The Ladies BREAK-THE-MOULD Body Plan
The BREAK-THE-MOULD Body Plan is broken into Four core areas of focus:
#1 – THE NUTRITION PLAN
- Creating A Mild Calorie Surplus
- What & How Much To Eat
- Supplementation To Consider
#2 – THE TRAINING PLAN
- How & Why Female Training Will Be Different
- The Importance of Progressive Overload
- #HyperWorkouts AUG-18 Female-Centric 8 Week Programme
- Significance of Building in Proper Rest & Recovery
#3 – MEASUREMENTS
- Resetting Your Relationship With The Weighing Scales
- Measure & Care About This Things Instead
#4 – STAGE 2 & STAGE 3
- Stage 2 – Guidance On Taking a Break
- Stage 3 – Stripping Off Some Unwanted Fat
OK Already, Lets Get this Party Started!
Here we go, with all the previous myth busting, consequences of RED-S and the claims of getting the body you deserve, it’s now time to lay down the Break-The-Mould Plan.
Let’s be clear, this is not a one-and-done fad diet and training approach. Instead, this is the start of your journey to getting the body and health you deserve. For you, this might be an experiment, to see if doing something different seeds a change you’ve been longing for. For others, they’re are bought in, and they resolve to this being just the starter introduction that will enable them to continue their commitment to optimal wellness and strength training.
This article plus a couple of other references resources has all the information you need to be enabled and self-sufficient. The plan is free – it just requires you to take this new knowledge and go execute. Here’s what the component pieces involve:
STAGE 1 – First 8 Weeks – Muscle Gain:
- Being in a 5-10% calorie surplus
- Eating optimally & supplementing for wellness, the joy of food and muscle gains
- A Female-centric Strength Training Programme consisting of 3-4 workouts a week
- Optionality to additionally include Yoga and 1x Spin class (or similar)
- Respecting the importance of rest and recovery
STAGE 2 – Deload Week:
- Eat at your new TDEE target to maintain current weight
- Maintain the eating and supplementing approach
- Take a break from all intense exercise – focus on restorative movement
STAGE 3 – Subsequent 2-4 Weeks – Strip Some Unwanted Fat:
- Drop to a 25-40% calorie deficit
- Consider a 24h Fast to kickstart Stage 3
- Maintain the eating and supplementing approach
- Continue Strength Training, using this plan or another from the #HyperWorkouts Series
After Stage 3, you rinse and repeat. It’s a beautiful approach, that will continue to give and give. The eating approach is sustainable, delicious and focussed on you being your best. There are a million ways to alter strength training programmes in terms of exercise selection, reps, sets, rest periods etc, meaning you will never get bored or stagnate in terms of progress. And the approach to being in a calorie surplus, followed by a week of maintaining weight, followed by a deficit reaps all the benefits of metabolic improvements, muscle building, fat burning and periods of lower pressure.
STAGE 1 – First 8 Weeks – Muscle Gain
What You Can Expect In Terms Of Muscle Growth
As previously mentioned, a novice lifter following a well programmed strength training plan and getting enough nutrition can expect a max of 3/4lbs of extra lean muscle mass per month. So, during this stage if you follow the plan, you should expect to gain 1.5lbs of lean muscle mass. In addition to that, you will likely be holding more glycogen and water in your muscles (which is healthy), and that may account for 2-3 extra pounds. This extra weight will make your muscles look fuller and perform much better.
So all told, in the space of 2 months, you will put on 2.5-4.5lbs of weight that is exclusively associated to your muscles.
Break It To Me, Will I Gain Fat During This 8 Weeks?
In short, there will be some. But we will ensure it is minimal.
Firstly, lets acknowledge that a females weight can fluctuate 2-10 lbs during a month, purely down to their menstrual cycle. Its normal and healthy, as the body goes through phases of holding on to more water and then releasing it. You can get more information of the Menstrual Cycle phases and the relative impact to weight, energy and training here 👉 Cycle With Your Cycle – How To Phase Your Training & Nutrition With Your Menstrual Cycle.
But in terms of actual gained body fat, you WILL gain a little. It’s inevitable due to some of those extra calories in the surplus going unused and stored for later use.
As per above, if you do things right, you can expect to gain ¾lbs of lean muscle mass per month, and up to a 2-3lbs bump in the first couple of weeks as you restore optimal muscle glycogen and associated water. That’s a max potential of 4.5lbs in total muscle weight in 8 weeks, but it will likely be less.
We can minimise body fat gain by ensuring the calorie surplus is sufficient to promote this maximal muscle growth, and little else. Getting that number perfectly right is impossible, but we can get pretty close.
The most important thing is to cover ALL our caloric needs, so if we’re doing it right, there will be a little extra body fat. If we lose body weight during this time, we’re clearly doing it wrong.
#1 – THE NUTRITION PLAN
How To Get The Calorie Surplus Right To Minimise Body Fat Gain
In terms of extra calories needed to build a pound of muscle, no one is exactly sure due to the variability in people, hormone fluctuations and the myriad of metabolic pathways needed to build muscle. For that reason people will err on the side of caution and ensure they are eating enough everyday to be in a definite surplus. However, many guys in particular will use this as an excuse to excessively ‘bulk’ with the majority of those extra calories being stored as fat that they later need to diet off.
That said, people who shoot for 20-30% above maintenance versus 10% WILL gain more fat than they like, with no additional muscle gaining benefits.
Therefore, for guys and girls, aiming for a small 5-10% daily surplus will give you the calories you need to build muscle, assuming you’ve figured out your TDEE (total Daily Energy Expenditure) and calorie consumption correctly.
For example, if you’re a healthy 120 lbs 35 year old woman, 5’4”, with 25% body fat and exercise 3-5 times a week, your TDEE / maintenance will be 1,900 or so. Add on the 10% surplus (190 calories), taking you to a total of 2,090 daily.
For me, this works out to be 2lbs of gained body fat per month, at 5’11” 190-200lbs male body weight. For the average height woman, this number will be approx ½ – 1lbs of added body fat per month. A small temporary price to pay for the benefits you are accruing.
Is It Even Worth All The Work And Potential Fat Gain?
If you can adhere to this BREAK-THE-MOULD Body Plan, across nutrition, training and rest, you’ll see numbers similar to that above. Additionally:
- You would have increased your BMR by just shy of 100 kcal, and your TDEE by much more
- Your muscles will feel harder and slightly more prominent
- You will feel functionally strong, and will likely be really enjoying this new found strength, function and fitness approach
- Your shape may have changed slightly – mostly firmer to touch and some strong curves in the right places
- If you’re a newbie, you may not even notice any body fat gain at all.
- If you’ve been weight training for a while, you may notice a little extra body fat, perhaps around the core or thighs.
- If the new approach to eating is much cleaner than what you were doing before, that too will have a profound impact on how you feel and your energy levels
Hopefully you agree that all the advantages outweigh the little bit of temporary fat you may have gained. That said, we’re going to get rid of that!
It’s not until you take your body fat to about 20-22% that you will truly see the benefits of the muscle you’ve gained. STAGE 3 will cover how to go about doing that.
What and How Much To Eat
Starting from first principles, you will need to hit these numbers every day:
- Daily Calorie Intake – TDEE + 5-10% (+/- 30 calories)
- 1 gram of Protein per pound of body weight (1g/lbs)
- Ideally – no fewer than 150g of Carbs (600kcal) and 70g of Healthy Fats (630kcal)
Protein is essential for all tissue and organ growth, repair and regeneration. So, the one gram per pound of bodyweight over the next eight weeks is non-negotiable. Neither is the daily calorie surplus of 10%. Falling short of TDEE + 5-10% is not a victory in this stage, so you need to drop that weight loss mentality that less is better.
Now, the key is to be in a sustained calorie surplus, so if you slip up and undercut one day, you can take a week-view and make sure you finish the week hitting your overall weekly target. Similarly, if you have dinner dates lined up, you can make these work, you just need to be mindful of your overall daily and/or weekly calorie target.
To work out your TDEE, tracking and measuring etc, check out Losing Body Fat For Good article, Part 2, that covers this off. For guidance on managing nights out, check out Dieting & Eating Out article.
In terms of Carbs and Fats, it’s going to come down to personal preference from a taste, satisfaction, energy levels, hunger management and generally how your body responds. Both are critical to a normal and optimal body.
Healthy Fats are essential for healthy hormone production and balance, and can be a great energy source. Carbs convert most easily to glucose, which is what your body, muscles and brain runs off. Sufficient carbs are essential for someone who works out hard, otherwise performance will tank and progress will therefore stall.
From a muscle building perspective, follow the above numbers combined with progressive strength changes and you’ll make progress. That said, there is OK ways of doing things and optimal. By optimal, I’m not referring to getting super detailed that bodybuilders do. Instead, optimal for me is centred around optimal wellness.
If you are giving your body what it needs from a calorie, macro and micronutrient basis, you will see amazing results in your body, wellbeing, energy and mood. It’s surprisingly simple and straight forward to be in an optimal place with nutrition – eat a diverse collection of whole foods with minimal processed junk.
So, to help you understand good sources of Protein, Carbs and Fats, get guidance on an optimal and sustainable way of loving healthy food, 10 daily principles to consider, and generally adopting an eating approach that will support you thriving, you should definitely check out the IIFYM+ Thrive piece that describes to a tee how we operate our lives for optimal results. The beauty is you can follow this eating approach all year round, as you shift between being in a surplus for muscle building, maintaining weight, or a periodic deficits to drop body fat. Hurray – no more diets!
Lastly, to bring the nutrition guidance all together, check out the AdapNation Food Diary, that has 100+ super tasty healthy meal ideas with calories, macros and the wellness benefits listed. They are all cooked within 30mins start to finish, using commonly available ingredients and perfectly express IIFYM+ Thrive and the need for a protein rich diet for great body composition.
NOTE: 1g of Protein = 4kcal / 1g Carb = 4kcal / 1g Fat = 9kcal
Supplementation To Consider
For the most part, your focus should be to hit your calorie and protein target daily above, mostly with whole / unprocessed foods as discussed and showcased in IIFYM+ Thrive Eating Approach and AdapNation Food Diary. In doing so, much of your nutritional needs for optimal health and function should be adequately met.
From a macro perspective however, women often struggle to hit their protein targets in their daily food choices. It’s completely possible, but does require diligence on meat, fish, poultry and egg intake being part of all your meals. On that basis, you may find it convenient and/or more achievable to hit your protein targets and timing by supplementing with a protein shake after your workout and potentially in the morning.
Most importantly, just note that protein shakes offer no extra muscle building benefit over protein-rich whole foods, so if you can get to your protein target without them, that’s money saved.
Outside of Protein supplementation, the way to think about supplementation is to fill any nutritional gaps you may have through your current diet. IIFYM+ Thrive will leave little in terms of gaping micronutrient holes, but if you goal is to live optimally and thrive, there is value in using supplementation as a catch-all.
To ensure you definitely have your bases covered, especially on the micronutrients that people are usually deficient in and/or have a profound impact on training and recovery. There is no downside, other than the cost. Here is a supplement stack that would be great for those leading an active lifestyle and wishing to be their best:
- A Good Female Sports MultiVit – This will give you a strong baseline coverage, with a focus on those who are active. WellWoman Sport is a good choice.
- Creatine – Everyone should be ensuring their Creatine reservoirs are full. Read this article – Creatine: Not Just For Meatheads.
- Extra 4000 IU of Vitamin D – Plays a critical role in immune health, and one billion people are deficient. Read this article – Vitamin D – The Sunshine Hormone.
- Magnesium or ZMA Tablets – Magnesium plays significant role over many processes in the body, and helps with recovery. Read this Article – Get Enough Magnesium.
- A good Quality Multi-Species Probiotic – Probiotics help increase volume and diversity of healthy bacteria in your microbiome. Aim for at least 10 billion CFU’s. Read this article – The Zoo Inside You.
- Fish Oil Tablets Rich in Omega-3 – Look for high concentrations of DHA and EPA. Important for cognitive function, joint health and hormone production.
- High Dose B-Complex – The collection of Vitamin B’s play a significant role in our metabolism, energy production and processing carbs.
- Resveratrol – Has Anti-Aging and Anti-Cancer Effects, protects Cardiovascular Health, helps protect the Brain and Cognitive/Mental Health and may even help prevent Obesity
You can read up why I take these supplements, and other things I supplement with in this article – Supplement Pills & Potions — Optimising Health, Energy & Gains.
#2 – THE TRAINING PLAN
What Should My Training Look Like?
The reality is, men and women’s bodies can and do respond equally to all forms of training. Strength training is no better for men than it is women, albeit men will gain muscle faster due to their starting muscle mass and extra testosterone. Likewise with aerobic activity for endurance and fat loss – there is no such thing as male and female specific workouts.
That said, there is of course the social programming and norms that determine what are ‘girly’ exercises and workouts and what are ‘manly’. Lets just agree this is simply a matter of decades of advertising that have created these stereotypes.
So, whatever benefits Squatting, Deadlifting and Bicep Curls have for a guy, they equally benefit women, for the same reasons. Likewise, the calorie burning and functional strength benefits of an aerobic class, spin or Barre for women are the same for guys.
However, there are some things to consider when planning an overall exercise programme for ladies:
#1 – Women have greater muscle endurance than men – that’s why you typically see that women can more comfortably handle aerobic classes than guys.
#2 – Women typically enjoy Class-based activities, even if they are no longer benefiting from them – This is less to do with the physical benefits, and instead more to do their psychic needs. Of course this is massively generalising, but typically –
- Women embrace connection and community more than men.
- Women enjoy training when there is external accountability pushing them – the instructor, the paid-for time slot, keeping up with the friends and strangers etc.
- Women enjoy the energy and fun with some fo these classes – the loud music, the moody and dramatic lighting, the screen visuals, having to move to the beat etc.
#3 – Women typically value strength gains less than guys – Guys can keep motivated in the gym merely be the enjoyment of their strength improving. Women can be motivated by this too, but it typically is less important and by itself is not enough.
#4 – Women usually have different muscle building priorities than men – For example, most men obsess about building their chest, biceps and shoulders. Women don’t usually want noticeable pecs under their breasts, nor do they want the idea of ‘big’ biceps, thick neck or bulging obliques. Instead, ladies will wish to prioritise thighs, butt, triceps, side deltoids (aka shoulder caps) and a slender core. So, it doesn’t make sense to programme in three days of heavy chest work for a lady as it will be less motivating and enjoyable.
#5 – Most importantly for Women, they have a different physiology EVERY day!…
Women need flexibility to ‘Cycle With Their Cycle’. Continue reading to understand how, as well as the training programme and Stages 2 & 3…
Continue Reading 👉 BREAK-THE-MOULD PART 4 of 5 – Heavy Lifting & Chill
Follow this and other topic areas in our longer-form Articles series as they unfold, as well as the AdapNation Food Diary for healthy meal inspiration and AdapNation’s #HyperWorkouts for free training plans. Comment if you have questions or ideas.