4 Reasons Why Women Need Weights and Protein

June 6, 2018

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blog_getleanIn the 1970s, a young Austrian by the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger burst onto the world stage in his full shiny, muscular glory. He won the Mr. Universe bodybuilding contest when he was 20 and then went on to win the Mr. Olympia title six years in a row (and ultimately won a seventh). Intense behind-the-scenes preparation and training for one of his wins was captured in the documentary, Pumping Iron, which helped to catapult him into legendary stardom in strong man roles, like Conan The Barbarian, Predator, and The Terminator. In homage, Saturday Night Live channeled him in Hans and Franz’s famous clap, We are here to pump you up!

Ah-nold showed us what weight lifting and protein diets did to our bodies. It made us HUGE.

And maybe it was the image of a pumped-up Arnold that kept women out of the weight lifting room and in the aerobics class. Of course, cardio exercise is critical to weight loss and especially healthy weight maintenance, but many women have been missing out on the incredible weight loss benefits of strength training with weights.

In addition to shunning weights, many women also have come to may have also come to associate high protein diets with bulking up. But the science tells another story.

With more women suffering from obesity than men, it’s a good time to review some core facts about how weight loss truly works. Here are four good reasons why women should not be afraid to up the ante on weights and protein.

1. Muscle helps burn fat

Unfortunately, people associate muscle growth with that image of Arnold flexing. However, muscle doesn’t always mean huge, bulging biceps, especially when it comes to the female body. Lifting weights doesn’t have to drastically increase the size of your muscles, but it should increase the amount of your body weight that is attributed to muscle, or your muscle mass percentage.

For women, added muscles will tend to be lean because of the lower amount of testosterone than men, keeping body fat low and metabolism high. Strength training is actually more beneficial for weight loss than extended periods of cardio. Have you ever spent hours on a treadmill only to feel like you’ve made a small dent your weight? You can actually make that treadmill time work harder for you by incorporating weight lifting into your exercise routine. Lifting weights causes you to burn calories up to 36 hours (!) after you have ended your training session, while lower intensity cardio limits the burn to the duration of the workout itself.

Strength training doesn’t mean lifting extreme amounts of weights. Even one or two-pound weights should help you improve your metabolism. The key thing to remember is that building and maintaining muscle is a critical component of weight loss, especially as we age. Muscle growth increases both your active and resting metabolic rate, which means you burn more fat while exercising – and even while you sleep.

2. Protein builds muscle

Many people erroneously believe that they can exercise their weight away. In reality, weight loss starts with food modification, primarily calorie reduction. However, total intake calories alone is only half the story. You could eat a limited calorie pizza diet and see results, but that won’t give your body the nutrients you need to put your body into optimal fat-burning mode. Increasing the number of overall calories from healthy protein sources is a proven way to help you achieve your weight loss goals in a safer, faster, and more sustainable way. Why? Because protein is the building block of muscle, and as we explained earlier, muscle helps to burn fat at a faster rate than any other component of your body.

An easy way to get started with protein is through meal replacement protein shakes, which are designed to satisfy feelings of hunger. A 2018 study by Purdue University found that whey protein supplements are not only safe for women, but also are beneficial to losing weight. Other lean protein options include grilled chicken, turkey, fish, and tofu.

3. Muscle is denser than fat

Many women who begin to strength train and increase their percentage of protein might be surprised when the scale reads that they have gained weight. It may feel like there is a disconnect because they may feel better, their clothes fit better, and look better. What is going on?!

This is why body composition analysis is so important. Muscle weighs more than fat, but is denser, which means it takes up less space in your body. So a pound of fat will look much larger than a pound of muscle. A body composition analysis can tell you how much of your weight is from muscle and from fat. The general rule is that you want to have higher percentages of muscle muscle (and water) than fat. This reduces your overall risk of chronic disease.

4. Weights build stronger bones

Outside of just building muscle, strength training has a multitude of other health benefits, specifically for those with obesity. Lifting weights can aid in correcting postural issues that occur from being overweight, increase your range of motion in all your joints, and most importantly, strengthen your bones to slow the onset of osteoporosis, especially for women. Losing weight can have an adverse effect on your overall bone health; however, strength training can counteract this by strengthening the bones and joints connecting them. Because they have thinner bones, women are more likely to develop osteoporosis, especially as they grow older and their estrogen levels decrease.

Strength Training for Beginners

If you have never gone to the gym before, you may be intimidated by the number of machines, weights, and people there. However, strength training doesn’t have to be overly complicated. The most important thing to remember is that you should pick movements and weights that you are comfortable doing. If that means doing body weight squats and lunges, great. If you feel comfortable going on the resistance machines, that’s good too. You should start small and gradually work your way into heavier weights and more complex movements. You should also seek out professional instruction from the trainers at your gym, as they can show you the proper movements and explain why certain exercises can be beneficial for you. Of course, you shouldn’t start a formal exercise routine without approval from your medical provider.

Get the image of Arnold out of your mind and replace him with Gal Gadot (you know, Wonder Woman!). You shouldn’t fear protein or adding weight training to your regimen because it will cause you to bulk up. Strength training and proper nutrition is about achieving and maintaining a healthy weight for overall good health. If you happen to get toned in the process, all the better.


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