How to Build Muscle and Lose Fat as a Woman

Weightlifting can cause a three-month body transformation in women.
Credit: Phawat Topaisan/iStock/GettyImages

Many women have a goal of improving their appearance. They often want to lose fat and gain muscle. Several safe methods exist to help you reach this goal. These range from taking nutritional supplements to doing resistance exercises. Pursuing these methods will let you quickly meet your goal.

Read more: 10 Ways Exercise Makes You More Attractive

Understand Muscle Loss

Aging gradually breaks down your muscle tissue beginning at age 30. Doctors call this process sarcopenia. Diseases like cancer can rapidly take away your muscle mass in a process known as cachexia. You can't always prevent these medical conditions from happening, but you can dramatically slow their progress by making good choices.

Inactivity plays a big role in muscle loss and weight gain. Simply getting active and staying fit will help you fight disease and slow aging. Malnutrition also plays a large role in muscle loss and weight gain. Eating a well-balanced diet that's rich in healthy carbohydrates, proteins and fats will make a difference. Be sure to get plenty of vitamins and minerals from vegetables and fruits as well.

Consider adding a dietary aid like a protein smoothie to your daily routine. Taking a vitamin supplement can help as well. Surprisingly, getting more sleep helps you better control your weight, and it aids muscle recovery. Using cutting-edge technologies like vibrating platforms has worked for some women too.

Read more: At What Age Do You Start to Lose Muscle?

Understand Weight Gain

The obesity epidemic has a huge impact on the lives of women across their entire lifespan. Worldwide, about 15 percent of women meet the criteria for obesity. This medical condition puts women at risk for illness, disease and even death.

Obesity presents two challenges. To ensure a long life, you must overcome obesity, and being obese makes it more difficult to overcome obesity! That's because weight gain and anabolic resistance correlate well. More weight gain means more resistance to the health benefits of any treatment.

Muscle loss and weight gain have severe consequences for women. For example, they put women at risk for chronic diseases. A 2017 report in the Journal of Clinical Investigation notes that the obesity epidemic has led to increases in cardiovascular disease, brain damage and diabetes. These researchers also describe the chronic inflammation present in each of these medical conditions.

Read more: How Women Can Build Muscle Fast

Building Starts With Strategy

Some treatments will help you build muscle, and others will help you lose fat. Try a treatment like high-intensity interval training, HIIT, which meets both goals to save time. If you are ambitious, you can combine treatments for additive effects and make rapid progress.

Give safety the highest priority because injuries will slow your progress. Having fun increases adherence and success, but the most important thing is consistency. Your options run from weightlifting to yoga. Find what works best for you, and stick with it.

Read more: 9 Crazy Fitness Trends to Make Your Workout More Fun

Fitness Plan for Women

Using these techniques, you will soon reach your goals. The methods needed to lose fat and gain muscle in women will also help you manage chronic inflammation, according to a 2016 article in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. Exercise, for example, will both suppress free radicals and generate potent antioxidants. Nutritional supplements like leucine have a similar effect.

Read more: How to Lose Weight Fast for Women

Lift Weights for Muscle Gain

A 2016 review of 15 studies concluded that resistance exercises cause dose-dependent increases in muscle mass. This powerful finding suggests that weightlifting gives you the best chance of gaining muscle. Yet these studies have mostly tested men. A 2018 paper in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at the impact of resistance training in sedentary, younger women.

These researchers assigned the women to one of two groups: low-load training and high-load training. The resistance exercises focused on thigh strength and mass. For low-load training, the women did sets of 30 to 35 repetitions. For high-load training, they did sets of eight to 10 repetitions. Training happened twice a week for nine weeks.

Results indicated that, compared to baseline, both treatments increased thigh muscle strength and mass. However, low-load training caused larger gains in muscle mass. The authors attributed the latter finding to the greater amount of work done during low-load training.

Read more: How to Increase Muscle Mass in a Matter of Weeks?

Do Exercise Challenges

Some women may feel overwhelmed by the thought of doing exercise. Several barriers to exercise exist, and in some cases, social media can help you overcome these challenges. Share fitness goals and get help from friends as the first steps toward weight loss and muscle gain for women.

The next step involves finding an exercise challenge that motivates you. These fun activities urge you to try something new and get others involved. The Get Strong in 2019 Challenge is an effective and safe way to get a jump-start on your goals. It's a 30-day exercise plan with new diet challenges each week. Just fill in the blanks on the template and get to work!

Climb Stairs for Fat Loss

Step aerobics is one of the most popular group activities in health clubs. A 2018 article in the European Journal of Applied Physiology shows the benefits of forward and lateral stepping exercises. In this study, stepping and weightlifting caused similar levels of muscle activation. Lateral stepping on to a 12-inch barrier was particularly taxing for the women. That experiment only tested the impact of a single session, but other studies show that a similar activity — using real stairs —will improve your physique just like resistance exercises.

Stairs are everywhere, so you can easily start reaping the benefits of using them. The 2019 article Turn Your Stairs Into a Fat-Burning Machine shows you how. Use the stairs for a gentle warmup; then start sprinting. Give your legs a break now and then by doing incline pushups on the stairs. If your site has handrails, tie a resistance band around the banister for biceps and triceps work.

Doing 30 minutes of this routine can burn as many as 500 calories. You only need to do it once a week to see the benefits, but you can gradually progress to doing it every other day for maximal benefits. Please be careful as doing stairs can cause injuries — especially in older women. Work with a health care professional to make slow, steady progress.

Read more: What Are the Health Benefits of Climbing Stairs?

Take Leucine for Muscle Gain

People have increasingly turned to protein powder to help them get their preferred physique. Manufacturers have yet to find the ideal ingredients for this supplement, but adding leucine seems like a wise choice. This essential amino acid plays an important role in building muscle. A 2018 report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the impact of leucine supplementation and resistance exercise in older women.

Participants exercised only one leg in this experiment. The researchers used the other leg as a control. The subjects received either a low dose of leucine or a high dose of leucine. Both doses of leucine increased muscle protein synthesis in the exercised leg. Only the high dose of leucine increased muscle protein synthesis in the control leg. Thus the women showed leucine-induced muscle gains without doing exercise at least in one leg.

It's easy to add leucine to your diet. You can find this protein in every aisle of the grocery store. Animal products like milk and meat have abundant leucine. You can also get it by eating legumes like kidney beans. Soy-based products like tempeh also have plenty of leucine.

Read more: How to Use Leucine for Bodybuilding

Drink Tomato Juice for Fat Loss

Drinking tomato juice offers you many health benefits. The active part of tomato juice, lycopene, protects muscle tissue and prevents fat accumulation in animal models. These findings suggest that tomato juice might have positive effects on body composition in human subjects. A study in the journal Nutrition tested this hypothesis in younger women.

Participants drank a cup of tomato juice each day for two months. Otherwise, they kept their usual exercise and diet routine. Compared to their baseline, the women showed a decrease in body weight and body fat. Supplementation also decreased inflammation markers and cholesterol levels.

Packaged juice often has high levels of sodium, and some brands add copious amounts of sugar. Thus, it's important to carefully read the label before buying convenience foods. Increased monitoring has led to a decrease in the sodium content of tomato juice in recent years, and low-sodium versions are now available.

Read more: Benefits of Tomato Juice

Combine Treatments for Muscle Gain

Combining treatments may lead to additive effects. In some cases, it might be necessary to even see effects. A 2018 report in the Journals of Gerontology looked at the impact of combining resistance exercises and a diet rich in polyunsaturated fat, PUFA, in older women.

The researchers randomly assigned the women to one of three conditions: control, resistance training and resistance training plus PUFA intake. Interestingly, compared to controls, only women in the combined treatment group showed hypertrophy. Those women had a 23 percent increase in muscle mass after 24 weeks of exercise.

These findings suggest that hypertrophy may not happen in this age group without supplementation. A 2018 review in Nutrients offers support for this idea. The authors suggest that PUFA plays an important role in muscle healing. Resistance exercises damage muscle tissue, and PUFA intake could heal this damage and cause hypertrophy.

Read more: Monounsaturated Fat Vs. Polyunsaturated Fat

Oral Contraceptives Affect Your Gains

Using oral contraceptives can change your hormone levels. These changes might affect your body's response to exercise. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research explored this possibility in active, younger women either taking or not taking oral contraceptives.

Participants did an intense combination of strength and endurance training for 10 weeks. The data indicated that, compared to baseline, women not taking oral contraceptives showed a 2.1 percent increase in muscle mass, a 1.5 percent decrease in body fat and a small change in luteinizing hormone.

Women taking oral contraceptives showed no changes in any variable. This finding suggests that oral contraceptives can block some of the positive effects of exercise. A 2017 report in the Open Access Journal of Exercise and Sports Medicine supports this idea. These researchers showed that oral contraceptive use decreased the exercise capacity of female soccer players.

Read more: Examples of Muscular Strength & Endurance Exercises

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