When I started on my fitness journey, I set out to lose as much weight as possible in the shortest amount of time. As the weeks turned into months, I began to realize that the old adage “slow and steady wins the race” was the best approach to combat my weight loss endeavors. Through time and experimentation, I had found that weightlifting, not massive amounts of cardio exercise, is what works the best to lose weight and build a beautiful physique.
Spending a lot of time in the gym has also helped me make friends with other females on the same path. Some are younger, some are older but all wanted to build lean muscle mass. What I had not realized is that most women had a similar struggle, to gain lean muscle mass. Lean mass is pure muscle mass minus the fat. Men tend to have a higher percentage of lean mass than women, mainly because of their body’s ability to build more muscles.
Through research and training, I have learned that women also can build appropriate amounts of lean muscle mass. Building a good body necessitates the proper combination of diet, exercise and rest. Below are a few straightforward, simple and effective tips to help you gain lean muscle mass quickly.
1. Eat Healthy
Many fitness enthusiasts and body builders will tell you: “building a great body starts in the kitchen”. Nothing can be truer. To gain more lean muscle, you must avoid processed, refined, and prepackaged foods from your diet. Your body requires proper nutrition to build, grow and fuel lean muscle. Processed, refined, and prepackaged foods tend to be less nutritionally dense than whole foods.
Whole foods are foods that have not been processed or refined and are devoid of free additives or other artificial substances. Foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources are great for promoting muscle growth.
2. Increase Protein Intake
Protein is essential for proper muscle growth. Your muscles require adequate amounts of protein to grow and repair. In addition, connective tissues, joints and immune system necessitate protein to perform properly during intense training sessions.
If your primary goal is to build lean muscle, maintain muscle while losing fat, increase strength or tone up, the average healthy adult woman requires 1-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
Foods such as lean meats, poultry, eggs, and fish are excellent sources of protein. Some women find it difficult to ingest the proper amount of protein through food alone. If you cannot get this much of protein from dietary sources choose a high quality whey protein shake.
3. Lift Heavy
Many women for years have been told that they need to build “long and lean” muscles. In fact, many women shy away from lifting more than 10-20 pounds of weight because they are afraid that their muscle will get “big and bulky”. Unfortunately, these theories are misleading and have kept women from being able to improve muscular strength and endurance.
Remember when I said that men have more muscle because of how their muscles develop? Well, the reason men’s muscles develop more efficiently than women’s muscles is because of a hormone called testosterone. Whereas women’s main sex hormone is estrogen, men’s main sex hormone is testosterone. The higher the testosterone level, the greater muscle gains. While the ovaries do produce estrogen, it also produces testosterone. The testosterone produced by your ovaries are a relatively small quantity and is not enough to make you “bulky”. The only way a woman can build big, bulky muscles is through testosterone supplementation known as steroids.
Now that you know that building muscles will not make you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, it is time to talk about growing muscle. One pound of lean muscle mass burns about 6 calories per hour. To increase you muscular strength and size, you must lift heavy. But the object is to constantly challenge your muscles. When you lift heavier than your body is accustomed to, your body adjusts by growing your muscles in strength and size.
It is perfectly acceptable, especially when beginning a new weight lifting routine, to lift lighter and build up the weight. A rule of thumb is to increase the weight when you can easily do 10-12 reps easily at a particular weight. For example, when I first started on this weight loss/strength plan in January, I was leg pressing at 100 pounds; through the months I have been able to increase my weight to 240 pounds of the same repetitions. I gradually (usually every 2 weeks or so) increased the weight. The first time trying the new weight is always a challenge but eventually, as my muscle grows and get stronger, the weight feels easier and I am able to increase my weight.
4. Get Adequate Sleep and Rest
I struggle with this the most. But it is important to note that to grow your muscles, you must get adequate sleep and rest. When you lifting weights, you are creating micro tears in your muscle fibers. Through proper nutrition, protein, and rest/sleep your muscles repair themselves and grow bigger and stronger.
A minimum of 8 hours of sleep every night as well as 1-2 days without exercise are required to ensure that your muscles get adequate rest to recover. In addition, limiting your workout session to 60 minutes per session helps to avoid overtraining and keeps energy levels up.