‘But I don’t wanna get big’

Ladies… Do not fear the weights room! I promise you, that strength training WILL NOT make you big.

Copy of _DSC3890eewithoutIron

Let’s look at what it takes in order to build substantial amounts of muscle.

  1. An intense strength programme.
    Unless you are training 6/7 days a week, having 2 hour, hard sessions twice a day and hammering the weights HARD every session, with little to no cardio (or the right kind of cardio) then building muscle is going to be a very slow process. As a female myself, I have been trying to ‘get big’ for years. I strength train 5 days a week mostly, and the majority of the time to failure… I’m yet to ‘get big’

    2. FOOD!
    You would not even believe the amount you would have to consume in order to sustain that level of training. Let alone the amount of protein intake you would need to repair the muscle and recover from your training. I’m not talking eating a little bit more chicken and adding a bit more protein and carbs to your diet. I am talking hitting 4000 calories or more PER DAY. You can not build muscle unless you are consuming a surplus in calories. Most women, in order to build muscle will need around 2500-2800 calories a day out of that you would need to eat 30% at least in protein in order to repair and recover. Let me put this into perspective for you. 30% of 2500 is 750 calories from protein, Which is just over SIX CHICKEN BREASTS, and that’s PER DAY! Without the necessary food intake for your training you will not be able to build a substantial amount of muscle. (This goes for men too)

    3. Testosterone
    To look like a man,, you have to be built like a man, and ladies… We are most definitely not. You can not build muscle without testosterone. FACT. Men with lower levels of testosterone will find it much more difficult to build muscle, so imagine how much harder it is for us. Again, here’s a little perspective for you to highlight the extreme differences in the levels of testosterone male and females have.

    Total testosterone (amount floating around at the time of a testosterone test)

    An average healthy adult male will have between 270-1070 nanograms per deciliter of blood.

    An average healthy adult fertile women will have between 15-70 nanograms per deciliter of blood.
    This is such a huge difference in testosterone levels that it literally makes it impossible for women to build muscle like men can, unless of course, you are using the supplements or steroids. You may see many female bodybuilders who look manly, have that thick neck and chiseled jaw line, (and deeper voice) this is the results of steroids, NOT picking up some dumbbells a couple of times a week.

    4. Metabolism
    Weight training increases metabolism. Going back to point number 2 and food intake. The reason you will need to be consuming all those calories is because weight training will burn more calories, therefore you need to eat more. Your body will look to your muscles for energy before anything else, as this is a more efficient way for your body to convert energy stores. So actually you can strength train and your body will be taking those gains right back from you unless your eating right.

Weight training will actually enhance your figure, add curves, help you reduce and keep off that extra fat, it will increase bone density and reduce risk of developing osteoporosis later in life, it will help reduce cholesterol, help to keep type 2 diabetes under control, increase moto nurone recruitment which will help balance and coordination, it’s a great antidepressant -releases endorphines which help boost your mood, helps you sleep better, gives you more energy and of course… makes you stronger!

It’s genetics. No, really!

I see a lot of people discussing how easily or not they can lose fat or put on muscle.

Some people don’t believe me when I tell them I find it super easy to build muscle. Even with being a girl I can pack on muscle quicker than some of my male friends. What’s the deal with that hey?

So let’s have a look and go through some factors when it comes to building muscle. I’ll cover genetics and fat loss in another article.

genetic-ethics1

Testosterone

Firstly and probably the easiest and simplest way to put it (but not always as straight forward as this, I will discuss that further on). Men can build muscle a lot easier than females, this is down to the testosterone levels. You need to have testosterone in order to build muscle, that’s a fact, and men have a lot more testosterone so it doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out. This is why women should never be worried about becoming bulky if they go for a couple of heavy dumbbells, or shock horror the barbell!

Here’s how extreme the testorone levels differ between both genders.

Total testosterone (amount floating around at the time of a testosterone test)

An average healthy adult male will have between 270-1070 nanograms per deciliter of blood.

An average healthy adult fertile women will have between 15-70 nanograms per deciliter of blood.

This is such an extreme difference, which is why women can’t build muscle as quick as men. You may have seen women looking bulky if you have ever had a glimpse of a female bodybuilder, more factors… steroids being one, and also take into account how long that person has been training, how much time, effort, dedication and commitment they have had to put into contest prep with training and their diet, this really makes the muscles pop, they are usually dehydrated as well in order to make the muscles that more defined ready for the big day. Female bodybuilders or figure competitors also have a body fat percentage which is incredibly hard to get down to and also impossible to maintain. They DO NOT look like that all year round.

I actually have a higher level of testosterone for a female due to a hormone imbalance I have, which goes in my favour when it comes to building muscle when I compare it with my female friends.

Ok now for the next factor.

Muscle fibre types.

There are 3 types of muscle fibres. Type 1, Type 2a and Type 2b. You are born with a certain amount of these fibres, you can not change the amount of muscle fibre types you’re born with. Some people will have more Type 1, some will have more Type 2a and some will have more Type 2b, whatever the combination, let me tell you, it ain’t gonna change.

Let’s look at each muscle fibre type and understand what they do.

Type 1 (slow twitch)

These muscle fibres are used when endurance training, they rely on oxygen as an energy source. They contract slowly and don’t fatigue. These are the muscles you use every day when standing, holding yourself up, walking and general day to day activities, they are also the muscle fibres that are recruited when long distance running, cycling and swimming etc.

Type 2a (fast twitch)

These muscle fibres are used for speed and strength, they use both aerobic (oxygen) and anaerobic (no oxygen) energy sources. Because these fibres aren’t as reliant on oxygen as type 1 fibres they will fatigue quicker due to the decreased amount of blood flow going to them. These fibres are active when completing moderate weight training (8-12 reps) fast running events such as 400 meters, strength and power type activities. 

Type 2b (fast twitch)

These muscle fibres are also used for strength, speed and power. They contract very quickly to create forceful movements, these muscles use an anaerobic energy source so they fatigue very quickly. These muscle fibres will be recruited when performing sprints, heavy weight training (1-3 reps) and powerlifting activities.

Depending on what muscle fibre types you have the majority of, will depend what kind of training you find easiest. Believe it not you can actually have a DNA test which will tells you. So if you have a large number of type 1 fibres and not a lot of type 2 then you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll never be a Hussain Bolt or winning any medals for sprinting. The same goes for the other way around, you’re not going to be the next Mohamad Farah unless you were born with a majority of type 1 fibres. Although this definitely doesn’t stop you from doing all types of training, it just means that your body and genetics are better suited to particular types of training.

My high testosterone level (in the higher range for a female) and my genetics, mean that building muscle comes so much easier to me than a lot of other women. The same goes for men too, if you have a very low testosterone level and your DNA means more type 1 muscle fibres then you’re going to find building muscle much more difficult. It can get very very frustrating, that teamed with a fast metabolism will mean a serious diet overhaul and eating your weight in your required macros.

If you’re a male and you are struggling to build muscle then the first thing you need to look at is your testosterone level, you can buy legal testosterone boosters in your high street supplement stores, and you should also consider re-evaluating your diet too, things like soy products have a higher level of the female hormone oestrogen, which means that will have an effect on your testosterone levels, as will milk too. Weightlifting actually increases testosterone levels so at least your training will be going in your favour. Another thing to look at is your stress levels, cortisol is the stress hormone and if that’s high then that too will have a negative impact on your testosterone levels.Vitamin and mineral deficiencies also impact our hormone levels so make sure you’re getting enough by taking vitamin and mineral supplements. Insulin also impacts your other hormone levels, so make sure your diet is good and you’re laying off the processed foods, high in refined sugar and very little nutritional value. SEX is an awesome way to increase testosterone levels too, the more you have the better regulated your testosterone levels will become.

So bottom line is, eat good food, lift heavy stuff, get rid of the stresses in your life and have more sex! Doesn’t sound too bad bad to me!