Here is a detailed guide that covers all the aspects of muscle gain in women. Read on to learn more!
Step into a gym and you will notice that the section with weights is usually occupied by men while a majority of women are working out on the treadmill or are cycling. Also, it is commonly sighted that the number of men who join a gym is always higher as women opt out of strength training while choosing other forms of physical activities like dancing, aerobics, and swimming.
High time we start understanding the need of resistance training for everyone, regardless of the person’s gender. . But, in reality, it rarely receives its due. Let us understand why this is so? Why do women shy away from building muscles and why should they not? What are the benefits of building muscles in women and how can one begin with this process?
All of this started when supplement companies started using elite class bodybuilders to promote their products, gyms advertisements started using bodybuilders photos for promotion.
All of this created an image in the public’s eyes that women don’t need resistance training, whereas no one understood that all of this was just for marketing and the physique in the photos which they used were achieved after decades.
Read on and know all about muscle gain in women.
How Do Muscles Grow?
Muscle growth or muscle hypertrophy happens in the same manner in both males and females. When you work out your muscles while training, you create micro-tears in those specific muscles. Post-workout, your body repairs or replaces these muscular tears through a cellular process where the muscle fibers are fused together to form new muscle strands. These new muscle fibers increase in thickness and number, thus, helping in muscle hypertrophy. Cells called satellite cells, which surround the muscle fibers, act like stem cells for the muscles and add up to the existing muscle mass.
When these satellite cells are activated, they help in adding more nuclei to the muscle cells and, therefore, contribute directly to the growth of the muscle fibers. Various hormones in the body are also largely responsible for muscle growth and repair as they regulate satellite cell activity. These include testosterone, growth hormone, and Insulin Growth Factor (IGF) -1 among others.
Muscle Building for Women: Facts and Myths
One of the biggest myths in the body-building community regarding muscle gain in women is that building muscles make women look masculine. The ground reality is that it is quite challenging for women to get bulky by lifting weights unless they intentionally put an effort to do so.
Heavy lifting can increase testosterone levels in the female body to a certain extent but it is impossible for them to grow new muscle tissue to the same degree as men since the levels of testosterone will always remain relatively low and also due to higher levels of estrogen and progesterone in the female body. This is how the human body is programmed, and you simply cannot help it!
There is also a common belief that men and women should have different workout plans and that women should not lift like men do. Fact alert! Women should train the way they want, the most important aspect being their fitness goal. True, there is a difference between the workout plans of a male and a female but it is just because they have different fitness goals.
Workout plans will and should be different not just between males and females but also between two males, and should be tailored according to each and everyone’s needs. As long as your training matches your fitness goals, it doesn’t matter how much you lift. It’s your choice and none can tell you otherwise.
Another common misconception among people is that all women come to the gym to lose weight. Again, women may not always want to reduce body fat. Some may want to gain good weight and by that, we mean lean muscle mass. Gaining muscle can be a fitness goal for a woman and there is nothing wrong with it. Looking muscular, well built, or ripped is not a crime and this goal can surely be on a woman’s fitness agenda.
Benefits of Building Lean Muscle in Women
Gaining muscles will not make women look like men. Rather, it has several advantages that will definitely improve their quality of life in the long run. Listed below are a few health benefits of muscle gain in women.
Burn more fat
Gaining muscle mass will increase your resting metabolic rate. This means that you will burn more fat even during rest in the entire day, thus helping with the fat loss process.
Shape up your body
Gaining muscles will help give your body a good and aesthetic shape and make you look fit and sculpted. You will see a noticeable difference in the fitting of your clothes.
Improvement in strength
As you gain muscles you will also experience an increase in overall strength. Lifting and picking up heavy bags will become much easier. Overall, you will start feeling more energetic throughout the day. The quality of life becomes better.
Decreases risk of injury
Studies have shown that gaining muscles in women improves their overall physical fitness and strengthens their bones, ligament apparatus, and joint capsules. This reduces the risk of injury which may occur due to day-to-day activities. (Kraemer, W. et. al. 2002).
Makes you confident
A good physique will make you stand out and look and feel more confident in your daily life. Muscle gain is accompanied by a sense of achievement and a feeling of satisfaction which will leave you feeling confident even on a slightly dull day.
Note: Progressive Overload
For any exercise to help gain muscles in women, it is essential that the principle of progressive overload is followed. It simply means that you start with a decided number of weights, sets, and repetitions for one exercise, and then increase either of the aspects the next time you do that exercise.
Eating Habits for Building Muscle
Gaining muscles is not just about gymming and exercising. It is also very crucial to pay attention to your diet and the food that you eat. 100% of both, that is diet and workout, will get you results if you want to increase your lean muscle mass. Keeping the following points in mind regarding your diet will help in providing you with adequate nutrition and make gaining muscles relatively easier.
The Indian population is generally deficient in protein intake due to the dietary habits in which carbohydrates are predominant. An adequate amount of protein is essential to gain muscles as it helps in repairing the microtears in the muscle caused due to lifting. It is said that women need around 1.8 gm of protein per kg of body weight each day if they lift weights to gain muscle. Following are the good sources of protein
Vegetarian sources: Soya, Paneer, Yogurt, Cheese, Nuts
Non-vegetarian sources: Eggs, Meat/Chicken, Fish
You need to be on a calorie surplus if you have to gain muscles. For this, you need to first know how many calories you are consuming per day and how many calories should be consumed by you. Calorie requirements can be calculated based on your metabolic rate and the amount of physical activity you do. Adding 200-250 calories more than the required will put you on a caloric surplus.
Do not forget micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, are essential for maintaining the proper functioning of various parts of the body which will indirectly help in maintaining your muscle gains.
Other Important Tips
The importance of consistency cannot be stressed enough in gaining muscles. You cannot see changes just after one or two sessions of workout. You need to be dedicated and consistent and keep grinding for as long as the progress becomes so good to be visible.
- Proper form
Proper form is absolutely necessary to keep you away from any avoidable injury and muscle spasm which may happen during any workout. If you are just a beginner, it is advisable to first get the correct form for any particular exercise and then proceed with heavier weights.
- Rest and sleep
Your muscles require proper rest and sleep to recover from the stress they are subjected to while working out. You should pay attention to the rest between every set while working out as well as make sure that you have a sound 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night.
Knowledge and correct information regarding various forms of exercises and diets will never go to waste. Instead, you will start understanding your body and its requirements and functioning better.
Water is essential to rehydrate yourself after your workout. It even helps in decreasing muscle cramps and soreness which you may experience post-workout.
So ladies, now that you know how to gain and build muscles, get up and get going.
Dr. Pooja Nilgar (Content writer & editor)
Kraemer, W. J., Ratamess, N. A., & French, D. N. (2002). Resistance training for health and performance. Current sports medicine reports, 1(3), 165–171. https://doi.org/10.1249/00149619-200206000-00007