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Top 8 Tips for Women Looking to Build Lean Muscle

Posted on September 24, 2018

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Who doesn’t like shapely arms, a toned butt, and a flat stomach? It gives you a newfound confidence, transforms you into eye-candy, and just makes you feel great about yourself. The key to this firmness in body is building muscle, and of course, shredding unwanted fat. Let’s not fool ourselves here—The process takes hard work and dedication. With these qualities at hand, and the right kind of practical knowledge, there is nothing that can stop you—except you.

 

There are tonnes of myths floating around about women and muscle building. In this post we’ll dig a little deeper into some important topics. Here are some reliable tips for women who want to enhance their personal fitness levels, lose unwanted fat, and gain muscle the right way, the healthy way, the way that will make you feel like the next training session can’t come soon enough. 

1 Understand the Fundamentals

Before you embark on a muscle building exercise routine, it’s important to understand how muscle forms in our bodies. Women don’t build muscle as quickly as men because of their naturally lower level of the anabolic hormone called testosterone. But that’s not all there is to it. Your body type has a lot to do with weight loss and muscle gain.


Genes also play a role. Some women are genetically blessed with a robust metabolism, while others have to make conscious efforts to optimise it. Additionally, women with higher levels of anabolic hormones will be at an advantage when building muscle.


It’s not going be as quick and easy as you think. When it comes to building muscle mass, it takes months of sincere training with a quality diet for results to be appreciable. Regular resistance training will create microtears in the muscle fibers, which will then be healed and rebuilt thicker and stronger, so to prevent damage in the future. 


That’s the way the body works, and the way most people work in life too. If we notice something that needs fixing, we fix it, and if we’re smart, like our body, we will fix it better than before to prevent it becoming broken again. Adequate rest and good nutrition are absolutely crucial for this process. After all, we need proper materials to fix jobs around the house … and there are some quite specific nutrition-based materials that muscle needs too.

2 Eat Before and After a Workout

pushup_women.jpgThe Pre-workout and post-workout meals are very important for anyone looking to build muscle and burn fat the right way. Make sure you get enough quality protein and carbohydrates to aid your workout before you begin, and to replenish yourself after you’re done working out.


Ideally, and only if you want to get technical, try high glycemic index carbohydrate foods with protein after exercise, and low GI carbohydrate foods and protein a couple of hours before exercise. After exercise is pretty much the only safe time to consume a large quantity of high glycemic index carbohydrates.


Do consume the pre-workout meal an hour or two before you start and the protein rich post-workout meal about 90 minutes after finishing exercise, with a protein shake immediately post-workout to kickstart your recovery process. If you can only manage one of these post workout nutrition hits, then it is important to take a quality meal, or combination of food and protein powder, as soon as possible after exercise.

# 3 Don’t Forget to Warm Up

Warming up and stretching before starting your workout, and in that order, is an absolute must, as it helps you prevent injuries. Warm-up exercises raise your body temperature, increase the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart and the muscles, and prepare them for the workload. Stretching then elongates the muscle, keeping them nice and loose and pliable, as rigid and tense muscles are more likely to be injured.


End your workouts with cool-down exercises. These are low-intensity exercises that help slow down the activity level of your body in a safe and healthy manner. They also hell to remove lactate and other metabolic waste products from the muscle that have built up during the training session. Cooling down exercises help bring the heart rate back to normal as well. Slow jogging, walking, and gentle cycling are some ways of cooling down.

4 Cardio Training

Stretch_feet.jpgWomen tend to naturally carry more adipose tissue or body fat than men. Sorry folks! And this is simply due to the unique gender differences in hormones. Oestrogen, of which men have less, promotes fat storage and is not a big fan of fat burning. So, when building lean muscle, it makes sense to put some of that focus on reducing overall body fat levels. You can start with cardio training.

 

You can hit the treadmill at the gym. If that’s not your scene, put on your running shoes and walk briskly for 30-40 minutes, preferably on an empty stomach. Start at a slow pace and work up a good, comfortable speed gradually. If you feel your weight loss has plateaued, change your workout routine. If you feel bored, definitely change your exercise program.

 

You don’t need to exercise every day. In fact, if you have not exercised for some time, it’s not recommended. Allow your body time to adjust to the new activity level. Once somewhat adapted, however, exercising most days of the week is a great goal to aim for.

5 Weight Training

Weight training about 3 times a week is a great way of targeting muscle gains, which also supports fat burning. If rest periods between sets are kept to a minute or two, weight training can increase the heart rate, just like cardiovascular exercise does, and help to support general fitness level. Weight training also  helps build bone density, muscular strength and keeps the metabolic rate moving faster. That’s right, more muscle means more calories expended at rest. And the process of healing muscle after a solid weight training session is actually quite calorie demanding as well. So muscle mass helps to keep us lean on body fat.


Many women worry about weight training leading to excessive muscle bulk. And though this is a common concern amongst women, the good news is that it takes a great deal of time, even with perfect training, nutrition and lifestyle, to build muscle. So, what I’m trying to say here is that you will have plenty of time up your sleeve to assess you body composition, and when you’ve built the amount of muscle that you want you can change the focus of your training. However, most women don’t build as much muscle as they want. It does take a lot of effort over a long period of time. Weight training is effective in creating a leaner, more slender and athletic appearance.

# 6 Eat Healthy and Often

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Eating small healthy meals throughout the day is helpful for building muscle and keeping your metabolism active. A diet rich in lean protein, with small amount of carbohydrates and fats, is perfect. Protein-rich foods, which have all the 9 essential amino acids, are necessary for rebuilding muscle. Such foods include meat, poultry, dairy, fish, eggs, and soy.

 

It is important not to exclude all fats from the diet, yet be a little more selective about the ones that you include. Good sources, to be eaten in moderation, are fatty fish like salmon and sardines, avocados, olives and certain nuts. Low glycemic index carbohydrates are the preferred energy foods, which, just like the beneficial fats, should be consumed in moderation, unless you are training extremely hard and frequently.


Vitamins and minerals are also very important, as are a group of plant-based compounds called phytochemicals, meaning plant-nutrients. These are different to the vitamins and minerals, and include lycopene from tomatoes and watermelon, and the carotenoids, found in carrot, to mention a few. Do make it a point to include a broad range of coloured fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans in your meals. Remember, starving yourself will only shut down your metabolism, and lead to muscle mass losses. There are better ways.

# 7 Supplement Your Diet

In many cases, a well-balanced diet may not be enough to provide your body with the nourishment it needs, especially when limiting food intake. Food may not contain all the right nutrients in the right quantity to fulfill all your health requirements, especially when you’re trying to build muscle.


In such cases, you may require certain supplements, such as multivitamins and minerals and fish oils, to help meet your nutritional needs. Do not forget, however, to consult a fitness expert or healthcare professional to determine which supplements may be of most benefit as well as how and when to take them.  

# 8 Get Enough Rest

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This is crucial to building muscle as well as for your long-term wellbeing. Ensure that you get enough quality sleep, at least 8 hours each night. Sleep time is when the body undertakes its repair work and cells are regenerated and new muscle tissue is formed.

 

Also make sure you don’t follow up one strenuous work out with another the very next day, especially targeting the same muscle groups. Each of your muscle groups needs to rest for at least 3 days after strenuous weight lifting or resistance training. This will allow it times to adapt and grow.

Conclusion

Achieving a healthy balance between the right kind of workouts and a nourishing diet is crucial and vital to turning your body into a lean mean fighting machine. And remember, no shortcuts. It’s important to lead a disciplined life, do all the right (though sometimes boring) things, and progress at a steady rate. Rome wasn’t built in a day.