Our resident MNU Nutritionist Rabin Das looks at some of the key aspects of female training and nutrition.
1) Lifting weights matters for you NOW and THE FUTURE...
In recent years there's been a fantastic push to make lifting weights accessible and mentionable among females. What was once an intimidating area of the gym for both men and women has become everyone's favourite spot. But despite the pioneering of the ‘girls who lift’ moniker, there is still some trepidation about stepping foot over by the squat rack.
Here’s why it matters:
Want to be ‘lean and toned’? Nothing will help quite like moving some iron. Lean muscle tissue requires a stimulus. Resistance training provides that stimulus in a BIG way.
How about one more for your future-self?
One of the most unmentioned benefits of lifting weights for females is the impact on your future health. Loss of bone mineral density is a serious concern as you get older due to changes in hormonal output. Lift now and reduce the risk of this causing trouble in future.
In fact, the earlier you get into lifting, the great potential for better bone health and strength later in life.
There’s plenty of good folks out there who can devise good training programs to help you along. If it’s something that you’re keen on, get your PT to devise a plan that suits your needs and goals. Remember, training is both for now and your future self.
2) Still Concerned about protein? Don’t be...
If you’re reading this, one can assume that you know the importance of protein for training. Hopefully, all mistrust aimed at protein has been done away with.
For any ‘non-believers’, let’s have a look at a few key points:
"Protein makes you bulky."
In and of itself, it won’t make you bulky. Adding lean tissue to your physique is a slow process. Fearing that increasing protein intakes will result in a drastic change is misplaced. Trust that protein has your back.
"If you eat too much, your kidneys will burst."
There’s zero truth to this. Your kidneys are safe. Your kidneys naturally adapt to the higher intakes within the diet. They will function as per normal.
"If you stop training, all the protein you eat will turn to fat!"
Nope. In fact, it’s maybe the least likely macronutrient to do that. Because protein functions to retain muscle tissue, there’s a higher possibility of maintaining your new physique if you continue to consume adequate protein while taking a break from training.
"Whey protein is bad for you."
Not at all. It’s actually supremely beneficial. Don’t consider it a supplement either. It’s just food. A good quality whey protein covers a lot of your protein needs and routinely provides you with enough leucine (an amino acid) to get the muscle building process moving.
Aim for anywhere from 1.2g per kilogram up to 1.8/2g.
If you’re dieting, it’s probably better to be on the higher side of things due to the lack of overall energy available to keep muscle protein synthesis rolling. Higher protein intakes also prevent muscle loss during these times.
3) Hormones matter
Menstrual cycle influences on weight changes, exercise intensity and energy could be an entire article in its own right (or an entire series) but there are a few things that we can make recommendations on.
Key things to remember are that hormonal changes can influence hunger, transient changes in weight and hydration requirements.
Check in with your hunger levels at different stages in the month.
There may be weeks of each month where a little more food might be both necessary and okay. It might also stop you from reaching for things you crave that might take you off course. If you’re aware of it, and know that it might happen, you can put some things in place to prepare for it.
The goal here is simple: manage hunger and stay on track.
Conversely, you could push a little harder on the dieting front (if that’s currently the goal you have), when you don’t feel as hungry and are feeling pretty good.
Observe how weight can fluctuate despite your best efforts at different times of the month (almost routinely each month).
Why is this important?
Changes in scale weight can be major motivating and demotivating factors during your nutrition journey. Knowing that changes in weight are likely to occur (and will) due to your menstrual cycle can prevent some inevitable frustration from setting in.
If you choose to track your weight (or have a coach who monitors it too), you’ll get a nice trend of how and when weight will fluctuate - you’ll have a ‘why’ as well.
4) Remember to recover...
For those who love training and exercise (any and all types), remember that adequate recovery is a prerequisite to success.
It’s not optional, it’s vital.
So as much as chasing the feeling of fatigue and dragging yourself out of the gym in a sweaty heap is what is aspired to, you may be sacrificing progress and tangible change.
Be it between sets, after training (adequate nutritional recovery, sleep) and before your next session. Make sure you prioritise it.
Good training that yields proper progress doesn’t always leave you sweating buckets.
If you do want to train everyday (if you like it and have the time), vary the overall intensity of training that you do.
Consider lighter training days; if you’re focused on getting stronger, consider skill based sessions where technique and correct form are prioritised.
Summing this all up:
- Go do weight training because it’s really good for you. It will help you both now and in the future.
- Remember that protein isn’t just for those who want to become massive and any myths and misconceptions surrounding it are incorrect.
- Track your weight fluctuations and hunger levels over the course of each month, notice patterns and plan accordingly.
- Finally, remember that recovery from training is just as important as the training itself.