The Truth About Building Muscle for Women

While muscle takes up less room than fat at equally the same weight, it’s important to know that it’s not as easy to build muscle as most women think. Actually, it’s easier to shrink your fat cells than it is to build muscle. So if you wanna get ripped, you’d be better off on trying to lean out through your dietary habits while lifting. Both goals require work but if you work at them equally, with the same amount of effort, you will shrink fat faster than building muscle. The good news is when you shrink fat, the muscle you already have becomes more defined as your body composition changes and you look more fit and toned, hence “get ripped.”

Fat doesn’t get converted to muscle. That’s a myth. Women don’t bulk up from lifting light weights for 20-30 reps either. That’s also a myth. Yes you will get strong, yes you will burn some calories (not as many calories as a high intensity cardio class thou), but you will not build any substantial amount of muscle using this method. To build muscle, you must lift with a lot of intensity, concentration, and use heavy weights.

Muscle is built with the right kind of exercise, recovery, and diet. The right kind of exercise has to stress the body enough to create a response. If you lift heavy using compound movements (such as bench press, squat, deadlift using barbells lifting at around 70-80% rep maximum), then you can work towards building muscle. If you can lift a weight easily for 15 – 20 reps or more, it’s not heavy enough. Also, doing 1 – 2 sets is not enough. You need to do several sets, 4 – 10 per major muscle group. A routine that involves lifting heavy weights at a high volume with lower reps and many sets is a great recipe for building muscle.

You also need to take time to recover so your body has the ability to rebuild and adapt. If you lift heavy one day and then go and work the same muscle again the next day when it’s not repaired, you are actually restricting growth. Sleep is crucial for building muscle. When you sleep, your body releases the growth hormone. When you sleep you repair, reset, recover, and rebuild!

As for diet, you should be eating lots of fruit, berries, veggies and greens to help with repair and not just stuffing your face with meat and potatoes.  Also, you will need extra protein. If you are going to get into heavy weightlifting for muscle growth, I highly recommend a clean plant-based protein powder to give you that boost you need to build muscle (I recommend Vega). I’m not saying you can’t build muscle from 100% whole, real food. Just make sure that you aren’t skipping meals and you have the right balance of macronutrients. In order to make your body grow, you gotta feed it!

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For those taking a fitness class to build muscle or shrink fat – you gotta work hard! You have to stress your body, push yourself, and allow your body to move strong. When you pick up a 3lb weight in a fitness class, it’s not going to help you build muscle. Pick up a heavier weight that will challenge you instead. Keep your mind open and avoid negative thinking. You have to think positive, test yourself, push yourself! When you are asked to do another squat but you feel you are at the point where you can’t pump out another one, DO NOT feel like you failed because actually, you did exactly what you needed to do to make a difference in your body – you worked hard! That’s the stuff that will make change happen. Remember what I said earlier, you have to work hard enough to create a response.

Building muscle is not as easy as women think. It takes time, dedication, hard work, proper rest, and a balanced diet. Shrinking fat cells is much easier, and you can do all the things I listed above to help make that happen.  HIIT (high intensity interval training) is very effective at helping you to lose fat.  Do a HIIT routine a 2 – 3 x a week over several weeks and watch your body “grow.” Sometimes people are mistaken when on a fitness plan and they start to see definition in their body that they are building a great deal of muscle.  Actually, it’s not that you are building any major amount of muscle but that your body is shrinking your fat cells and so you are able to see the muscle that you already have built up in your life.  You are defining your body! This is what we call “toning up.” Keeping going!

Everyone has a muscular body, but some may have their muscle hidden under a few layers of fat. Shrink the fat and BAM, there is the toned and fit looking body that you desire.  I make it sound easy don’t I? Actually, the hardest part is putting your mind to it and then sticking with the plan. You are quite capable of doing the work. You just need to believe in yourself.

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