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Women and the Muscle Myth

Friday 7th of June 2013 09:01:38 PM

As a personal trainer one of the most common question I am asked by female clients is "will this activity make me too muscly". The reality is that it's hard enough for most men to put on muscle training 3-4 times per week, and even more difficult for women.

This is to do with the level differences in hormones. Women possess lower levels of testosterone , which is the main hormone responsible for building muscle. Women hold higher levels of estrogen which substantially prevent muscle development.

The balance between testosterone and estrogen in the body dictates how quickly muscle is built and unless a female is taking injections of testosterone unlikely that muscle mass will increase dramatically. In a hypothetical situation where weight training by a male and a female at the same intensity occurs, the male will develop more muscle mass due to their natural higher level of testosterone in their body.

Muscle development is an essential part of any body fat loss program. Put simply, the basic cardiovascular 30-minute treadmill sessions are inadequate for lasting benefit. Cardiovascular training is great for taking care of immediate body fat levels as it uses that fat as a source of energy, however doesn't really address longer term body fat management.

Losing body fat is a three forked road. You need to develop a healthy eating plan, you need to be doing a good amount of cardiovascular training, and most importantly, you need a training regime that aids in the development of muscle mass. Increased muscle mass increases your metabolism and helps burn calories even when the body is in a sedentary state. That is, increased muscle mass helps 'light the fires' of our metabolism.

Not only does muscle increase our metabolism but for older people, more muscle helps increase bone density, and in the process helps to fend off osteoarthritis. The more muscle around our bones the more nutrients are deposited into those bones and the stronger they become.

Muscle helps shape and tone the body to better enhance our general aesthetics, and although there is no such thing as 'spot fat reduction’, having an increased muscle mass will aid in complete all-over fat reduction and body tone. Actual body weight may increase, however if your clothing is looser it means that you have lost fat. Muscle fibres are more taut and compact than fat fibres.

The other common misconception about muscle is that it turns to fat when training discontinued. This is incorrect as muscle and fat are two different things. Muscle does get smaller and generally if you stop exercising your metabolism may decrease and in time you may gain body fat on top of the body muscle. But it isn't the case that muscle turns to fat.

Essentially it's about adopting a healthy, balanced and educated approach to your own fitness and in realising that the answer is not just about running on the treadmill for hours a week. Gaining muscle is great way to lose body fat and to stay healthy.

Chris Rudd (Metabolize Personal Trainer)

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