When it comes to fitness goals, most women tend to focus solely on fat loss and muscle mass gain takes the backseat. This may have to do with a stereotype on gender and physique, wherein muscles are often associated with masculinity.
Women are more likely to focus on fat loss because the mainstream diet and fitness advice is essentially a prescription for becoming skinny fat - severe calorie restriction, excessive amounts of endurance cardio, and minimal weightlifting emphasizing high-rep training. As the name skinny fat implies, you may look skinny but you are definitely not a picture of health.
The true measure of body composition transformation for any gender is two fold - focus on training/eating to reduce body fat and to gain lean body muscle mass development.
Just as no two humans are alike, there isn’t a single right approach to fitness when it comes to changing your body composition as a woman. First, there’s genetics to consider. Second, each woman has her own goals - some want to improve their running timing, some want to do push ups, some want to squat heavy, some want to work on their longevity, some on overall flexibility and many more such examples. Some just want to work on their aesthetics. Finally, eating habits and dietary preferences will decide at what rate you will accomplish your body composition goals.
What makes a woman’s body different?
Women can gain the same relative amount of muscle mass as men.
On average, baseline muscle mass in men is 36 percent greater than in women. In terms of muscle distribution, women have less upper body muscle mass compared to men.
It turns out that when performing the same amount of time, men and women can accomplish the same amount of gains in muscle mass, but it may take more work on your end because of your slightly lower baseline muscle mass. However, if you’re worried about getting too big, don’t worry, it’s also unlikely to happen due to differences in testosterone levels and the ability to produce it too.
Women’s bodies tend to metabolize fat and carbs better than men.
It’s a well-established fact that the more muscles you have, the more calories your body can metabolize over time. That should mean that men should be able to do that. But, that's not the case. Women’s fat and muscle tissues are more metabolically equipped to break down certain macronutrients than men. In short, women tend to use up their carbohydrates for energy during their rest and recovery periods, but turn to fat for energy during exercise which is why it is easier for women.
As a woman, if you are exercising regularly, don’t be afraid of carb or fat intake unless there is a medical reason to avoid them. Your body needs both, in addition to protein, to enhance your workout benefits. Focus on eating high fiber, whole grain carbs and refrain from consuming carbs that are highly processed.
Most of all, don’t starve yourself. You are only going to drive your body into starvation mode, which tells your body to burn less calories.
Research shows that women have more Type-1 muscle fibers and lower distribution of Type-2 muscle fibers.
Slow-twitch fibers are extremely useful in long-endurance activities whereas fast-twitch or type-2 muscle fibers are activated when you are performing explosive or powerful bursts of movements such as sprinting.
A study on the effect of a six-month resistance training between older men and women concluded that women can gain more muscle mass using a total body strength program versus men. For this reason, changing up your routine may allow for greater muscle mass growth. Don’t just stick to long endurance cardio training workouts as your sole workout – mix up your routine with resistance and strength routines.
Men and women have different proportions of sex hormones in their bodies.
When you hear the words oestrogen and testosterone, you are more likely to associate the former with women and the latter with men.
Differences in muscle mass and fat between men and women can be traced back to women’s higher estrogen levels and men’s higher testosterone levels. Both men and women start their puberty at 80% lean body mass. By the end of puberty, females reduce their lean mass 70-75% due to a surge in estrogen, males increase it to 90% due to an increase in testosterone levels.
As a result, men gain more muscle mass, and females gain adipose(fat) tissue or essential fat. The increase in essential fat in women is the body’s way of preparing for pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Most of the time, we assume women have a harder time gaining muscle mass than men since women do not produce as much testosterone.However, research reveals that although men exhibit a greater muscle hypertrophic response (faster results) to strength training than do women, the difference is small.
Only when you are on birth control pills or have hit menopause, it is more challenging to put on muscle mass because of reduced level of testosterone.
If you see, women are at an advantage and disadvantage both because of the structure of their bodies. However, if your training and nutrition needs are assessed and followed consistently, you can see some amazing results. Keeping all these things in mind, we at VyomFIT have come up with “S&C for Women” where the workouts are specially curated for women to support their fitness goals.
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