Picture this. A gym full of fitness enthusiasts of both sexes. You (a woman), also a fitness enthusiast, walk in all your splendor (and curves) toward the dumbbell rack and pick up the toy-like pink dumbbells while eyeing the 12 pound ones perched next to them. Stop for a second. It’s time to address the elephant in the room.
Let’s be honest. You think that after a week of lifting weights, you will look like this…
The truth is, that may be true.
Haven’t you learnt to wait for the “conditions apply” part?
Only if you use synthetic male sex hormones, practically live at the gym for years on end, eat a horse every day (not quite an exaggeration) along with supplements, and inherit genes from Arnold Schwarzenegger will you be able to “may be” acquire THAT body. Bodybuilding is a real profession that requires intent, planning, and incredible levels of hard work. Recreational workouts or fitness regimes are no comparison.
Wrap your head around these facts.
1. Women have (visually evident) more fat than men to begin with (Don’t get offended. Still referring to smooth curves). Because of this higher, biologically predisposed initial fat percentage compared to men, women require more time and effort to burn all that fat and replace it with muscle. You will tone up way before you bulk up. Way before!
2. Women have 15-20 times lower testosterone levels than men. This makes it all the more challenging for women to grow muscle as testosterone is the primary muscle-building hormone. It will take significant time before you build appreciable manly muscle volume.
Having said that, women can build muscle and burn fat (That’s all you were waiting to hear, you size zero strivers!) thanks to the growth hormone (GH). However, GH release, too, depends on testosterone along with estrogen.
You say from personal experience you’ve seen yourself swell up?
In reality, most women have numerous sedentary muscles that are not required for day to day activities. Strength training puts many of these Rip-Van-Winkle muscles to use. The strain of this unfamiliarity causes inflammation and fluid retention in muscles, but this lasts only until your body is acclimatized. You must not give up. Stick through the tough days, the inflammation will decrease, you will lose body water, and you will soon be able to see yourself shape up. Now would be a good time to be grateful for your extensively cursed estrogen as it helps your muscles repair.
How do the weights help you tone?
The soreness you feel in your muscles is because of the weights damaging them. Distress signals are then sent to your brain to generate more muscle–much like a caterpillar “dying” and metamorphosing into a butterfly. Now for that to happen, extra amino acids need to be present in your body. That means you will need to up your dietary protein intake to support your body’s protein (read : muscle) synthesis.
Are you going to bloat like a giant plum if you discontinue strength training?
Hell no! Even if you stop, say due to pregnancy, illness, or a swamped schedule, there is no way your muscles can turn into fat (That would be anatomical blasphemy!). What you need to watch out for is your diet. While you weight train, your BMR (basal metabolic rate) increases, causing and allowing you to eat more than usual (all you needed was an excuse!).
Your enlarged appetite needs to be curbed when you discontinue strength training, otherwise the extra calories you gobble may accumulate as fat. Realize that your body’s calorie demands will decrease with the lack of intense exercise.
Go full steam ahead and unhesitatingly dare to lift heavy. Ease yourself into it.
Don’t forget to adhere to correct posture and technique while lifting weights.