Train Like a Woman Common Misconceptions
An Interview With Sports Nutritionist & Strength Coach Orit Tsaitlin
Published on 10/2014 at SuppVersity - Nutrition and Exercise Science for Everyone
No, you're not mistaken. Today's SuppVersity article is not a review of the latest science, it's, in fact, an interview. An interview with Sports Nutritionist & Strength Coach (CISSN, ISSA, MBA, B.Sc.) Orit Tsaitlin.
It's not just that the mantra, "Nutrition Strategy and Body Transformation - Where Fitness and Science meet", on the front page of Orit's website 4elements4life.com that sounds pretty similar to the SuppVersity slogan "Where Bro & Proscience Unite in the Spirit of True Wisdom", but also some of Orit's post on the SuppVersity Facebook Page, as well as a couple of short chats we had that inspired me to do a short interview with her. An interview that revolves around the useful- or rather uselessness of the average fitness magazine and the nuanced differences between training and nutrition principles for men and women.
Q: A recent study has shown that the "dietary advice for muscularity, leanness and weight control" in Men's Health magazines – as scientific as it may seem- "leaves much to be desired" (Cook. 2014). As a personal trainer who works with both male and female clients, what do you feel are the consequences for men and women who are looking for help to improve the way they look, feel and perform?
A: It's actually quite amusing to read the articles in fitness magazines… Since I was 18 years old (now 32), nothing has changed, I believe. The same content, pictures of beautiful bodies and nothing really helpful to the average person who only wants a simple roadmap to finally feel and look good. If I could be an editor of Fitness Mag (sorry, when I will be - determined yes?) I would put a lot more emphasis on how much work, nutritional discipline and sacrifice those athletes in the pictures are making to achieve their looks and performance.
Figure 1: "Who succeeds in maintaining weight loss?" A conceptual review of factors associated with weight loss maintenance and weight regain shows that you need the right strategies and psychological approach, not tips from Men's Health & Co. to keep the weight off (Elfhag. 2005)
Regarding the nutritional advice in those magazines, the audience must understand that MH and other magazines are no experts on individual metabolism and body. Unfortunately, there are tons of nutritional pieces of advice in those articles but the most important ones - that you have to eat a specific quantity of food which matches your lifestyle or that micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) should be taken only on doctor's prescription - are not. And let's not forget the paradoxical advice "The body needs protein which is in fish, chicken, meat... so buy our BCAA".
As a trainer and sports nutritionist, I emphasize that people must stop train their eyes, ears and need to start listening to their body's signals and to train the most important things to reach the body transformation results - will-power and consistency.
Q: Speaking of fitness and lifestyle magazines. If I look at the women's magazines, I cannot avoid the impression that the previously mentioned fitness and lifestyle magazines for men are still a comparatively good source of information. Why do you think, women's magazines are still perpetuating long overcome ideas of the ways women have to train?
A: I agree with you that there are some men's fitness magazines that you can find good information regarding training techniques from which both genders can learn. As for women magazines… In my experience with women clients and being a woman myself, we are more concerned with body issues than men and I totally understand it. It is a great feeling to love the image that you see in the mirror and receive compliments. Unfortunately, most women want everything now.I mean most of us don’t have the patience to wait for things to happen at their own pace. Women fitness magazines know this and are doing a great job of translating it into money. My point is that articles with the headers like ‘’10 min to your best body”, “15 min to see those abs” or “1-month squat challenge’’ will definitely reach the women audience.
In contrast to really relevant articles with headlines such as "The correct deadlift form" or "The importance of progressive overload", which don’t sell perfect and easy body fantasy probably won’t make it to the woman reading list. In this industry each trainer, athlete or nutritionist knows what it takes to get to the top or, maybe, not to the top, but to get meaningful results and as soon the audience will understand that there are no shortcuts to any place worth going, the women fitness mag will start to give a proper stage to the right articles with a more meaningful content regarding exercise and nutrition. Until then I’m going to make 80 squats per day for one month which will give me the J.LO. booty.
Q: Is there a top 5 of "false believes" your female clients have? If so what are they and in how far are they holding them back from making the progress they deserve?
A: There certainly is, and although the order may vary from individual to individual, this is what I see/hear the most:
- Calories don’t count - Sorry they do and you can not argue with the energy conservation law.
- The weekends are off from good food choices and quantities - The weekends are meant for relaxation and other activities, except working. If you want to achieve those results in a matter of months and not years, stop making 48 hours of food celebrations...those can cancel all the progress that was made through the week.
- If they ate more than usual they can burn it in exercise - If you ate more than you should, the only thing that you can do about it is to take responsibility and learn from that experience for the next day.
- Three months transformations are for everyone - No! Those are for people who are already training with weights, have average body fat % and have a healthy relationship with food.
- The "I want her body"-mindset’- If you want her body start working like her in the gym and in nutrition department the other 23 hours. I promise you she doesn’t spend a moment of her time on things that don’t matter.
I guess you can make a top-10 out of it, but as I initially pointed out, these are my personal top five of "success ruining" misconceptions.
Q: Would you agree, when I say "There are no fundamental differences between the ways men and women have to train to develop a cover-model physique?" This would obviously imply that there are nuances, where the training will differ. What would you say are these nuances?
A: Yes, I agree with you that there are no fundamental differences in the training programming between the genders. The main nuances that will be different are regarding the fact that men lose fat more easily than women, so maybe the frequency of different types of training weights / HIT / LISS will differ.
Which brings up another nuance that is related to "weak areas" and ideal proportions. I like to build my training programs with the goal to build the perfect proportions for the client, which are different, of course, between the genders.
Q: Speaking of cover model physique. You certainly have one. What would you say are the 10 pillars of your current nutrition and exercise regimen?
A: Thank you. I live by 4 rules which I call my 4elements4life. These elements are:
SuppVersity Suggested: Sean Casey's interview with Orit in the August-September CasePerformance Newsletter
- Nutrition - 80% of my nutrition is based on whole foods, with the 20% I go crazy - mainly with the croissant (-: and of course I know the right food quantities for my daily energy, PR’s setting, and body fat levels.
- Strength - I do my best in being strong in my training sessions 3-4 times per week at the gym and in the real life. Mental strength will beat everything.
- Determination - Life taught me always to get up after you fall, set the most ambitious goals and always look forward. If I don’t know something I will learn. If I’m not good at something I will ask for help and If I’m tired….I remind myself - Be determined!!!
- Change - Most of the things in my life I accomplished on my own. Nothing was easy, believe me, and to succeed I had to change my mindset, character and search for mental qualities that I didn’t know I had. "Change your thoughts and you change the world"? 99% true. Because at the end of the day the only world that you need to change is your own.
I guess some trainees will rank the individual aspects differently, but in general, all four elements should be among the "pillars of a sensible nutrition and exercise regimen", you asked for.
Q: Is there anything you'd have to change if you were a guy (except increasing your energy intake to feed the sex-dependent increase in lean mass)?
A: I would train with more emphasis on building lean mass in my quads - more isolation work in addition to the complex movements that I am already doing and maybe more training volume in the Chest area. Other than that I’m sorry to tell you, but I train like other men...OMG So I will become a man soon?? (-:
Q: Last question, I promise ;-) Personally, I believe that people don't realize that the way they train and eat must adapt to the changes their body undergoes. Is this an idea you would subscribe to, and if so, what would you say are commonly overlooked tweaks both men and women have to make to their diet and exercise regimen as they progress from chubby slob to fitness maniac?
A: In my personal and professional experience, as the body goes through physical transformation there are stages. In each stage, which is very individual, you must adopt the nutrition and the exercise regimen. I don’t talk about changing programs every week, but when you see that something stopped working or not working as you want it to be, ask yourself what happened?
But wait...being a daughter of a chess player, I must tell you that the #1 thing that you need to do before taking the next step is to think (in every aspect of your life..:-), but in regard to fitness my rule of thumb is: "Do change nothing until you have evaluated all the variables and your adherence." Our body is great at losing fat and growing muscles but from time to time its demands are changing and you must learn to listen and give it the right tools. It is not easy to continue when you reach a plateau and it is hard to trust another person (nutritionist or trainer) who tells you to be patient and trust the process.
Trust the process and most important - remember to enjoy the journey. Do not go to the gym in the mindset to lose weight, do not eat food and think this will burn my fat faster. The secret to success is doing those things consistently each day and really give all you got. When you will finally have realized that the only person that you have to prove something to is you, you are ready to develop the physique of a cover model and the mentality of a warrior.
Don't send marriage proposals, guys. As far as I know, Orit is already spoken for ;-) Which obviously doesn't mean that you cannot benefit from her advise on training and nutrition.
Bottom Line: While I would hope that most of you were only mildly surprised to hear that the sex-differences difference between men and women are significantly more pronounced in the mirror than they are in the gym or in the kitchen (no, this is not sexist comment, but a reference to the fact that men and women don't have to eat fundamentally different either), I suspect that some of you are still all caught up in the cardio for shaping, weight lifting for bulking ideology.
If that's you, and you've decided you want to make a change, this would be a good reason to reach out to Orit Tsaitlin with your questions. You can do so by either posting short questions on Facebook for me or Orit to answer them, or you can contact Orit directly 4elements4life.com
Appleton KM. "Increased fruit selection and consumption following an appearance-based vs a health-based health promotion poster." Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 73, E58 (2014). doi:10.1017/S0029665114000871.
Cook TM, Russell JM, Barker ME. Dietary advice for muscularity, leanness and weight control in Men's Health magazine: a content analysis. BMC Public Health. 2014 Oct 11;14(1):1062. [Epub ahead of print]