I took on a new goal this past year . . . Changing the composition of my body.
Many of you will ask, "Why? I thought you looked great already!" This goal was for ME . . . I wanted to see what 'changing my eating' and training hard would do to transforming MY current physique. I have never REALLY been happy with my legs as that's where I hold most of my fat . . . so, wondered what REALLY changing around my eating and training might do?!?!?!!?
So, I started with the goal of "building muscle" for 9 months. Here's the deal, if you're new to lifting weights, you will see changes in your body very quickly. If you're a seasoned weight lifter, it isn't that easy.
So, for 9 months I ate more calories than I ever have - in order to build muscle! I gained 10 lbs in 9 months, which is about the perfect amount of weight to gain to maximize muscle growth and not too much fat growth. Eating more calories DOES equal gaining a little bit more body fat, but I was okay with that. I knew I'd lose that fat and my focus was purely on building and growing muscle.
9 months of eating in a caloric surplus was hard for me, especially because I had always watched what I ate and eaten to "not gain weight". It was a mental struggle for me to stuff food in my mouth when I wasn't hungry, to see the scale go up a bit . . . BUT, my workouts were terrific and my energy level was "off the charts!"
When it finally came time to start leaning my body back out (as I was prepping for a photo shoot), I was ready. I was ready to "cut" for 3 months and see what muscle growth was lying beneath that extra weight/fat! My daily calorie totals started dropping by 150-200 calories every few weeks so that the drop in fat/weight wouldn't be too fast that I'd lose muscle. And, at the end of the 3 months:
* I'm leaner (see pic).
* I lost 12 lbs and was the lightest weight I ever remember being (even in high school) . . . and, I'm 42 years old! So, yeah . . . you CAN lose weight as you get older!
Cutting fat DOES take a toll on your body - both mentally and physically. I call it "embrace the suck". If you REALLY want this, you'll endure it! I stuck to my "cutting" plan pretty well as I was determined and excited to see what would be the final result.
Leaning out was probably one of the hardest things I've done. Starting lean and getting leaner, takes a LOT of discipline.
* You have to pass on eating at restaurants because you have no idea how many calories are in a meal (and most have WAY too many).
* Social life goes down because I didn't drink, eat out AND I needed/wanted to get my 8-10 hours of sleep a night.
* I felt anxious and agitated a lot due to the stress on the body. My husband was a true sport for accepting this phase and dealing with me! Haha!
* My workouts suffered because I was in such a caloric deficit.
Here's my conclusion with my "building muscle" and "leaning out" experience:
1. Building Muscle is SO HARD! I spent 9 months lifting heavy and eating a LOT. And didn't build as much muscle as I was expecting. So, ladies . . . trust me when I say this, "you will not 'look like a man' if you lift weights!" Especially if you're doing sets of 10-15 reps, eating to lose weight and not taking supplements.
2. Losing fat is easier than building muscle.
3. Losing fat/weight can be a "lonely journey". YOU have to decide if your goal is REALLY worth it to you? Is it worth NOT drinking wine with your friends on Friday night! If yes, then GREAT, then proceed! If not, then make sure your goal supports that!
Was this process worth it? HELL YEAH! I will even do it again. But, first . . . eating at maintenance to get through my Spartan Training/Competion Season. Then, bulking this winter to build muscle. AND, cutting next spring to reveal the hard work (muscle) over the winter.
It's so amazing how you can manipulate the shape and composition of your body, by the way you eat and the way you train. Don't accept "well, my family just has big booties and thighs . . . so that's why I do!" F#@k that . . . YOU can change your composition. It might be flipping hard work (maybe worth it to some and maybe not to others), but you CAN do it!
BOTTOM LINE: Be patient, it takes time. I was working at this goal for 15 months . . . I didn't expect results in 4 weeks . . . 1 year and 3 months later and I went up 10 lbs and then down 12 to display a leaner ME.
Here's to eating and training for the body that YOU want . . .