Ever so often we have women coming to the gym to lose weight and to tighten up their arms, abs and thighs. Before starting they’ll say “I don’t want to build muscles, so I’ll only do the cardio”. It’s a challenge to build their confidence initially when sharing the benefits of resistance training to their metabolism, fat burn, muscle tone and so much more. Fortunately, today we have several ladies enjoying lifting weights, they are strong and proud of their achievements.
Here are some myths and benefits around Women and Resistance Training
Resistance training is more efficient in weight loss than an equal amount of cardio. When you do resistance training, the strain to your muscles cause your muscles to break down (in a good way, not like a muscle tear), and then they rebuilt over the next 15 minutes to 48 hours depending on your workout. While your body is rebuilding those muscles, it consumes many more calories, this is called the ‘after burn’ effect, also described as ‘excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or simply, EPOC’. Thus resistance training increases your metabolism for a longer period of time even after you have stopped working out helping you to burn more calories for the same workout period.
Resistance training doesn’t have to be just lifting weights in the gym. It could include carrying your kid and taking an uphill trek, doing body weight exercises, power yoga or anything that makes you strain your muscles.
After women reach menopause, and the potential for osteoporosis kicks in, many women tend to shy away from strength training.
Studies have shown that strength training “preserved bone density while improving muscle mass, strength, and balance in postmenopausal women.” As per the American College of Sports Medicine, “after women reach the age of 30, there is a decrease in muscle density and increases in intramuscular fat found in cross-sectional areas of the thighs”. Weight training programs for women are effective in preserving muscle mass and preventing sarcopenia (the natural decline in muscle mass and strength after the age of 30) and the decline of metabolic rate.
Age is only a number. It is we who tell ourselves that we are too old to train. There are enough of women in their 70s training harder that those half their age. Take a look at this 77 year old grandmother working out.
Myth #3 : Want to lose weight? Just eat less!
Often people follow diets that suggest that to lose weight you need to consume much less calories than your metabolic rate, and (as a shortcut in weight loss programs) that if you consume even lesser calories, you will lose weight (even) faster! Fad diets that force you to cut out too many calories leave you feeling lethargic, shaky, irritable and ready to give up besides the host of other health issues that you’ll call on. It is not viable to maintain such a lifestyle and it is easy for one to get into binge mode, often putting on more weight than when she started.
Getting your daily caloric intake from ‘real’ foods rather than processed foods triggers positive reactions like sustained energy, rebuilding tissue and general health. While a diet based on processed food triggers blood sugar levels to rise, insulin levels to spike and the body to store fat.
Eating a balanced diet of ‘real’ foods closer to your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and pursuing simultaneously a resistance training program 4-5 days a week, will help you lose weight in a more sustainable way. Also, the weight you lose will be more fat% than muscle loss. Add to that, the endorphins you release during your workout will uplift your spirits and also encourage you to continue to pursue your active habits.
Myth #4 : Spot reduction of fat in places!
So many ladies I’ve come across in the gym have this notion that if they do ‘n’ number of crunches, sit-ups and side bends they will ‘spot reduce’ their belly fat. Our body doesn’t burn fat only in specific locations. Doing abdominal crunches and sit ups will strength your stomach muscles and side bends your side muscles, and doing too many may in fact even cause you to strain your lower back.
Eating a nutritious diet with measured calories that complement a weight training program that includes compound movements and large muscle groups will help you burn fat overall. Keep in mind that you may show more inch loss in some areas and not so much in other areas. You see, each of us are genetically inclined to storing fat in certain body parts in a certain order, and will also loose/ burn fat in a certain order. No amount of targeted exercise will change how that fat disappears.
Myth # 5 : If women lift heavy they’ll get bulky (even manly!)
Women have very low levels of testosterone to bulk up on muscle mass. Female body builders need to eat, train, and take nutrition and hormone supplements to bulk up on the muscle. It takes them years to get there.
According to the Women’s Heart Foundation, high levels of estrogen make it very difficult for women to become heavily muscular. When women lift weights, the changes to their muscles are generally related to tone, strength and endurance rather than size. They look firmer and toned, and in no way like bulky masculine muscles.
Picking up light weights for 20+ repetitions builds muscular endurance. Lifting heavy weights reaching your endurance capacity by around 7 reps makes your muscles stronger. So ladies shouldn’t shy away from the iron. They don’t say “Train like a man, look like a Goddess” for nothing!
Other that the myths above around ‘Women and Weights’, there are other reasons why Resistance training is just what you need to do:
You’ll handle stress better – Scientists determined that fitter people exhibited lower levels of stress hormones than those who were less fit. Another study found that after a stressful situation, the blood pressure levels of people with the most muscle mass returned to normal faster than the levels of those with the least muscle.
You’ll Live Longer – University of South Carolina researchers determined that total-body strength is linked to lower risks of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Other scientists found that being strong during middle age helps people live towards the age of 85 without developing a major disease. It also helps correct issues relating to cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and inactivity – again all factors for heart disease.
So ladies (and lads, do encourage the ladies in your life), don’t shy from the weight training side of the gym. Make resistance training part of your regular workout and enjoy the benefits of a charged metabolism that allows you to eat the foods you enjoy whilst burning fat, toning muscle, staying healthy and keeping people guessing your true age!