Maik Wiedenbach Talks Weight Training & Nutrition For Women

  • Hometown: Radolfzell, Germany
  • Current Location: New York
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 232 lb
  • Age: 37”
  • Occupation: personal trainer, nutritionist, adjunct professor at NYU
  • Training Philosophy: Training is a privilege, not a chore.
  • Contact information, Books and Websites:

For those unfamiliar with you, can you tell us a bit about your background and what you are currently doing in the industry, including your German Body Engineering program.

I have to disappoint you here, I was never bullied or overweight; in fact, you could call me a jock. I came to America on a swimming scholarship, representing Germany at the World Cups and Olympic trials. I always liked the athletic physique and being active all my life; lifting weights came naturally.

It is rather hard to determine the exact starting point of my so-called journey, but one of the moments I do remember is watching Terminator with my dad and thinking, “I want to look like that,” (I am German, what do you expect!) From then on, I bought my first Men’s Fitness magazine and an atrocious tasting protein powder, the rest is history.

After college, I worked on Wall Street for 5 years which was a tremendous learning experience, but I simply had to go back to fitness. Since then I started my own personal training business in NYC, which now employs 4 people. I write for several fitness magazines and have several books out.

Recently, we moved from one-on-one training to small group classes, our German Body Engineering program. Classes are taught with resistance bands, emphasis on proper form, muscle activation, and generally we have a ball. In addition, every member receives an individualized diet and workout plan to on his or her own in case they miss a class. So far, the program has been wildly successful in transforming peoples bodies that we are planning to roll it out beyond NYC.

Let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of female lifting and bringing up weaknesses.

maik-wiedenbach-2Training for female athletes does not differ all that much from training males. The skeletal frame and muscular system are the same, and then there are the well-known hormonal differences which make boys into boys and girls into girls.

Training is rather simple since the human body does primarily four things: lunge, squat, push, and pull. Any sound training system has to incorporate all four of those movement patterns. What does change though are individual goals which brings us to the point of bringing up weaknesses.

First, look for a good coach or at least an honest friend with a cell phone camera. Start evaluating your physique on a bi monthly basis. Ask yourself: Am I lean and or developed enough to start worrying about balance aka individual muscle groups? If not, stick to whole body workouts.

If yes, pick one body part you wish to improve and give it a solid six weeks of priority training. Be as specific as possible as to what you want to achieve. Have someone take photos of you at the same spot every two weeks.

After 6 weeks of prioritizing one muscle group, switch to a new program. Now you should see the gains of the muscle you have trained, and now it gets a chance to recover and grow.

Besides focusing on certain muscle groups, you can play with training and rep speeds (think 8 second negatives) as well as with rep numbers. There are numerous variations from the 100 rep workout or the classic 8×8 scheme to the timed full body workout. For a timed full body workout, (set your timer at 30 minutes and try to perform as many sets as possible in good form.) The body adapts quickly, so I recommend a new training outline every 5-6 weeks. It will keep your body guessing, thereby forcing change and it will prevent boredom on your end.

What would be the best approach for a slightly overweight woman to take, who wants to become a figure competitor or just achieve the look of one?

Since nobody starts out lean enough, and we all need to drop a few pounds; there are different ways to do this, and while I personally prefer a lower carb approach I have also seen many people succeed with a lower fat diet. First and foremost, give yourself enough time. Ideally, you want to be done dieting two weeks before your event, so the body can recover and shine. Athletes who diet down to the last minute never look quite right on stage.

Secondly, start slow. Here is how it typically goes, someone wants to compete (or look like a competitor) and starts doing hours of cardio a day, taking fat burners and cutting calories. The result is shutdown, not the government kind, but your metabolism. Once shutdown has occurred, it can take months to get the body back up and functioning, so one should try to avoid that condition at all cost.


You always want to have more arrows in the quiver in case things stall. So if you are not doing cardio, start with 10 minutes a day. Weight training matters much more anyways, since it conserves your muscles thereby keeping the metabolism alive. Do not cut calories too drastically, 200 per week is plenty. You can always cut calories further if weight loss stalls.

Thirdly, do not fall for fads or last minute changes. I cannot tell you how many athletes I have seen ruining a perfectly good physique during the last week before an event by implementing some crazy water / salt or carb manipulation strategies. A good body looks great a week before the show, nothing magical happens during the last several days. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the journey. You already went where most people never dare to go, so kudos to you!

What would be the best approach for a woman of a slightly thin build to take, who wants to achieve the same goal as the slightly overweight women?

The term “culking” comes to mind for that particular individual. I am not a big fan of the traditional way of bulking and then cutting, where athletes gain a lot of weight and then diet down for a competition.

It does not work so well for a couple reasons: For one, it isn’t all that much fun to carry all of that extra with you. Secondly, as you gain more muscle, you also gain more fat. Fat and muscle compete for the same hormones such as testosterone and HGH, so after a while the muscles get less of the aforementioned. From then on, mostly fat is gained.

Lastly, a natural athlete will have trouble holding on to the muscle while doing a drastic diet. Therefore, I prefer culking: basically you eat above maintenance from 5 days up to 2 weeks, before cutting your calories for a few days. This way you can stay reasonably lean and gain more quality weight. The diet will also be easier since you do not have to shed 20 lbs.

How much should you eat? The traditional answer is 500 calories over maintenance, which isn’t really helpful, since it doesn’t give a macronutrient breakdown. You’ll need anywhere from 16-20 calories per pound of bodyweight. If you are a very fidgety or nervous individual, the number might be as high as 25lbs. It is not uncommon for some individuals to burn as much as 800 calories a day via NEAT, (non-exercises thermogenic activity) or fidgeting.

maik-wiedenbach-4In our case, for the sake of the argument, we are looking at a 120lbs physique athlete; she’ll need to eat 2,400 calories a day or thereabouts. For the macros: protein 1 gram per lbs bodyweight, you might go to 1.5 if you train more than 4 times a week, or have a physically demanding job. I have gone as high as 3 grams per lbs without any real benefits; you just need to buy more protein powder. Our example will eat 120 grams of protein which covers about 480 calories.

The bulk of the calories will need to come from carbohydrates; these have gotten a bad rap which is somewhat undeserved. While it is true that the body can function without carbohydrates, it cannot produce enough glucose via ketosis in order to fuel a highly energy intensive activity such as weight lifting. 2-3 grams of carbs per lbs of bodyweight is usually a good rule of thumb, but individuals with a high NEAT expenditure might go as high as 4 grams.Let’s assume 2.5 grams for our test individual, which would be 300 grams a day or 1200 calories. That leaves us with 720 calories for fat or about 72 grams, or.75 grams per lbs bodyweight.

Now I’ll break another taboo, overall caloric intake matters much more than nutrient sources. In other words, worry about getting the proper amounts of protein, carbs and fats in and not so much whether all your food is organic and locally farmed. If you can combine the two, more power to you. The reality is that most lifters need to add a little bit of junk in order to fill the necessary calories (my favorite: gummy bears after a leg workout.) That’s ok and won’t kill you instantly.

After 4 weeks of eating in this manner, you should have gained 1-3 lbs or so; now it’s time to let your body breathe and minimize fat gain. In order to do so, cut the carbs in half on training days and 1-2 no carb days a week. You may up the fats to 1 gram per lbs of body weight; so you stay somewhat full and don’t become a menace to society.

The low carb week or weeks will restore insulin efficiency, so that once you start eating carbs again; they will be used properly. In addition, you will stay leaner which makes for better use of nutrients and a higher training motivation. Keep repeating that cycle for about 4-5 months; then take a 3 week break where you eat for your ‘new’ maintenance. After 10 months, you should have gained a decent amount of muscle without having lost sight of your feet.

Do you recommend carb manipulation, low carbs or refeeds for a woman to achieve her ultimate physique, and if so how long?

I am going to open this one with a very general statement: “women tend to do better on lower carb intake.” The reason for that is two-fold. For one, carbs are the one non-essential macronutrient, so they can be manipulated for changes in body composition. Two, fat loss and insulin cannot coexist, so dropping your carbs will automatically increase fat loss.

There are many ways to handle carbs and refeeds, so I will just lay out the basics. First, you have to earn your carbs, meaning the leaner you are the more often you can and should eat carbs. The leaner you are, the better your insulin efficiency will be so that you can store carbs in the muscle and not as body fat. Insulin efficiency can be increased by dropping body fat and lowering carbohydrate intake for a period of time.


How often should I refeed to keep my dieting from stalling?

If your body fat is 12% and lower, (as a female) you should have a carb meal or two every 3-4 days. If you are more in the 13-20% range, stick to once every ten days. Above all, you should refeed every 3 weeks. The refeed should be kept at around 2-3 grams of carbs per lbs of desired body weight. If your goal is to weigh 110 lbs, you should consume anywhere from 220 to 330 grams of carbs. This should easily be doable within a 6 hour window. All other days, simply keep the starchy carb intake to one meal post workout and consume vegetables during the rest of the day (one serving of fruit is ok as well.)

For a woman that wants to achieve ‘the look’ what are your thoughts on fasted cardio?

Fasted cardio is a highly efficient way to get frustrated and lose a ton of muscle. As you can tell, I am rather opposed to it. It is a really outdated way of doing things, classic case of the blind leading the blind. The underlying thinking is that in a fasted state the body has no choice but to burn fat for energy. This is actually partly correct, but still falls short in reality.

First off, most athletes do not perform as well in a fasted state, as opposed to having eaten. As a result, the actual amount of calories burned is lower meaning less fat is lost. Furthermore, the body tends to go into starvation mode by significantly reducing testosterone, GH and thyroid hormone. All this leads to muscle loss and makes further fat loss more difficult.

Lastly, your rate of EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or after burn effect) will be substantially reduced if you train on an empty stomach. At the very least have about 12-15 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protein before the workout, BCAAs during will improve performance and help spare muscle.

Discuss the importance of pre and post workout nutrition and how it can affect the ultimate goals of a woman’s physique.

maik-wiedenbach-6There is a lot of talk about the importance of pre and post workout nutrition (intra as well in some cases,) so let me state one thing clearly: if your overall nutritional intake is off; then even a highly sophisticated pre and post workout nutrition protocol will not make up for that.

That being said, there are two approaches to pre and post workout nutrition, depending on the goal. If you are a performance athlete and your primary goal is to do well during the workout and recover as quickly as possible; you will need to make sure that your glycogen stores are always full.

This would be the rundown for a 150 lbs athlete who trains twice a day or 7-10 times per week.

  • 60 minutes before training: Small meal 30 grams of protein and 40-50 grams of carbs.
  • During the workout: 30 grams of waxy maize and 15 grams of whey.
  • Post workout: 30 -50 grams of waxy maize and 30 grams of whey.
  • 60 minutes post workout: Another solid meal with about 30 grams of carbs and 40 grams of protein.

Now obviously there would not be a lot of fat loss happening since the carbs are simply too high. But the aforementioned athlete will perform at a very high level at the next workout.

What about the physique athlete?

  • 60 minutes before training: Small meal 30 grams of protein, vegetables, and 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
  • During the workout: 10 grams of BCAAs.
  • Post: 15 grams of whey with green powder to kick the body out of catabolism and make it alkaline again.
  • 60 minutes after the workout: Small meal with about 50 grams of carbs and 30 grams of protein.

Here insulin levels will be kept low so that fat loss will continue, the post workout whey will just be enough to flip mTOR into positive nitrogen retention and stop catabolism.

Most of the readers will mostly fall into category B, but I felt it makes sense to approach pre and post workout nutrition from a more goal oriented angle.

What supplements would be the most beneficial for a woman to take in her 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.

Supplement intake is another loaded question, so I shall tread careful here. Supplements are called supplements because they supplement a hopefully already almost perfect diet, recovery and training routine. Those are the three pillars of your success; they make up about 95% of what your physique will look like. Supplements can cover the other 5%. That being said, there are some that have their place, so here it goes, in no particular order:

  1. Whey protein: Sufficient protein intake is often an issue with women, especially during breakfast. A quality protein powder can aid in getting sufficient protein into the body, especially when time is an issue.
  2. Green powders: Nobody eats 5-6 servings of vegetables a day (if you do, chapeau) as it is simply too time consuming. Green powders are a great way to add veggies and fruit to your shake without the mess of juicing. They really shine as post workout drink since they put the body back into an alkaline state.
  3. Fish oil: As a glucose regulator, inflammation control and mild fat burning aid. I personally do not enjoy eating fatty fish 3-4 times a week; therefore, I resort to fish oil capsules.
  4. Chondroitin/Glucosamine: For happy joints. Most of us do not eat ligaments and cartilage all that often so supplementation here does makes sense.
  5. Creatine: Is one of the very few supplements with an actual research backing and is helpful with regards to strength gains and recovery.
  6. Caffeine: The world’s most widely used stimulant is exactly that; it helps with workout intensity especially when dieting, mental clarity, and the oxidation of free fatty acids during working out. Keep consumption to 2 mg per lbs of bodyweight daily.

I am fully aware that this is not the most exciting list, but those are the ones that have truly proven themselves to work in thousands of athletes.

I noticed you advocate using resistance bands on your GBE website. How do you incorporate them into an individual’s training program and should they be used on non- training days?

Resistance bands are a great way to create a new stimulus for the muscle. Resistance actually increases as you approach full contraction, making them ideal to define a physique. In addition, they are fantastic if you happen to travel since you can pack hundreds of pounds worth of weights into your carry-on luggage.

Do you recommend stretching or foam rolling on rest days?

Yes, absolutely even though I do not do enough of it myself. Foam rolling should be part of your warm up in order to break up trigger points and improve the neurological output of the muscle.

As for stretching, I am at best partial to it. If you feel it helps you, always do it post workout, never during or before.


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