Women begin to lose 5 to 10 percent of their muscle strength each decade starting in the mid-30s, warns "Fitness" magazine. While women may not be able to bulk up like their male counterparts, they can stave off muscle loss and add new muscle to boost metabolism and reduce health risks. Many women, though, avoid strength training for fear of gaining weight.
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Rate of Muscle Gain
One of the biggest myths surrounding women and the gym is that they'll bulk up if they lift heavy weights. Unlike men, women lack the amount of the hormone testosterone to develop big, bulky muscles. Women just beginning strength training can gain 2 to 4 pounds of muscle after two months of weight training, but this rate will slow as your fitness improves.Keep in mind that every woman is different, and depending on your genetic makeup, you may have an easier or harder time gaining muscle mass.
Nutrition for Muscle Gain
Gaining weight, whether in the form of fat or muscle, requires consuming more calories than you burn each day. Since your body is limited to, at the very most, a half pound of muscle gain per week, 250 to 500 extra calories per day is adequate. If you have trouble gaining weight, aim for the higher end of the spectrum, and if you easily put on fat, keep to the lower end. Either way, strength training ensures the extra calories go toward new muscle and not new fat.
Take a peek inside a gym and you'll tend to see women gravitating toward cardio machines and light weights. To gain muscle weight through strength training, however, you'll need to lift heavy weights with fewer repetitions. "Fitness" suggests performing two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise with enough resistance to fatigue your muscles by the final repetition.
Women who want to gain weight through strength training have two other concerns that men do not. Women who take oral contraceptives may have a harder time gaining muscle due to hormones. Additionally, women who supplement their diets with added protein for muscle gain are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis, as the body loses urinary calcium in the process of digesting protein. Talk to your doctor about these or any other concerns before starting a weight lifting program.