now it’s time to have something switched up.

It’s going to be extremely difficult to get to 15% body fat. And I can guarantee, training intensely as you have been doing will be a challenge to uphold. Throw in an active job and getting off work tired as heck, probably will solidify that. That’s if your body will even let you stay at that percentage. Sub 20% is beautiful on a woman, and a lot more sustainable.

You’re already lean just by you describing yourself, and I’m willing to suspect that you’re simply not eating enough, or you’ve got quite a bit of muscle gains you have yet to tap into. I don’t think you should even be worrying about leaning out any further until you’ve been training for well over 2-3 years, and accrued more muscle mass. You’ve also got maybe 5 more years of growing and letting your body mature as well.

If you’re not competing in any competitions, or getting lean for some type of photo shoot, or whatever else, just stay in a sustainable bodyfat percentage, will slowly gaining muscle, and some years down the line to a proper cut.


#13

Thanks everyone for your replies.
I have definitely taken all your advice on board and will start to implement it today.

@brute_fury that was a really interesting video. And you are right, I just need to be patient - I think with how the industry has become on social media it is easy to look at others and become disheartened with your own progress. Like you said I am natural so if it takes longer, then so be it, I’m not afraid of hard work :slight_smile:


#14

How is your sleep quality?
Eating more can help reduce cortisol and also preserve hormone precursors for other hormones. Getting below a true 18% may not be long term sustainable, but my suspicion is that if you ate more you would look leaner almost immediately.

There are two options I would consider. The first one is to moderately overeat for about 3 days. By overeat, I would put your baseline needs at at least 2200, so I’d go for 2700 calories a day for 3 days. The purpose is to see if you end up looking leaner at the end of the 3 day period. You may 5-6 pounds in intermuscular water but drop some water under the skin. This may also jump start your metabolism, but I would only start by cutting back to about 1600-1700 calories after the 3 day period.

The second option would be to go to around 2200 cals a day for 4 weeks.

In any event, I don’t think your going to get sustainably leaner on less than about 1650 cals a day. If you want to go for getting super lean with a short


#15

Wasn’t that fun to watch? I had seen that before, but had forgotten about it. I went through a phase of watching Alan every morning when I was getting one of my kids up. I heart Alan Thrall’s youtube channel.

It’s the truth. You’re so athletic.

Truth. Getting much leaner becomes something very temporary, especially if you want to have the energy to do athletic things, live your life and keep normal sleep and hormonal function. My experience.

I figured. All good things. Happy for you, Brickhead. I’ve seen him on FB. Such a handsome little guy. Not surprising, given his parents. He’s just adorable.

Thanks for answering back. I wanted to double check my thinking. I’m not always confident in troubleshooting problems, since I really haven’t run into a situation where the math didn’t seem to add up myself.

@lifter40 - I like @mertdawg’s plan. Maybe you’ve driven your metabolic rate down, and you need to let yourself recover from dieting so hard.

Let us know how things go in a month or so. I’m curious about what your body composition will do, how you feel bringing calories up over the next month.

Do you have a training log here? If so, please let me know. I’d like to follow.

Best,
Puff


#16

I wanted to add, regarding the video, that I spent some time in grad school working on various bodyfat% regressions equations including calipers and hydrostatic weighing. I have a theory that hydrostatic weighing possibly DEXA will yield a higher bodyfat% for individuals who eat a higher fat, lower carb diet, because their muscles will be less hydrated and contain more FFAs stored (rather than hydrated glycogen). I estimate it could give up to a 4% higher hydrostatic reading for a person with “fat loaded” muscle than with more glycogen loaded. Basically your fat% could go up by making your muscles “bigger” by loading them with fatty acids. I am not sure exactly how it would show up in DEXA.


#17

Try this for your training…


#18

@mertdawg No trouble sleeping at all. My work day is 8am/10am - 21:30 so by the time I get home I am more than ready for bed!

I added some more carbs yesterday and this morning and I feel better already.
Physique wise slightly bloated - but putting that down to the meal and birthday cake I had last night with my partner lol.
Will see how things go over the next few days.

I read an interesting post by Dr Stefi Cohen yesterday - her physique is my goal for sure. She was saying that birth control pills can reduce test by 50%.
Wondering if it could be worth looking into another form of birth control. I am currently on the progesterone only pill. And looking at the list of signs of low test in women I have pretty much all of them. For the average woman low test probably wouldn’t be an issue but with my goals in mind surely I need as much as I can get? Naturally of course.


#19

That’s interesting. Let me point out that you may be masking stress/low calorie induced amenorrhea.

Testosterone is important for women but growth hormone may be even more important in women versus men (because testosterone is much lower). Women tend to produce more growth hormone.

Oral contraceptives cause a degree of insulin resistance just like if a woman is pregnant (gestational diabetes). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1530790

Also they raise cortisol levels. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1436049/

Probably what is happening with oral contraceptives is that they a) raise cortisol which b) causes a degree of insulin resistance because cortisol pushes blood sugar up and therefore more insulin is required of the body to keep blood sugar normal. c) high insulin blocks the natural release of growth hormone. In addition to this d) cortisol production robs precursors to make testosterone and estrogen.

This is why cortisol management is so important. High cortisol raises insulin, lowers growth hormone and if it is chronic it lowers test and est. In addition, GH is important in healing microtrauma throughout the body on a daily basis so when GH is low, you get more inflammation and that makes cortisol go up even more since cortisol is the anti-inflammatory hormone of the body.


#20

I don¨t know why nobody sugested to post some pics of you (may be I missed that). The lifts for a “natural woman” are really good. I would say that you have the weight of a muscular woman of your height, or even a lean muscular guy.

Could you post some pics to see where you really are at? (in terms of apearence, if flat like you say or where?)

Best regards!