There has been an increasing interest among women to build and maintain muscle, which is a positive sign as women are now well aware of the importance of gaining muscle. Even those women who were always worried about losing weight are now thinking about getting bulky. Women embracing confidence and acquiring much-needed strength through resistance training is a welcome change. However, all the hard work can be wasted if you aren’t aware of the basic requirements of healthy muscle gain. So, let’s check out how to gain muscle the healthy way.
Muscle Growth Physiology:
Before discussing the method of building muscles, let’s first understand the physiology behind muscles growth or muscle hypertrophy.
The skeletal muscle is actually the main muscles that we need to focus on in order to build muscles mass.Skeletal muscle is made up of specific kinds of proteins, most prominently myosin and actin, protein subtypes, supporting proteins and hormones and enzymes. These proteins are produced and repaired by the free amino acids or the Free Amino Acid Pool, which floats around in the bloodstream.
Protein for skeletal muscles stays in a phase of metabolic turnover constantly, which means that throughout the day our body breaks down muscles continuously. This process is called Muscles Protein Breakdown or MPB. The process of rebuilding the muscle is called Muscle Protein Synthesis or MPS. Normally, the process is part of our everyday energy expenditure, which is called the Resting Energy Expenditure or REF. For building and maintaining strong muscles, these processes are fundamental.
There are many reasons for muscle breakdown, such as during the state of fasting, which normally happens while we are sleeping, or when the necessary amino acids are supplied between meals. Moreover, muscles breakdown can also occur when we are exercising. If you think that muscle breakdown isn’t favorable for your muscle growth expectations, then worry not because it actually isn’t that bad. Post-exercise period is dedicated to MPS only, that is, muscle protein synthesis.
The process of muscles protein breakdown can be slowed with food while exercise intensifies this effect. Protein-rich foods and strength training are, therefore, key aspects of growing muscle for both males and females.
Debunking the Myth- Females Cannot Build Muscle as Effectively as Males:
People often would discourage you from thinking about growing muscles citing that female physiology is such that you cannot gain muscles as effectively as men can. It is also claimed that women should stick to yoga as this is more “their type.” The reason given is that women do not produce as much testosterone as men can. This is quite true because women produce about 15 to 20 times less testosterone than men. For your information testosterone is the main driving hormone for muscles growth. So, in that sense, critics are being reasonable in stating that with low testosterone levels females cannot grow muscle as effectively as men.
But this isn’t true at all because testosterone isn’t the only hormone that facilitates muscle growth but estrogen also can help in building muscles. Females produce much higher levels of estrogen than males, so they can equally expect effective muscle building. Estrogen has many benefits for faster muscles growth such as it stimulates the production of growth hormone, supports post-workout recovery, improves metabolism, and prevents muscle breakdown. It is also worth noting that the female body produces more growth hormone in a day than male, so it is quite likely that they can gain muscle faster. The fact, therefore, is that women can gain muscle as effectively as men can.
Serious Strength-training is the Key:
Serious strength training is necessary for building muscles. It is true that the post-exercise period can help in stimulating MPS, but only this isn’t enough to compensate for the muscle breakdown that our body goes through daily. Strength training works in synergy with protein and calories intake and helps in repairing and building muscle protein.
But, don’t forget that not everyone can respond to strength training in a similar manner. Although testosterone plays a vital role in the development of muscle, it also depends upon our genetics or DNA. Our body is predisposed to respond to exercises in a particular way because of our DNA. Our genetic makeup largely determines the type of muscle fibers we have and how or where these are distributed. Moreover, our DNA determined the testosterone to estrogen ratio and where body fat is stored. Let’s not forget, our genetics also determine our body type.
Generally, female body types can be classified into three categories. These include Mesomorphs (muscular), endomorphs (voluptuous), and ectomorphs (slim).Some women may have a combination of two body types. When it comes to strength training, the muscular body responds quickly in comparison to slim or linear body despite undergoing the same training routines. As far as the voluptuous or endomorphic body is concerned, it requires losing body fat first to observe a change in shape or size through strength training. Muscle growth is slowest in ectomorphic bodies, so resistance training is ideal to gain strength for this type.
Basic Rules of Strength Training:
- One of the main principles of strength training is that a muscle will increase in size only when you overload it. In aerobic training, the body weight typically gets maximum overload. Step training or stair climbing are activities that have the potential of changing the shape and size of the lower body muscles. By increasing the step’s height or adding power movements, you can easily increase the overload.
- In strength training routine, the traditional rule is still applicable, which is that in order to get stronger and build muscles, it is important to perform fewer repetitions and work with heavy weights. Endurance can be promoted through the use of more repetitions and lighter weights.
- To help your body respond to the exercise, you need to set realistic goals and expectations. Before outlining your bodybuilding goals, it is better to assess your body type and expect accordingly. Never indulge in comparing yourself with other bodybuilders you meet at the gym or elsewhere because it is a reality that no two people are the same.
- Always concentrate more on those exercises that make you feel good, and this would help you get rid of the unnecessary pressure that you need to look a certain way.
Healthy Muscle Growth Relies upon Protein:
Women who aim to develop more muscles mass and become stronger must think about adding the amount of protein in their diet. Adequate protein intake is essential for optimal muscle growth. Ideally, if you want to undergo strength-training, you need to consume 1.7-1.8gms of protein per kg of body weight daily. So, for an average 140-pound (63.6kg) female this means approx. 115gms of protein should be consumed.
Another important aspect to consider is that you need to incorporate complete proteins, which may be acquired from peas or hemp. Or, you can mix up many different types of foods that can offer a wholesome protein intake. Having complete protein is important because you can get essential amino acids in abundance only from complete protein sources. These amino acids are responsible for stimulation of MPS and to stop breakdown, as mentioned above.