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13: Low-Carbing Women & Weight Lifting | Dr. Cassandra Forsythe

13: Low-Carbing Women & Weight Lifting | Dr. Cassandra Forsythe

AIR DATE: April 12, 2012 at 7PM ET
FEATURED EXPERT: Dr. Cassandra Forsythe
FEATURED TOPIC: “Low-Carbing Women & Weight Lifting”


Fitness and nutrition expert Dr. Cassandra Forsythe is highly-qualified to discuss the topic of low-carbing women and weight lifting. With a PhD in Exercise Science and Nutrition from the University of Connecticut (under the tutelage of former ATLCX podcast guest Dr. Jeff Volek) and a Registered Dietitian (RD), Cassandra has the educational background to address this critically important subject that is far too often misunderstood. Additionally, she’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) which means there’s experience there to back up her book knowledge. She owns and operates the gym Fitness Revolution Vernon in Vernon, CT which in March 2012 won a Readers’ Choice contest for “Best Place to Work Out” in that area. Cassandra is well-known for her expertise in low-carbohydrate diets, nutrition for fat loss, and all aspects of female health which is why she addressed your questions on this topic. I had her as a guest in Episode 154 of “The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show” a few years back and we were happy to have her here with us to talk about low-carbing women and weight loss.


NOTICE OF DISCLOSURE: http://cmp.ly/3
Here are some of the questions we addressed in this podcast:

Where does a woman begin when embarking on a weight lifting program if they have never done it before? How many days per week should they lift? What about the machines for resistance training at the gym?

I keep reading that if I don’t want to lose muscle mass, I must lift weights. But I want to know if you can do more than simply “not lose” muscle. I want to put on muscle! I have lifted weights pretty regularly over the years, and I feel pretty strong. But at age 60, what is a reasonable amount of muscle that I can put on?

I’d be curious to know your guests’ opinion on working out either with weights or HIIT-style when adrenal issues are in play. I’m 45 years old, have Hashimoto’s, constantly struggling with anemia, low hemoglobin & other CBC markers, etc. Cortisol saliva tests shows low levels in the AM and high in the PM. Under doctor’s care for all of these issues. My diet is low-carb Paleo with daily dose of sweet potato or starch at the evening meal. Body composition is approximately 20-30 pounds overweight.

Would it be better in the short-term to put aside the higher intensity and maybe focus on walking or yoga? If it’s OK to continue with the HIIT (I do 3x per week kettlebells/TRX), is it important to do at a particular time of the day to optimize energy?

For those of us who could write the book “I Hate To Exercise,” here are some questions:

– How beneficial would 5-7 high intensity (1 Minute) intervals be?

– Is it effective to strength train just doing 2 or 3 reps in the evenings most days? I am one of those with wobbly upper arms that drives me crazy & have not seen much benefit even with a trainer.

– There is slow burn and fast sets in lifting weights. Is it just a matter of what someone is willing to do and enjoys?

How often do you come across female low carb and/or Paleo weight lifters who lose their menstrual cycle? What advice would you give them to get their cycle back? Especially for someone one who is trying to get pregnant. Would you suggest they up their carbs? Try to up their calorie intake? Would you suggest they exercise less, even though they might not seem to be over exercising to begin with? Or would you tell them to stop exercising all together? How long does it normally take a woman to get her cycle back once back on track?

I am a 53 year old woman, basically healthy, active, but overweight. I want to lose fat, and keep my bones healthy. What do you think about taking Creatine? How do you feel about P90X and Insanity type DVD courses or can you recommend a different one? And of course, we all want to know – can one build muscle, lose fat, and get fit on a very very low carb diet?

I’ve experimented heavily with ketogenic and cyclic ketogenic diets over the last two years and have been trying to make low-carb work together with my love off CrossFit. My problem is that when I do a straight low-carb diet (~50g/day from green vegetables) after about two weeks I feel very sluggish while trying to do high energy workouts, yet when I try to do a carbohydrate “refeed” I end up turning on the compulsive switch and losing control of my intake. Is there a point at which becoming keto-adapted will allow me to do high energy CrossFit style workouts without feeling like I have no gas in the tank?

I am 39 years old and overweight with PCOS and a lot of stubborn belly fat. I have been “slow-burning” for several years. I go to a gym that focuses on this type of weightlifting. My trainer claims that I can lift a lot of weight for a female. My muscle mass is pretty big for a woman. I have defined hamstrings and calves and I have big muscles underneath my fat on my upper body. I’m trying to lose weight eating low carb; it’s just stubborn or I am not doing something right.

Now that you have my background, my question is about muscle fatigue. If I try to ride my bike or go for long walks, my muscles tire right away and I get winded easily. When I was younger and thinner and played sports, I dealt with the same story. Big strong muscles, terrible endurance. I sort of thought by weightlifting I could help my other conditioning a bit. Should weightlifting help at all with conditioning, or is something else going on with me?

Given my size, I am not comfortable doing floor work, so I wonder if you could give me some suggestions for abdominal exercises that I can do standing up?

I absolutely LOVE to lift weights! Would lifting help with fat loss (I have about 60 pounds to lose)? I am more concerned with inches than the number on the scale…more concerned with sizes in my clothing!

I read a lot about L-Carnitine for lifting. I prefer to get my nutrition from real low-carb foods. And yet I wonder if extra L-Carnitine would help? I see it comes in pill form and in liquid mixed with glycerine. I worry about glycerine because it has carbs and a lot of calories. If L-Carnitine would help, what form should I take it in, when should I take it, and how often? Just before lifting or every day? How much? If L-Carnitine doesn’t help, are there other things I should be taking to support my lifting goals?

ORE (pronounced “Aray”) ASKS:
I am 29 years old, and I’ve recently taken up heavy lifting, after years of chronic cardio with little to no success in weight loss. I’ve got about 40 lbs to lose, and am hoping that a combination of HIIT and heavy lifting will help with weight loss. I’m wondering if there are any supplements that Cassandra could recommend in connection with weight loss efforts and/or lifting weights. Does she have any top recommendations, or even particular brands of supplements that she like?

I have a question about body composition. I think I am at a good weight – 5 ft tall, 102 pounds. But I look in the mirror and I see two bodies. The one above the waist shows muscle tone and looks good. Then I look below the waist. I have great muscle in my butt/thighs but it is buried behind that subcutaneous fat. I have never had belly fat, always a pear shape. I gave up grains about 4-5 months ago and drastically reduced sugar which has helped – my lower body is in much better proportion and the look of cellulite is greatly reduced, which was a nice surprise. But how do you ever get rid of that hip/butt/thigh flab? I already lift weights, walk, bike, roller blade – whatever comes my way. Is there any hope for us women in this area? Does this just take time? Can you offer any strategies to help burn that fat? BTW – I was never athletic as a kid which I believe has something to do with it. I never had lean good looking legs so there is nothing to go back to. Exercise for me did not come until adulthood – and consistent weight lifting came in my 40s. I am in the best shape I have ever been in.

What are some specific differences in challenges that you see with the female population and low-carb-resistance training compared to men, if any? What are some specific advantages women have over men in terms of low-carbohydrate diets and weight lifting, if any?

  • Amyschicos

    Cannot wait to hear this podcast!! I love to lift weights and am anxious to hear what she has to say about low carb and lifting and whether or not it will help with my weight loss..not so much numbers that i am concerned with as I am with the size clothing I wear 🙂 I have about 60 lb to lose and want to get back into a size 4-6

    • LLVLCBlog

      I got your question and look forward to asking it. 😀

  • SL

    How would you address the concerns of women who are afraid of bulking up and “looking like men” or want to keep some softness to look more feminine?

    • LLVLCBlog

      If you want to ask a question for this guest, then you need to email it to me at AskTheLowCarbExperts@gmail.com by 3PM ET on the day of the interview. THANK YOU!

  • Dr. Forsythe and Jimmy, thank you for taking and answering my question. I never got my period back after giving birth and nursing my first child. He’s going to be 3 this summer and I was hoping he’d have a sibling on the way by now! I don’t weigh or portion my food, but I can fall into eating and exercise regimens that I like to keep strict and neat in my head (it’s an ‘all or nothing’ mentality). I’ll certainly take your advice about loosening up a little more. Thank you.

    • LLVLCBlog

      It’s sage advice, Ashley, and will help you more than you probably realize. Lemme know how it goes.

      • Thank you. I’ve already had my hormones checked. Everything was nice and normal. My body weight is healthy, too. I’m actually heavier and healthier now then when I got pregnant the first time around! So it’s been frustrating, you can imagine. My body responds nicely when if take Provera to induce a period but only when I take the meds. Otherwise…Nada. I’ve only taken Provera a handful of times in the past year, always hoping that this would be the cycle that my body would just take over from there. The next month is always disappointing.
        So…I’ll be curious to see what happens if I try to relax a little bit more. Put less mental stress on myself….That was what resonated with me most from this podcast.

        • Oh, and thank you both for responding to my comments! I am not worthy. 🙂 I appreciate all of your advice and help. It’s been frustrating, to say the least!

          • LLVLCBlog

            Hang in there, Ashley!

    • Cassandraforsythe

      Glad this could help Ashley. It’s good to exercise and eat well, but not if it runs your life. 🙂 Also, get a hormone profile done to just be sure nothing else is going on. Thank you!

  • Lindy

    Jimmy, I love your shows, however, I want to order & read all of the books that are mentioned. My small rural town has a great library-but they just don’t have all of the up-to-date books that your guests have written. Anyway, just wanted you to know, I am going broke listening to your podcasts.

    • LLVLCBlog

      LOL! You’re not the first one to tell me that. 😀 THANK YOU for your support.

  • melancholyaeon

    Thanks for the great podcast, Jimmy! What was the name she offered in response to Susan’s question, about the expert who attributed fat distribution to nutrient levels? Was it Charles Pole? Charles Pols? Just couldn’t quite catch that, around minute 1:02-04 . .Thanks!

    • LLVLCBlog

      I’ll see if Cass can chime in…I don’t remember off the top of my head. 🙂

    • Cassandraforsythe

      Hi! It was Charles Poliquin

  • I really enjoyed this! Cass is awesome, and I’m going to pass this episode along to many women! They need to hear this.


  • Jimmy, I heard you talk about Lou Schuler on the air, as well. I’m really looking forward to hearing him on your show. Exercise and strength training is such an important part of health and fitness, and there’s no one better and more well versed than Lou on lifting weights and all other exercise. I know New Rules of Lifting for Life comes out next week; will he be one for the book launch? That would be awesome!