The primary concern women have when it comes to weight training is, “I don’t want to get BIG or BULKY.” I am here to tell you that you WONT! The hormone TESTOSTERONE is responsible for the large increases in muscle mass. That is why you tend to see men drop weight a bit faster then women. The more muscle you build the more body fat you can lose at a faster and more efficient rate. Women’s testosterone levels are a fraction of men’s testosterone levels. Normal testosterone levels in men are 200-1200 ng/dl while 15-70 ng/dl are normal in women. As you can see, men’s testosterone levels are SIGNIFICANTLY higher than women’s. Even if a man is at the LOW end of the men’s normal testosterone range (200 ng/dl), he still has more than twice the amount of testosterone as a woman at the HIGH end of the women’s normal testosterone range (70 ng/dl). If we look at the median or mid-range testosterone levels in men and women, men = 700 and women = 42.5. So on an average, men have 16.47 times more testosterone than women! It is clear that women do not have the hormonal support (testosterone) to gain muscle mass like men. Therefore, the fear of becoming big and bulky and looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger with a ponytail is unwarranted.
Now you may be saying, “I have seen some women bodybuilders who are very muscular and look similar to men in their build.” The real reason they look like that is they are most-likely using exogenous testosterone injections and/or other anabolic steroids. When women use exogenous testosterone/steroids they may show signs of hair growth on the face and chest, increased muscle mass, a redistribution of body fat from a female pattern of storage to a male pattern of storage, deepening of the voice, and other effects. The point of saying this is that unless you are on exogenous testosterone or other anabolic steroids, you will not become big and bulky from lifting weights. This is not to say that you will not gain any muscle, you will, but you will not gain muscle like a man. Instead, you will become toned and shapely.
I hear a lot ” well since I’m a women I need train differently then a man or I will start getting bulky like a mam”. That’s FALSE! Women do not need to train or diet much differently than men. Then why do we always see women in gym performing hours of cardio and lifting the lightest dumbbells in the gym for endless reps?
Studies have shown that men and women do not need to train differently. If you are a woman and want to gain muscle and improve your shape and curves, then you are going to have to lift heavy weights. This means that instead doing endless reps with light weights, as the media often prescribes women to do, you need to lift some heavy weights and really challenge yourself! While performing high rep sets (15-20 reps) does have some benefit, it is not optimal to adding muscle mass. Here is a very vague overview of rep ranges:
· 1-5 reps = Strength
· 6-12 = Hypertrophy
· 12+ = Endurance
That is very superficial overview of rep ranges as there is a lot of crossover of adaptations between rep ranges. For example, many people grow lifting solely in the 1-5 rep range and 12+ rep range. But it gives you an idea of the weight you need to lift to grow; a weight that you can complete for at least 6 reps but not more than 12 reps.
Men and women do not need to train differently to see results, but what about the eating regimen (I like using eating regimen rather then the word diet because ? Should women eat differently than men? Not really. Men’s and women’s metabolisms are very similar except that some women burn a greater ratio of fat to carbs than men. This may be one of the reasons women do well on lower carb diets. The main thing that needs to be adjusted is one’s total caloric intake. Women need fewer calories than men because men have more muscle mass and less fat (relative to total bodyweight) than women. The amount of protein, carbs, and fat will be dictated by the amount of calories one eats.
We have shown that women do not need to train or eating regimen much differently than men. Then why do we always see women in gym performing hours of cardio and lifting the lightest dumbbells in the gym for endless reps? This is most-likely due to not being informed, or even misinformed (by the media), about how women should train. What about diet? One of the most common breakfast meals recommended to women is yogurt and a banana. Now there is nothing wrong with eating a yogurt and banana, but where is the protein and essential fatty acids? If you are a woman trying to gain lean muscle, you will need to eat adequate protein and good fats (essential fatty acids). It is time to stop listening to the media and misinformed individuals and time to become educated and get results. In this article, I will go over some basic eating regimens and training information and then direct you to where YOU can get diet and training help and direction!
Dieting for Women – General Guidelines
Before we get into the recommended eating regimen for women trying to lose fat and gain lean muscle, let’s go over some general guidelines.
The biggest factor in a diet is calories in versus calories out; your total calories will determine if you lose or gain weight. Eating too many calories will lead to fat gain. But if you don’t eat enough calories you will not gain lean muscle. Setting a target calorie intake and counting the amount of calories you eat each day is vital to losing it and gaining lean muscle.
While your total caloric intake is the most important diet factor, the ratio of protein to carbs to fat can dictate whether the weight you gain/lose is muscle or fat. A diet that contains 80% of calories from carbs, 10% from protein, and 10% from fat will produce different results than a diet containing 40% of calories from carbs, 30% from protein, and 30% from fat.
You should drink plenty of water every day. Try to drink at least eight glasses (or 64 oz.) of water per day. If you wanna know your daily consumption of water then multiply your body weight x .60. This should be your daily water consumption. The benefits drinking water provides are optimal hydration as well as a feeling of “fullness” without added calories as well as keep your cells saturated, which can helps you maintain muscle for a longer period of time. Sometimes people will mistake thirst for hunger. Because of this, staying hydrated can also prevent overeating. (See Barron’s a nutrition packet)
Choose fresh, wholesome foods over pre-packaged, processed foods. Packaged foods are loaded with preservatives, especially sodium and saturated fats, and often have high amounts of sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup. You will be amazed at how fast you can lose fat just by packing meals from home rather than purchasing fast food or packaged foods. You also will save a lot of money!
Insulin is the “storage” hormone. When it is secreted fat burning is blunted. By controlling insulin secretion by choosing low GI carbs you can decrease fat gain/increase fat loss. Stable blood sugar levels also improve energy levels and ones mood. All of our diets as based around insulin control, leading to leaner muscle gains with little to no fat gain. (See Barron’s a nutrition packet)
In order to gain lean muscle you need to eat enough protein to sustain the creation of new muscle proteins. You may not be used to eating the amount of protein our prescribed diet recommends, but once you get into the groove you should not have any problems and will enjoy how full and satisfied you feel. (See Barron’s a nutrition packet)
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) are vital to the proper functioning on your body. Dietary fats got a bad rap due to the diet fads of the 80’s and 90’s, which promoted eating as little fat as possible, but in reality EFAs are needed by the body and are part of a healthy diet. Eating fats does not equate to getting fat. In fact, most EFAs help support the fat burning process and maintaining a lean body. Do not be scared to eat good fats. EFAs are not the enemy.
Women do not need to diet much differently than men. One metabolic difference between men and women is women burn a greater ratio of fat to carbs than men, which is the reason why women tend to do very well on a low carb diet. Due to this fact we recommend women follow a lower-carb (not no carb) diet to lose fat and gain toned, lean muscle. (See Barron’s a nutrition packet)