Archive for October, 2012

When it comes to women and weight training, there are a lot of misconceptions. The first thing that women think when they are introduced to the weight training world, is bulky bodies without femininity. The fact is that weight training can be very beneficial for all women, particularly those with fat loss goals. In addition to that, recent research has shown also the importance of protein consumption when combining weight training and a fat loss program. This article will explore some of the most common misconceptions of weight training for women and will provide and insight of interesting facts about why women should include weight training and protein to their daily weight loss plan.

The most common misconceptions surrounding women and weight training are:

1)Women who lift weights and eat protein will get big bulky muscles.
2)The hard muscle that we will  gain, will turn to floppy, flabby fat if we stop lifting weights.
3)Women should lift weights at high repetitions and low weight for ‘toning’.

Women who lift weights get big bulky muscles
To explain it in an easy way, most women do not have the high levels of testosterone and HGH (human growth hormone) required to increase lean muscle mass dramatically. With strength training we can all replace muscle lost through ageing and (depending on our genetics) most probably add on a further couple of kilograms of lean muscle mass if we are lucky. I say lucky because more muscle means a faster metabolism, faster fat burning and a major slowdown of the ageing process. Specifically, research has shown that if we increase our lean muscle mass by 1.4kg we also increase our resting metabolism by 7% and our daily calorie requirements by 15% (1). Specifically this study concluded that a basic strength program resulted in 1.4kg more muscle, 1.8kg less fat, and 370 more calories per day food intake! Other studies have also shown that the increase in metabolism is between 6-8%. This clearly means that the more muscle the better reducing fat accumulation. That also means that women can save tremendous amount of time spending at the gym.

Ok, so if weights don’t lead to bulky muscles, why do women body builders look so big? The answer to that is easy. Their use of anabolic steroids, loads of food, super genetics and very intense training programs can result in enhanced muscle growth. This is not happening to the average woman that trains 2-3 times per week and follows a low calorie diet plan. Thus taking part to “Olympia” is not so easy as it seems in the magazines…

Lean muscle gained will turn to floppy, flabby fat if we stop lifting weights
Muscle will not turn into fat; it is as impossible as turning wood into steel! However, if we stop  training and we still eating the same amount of food we were eating while we were training, we will naturally put on fat. This is because when we stop exercising we begin to ‘lose’ muscle (use it or lose it!) and our metabolic rate declines causing a natural decrease in our daily energy needs. Any excess calories, regardless of their source, is then stored as fat.

Women should lift weights at high repetitions and low weight for ‘toning’
Well so far we can understand why anaerobic exercise is necessary. However, aerobic is also necessary for different reasons. But let’s make it clear. ‘Muscle tone’ comes from having adequate amounts of muscle that can be seen under low levels of body-fat. Obviously to do this we need first to lift weights so that we have enough muscle visible, however, lifting weights at high repetitions and low weight actually uses our aerobic system and trains our muscles for endurance instead of strength and hypertrophy (muscle gain) according to ACSM guidelines. So to make our muscles tight and ‘toned’ we need to ‘build muscle’ and this can only happen if our muscles are placed under sufficient overload (lifting relatively heavier weights). Overloading our muscles is best achieved by regularly and progressively increasing the amount of the weight we lift. As our body adapts (gets stronger) to lifting a certain weight that weight becomes easier for us to lift and we will need to lift more weight to create an overload. In other words, it is all about the stimulus we provide to our bodies. By using lighter weights and doing the exercise more times we force our body to ‘endure’ more weight but there will no longer be an overload or the advantageous stimulus. Thus if you are about to lift light weights, it is better to keep on running on the treadmill, if you are also enjoying it more than lifting!

How protein can help in the weight loss process
An interesting research (2) was published just a few months ago and is worth mentioning. In this reseach two very important scientists took part and their names are Dr. Tarnopolsky and Dr. Phillips. In the study researchers studied the effects of protein on body composition in premenopausal overweight and obese women who were following an exercise program and were under a low calorie diet. The protocol specifically, included 3 groups of women (n=30 each group), all three groups in a low calorie diet. The first group was high in protein consumption, the second group was under adequate amount of protein and the third with low consumption of protein. The study was ongoing for 4 months and the researchers concluded that: Although all three groups lost fat, the the first group lost the most, while it was also mostly from the abdominal tissue. Also this first group of women added some lean mass when compared to the group of middle consumption of protein. It is also worth saying that the third group with low protein intake actually lost some lean mass. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the first group brought the best results regarding the bone health of these women. Thus it is very clear that a diet high in protein while keeping calories low, is more effective and has better results from all the perspectives of view.

So should you do weight training and eat protein? If you want to lose weight, burn more fat, look and feel stronger, have stronger bones and be able to eat more without putting on extra weight from fat, ABSOLUTELY! Weight training replaces lost muscle tissue which means you will have a faster metabolism, faster fat burning and less chance of getting fat! Muscle is lean, hard and small whilst fat is flabby, soft and mainly big.. the choice is yours 😉

What we can see here is 2,5kg of muscle and 2,5kg of fat. It’s obvious that fat takes much more space when compared to the same amount of muscle. If you have heard people saying that started exercising, have remained at the same kg but clothes are better fitted on them, then now you know the reason, it’s called body re-composition ;)


1) Campbell et al. (1994). Increased energy requirements and changes in body composition with resistance training in older adults.The Amer J of Clinical Nutrition
2) Tarnopolsky et al.(2011). Increased consumption of dairy foods and protein during diet- and exercise-induced weight loss promotes fat mass loss and lean mass gain in overweight and obese premenopausal women. J of Nutrition.
3) Schmitz et al. (2003). Strength training for obesity prevention in midlife women. International Journal of Obesity, 27, 326-333