If you have started your fitness journey, then you probably understand how big of a role nutrition plays. Caloric consumption is important to monitor; the most efficient way to monitor intake is but keep a food journal (online app or handwritten). I see many people making an effort to track their food, but there are several mistakes people make when tracking that can halt progress. Research shows the average person under-reports their calorie intake by up to 50%. That is a huge discrepancy.
The number one mistake I see is not weighing your food. If you aren’t weighing your food, you do not know how much to log. If you are not entering the correct portions, your food journal and actual calories consumed are going to be very different. And most people, especially beginners, are not very good at guessing their portion sizes. Do yourself a favor and take two minutes to weigh your food.
This brings me to the second most common error… weighing incorrectly. You want to be sure to weigh all solid foods on a food scale and only use measure cups for liquids. When you weigh out your food, it should be weighed dry/raw/as packaged. For example, if you are cooking pasta or rice, weigh before cooking while they are dry. Once you cook them, the calories remain the same but it will weigh more due to added water. Also meats, vegetables, etc. should be weighed raw. Meats will lose water as they cook so if you weigh afterwards, you will be unknowingly consuming excess calories. Now, if you have packaged foods like pre-cooked chicken, then you weigh as it comes. The nutrition labels for foods are for as packaged.
Another common issue, whether intentional or not, is not tracking everything you eat. Snacks and nibbles here and there add up. You should be tracking everything you consume. This includes drinks, condiments, oils, etc. Oftentimes people get frustrated because according to their food journal, they are meeting their calorie goals; however, your body tracks everything, even if you don’t. Eating a few Hershey Nuggets of your bosses desk (50 calories each!), taking several bites of food while cooking, eating a spoonful of peanut butter (100-200 calories, yikes!)…. throughout the day, you could easily be adding hundreds of calories. So track every bite.
Something else that can cause errors in your food log is incorrect entries if you are using an app. Users can add foods; this means there is more room for entries to be wrong. I recommend scanning the barcode directly from your package into your app and verifying entries match the nutrition label.
Track your food. Weigh everything and log it all. Verify entries are correct. By logging correctly, it is easier to decide if adjustments are necessary. Accuracy can make your fitness journey much smoother and keep your progress moving!
Oftentimes when people want to take steps to get in shape, they'll hire a coach to guide and hold them accountable- which is smart, especially for beginners.
One of the things I love most about bodybuilding, is that you can work to sculpt your body the way you want and improve your body composition. Nowadays, more women (including myself!) are wanting to see growth and fullness in their backside. In order to get to that "Big Booty Judy" look, there's three important steps: eat in a calorie surplus, get adequate protein, and do some weight training. Let me expand...
So many women are afraid to eat in a surplus, but if you're looking for significant growth, you'll need to eat! If you are a chronic dieter, afraid to eat carbs, impatient/inconsistent, or afraid lifting heavy will make you look like a man, then you will struggle getting the desired results.
To shape and grow your glutes, you're going to have to build muscle. Building muscle is a slow and tedious process. Many women often have the goal of "toning", or losing fat and gaining muscle, but it's best to choose one goal at a time. It's only likely to build muscle and lose fat simultaneously when you're new to lifting; after about 6 months, your ability to get those "newbie gains" will diminish. I recommend getting to a healthy weight with lower body fat (learn about fat loss here), then work on gaining. When you're ready to start building, that means eating in a calorie surplus. While in a calorie surplus, you want to be sure you're getting in enough protein to promote muscle growth.
Typically, a good place to start your calories will be around 16 x body weight in pounds. This is just an estimate, but should be close for most; monitor progress for a few weeks and adjust as necessary; adjust calories up if you are losing weight and adjust down if you are gaining weight too fast. Approximately a 2 pound gain per month is what you should expect. Protein at around 1g per pound of LEAN body mass is sufficient. Once you have your nutrition worked out, you want to be sure you have a proper training program.
You want to train glutes a minimum of twice a week. For optimal glute growth, weight training three to four times per week is best. I don't recommend training the same body part more than 4 times per week because your muscles need time to recover. Don't be afraid to lift heavy and challenge yourself. Be sure to follow a routine that includes progressive overload. Increasing volume and weight being lifted over time keeps your progress going. Doing endless amounts of donkey kicks isn't going to do much for you, so pick up those weights!
Here are my top five personal favorite glute growing exercises to do:
1. Barbell Hip Thrust
2. Cable Pull Throughs
3. Sumo Squat
4. Romanian Deadlift
Be consistent, be patient, and you will see results. It will take time but it will happen. Bodybuilding is a continuous journey. I know I, myself, am still a work in progress!
IIFYM or "if it fits your macros" is a flexible dieting style that allows for eating the foods you enjoy and still progressing with your fitness goals, whether that's fat loss or muscle gain. Basically you can eat whatever you'd like- in moderation of course.
In order to meet your macro goals, you still will have to eat whole foods. More than likely, it would be difficult to meet your macros without eating whole foods. This is not a junk food diet, but it does allow for treats in your diet. The point of IIFYM is to avoid food restrictions. Restricting certain food groups is unnecessary and what often causes people to lose control and binge once their "diet" is over. IIFYM is more sustainable for most people. It is recommended that at least 80 percent of your consumption come from whole foods.
Macros (short for macronutrients) are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats; you track your intake of macros while following IIFYM. Eating enough protein preserves muscle mass, fat assists with hormonal health, and carbs are used for performance and energy. Macros makeup calories, so tracking your macros is just advanced calorie counting. You can achieve weight loss by caloric deficit alone, but tracking macros can help achieve better body composition and increased energy.
Low carb is not necessary to achieve fat loss. Neither is avoiding certain foods. Yes, you can have bread, white rice, white potatoes. Just meet your macros. Using an app like MyFitness Pal will be very helpful. Weigh your food on a food scale (this is important) and enter your portions into MyFitness Pal. The app shows you exactly how many grams of each macro you have eaten. Make sure to look at the grams NOT percentages.
Planning ahead is very important. Planning your meals ahead of time will help keep you on track and consistent.
🔹I created a meal planning guide to help macro newbies- if you want a copy, subscribe to my blog and I'll send it to you.🔹
Focus on the basics and remain consistent. Hit your macros and exercise. It does not matter how many times a day you eat. Doesn't really matter when you workout. Preference and adherence is what matters!
Need your macros calculated? Get them here.
Be sure to join my free Intermittent Fasting & Flexible Dieting Facebook Group!
Whether somewhere on the internet, at the gym, or in a supplement store, I'm sure you've heard someone raving about their BCAA supplement. But what does science say about the usefulness of BCAAs?
Well first, lets talk briefly about what BCAAs are.
Protein is made up of amino acids. BCAA stands for branched chain amino acids. There are 9 essential amino acids, but BCAA refers to the three amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
Since your body cannot produce BCAAs on its own, yes, you do need to consume them; HOWEVER, that does not mean you need to purchase supplements. BCAAs are found in foods such as chicken, fish, eggs, lentils... pretty much most protein sources. As long as you're getting adequate protein, you're getting enough BCAAs.
So you may be thinking, "what if I don't get adequate protein?" My suggestion for that is to supplement with whey protein. Whey protein provides all 9 essential amino acids, therefore, would be the more optimal choice [1.].
What about the other benefits of BCAA powders though?
The other fabulous things you've heard that BCAA supplement powders can do are probably false or exaggerated..
1. Some people think they are useful while fasted or while doing fasted training. Sorry, but they aren't. Many people who do Intermittent Fasting believe they are going to lose muscle if they don't take BCAAs. Skipping a meal isn't going to kill your gains. Again, get in your protein in your eating window and you will be fine- No BCAAs necessary. Whether you train fasted or not makes no difference in body composition; you still don't need the BCAAs. [2,3,6,7}
2. Oh, by the way, if you are supplementing with BCAAs, you aren't fasting. For some odd reason, it is believed that BCAAs are calorie free, which is NOT the case. So for those of who chug these gallon jugs with BCAAs while "fasted"... yea, you're not fasted. BCAAs actually have around 6 calories per gram . So for one scoop of BCAA powder, you're consuming approximately 60 calories (even though your nutrition label most likely says 0, or negligible calories). Loopholes in the FDA regulations allow manufacturers to list BCAAs as zero calories .
3. Another reason some people take them is because they believe taking them while training is beneficial and can improve performance. There is no scientific evidence that supports this claim. BCAA supplementation does not increase performance, strength, or athletic ability in any way. [6,8,9]
4.. A lot of people take BCAAs thinking it will cause fat loss, while some think it will promote extra muscle growth. The only way to lose fat is with a caloric deficit. Ingesting additional calories isn't going to magically make you lose extra fat. To build muscle, yes protein plays a major role; but science does not support the claim that BCAAs increase or speed up muscle gain. [7,10,11]
The Bottom Line
To put it simply just consume adequate protein daily. If you need to supplement to get sufficient protein, use a complete source such as whey. Science says there is no added benefit to taking a BCAA supplement when you hit your protein goal. Save that money and use towards your grocery bill.
Arielle is a certified fitness trainer, certified sports nutritionist, fitness enthusiast, and bikini competitor who has been involved in fitness since 2011. She also is studying for her Doctorate of Health Science in Nutrition and Exercise Science.