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How Does Female Muscle Growth Work?

9.20.21

BY: DR. KYON HOOD, MD

Learn the ins and outs of female muscle growth, from the best exercises to try to how you can fuel your workouts with ivee.

If you’re interested in building muscle, it's easy to wonder where to start. In this post, we'll outline all of the basics of female muscle growth, as well as the best steps to take to reach your personal fitness goals.

Is Female Muscle Growth Different Than Male Muscle Growth?

When it comes to building muscle, there are a few key differences between how the process looks for men and women. Here's how muscle growth is different if you're a female:

  • Females typically have only around 2/3 of the muscle mass that males have. In addition, the average adult female has twice the body fat of the average adult male. You can thank puberty for this.
  • The key player that makes the female physique so different is a hormone called estrogen. Both males and females produce estrogen, but the hormone is much more abundant in the female body. Estrogen is a sex hormone, but it also plays a role in maintaining your metabolism. Because of the higher estrogen levels in the female body, the average woman has a higher resting metabolism than the average man.
  • Having a higher metabolism on average means that a woman's body can convert food into energy more effectively, making building up muscle mass more difficult.

Overall, hormones, differences in physiology, and genetics can make it more difficult for women to build muscle than men. However, although they may not be as common, female bodybuilders are out there.

Even if you're not seeking to make female strength training your competitive sport of choice, you can still build muscle effectively with the right approach.

How Can Women Build Muscles?

So, what is the best approach to muscle-building for women? Let's explore the key factors that contribute to how successful you'll add muscle mass and change your body composition.

Eat Protein, Carbs, and Fat

Whenever you have specific athletic goals in mind, what you eat matters just as much – if not more – as your workouts. When your goal is to gain muscle, nutrition is essential. More than ever, the quality of your food, not just the quantity, will affect your body composition when you are trying to put on muscle.

The three macronutrient groups – carbohydrates, protein, and fat – play key roles in muscle growth. Here's why you need them all:

Protein helps your body repair the muscle tissues that are torn during your workouts. When you lift weights, you're making tiny tears in your muscles by putting resistance on them.

To repair and grow your muscles after each workout, you'll need plenty of high-quality protein. Sources of this macronutrient include meat, eggs, dairy, beans, whole grains, and protein powder.

Carbohydrates fuel your workouts by providing you with long-lasting energy. Some female athletes will rely primarily on simple carbs before and after their workouts, then mainly eat complex carbs in between exercise sessions.

This strategy provides the most immediate energy boost when needed most, then prioritizes more slow-digesting carbs during rest times.

Fat is sometimes demonized in fitness circles, but this nutrient is essential for muscle growth. Healthy fats help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K.

You need all of those vitamins to build strong muscles, and your body can't process or use them without enough fat in your diet.

Many athletes tend to aim for 15 to 30 percent of their daily calories coming from fat for building muscle.

Work Every Muscle Group

In addition to eating well-balanced meals, you'll need well-balanced workouts for muscle growth. While it might be tempting to only work out your upper body or lower body based on what’s easiest for you, challenging yourself is essential whenever you're at the gym.

One of the easiest ways to work out multiple muscle groups is with compound exercises. Squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and more are some of the most beneficial moves in a bodybuilder's arsenal because they all work multiple muscle groups at once.

Aiming for more compound exercises than isolated ones is a great idea if your goal is to build as much muscle as possible.

Remember Rest Days

Whenever you're trying to build muscle, getting enough rest is a must!

Without adequate rest, you'll start dealing with muscle breakdown, which can reverse the hard work you're putting in at the gym.

Post-workout recovery can be just as important as the workout itself, as backward as that might sound. It's difficult to put on much muscle mass when your body isn't getting the rest needed to prepare for your next workout.

You don't have to skip all physical activity the day after a challenging workout, but it's often wise to avoid working on the same muscle groups multiple days in a row. Cycling through your muscle groups – legs, back, shoulders, chest, abs, and more – can help you avoid low energy and muscle breakdown.

In addition to cycling through muscle groups, you can help your muscles recover by adding some low-impact cardio to your rest days. Even a short walk on your off days can keep you active without putting too much strain on your body.

Supplement Your Diet

Adding supplements to your diet can help you reach your muscle-building goals. One of the most popular post-workout supplements in the bodybuilding world is creatine, a naturally produced substance by your muscles.

Taking creatine is linked to higher testosterone levels and an increase in the growth hormone IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1). Since women naturally produce less testosterone than men and testosterone is essential for muscle growth, supplementing with between three to five grams of creatine per day can be a huge help.

What Exercises Help Build Muscle?

So, what's the best way for a woman to work out when muscle growth is the goal?

These workouts can help you pack on pounds of muscle over time, and they're versatile enough to work out your entire body.

Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises can be performed at home without the need for any workout equipment.

The accessibility and convenience of these exercises make them a great choice if you travel often or don't have room in your budget for a gym membership.

Some of the best bodyweight exercises for muscle growth are:

  • Pushups, which engage your chest, biceps, triceps, shoulders, back, and core
  • Pull-ups, which engage your lats, biceps, deltoids, rhomboids, and core
  • Squats, which engage your core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings

Resistance Machines

You'll find resistance machines at your local gym, and they're incredible assets for any aspiring bodybuilder. These machines are set up to help you work out safely and effectively, all the while giving you the ability to easily adjust the amount of resistance that you're pushing against.

Resistance machines are especially helpful for isolating specific muscle groups that you want to target. While compound exercises are often recommended for faster muscle growth, isolated workouts using a resistance machine can help to strengthen and stabilize your weakest muscles.

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are great tools for fans of home workouts. They're affordable, versatile, lightweight, and easy to take with you wherever you go.

In addition, resistance bands give newcomers to weightlifting the perfect place to start. They're known for being extra safe and putting as little pressure as possible on your joints.

Weight Lifting

Lifting weights is one of the best ways to build muscle, and it makes for a challenging and rewarding workout.

You can perform both compound and isolated exercises with weights, targeting specific muscle groups, or working on multiple muscle groups at once. In general, a mix of compound and isolated exercises is an ideal place to start while increasing your muscle mass.

However, prioritizing compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, rows, and bench presses will make the biggest difference in the long run.

How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle Mass?

At the beginning of your muscle-building journey, you may quickly see a significant change in your physique – even in the first few weeks. However, as your body builds up its strength, you'll have to keep increasing resistance to maintain steady muscle growth.

When you keep challenging yourself and lifting heavier as you progress, you'll start to see major changes to your body composition in a matter of months. This is especially true when you get plenty of rest, eat well, and work out your entire body.

Recover Quicker With ivee

While building muscle can be challenging, it's definitely worth it. If you're someone who aspires to be stronger and more fit, nothing is standing in your way.

With ivee, you can start strength training today and get back at it again tomorrow with The Athletic Recovery IV wellness treatment. With a curated blend of essential amino acids to support recovery and saline to keep you hydrated, you can count on feeling good before, during, and after your gym session.

Sources:

How Do Muscles Grow? | University of New Mexico

Whey protein supplementation and muscle mass: current perspectives | NDS

Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy | NCBI

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