How To Effectively Build Muscle For Women

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How To Effectively Build Muscle For Women

What Should a Muscle-Building Woman Eat?

You've come to the right site if you're seeking for information on how to grow muscle.

We believe that what is "correct" for you is totally up to you, and that giving you the space to make all of the decisions you want about your life and your body, from how you choose to exercise to how you want to look and feel in your body, is the ultimate way to empower you.

We've recently noticed an increase in interest among ladies who want to build muscular mass, and we couldn't be happier! It's inspiring to watch ladies letting go of their fears of "bulking up" and consciously working for muscular increase. It's even more gratifying to see women appreciate the power and confidence they've gained through resistance training, as well as the physical improvements that reflect their hard work.

It's crucial to understand the physiology of muscle growth before we talk about how to create muscle.

You may have heard that skeletal muscle (the type of muscle we're talking about when we say "grow more muscle") is made up of specific protein types, principally actin and myosin, as well as their subtypes and supporting proteins. These muscle proteins, as well as other body proteins (such as enzymes and hormones), are made and repaired from the freely available amino acids in the bloodstream. These free amino acids are derived from dietary protein—foods such as poultry, meat, fish, eggs, milk, and dairy—but your body can also provide them by breaking down its own proteins if dietary protein consumption is insufficient.

Protein in skeletal muscle undergoes continual metabolic turnover.  This means that the body is constantly breaking down muscle (muscle protein breakdown – MPB) and rebuilding it (muscle protein synthesis – MPS) throughout the day. This is a typical portion of daily energy expenditure (often referred to as resting energy expenditure – REE) and is required for maintaining and growing strong, healthy muscle.

Muscle breakdown occurs while you are fasting (for example, overnight or when sleeping) or when amino acids (from protein) are scarce between meals. During exercise, muscle is also broken down. That may not appear to be a negative thing, but it isn't. The post-exercise period boosts muscle protein synthesis.

The metabolic rate of skeletal muscle protein is constantly changing. 1 This means that the body is constantly breaking down (known as MPB) and rebuilding muscle (known as MPS) throughout the day. This is a typical portion of daily energy expenditure (often referred to as resting energy expenditure – REE) and is essential for maintaining and growing strong, healthy muscle.

Muscle breakdown occurs while you are fasting (for example, during sleeping) or when amino acids (from protein) are scarce between meals. During activity, muscle is also degraded. Though it may appear to be a disadvantage, it is not. The post-exercise phase promotes the synthesis of muscle protein:

  • Protein must be present in an ideal muscle-building diet. Women who lift weights should consume 1.7 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight each day. 3 This equates to about 115 grams of protein for a 140-pound woman (63.6 kg). Complete protein diets, such as those from animal sources (meat, dairy) and/or complete vegetarian sources like pea or hemp, should provide this protein. Only Essential Amino Acids, which are abundant in complete protein, increase muscle protein synthesis and inhibit degradation, which is why complete protein sources are so crucial.
  • Strength training is the only way to gain muscle mass. 1 Given that you're reading a site named Girls Gone Strong, you're probably already doing some of these things. Even though the post-exercise phase promotes muscle protein synthesis, it is insufficient to counteract muscle degradation. This is where a well-balanced diet comes into play. Strength training, when combined with a healthy diet and plenty of protein, helps to repair and increase muscle protein, resulting in muscular hypertrophy (muscle growth).

Because the focus of this article is on nutritional considerations for muscle hypertrophy, I'll keep the discussion of resistance training to a minimum and instead focus on the importance of dietary protein, as well as the impact of adequate calories, carbohydrates, and creatine/Ipamorelin supplementation, as these are all important factors in muscle growth.

How Much Protein Is Required?

For decades, scientists have been trying to figure out how much protein is required for muscle protein synthesis. Historically, men have been the subjects of the majority of this research. Men may have a larger protein demand than women due to the fact that they oxidize (burn) more amino acids at rest and during activity, according to the limited research. 5 You can opt to follow these principles completely or adjust them depending on your own personal experiences because true knowledge about women is hard to come by.

The advice of 1.7 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day appears to apply fairly correctly to women in terms of total protein. 3,4 Some individuals believe that more protein is better, but studies have shown that the muscle-building effect peaks at 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. 7 The advantages of consuming more dietary protein go beyond muscle hypertrophy:

  • Protein has a higher thermogenic value than carbohydrates or fats, which means it can help you burn more calories during a meal.
  • When overall calorie intake is not excessive, protein is more satiating, which helps control appetite, and it is less likely to be stored as body fat than carbohydrates or fats.
  • Protein is not as effective as carbohydrates and lipids as an energy source for exercising muscles, but it can be used as a substitute if carbohydrates and fats are not tolerated well.
  • Because protein converts to glucose more slowly than carbohydrates, it can help minimize blood sugar spikes and troughs.

The "muscle full effect" suggests that there is a limit to how much muscle protein may be generated per gram of protein consumed every meal, according to research.

Researchers discovered that the body can only use 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal to increase protein synthesis.

However, as Philips et al, 20154 point out, these dose-response studies have been limited to lower-body resistance exercises, so it's unclear whether the absolute dose of protein required to maximally stimulate hypertrophy following upper and lower body exercises is greater than 20 to 30 grams (in other words, research isn't perfect and doesn't represent everyone in the population, so this "limit" per meal may not be accurate).

With more whole-body resistance training study in males, Philips et al discovered that a protein intake of 0.25 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each meal resulted in the greatest increase in protein synthesis. (This is 22 grams of protein for a 190-pound [86.3 kg] man.) 4) To account for variances in men's muscle growth, they recommend a dose of 0.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (35 grams of protein for that 190-pound guy). This is 25 grams of high-quality protein per meal for a 140-pound lady.

Furthermore, because protein synthesis slows down quickly after consumption (within three to four hours), it is important to consume complete protein throughout the day to maintain a high level of synthesis.  If you're a vegetarian, combine veggie protein sources or use a complete protein powder like pea, rice, or hemp to provide a complete protein profile in your meals. (You may learn more about this method in this protein-related article.)

Furthermore, because protein synthesis slows down quickly after consumption (within three to four hours), it is important to take complete protein throughout the day to maintain a high level of synthesis.  If you're a vegetarian, combine veggie protein sources or use a complete protein powder like pea, rice, or hemp. (In this article about protein, you can learn more about this method.)

Researchers have proposed the concept of a leucine threshold (also known as a "leucine trigger") to enable optimal leucine synthesis. It's been proven that a two-gram intake of leucine (found in around 20 grams of high-quality complete protein, such as whey) is required to accomplish this effect, though body size will determine how much is actually required.

One of the best methods to acquire this two-gram dose of leucine is to consume 20 to 30 grams of whey protein shortly after a workout. You can also get between 2.5 and 2.9 grams of leucine from six ounces of chicken, turkey, lean beef, flank steak, salmon, white fish, or tuna. Other pure protein powders, such as pea protein and hemp protein, are similarly high in leucine. Individual BCAA supplement mixes also contain at least two grams of leucine and can be used after a workout.

The following is a practical use of this research on protein intake:

  • For a 140-pound woman, her total daily protein intake should be at least 117 grams.
  • Throughout the day, eat meals containing 25 grams of complete protein.
  • Protein diets high in leucine (approximately two grams) should be prioritized after a strength training workout.

Is it Important to Pick the Right Time?

Protein synthesis is stimulated for up to 48 hours after strength training, while muscle breakdown is also stimulated for up to 24 hours. 2 Following exercise, the body has a two-day window in which it can develop muscle with proper nutrition and a one-day window in which it can break down muscle. Resistance training prepares the muscle to absorb amino acids and increase muscular tissue growth, but this process requires optimal nutrition to avoid protein breakdown. As a result, the 24-hour post-workout period is one of the most crucial times to consume enough protein and calories.

When hypertrophy is the goal, eating protein before a weight training workout may not be any more beneficial than eating protein shortly thereafter. 8 Due to an overlap in the muscle-full effect, some studies believe that pre-workout protein may actually limit the post-workout spike in protein synthesis. Thus, while eating protein one hour before and after a full hour of exercise may be OK, eating protein immediately before, during, and immediately after exercise may be excessive and unnecessary.

A meta-analysis by Schoenfeld et al looked at the time of protein intake in relation to exercise. Total protein was a better predictor of hypertrophy than timing, but the post-exercise period is still the optimal time to rehydrate fluids, restore muscle glycogen, and repair the muscle with protein, according to this study.

In general, and contrary to common belief, there may not be a "anabolic window" of opportunity for optimal muscle protein synthesis following a workout.

What appears to be more crucial is getting enough total daily protein and essential amino acid with leucine before or after your workout, but not both.

What's the Deal with Calories?

Calories are the small animals that reside in your closet and sew your garments a little tighter each night, as I've already stated. Of course, I'm joking, but the truth is that increasing calorie intake can be perplexing and frightening for some women, especially those who are used to dieting and calorie restriction and are suddenly told to eat more to establish a positive caloric balance in order to gain muscle. Many women who are pursuing a new and different physique objective, such as hypertrophy, are concerned about fat accumulation.

It's natural to grow body fat as well as muscle during this process, but with the right training and diet methods in place, this effect can be avoided.

The ability to grow muscle is greatly influenced by adequate calorie intake.

Deficiency in Calorie

The body prefers protein breakdown over synthesis during instances of extreme caloric deficiency. If you're feeling any or all of the following, you may be in an extreme caloric deficit:

  • Your body does not recover effectively from exercise and is overly sore afterward, especially if you are used to rigorous training.
  • You appear to be particularly tired.
  • You have a poor desire to workout.
  • It has a detrimental impact on your emotions and/or sleep.

You might be asking how it is possible for women competing in figure or fitness competitions to appear so muscular despite being severely undernourished. In many cases, what you're seeing is the result of a large decrease of body fat while retaining some of the muscle that they previously built. They are not focused on gaining new muscle at this time. In truth, they will lose some muscle mass (and strength) as a result of this exercise, but they built a strong foundation of muscle prior to dieting for competition.

Male and female physique and bodybuilding competitors frequently go through different training seasons throughout the year, depending on their competitions. They may concentrate on "bulking" during their off-season (adding muscle as well as some body fat). Most competitors can't stay so thin all year, so they diet and train in a method that allows them to grow the most muscle and then drop a lot of body fat before the competition.

Caloric Consistency

It's also not ideal for muscle growth to be in caloric balance, which means ingesting just enough energy to keep up with activity and everyday metabolic activities. Because the caloric input is still insufficient to maintain both metabolic needs and muscle growth during periods of energy balance, skeletal muscle replaces the continual breakdown of proteins in the body (not just muscle proteins). 15 Although resistance exercise can help to offset some of these losses, muscle anabolism is still hampered, limiting muscular growth.

Surplus Calories

A positive energy balance, on the other hand, is a powerful activator of muscle growth, even in the absence of resistance training, as long as dietary protein intake is adequate.

16 Some body fat may build while actively pursuing muscular increases. This is to be expected, but not excessively so. This is a regular occurrence among both male and female bodybuilders. They'll "bulk up" in between tournaments to get the most muscle possible, despite some fat gain. They next go on a 12- to 16-week diet to lose fat and reveal all of their new muscle.

The best strategy to gain the most muscle and strength is to combine resistance exercise with a calorie surplus. You don't need to increase your calories significantly to evoke a hypertrophic response if you are an experienced trainee and want to minimize fat gain during this procedure. People who have been training for a time appear to require less of a calorie surplus to grow muscle than those who have not. If you want to acquire muscle, keep in mind that you won't be lean and "shredded" during this time; however, body fat changes are typical and healthy for all women. Many ladies are unable to maintain extreme leanness all year.

How Can You Tell If You're Consuming Enough Calories?

"How many calories do I need to eat to gain muscle?" you might think. "What is the magic number?" says the narrator. This question does not have a one-size-fits-all response. Everyone's metabolism is varied, and everyone's energy requirements are different. Both my latest essay on calorie tracking and Laura Schoenfeld's article on undereating can help you figure out how many calories you need.

How To Effectively Build Muscle For Women

What's the Deal with Carbohydrates?

There is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate requirement, contrary to popular assumption. In fact, a process known as gluconeogenesis allows your body to produce all of the glucose (the breakdown product of carbs) it requires from amino acids and fatty acids. It does, however, utilize a lot of carbs for workout energy expenditure. Carbohydrates are stored in the form of glycogen in your muscle tissue, which is broken down during activity to produce ATP/energy.

Glycogen breakdown, not protein or fat oxidation, produces the vast majority of ATP in your body (about 80%). 18 When your body is depleted in glycogen, such as when you adopt a low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet, you may feel sluggish and weak when exercising. Some people adjust to a low-carb diet by switching to fat as a fuel source (stored as triglycerides in muscle tissue) and increasing energy generation from dietary protein.

Low-carb diets still allow the body to create muscle when it comes to hypertrophy. We ran a strength training study in men that compared a low-fat diet to a low-carb ketogenic diet (a diet comprising less than 50 grams of carbs per day) with resistance training while I was working on my PhD at UCONN. 19 Following their weight training routine, which they did three times a week, each subject was asked to drink a protein drink containing 20 grams of whey protein.

Each participant found the resistance workout tough, as it included compound, full-body, and isolated movements.

After 12 weeks, we discovered that the low-carb diet produced just as much muscle gain (as measured by DEXA) as the low-fat diet while also losing much more body fat. The difference in body fat between the groups could be attributable to overall protein intake (the low-carb group consumed considerably more protein per day than the low-fat group) and the groups' average age (the low-carb group had younger participants in it). Overall, we discovered that a low-carb diet had no deleterious influence on muscle gain. Because no such study has been conducted in women, the consequences for women are unknown.

Because of its relationship with the hormone insulin, carbohydrates are also highly valued for muscle gain. This hormone inhibits protein synthesis and is a key activator of muscle growth, particularly in the post-workout phase. However, because insulin and carbs do not increase protein synthesis, we cannot rule out the possibility that decreasing muscle breakdown in the presence of synthesis (stimulated by amino acids) will lead to more muscle gain.

Carbohydrate items are commonly emphasized in post-workout nutrition since they are one of the key generators of insulin secretion, especially if you exercise in a fasting, low-insulin condition. Carbohydrates also help to replace muscle glycogen, which is depleted during activity. Some people wrongly believe that if a small amount of insulin is effective at stopping protein breakdown and replenishing glycogen stores, then boosting insulin with a large amount of carbohydrates must be even more effective. This is #BroScience, and we don't recommend it.

To inhibit muscle breakdown and pump glucose into muscle to restore glycogen, there is an insulin threshold. Insulin's effect on net muscle protein balance appears to plateau at three to four times that of fasting levels. This effect can be achieved one to two hours after eating a typical meal following an exercise, and levels can stay elevated for three to six hours (or longer) depending on the size of the meal and the person's particular response.

Researchers discovered that a meal comprising 75 grams of carbohydrate, 37 grams of protein, and 17 grams of fat boosted insulin concentrations threefold in half an hour compared to fasting circumstances, and fivefold in one hour. Levels remained quadruple those seen during fasting at the five-hour mark.

Your insulin levels will stay high if you consume a large meal before your workout. As a result, you only need to use insulin stimulation to quickly reverse muscle protein breakdown if you don't eat before exercising.

Whey protein (found in protein shakes and dairy) boosts insulin secretion, which is something that many people overlook. As a result, dairy or whey protein can increase synthesis while also preventing degradation.

The reason for having carbohydrate in your post-workout meal is to aid in the replenishment of glycogen depleted during exercise. Carbs give glucose, which is stored as glycogen in your muscle, and insulin directs glucose to that location.

What is the recommended daily carbohydrate intake? According to Schoenfeld, only a minimal amount of dietary carbohydrate is required to improve exercise performance and produce optimal hypertrophy in trials involving predominantly men. 21 Although the exact amount of carbohydrate required to maximize exercise-induced muscle growth is unknown, three grams per kilogram per day is a good starting point. 21 This equates to about 190 grams of carbohydrate per day (about 763 calories) from whole food sources such as grains, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, vegetables, fruits, and residual carbohydrates in protein dishes for a 140-pound woman. This appears reasonable for ladies who are in a calorie surplus with the purpose of hypertrophy.

Women do not store as much glycogen in muscle as men do in response to the same dose of dietary carbohydrate, as my mentor Jeff Volek PhD, RD and I noted in a peer-reviewed publication in 2006, and it is unknown how dietary carbohydrate promotes muscular hypertrophy in women. 24 Furthermore, some women (particularly those who have previously competed in bodybuilding or figure contests) have increased insulin responses to carbohydrates, implying that they may require less carbohydrate in their diet. 24 Each woman's nutritional requirements are unique, and she should pay attention to her own body to figure out what she needs.

Women do not store as much glycogen in muscle as men do in response to the same dose of dietary carbohydrate, as my mentor Jeff Volek PhD, RD and I noted in a peer-reviewed publication in 2006, and it is unknown how dietary carbohydrate promotes muscular hypertrophy in women. 24 Furthermore, some women (particularly those who have previously competed in bodybuilding or figure contests) have increased insulin responses to carbohydrates, implying that they may require less carbohydrate in their diet. 24 Each woman's nutritional requirements are unique, and she should pay attention to her own body to figure out what she needs.

The body's responses to dietary macronutrients can also be influenced by the menstrual cycle. A woman's body uses and responds to dietary carbs more favorably during the first 14 days of her cycle. Her body uses more dietary fats in the last 14 days. 25 As a result, customizing your carbohydrate intake using your cycle as a guide may be something to consider.

Overall, some women may fare better with less than three grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight per day at certain times of the month or in general. Pay attention to your body and see what works best for you.

How To Effectively Build Muscle For Women

Considerations on Creatine For Women 

Finally, let's talk about creatine, which is closely linked to strength training. I created an essay about creatine for women that you should read, especially if you're not familiar with the supplement.

While there has been a lot of research on creatine, just a few studies have looked at creatine consumption in women. According to the available studies, it can assist a woman in gaining strength, which is frequently ascribed to greater muscular mass.

Researchers looked examined the effects of creatine supplementation on muscle strength and body composition with strength training in a recent study of women. A total of nineteen inactive women were randomly assigned to either a creatine or a placebo group. They took 20 grams of creatine per day for five days, then reduced to five grams of creatine or placebo for ten weeks.

The researchers discovered that after 10 weeks, the creatine group had 20 to 25% higher gains in 1RM (one-rep max) leg press, leg extension, and squat than the placebo group. More crucially, they discovered that in the creatine group, fat-free mass (muscle and non-fat tissues in the body) rose to a larger extent. 26 Creatine supplementation improved the strength and body composition responses to resistance exercise in untrained women. If you want to increase your strength and muscle mass, creatine is a good supplement to add to your diet. You buy creatine from this link 

Last Word

By now, you should have a better idea of how your body creates muscle and which nutritional components might help you get the most out of your strength training. Follow these four nutrition tips in conjunction to resistance training routines for the greatest results:

  • Consume enough protein at each meal, and make sure you're getting a complete protein after each workout, such as whey protein, which is high in leucine.
  • Consume enough calories each day to maintain a positive caloric balance.
  • To restore muscle glycogen and avoid protein breakdown, choose whole-food carbohydrate sources.
  • Take three to five grams of creatine every day as a supplement.

One more point: while these goal-specific eating plans can help you grow muscle, resistance training is the most crucial part of the process. It is impossible to gain muscle mass without using external resistance.

So go ahead and lift heavy, eat healthily, and watch your muscles grow!

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