Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Weight Training and Protein for Women

There is a lot of confusion about women lifting weights. The first thing that women think when they are introduced to weight training is that they will build big bulky muscles. The fact is weight training can be very productive for all women, especially those with fat loss goals. Also recent research has shown the importance of protein consumption when combining weight training and a fat loss programs.

Common Misconceptions

  • Women who lift weights and eat protein will get big bulky muscles.
  • Any hard muscle gained, will turn to floppy, flabby fat if you stop lifting weights.
  • Women should lift weights at high repetitions and low weight for ‘toning’.

Women who weight lift build huge muscles

Most women do not have the high levels of testosterone and HGH (human growth hormone) required to increase lean muscle mass dramatically. Strength training can replace muscle lost through ageing and probably add on a further couple of kilograms of lean muscle mass at best. More muscle means a faster metabolism, faster fat burning and a major slowdown of the ageing process. Research has shown that if we increase our lean muscle mass by 1.4kg we also increase our resting metabolism by 7% and our daily calorie requirements by 15%. This means that the more lean muscle you carry the more fat you will burn, which means that women can actually save on the time they spend in the gym.

So obviously you would like to know why women bodybuilders look so big? Simple, their use of anabolic steroids, loads of food, super genetics and very intense training programs can result in enhanced muscle growth. This will not happen to the average woman who lifts weights 2-3 times per week and follows a low calorie diet plan. So don't worry ladies, you won't look like this!

Hard muscle gained, will turn to floppy, flabby fat if you stop lifting weights

Muscle will not turn into fat, it is impossible! However, if you stop training and are still eating the same amount of food you were eating while you were training, you will naturally put on fat. This is because when you stop exercising you begin to ‘lose’ muscle and your metabolic rate falls causing a decrease in your daily energy requirements. Any excess calories, regardless of their source, is then stored as fat. That is why any of these fad diets that get you to avoid certain macro-nutrients are rubbish, its all about calorie control and a balanced diet in the long run! A personal trainer will help you get the right amount of balance of training and nutrition.

(N.B you would need to increase the amount of protein when weight training, as explained later)

Women should lift weights at high repetitions and low weight for ‘toning’

Well we understand why anaerobic (high intensity ie heavy lifting) exercise is necessary, aerobic exercise is also necessary for different reasons. However ‘muscle tone’ comes from having adequate amounts of muscle that can be seen under low levels of body-fat. In order to do this you need to lift weights so that you have enough muscle visible, however, lifting weights at high repetitions and low weight actually uses your aerobic system and trains your muscles for endurance instead of strength and hypertrophy (muscle gain). So to make your muscles tight and toned you need to build muscle and this can only happen if your muscles are placed under sufficient overload (lifting heavy weights). Overloading your muscles is done by regularly and progressively increasing the amount of weight that you lift. As your body adapts (gets stronger) to lifting a certain weight, you will need to lift more weight than before to create a sufficient stimulus for your body to change and to avoid plateauing. A personal trainer will make sure that your training programme is correct and is creating enough stimulus for you body to change using the correct weight and rep ranges!

How protein can help with weight loss

As we now know, one of the main reasons for weight loss is because protein helps preserve and increase muscle mass,and since muscle mass burns more calories than other types of mass, the additional calorie burn will result in a decrease in weight providing a calorie controlled and balanced diet is followed. 

When i talk about weight loss i am referring really to the loss of body fat as your actual overall mass may increase. Based on an equivalent size of muscle and fat, muscle weighs heavier. So muscle actually occupies less space than the equivalent weight of body fat, hence increasing your lean muscle mass will actually make you look thinner. 

You can also lose weight or body fat on a high-protein diet because your body spends more energy processing dietary protein than it does carbohydrates.

I hope you have found this blog useful and that it has given you a good understanding of weight training and protein as a women and how they can benefit you. Look out for my next blog: What you should be getting out of your Personal Trainer

Rich Palmer PT
“making your fitness goals a reality”


  1. I've actually just started my own in home personal training routine, so these tips were extremely helpful. Thanks!

    1. Great, im glad this blog has helped you. Hopefully it puts to bed any fears of lift weights :)

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  3. These are really some excellent fitness tips that will keep women fit and healthy..

    Personal Trainer in NYC

  4. This was really helpful. i just have a question you only mentioned dietary protein, what about like protein drinks and shakes? my husband takes those after an intense weight lifting session. are those just for men or good for women too?

    1. Hi Celeste, Sorry for the late reply. Of course protein shakes and supplements apply a swell. Technically its protein and the body doesnt really know any difference. In an ideal world i would always suggest that my clients should source there macronutrients from natural food sources however supplements are way more convenient and often work out cheaper. I have many of my female clients on protein shakes and they have had some great results!

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  7. Thank you for the post. It was very informative and helpful. I have been lifting weights and taking Laguna Beach Weight training for a while now. I have been impressed with the results and intend on keeping at it.

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