Women have made a huge impact on the fitness world, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of women who are still afraid of gaining muscle.
Part of this has to do with a lack of education. Many women don’t know that having muscle will radically improve their overall health.
The other part mostly has to do with women having different viewpoints about what it means to be “too muscular.”
Obviously, each woman should make her own decision about the amount of muscle mass that she's happy with. This article gives you the details about why women should not be afraid of gaining muscle.
#1: Losing Body Fat Is Easier
If you don’t make training for muscle a priority, the only weapons you have against gaining body fat are diet and cardio. If you choose that route, it will be necessary to cut back on how much you eat to offset the drop in metabolism that comes with aging.
What most women don’t know is that by training for muscle, you cause adaptations that “protect” your body against fat. More muscle means more insulin receptor sites. This gives you metabolic “ammunition” to protect you from less than stellar diet choices.
#2: You’ll Age Better & Live Longer
Women who have more muscle mass will live longer. A related bonus is that by getting strong, lean, and muscular at a young age, you’ll avoid sarcopenic-obesity, or being overweight and having low muscle mass when you are older. Although it’s unclear whether older people gain fat first or lose muscle first, these two physiological actions go hand in hand.
#3: You’ll Be More Toned
The average training program for getting “toned” has women lifting super light weights and doing bizarre exercises. This is not an effective strategy for changing your body.
If you want to get toned, two things need to happen:
- You need to lose excess body fat.
- You need to increase the size of the muscle cells to provide shape.
The easiest way to make both of these things happen is to train for muscle. This does not mean you will develop large muscles and look like a man. Most women start out with much, much less muscle than men due to their lower testosterone levels.
You also won’t look like a female body builder if you put on a few pounds of muscle. Those results come from years of very intense training. They often include complex nutritional supplementation and possibly the use of anabolic steroids.
Therefore, if getting “toned” is your goal, you can't be afraid of gaining muscle. A small increase in muscle mass will give you curves and help you burn exponentially more calories at rest.
#4: You Can Always Get Rid of It If You Want
Losing muscle is easy. Gaining it is the hard part.
If you're still afraid of gaining muscle, know that if you try it and find you don’t like it, it’s easy to get rid of.
Studies show that when you completely stop working out, you lose muscle and strength rapidly, nearly returning to baseline values after 6 months.
Or, if you find you want to keep a little bit of the muscle you’ve gained, but not all, you can ditch your lifting program in favor of endurance exercise. Exercise like distance running is catabolic and will quickly lead to a decrease in the size of the powerful, larger Type II muscle fibers so that your overall musculature will decrease.
#5: You'll Have Stronger Bones & Less Risk Of Fracture
Women begin to lose bone density as soon as they enter their 30s. More rapid losses occurring once they hit menopause. Building muscle helps prevent this for a few reasons.
First, muscle increases the body’s ability to buffer acid. An elevated acid load in the body leads to bone loss.
Second, training with heavy weights stimulates bone growth throughout the body. Finally, lifting strengthens tendons, ligaments and other connective tissue involved in musculoskeletal function.
#6: You’ll Have A Healthier Baby & A Leaner Pregnancy
Being afraid of gaining muscle can compromise the health of your baby. Training during pregnancy was found to lead to healthier babies than a sedentary control group. The offspring had less chance of being big or small at birth (both markers that indicate risk of disease development).
The women in the resistance training group gained significantly less weight and had much better glucose tolerance throughout the study. There were no cases of gestational diabetes in the training group. Half of the women in the control group developed gestational diabetes.
#7: You'll Be Happier & Have Less Risk of Depression
It’s well documented that people who start strength training improve their mental outlook and feel all-around happier. One study found that women who lifted weights had greater physical confidence, fewer feelings of depression, and less fatigue by the end of the study.
Another reason you don't need to be afraid of gaining muscle is that muscle mass is linked with better estrogen metabolism for less risk of monthly mood disturbances.
#8: You'll Be Smarter & Make More Money
Studies show college women who work out with weights get better grades. Professional women who lift make more money.
This might be because exercise builds confidence and self-worth. Of course, it also enhances appearance, which is known to correlate with wealth and professional success.
#9: You'll Have Better Hormone Balance & Less Stress
Better stress management is another reason you shouldn't be afraid of gaining muscle. Building muscle balances stress hormones such as cortisol. This is important for any women interested in losing body fat since the process of losing fat is inherently stressful.
Most women fixate on fat loss. This anxiety about food and body fat makes the body feel threatened, leading to an increase in cortisol. Training for muscle helps you avoid this mess: You’ll have lower cortisol, better insulin sensitivity, and higher levels of fat burring hormones like growth hormone.
#10: You'll Have Less Back Pain & Better Posture
Building muscle will help you develop better body awareness so that your movement patterns will be smoother.
A strong lower back and core will help you stand up tall, keep your abdomen tight, and avoid back pain. A stronger upper back will give you the ability to roll your shoulders back by retracting your shoulder blades.
You’ll look and feel more confident, and people will have more respect for you.
Training for muscle helps you be a champion for the health and well-being of all women. Now is the time to overcome the far-reaching stereotypes that limit women’s ability to get useful advice about how to improve their physiques. Spread the word!