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Do Men and Women Need Different Diets for Effective Strength Training?

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Men and women generally train the same way when it comes to strength training. If you think about it, how many different ways are there to lift weights? Not many. So if men and women strength training routines are the same, do their diets have to be that much different? Yes, and here’s why.

Many females not only lift weights as part of their exercise routine, but also do a lot of cardio training in an effort to lose body fat and thus weight. And while cardio training does burn calories, the female body can sometimes react differently by actually holding onto body fat instead of getting rid of it. When it comes to weight loss, what you eat is far more important than how much you exercise.

Think about what you eat as being the responsible agent for weight loss; cardio on the other hand is good for your heart and helps direct more calories toward muscle cells and fewer to fat cells.

So what should a female diet look like? Not that much different from men, but typically women tend to gravitate having more sugar in their diet than men. This generally means women are not getting as much protein as they should. A diet that is 80% carbs, 10% protein and 20% fat, will create entirely different results than one that is 40% carbs, 40% protein and 20% fat.

Protein is the building blocks of the body. It is protein (in adequate amounts) that is responsible for repairing the damage done to muscles when you lift weight. Don’t worry – the damage is only temporary and necessary for good toning. However, without enough protein in your diet, muscles won’t repair as fast and it will take longer to get that sleek lean look. Also without adequate protein, your body could see muscle as a source of calories if you are not eating enough, thus consuming muscle mass instead of increasing it slightly.

When thinking about diet, choose fresh wholesome foods over the prepackaged ones. Many of these are loaded with added sugar and high in saturated fats. When on a weight-lifting diet, counting the types of calories (carbs, protein and fats) is more important than the total number, although it is important that you get enough each day. To tone muscles eat 500 more calories per day than what is recommended for maintenance at your age and activity level; to lose weight then go 500 calories less and make sure your diet has at least 1.7 to 1.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

Keep in mind that weight is mainly controlled by diet; strength and muscle mass by weight lifting. Controlling these two variables will get you the results you seek.

A Guide to the Role of Protein in the Diet of Women Who Lift Weights

Regardless of whether you are a man or women, protein is an important macronutrient in your diet for many reasons. However, for the scope of this article, we’ll talk about why it is important for women who lift weights.

We all know that men and women differ in many ways. But what many do not know is how the diet between the two sexes is so different. While men prefer to chew on a good steak, women would much rather have something sugary, like chocolate, ice cream or pastry. Women just don’t seem to crave protein the way men do and while we all need our carbohydrates and healthy fats, not having enough protein is problematic for women.

Protein is the building blocks of the body. For the non-weight lifter, getting enough is usually easy by just eating a regular diet. But weight lifters need more than an average amount if they want to build muscle.

When lifting heavy weights, micro tears occur within a muscle. During the recovery phase of your training, the muscle repairs itself if it has enough protein to do so. How does it do this? Through the use of amino acids.

Of the 20 amino acids your body uses, nine are considered essential because our body cannot manufacture them the way it does for the other 11. The only way to get these nine is by eating complete protein or a combination of proteins that together are complete.

For example, separate, beans and rice are each incomplete because they are missing an amino acid or two that would make them complete. But when eaten together what one dish is missing the other has and visa-versa making them together a complete protein. Other complete protein sources include:

  • Fish
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Quinoa
  • And the grains quinoa and buckwheat

In general nuts and seeds, legumes, most grains and vegetables my themselves are incomplete.

Other Health Benefits

Besides the importance of having adequate protein to repair and build muscles, there are other advantages to eating enough protein that can help you in the gym.

Losing weight

Because protein has a high thermic effect, 20% to 35% of protein calories consumed are used just to break down the protein. So the number of calories of the protein you eat are not the same as the number your body has to use as it already has used some in digestion.

Preserving muscle mass

If you don’t get enough carbohydrates and fats in your diet, your body will take the protein in muscle and use that for energy meaning not only do you not have enough to repair and build muscle you are actually losing muscle mass.

Boost your immune system

Gyms can be germy places. Even if people clean the equipment they use when done, germs still exist if they do not do a good job. But by eating whey protein as in a protein shake, it helps boost your immune system by providing glutathione known to improve immune systems. Being sick less means you can work out more.

How much protein is enough? For exercising adults, 1.7 to 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight is adequate for those lifting weight. To put that into perspective, a 120-pound woman would need about 7.2 ounces of protein.

Don’t let a lack of protein derail your weight lifting efforts. Lifting weights breaks down muscle; protein builds it back up so you are even more toned than before.

Should Women Take Any Supplements for Weight Lifting?

Men into weight lifting often take various supplements to help increase the size of their muscles. Ironically, many of these same supplements work well for women who lift weights, but not for the same reasons as men. Here are five supplements that you should be taking to get the most benefit from your weight lifting efforts.

Whey Protein Powder

Because muscles need the amino acids found in protein to repair themselves and tone, taking protein powder containing the right amino acids – the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) – is an easy way to get what you need in the right amounts. One scoop of powder contains about 20 grams of protein, and because it is quick digesting, when taken before and after a workout it gives you the protein boost your body needs both before and after a workout.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids

As mentioned above BCAAs help muscles repair themselves and grow lean muscle mass. But these BCAAs in particular not only can be used by the body as fuel, but also to trick the brain to not sensing fatigue as quickly. The delay is not enough to be dangerous, but enough to allow you to work out a little longer. Take 3 to 5 grams at breakfast and again pre and post-workout.

Creatine

This supplement improves endurance. So regardless if you run, cycle or lift weights, it will help you perform longer then you could have without it.  Taking 2 to 5 grams before and after a workout will also help improve brain function and lower the bad cholesterol LDL, along with helping you push through your weight lifting workouts.

Arginine

Proven to improve blood flow through the creation of nitric acid, it dilates blood vessels thus allowing more blood, and consequently more oxygen, to get to your muscles. More oxygen increases the amount of energy you have to do your strength training workouts.

In one study in 2008, they found female athlete participants that took arginine had lower body fat percentages and increased lean muscle mass. But as a woman, don’t think that you will put on muscle mass like a man. It just won’t happen, but it can add toning and definition from just a little more mass.

Take 3 to 5 grams before breakfast and then again 30 minutes before working out and before going to bed.

Beta-Alanine

With enough of this supplement present, the body can use it to create carnosine. Not only does carnosine help improve muscle mass, strength and endurance, but one study showed that when beta-alanine was taken in conjunction with creatine, participants showed a larger drop in body fat than participants taking only creatine.  Two to 3 grams taken before and after workouts should be enough to get the full effect.

If you notice, most of these supplements are taken before and after a workout, so an easy way to get them all in at once is to put the supplements in powder form in your whey protein shake. Regardless of how you get them, each one will do its part to help you get the lean sexy body you desire.

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