Online resources for women who work out

If you asked me to choose between 'dieting' and working out, as a means of weight management, I would choose working out, every time. By the way, when I say working out, I do not mean pure cardio. I mean proper workouts that involve strength training - lifting weights, doing pushups, lunges, deadlifts - all the stuff that guys do at the gym. Working out has given me multiple benefits beyond just losing weight or fat - it has regularised my life, brought in energy, happiness and youthful skin. Above all, it has liberated me from the tyranny of irrational diets which involve consuming unpalatable foods, and promise to melt your 'stubborn fat' forever, in 6 weeks. 

Working out is simple, scientific, yet shrouded with irrational beliefs, myths and a lot of marketing-led hype around the role of products. 

There are lots of online resources for men, but not nearly enough for women. Women who work out have certain concerns that men (mostly) do not seem to have. 

Women care much more about what they put into their mouths, we do not want to consume chemicals, we look for natural alternatives where possible. (think of how much women hesitate to consume protein supplements)

We tend to believe that we only get results by starving ourselves and that is plain counter productive when you are working out.  Most men will increase their calorie intake when they work out, in order to build muscle, while women do not want to bulk up.

Women often get plain frustrated at the slow and steady pace of change that workouts bring - for example, you will not lose kilos at the rate you do when you diet, but the gains are silent and real. Men on the other hand, do not worry too much about their weight in kilos, and seem to quickly build muscle - which is what they want when they hit the gym. In fact, men benefit more quickly and visibly than women when they start working out.

I do intend to edit this post as and when I come across newer resources and links. But the idea is not to give you a Google laundry list. I want to share the links that personally helped me in my journey to fitness.

1) What to expect - a realistic perspective

One of the gifts that you give yourself when you start exercising regularly, is a sane perspective on weight loss. One that puts life in the context of fitness, health and overall well being. One of the people who gave me this perspective is trainer Molly Galbraith  You must visit her site to understand that its really ok to crave food, binge occasionally, not have the perfect figure - and to love and accept yourself above all else. And best of all, when you do all of this, you will look better and fitter than you have ever done in your life.

I got introduced to Molly through a blog post that she did on SparkPeople, titled "Is being lean really worth it?" and I have been a fan of her approach ever since. For more write ups in the same vein, you can read the Girls Gone Strong website, of which Molly is a co-founder. I also really like Nia Shanks' Lift Like a Girl.

Resources :
Five Facts women must know to burn fat and build muscle

2) How-to guides - fitness and nutrition

It goes without saying that if you're serious about working out, you would have invested in a good gym, and at least initially, in a personal trainer. I go to a Functional Fitness gym, the iFit Studio in Chembur and I have never been so happy with a gym before. Everyone should find a place that you look forward to visiting, and trainers whom you really like and trust. It makes it easy to change your habits and integrate fitness into your lifestyle.

Having said that, if you want workout pointers, then one of the best places to start is JCD Fitness. Owner JC Deen has co-authored some truly awesome articles on female fitness and strength training for women along with fitness coach Joy Victoria. There is holistic set of three write ups on diet and workout combined with downloads and links to other resources. These are truly world class trainers who know their stuff and have generously shared their expertise, at length. Must-read.

Web MD is my go-to site for a balanced perspective on health. You should subscribe to their newsletter to get interesting and relevant articles on women's health, which includes diet, nutrition and exercise. 

There are also some good books that you can pick up on Amazon, and I am providing the links below:

JCD Fitness : How to build muscle - Women's Edition - Part 1, Part 2Part 3
Simple Science Fitness is awesome if you like to absorb your information infographic style
Strong Curves by Bret Conteras and Kellie Davis (Link to Amazon Book Store)
The New Rules of Lifting for Women by Lou Schuler, Cassandra Forsythe and Alwyn Cosgrove (Link to Amazon Book Store)
Disclaimer : I am not affiliated with any of these authors, nor do I make money if you use these links to buy their books. 

3) Protein and whey supplements - how to make an informed choice

Chances are, you have been exposed to two sets of perspectives on whey protein supplements. One set of people will enthusiastically endorse it, especially if you are vegetarian (it seems that without meat, you are dead meat in the muscle building game!). And yet another set of people are dead against whey supplements, citing sources to say that they contain harmful chemicals, artificial sweeteners, unuseable protein and genetically modified ingredients. 

I am no nutrition expert and this is a choice you have to make for yourself, with the aid of whatever information is accessible. I am going to provide some links that will help you to decide if you want to go for whey supplements or not. One thing that I will say is - read as much as you can before you form an opinion. It really helps, and there are no simplistic answers out there. 

Resources :
Web MD - Do you really need protein powder : If you had doubts about whether you need a protein supplement, this article will definitively answer them. After this, if you STILL want one, well, then you really want one :) Also check out How much protein do you really need?
Greatist - The benefits of chocolate milk : In case you decide to NOT take a protein supplement, this article will make you feel good.
Labdoor - Their site claims to publish an independent audit and ranking of protein supplements. For an updated perspective on the report, follow this discussion thread on Reddit.
Consumer Reports - This report from 2010 may be dated, but it's worthwhile reading as it started the whole debate about safety of protein supplements. And all debates are good, as ultimately they lead to consumer education, and greater transparency from manufacturers. The Truth About Protein Shakes

4) Vegan, vegetarian and organic resources

There's a lot more love for vegans on the internet than for plain old vegetarians! From body builders to chefs, there are a lot of helpful people who contribute some great articles. As I am not a vegan, I would welcome help from vegans to edit this resource list. 

It was harder for me to find vegetarian resources, especially international ones. Vegetarianism is unique to India in its sheer diversity, age-old wisdom, culture-specific traditions - and the mind-blowing range of ingredients including grains, spices, and dals which we completely take for granted.  

Resources for vegans:
This article by Derek Tresize, vegan bodybuilder, is a great place to start: How to build muscle mass on a plant based diet
Dr. Joel Fuhrman's site is a good place to explore for scientific advice on food, macronutrients and supplementation for vegans :
The Mumbai based Health Awareness Centre is not very active online, but they have pioneered the vegan approach in India, based on a holistic health philosophy. Many of my friends and acquaintances swear by their dietary recommendations, and having met the team, I can endorse their passion and self belief. Bonus - they have customised every traditional Indian recipe to be suitable for a vegan. And everything they cook is simply yummy! Here is a link to their Facebook Page. You can go to them for regular or issue specific counselling, if you have health problems, or you can simply order their dabba at your office if you live in Mumbai.

Resources for vegetarians
Rujuta Diwekar's articles and books : India's most famous nutritionist does not insist on a vegetarian diet. But she really, really gets vegetarianism, unlike many Western writers who view it as an obstacle to protein intake. Rujuta's advice is simple, sensible and robust - and so is her no BS orientation to health and weight loss.
Mike Mathew's Eat Green, Get Lean - 100 Vegetarian and Vegan recipes for building muscle is also a decent handbook if you want some exotic variation in your veg. diet (Link to Amazon Book Store)

5) Calorie Counters and Food Diaries

If you are working out with a serious intent to lose fat/ lose weight or build muscle, then you have to monitor your food and calorie intake. 

In case your trainer asks you to keep a food journal to share with him/her, then check the Food Diary App (Rs.55 on Google App Store). It's simply a brilliantly intuitive way to enter your meals on the fly and you can mail it out as an excel sheet from the app. 

There is no more awesome calorie counter than MyFitnessPal. I have been using it since years. It has two advantages in my eyes - it syncs with most major fitness trackers and it has a growing database of Indian foods.

If you feel there are any glaring omissions, or there is some resource that would really add value, do mention it in the comments below and I will add it in!


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