top of page

Muscle building for women - want to get strong? These are the things you are missing!

The rise in women training to get strong over doing hours of cardio which we were led to believe once upon a time was the way, is nothing short of inspiring. Something I tell my clients when they come to me is that we can focus on our nutrition for an aesthetic, perhaps body fat lass goal if there is one, but we focus on exercise to get strong and to get healthy.


Increasing our muscle mass, especially as women as we wind our way past the age of 30 has SO many health benefits, I can’t even begin to explain to you – not least the confidence and sense of empowerment that I see week on week lifting weights with lovely ladies. Also, only when we do some form of resistance training will we start to see that ‘toned’ look that so many of us are after – it’s fabulous to actually physically see the hard work that we are putting in, hey?


So, in order to maximise the training that we are doing, let’s chat about the muscle and strength building process so that we can bulletproof those gorgeous bodies to go through life feeling fabulous! Bear with me, a small amount of science so that we can undertake the practical bits and bobs later on.


Throughout the day our bodies are in one of two states, either breaking down muscle, or rebuilding it – this constant turnover of one or the other is normal and necessary to maintain muscle mass and also for building that strong muscle that we are going to be working super hard on, of course.


Muscle breakdown begins to happen when we haven’t consumed the essential amino acids needed to build muscle in a while, so that might be overnight or simply when we haven’t eaten for a while between meals. Equally when we exercise, we actually go into a state of muscle breakdown. So, when we exercise, we are actually theoretically making our muscles weaker – it is when we rest, eat and recover that we build them back stronger as that muscle building process (also known as muscle protein synthesis) is enhanced post-training.


To that end then, if we get our nutrition right, we can slow down this process of muscle breakdown and enhance the building of muscle that we stimulate during exercise.


The key macronutrient in ensuring that we build the muscle we desire is protein amongst the many, many other health benefits that protein brings. This isn’t, of course, to say that the rest become unimportant but our biggest focus in this respect is going to be the protein content of our diets. There are various nuances and numbers that we can focus on if you are a person that is motivated by numbers and enjoys tracking your nutrition, however, one really simple tactic that we can employ to ensure that we are getting enough protein with a muscle building goal from day to day is ensuring that you have some kind of protein source at every meal and snack if you have one or two throughout the day.


Muscle protein synthesis (or muscle building if you like) slows down a while after taking protein on board which is the reason why I encourage taking on boluses of protein regularly throughout the day at each meal and snack to keep that positive muscle turnover as high as we can when we have muscle or strength building goals.


Ideally our protein will contain what we call a full amino acid profile as getting the full cohort of what our bodies need, amino acid wise, is the only way that we will stimulate that muscle building process. This is easily found in animal protein sources like meat and dairy but also vegan sources like tofu and tempeh. With other vegan sources of protein, such as beans, legumes and grains for example, we have to be a little smarter in order to get that full amino acid profile. These things don’t tend to contain all of the essential amino acids and therefore we have to get a good variety of protein sources in differing combinations to ensure that we are hitting the spot to get the stimulus we want here.


If you are a numbers and a tracking person (I suggest you only begin to track your nutrition if you have a very good relationship with food) then if you want to grow muscle then we are probably looking at around 1.5-2g per KG of bodyweight of protein each day in order to be optimal. To really maximise our approach, we want to be shooting for around 20-30g in each meal. Now you know by now here that I am all about, not overhauling our nutrition right away but small habit change over time, so if those figures seem a world away for you DO NOT PANIC! Just edge it up little by little, get used to a higher quantity and edge up again, see how you go, and if you feel you need a little extra support, guidance or ideas around that then just shout.


Another super important thing that women often struggle with due to age old diet and cultural messaging is calorie/energy intake. It’s SO important that we are eating enough calories in order to get stronger and build muscle. When our bodies are put into a state of energy deficit (burning more energy than we are consuming), the body will favour that muscle breakdown over the muscle building alternative. This is often hard for women, even subconsciously. I understand that, because we have been told for so many years that ‘smaller is better’, body fat gain is a genuine concern amongst women in particular when I talk about energy intake needing to be adequate here. I am here to tell you that someone once made a rule that smaller is better or more attractive and it was totally arbitrary and certainly not true. Secondly, we can expect a small amount of body fat gain sometimes as we work to become stronger but I promise you, your health and your body shape will thrive and thank you later! We can minimise body fat gain, of course, with the right balance of energy intake and training but it requires precision – I am more than willing to chat about that with you if that is a concern. If we do not consume adequate calories then your ability to build that muscle will be stunted and you will be stuck between goals not seeing progress in any direction. Trust the process ladies. Our energy surplus doesn’t have to be huge but in order to be optimal, it has to be there.


Let’s talk carbohydrates then – believe it or not, carbohydrates aren’t actually an essential component in our nutrition like fats and proteins, this is because the body is super clever at converting proteins and fats to glucose for energy, however, this process (called gluconeogenesis) is not as efficient as actually consuming carbohydrates as part of our energy intake. Studies have also shown that if we don’t consume carbohydrates, we will struggle to hit peak intensity in our exercise, what that means is we might not be stimulating those muscles to grow and then supporting them with our recovery protocols as optimally as we might be able to if we consumed some carbohydrates within our diets. So, amongst other science around insulin, for this reason, it would be a good idea to make up some of that energy surplus using some carbohydrates.


Beyond nutrition our training is key; resistance training puts our muscles in prime condition to uptake the aforementioned amino acids that we need. We must work with intensity and progressive overload in order to maximally stimulate those super strong muscles and then fuel up in the day or two afterwards with optimal energy and protein intake, hydration and rest and recovery in order to repair and restore those muscles so that they grow.


If you are unsure of optimal fuelling requirements for you as an individual, because we are all just that, individual, my requirements are very different to yours, then don’t hesitate to get in touch a we can have a chat about how I might be able to help. Annalouisecoaching on all of the social and if you prefer to email. Please get in touch with ANY feedback or questions you might have. I simply love to hear from you!


In the meantime, happy training, happy eating you strong and gorgeous individual! Peace and love, A x

15 views0 comments


bottom of page