What makes health and fitness different for men and women? If you watched our video on Monday, you know not a lot! Your unique goals determine how your fitness journey is going to look (gender regardless). A man and a woman who want to achieve muscle gains are both going to have to eat enough food to support hypertrophy, sleep enough, and train the appropriate movements at the same *relative* intensity. These men and women’s macro ratios may look a little different, their weight loads may vary, and the amount of food they eat will be different, but their overall journey to achieving muscle gains will be very similar. The truth about women’s fitness is that it isn’t all that unique. Let’s look at some of our most frequently-asked questions from our community of ladies below:
How do I get a toned stomach without getting “ripped”? (Basically, how do I look goooood?)
We hear this question all the time. Whether it’s abs, arms, or thighs, many women ask the question, “how do I get toned without getting big?” The answer is very simple: build muscle and lose fat. Despite being a simple answer, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.
The first thing to keep in mind with this question is that women are not naturally able to achieve “bulky” muscles alá Arnold Schwarzenneger. With very closely guided supplementation, targeted training, and/or steroid use, women are able to “get huge” if that’s their goal; however, eating whole foods, lifting weights, and gaining muscle naturally will not produce the “bro” effect. Testosterone is the hormone most closely associated with muscle growth and women have significantly lower testosterone levels than men. That is an innate difference between men and women, so without supplementation or very intense and specific training and nutrition, getting huge shouldn’t be a concern. And if it’s your goal to get huge as a lady, more power to you! Every body type is a beautiful body type.
In order to achieve a toned physique, there are a few things you will need to do:
- Grow your muscles- build up the muscles you want to see by getting in the gym and lifting heavy things! You don’t have to toss barbells over your head if that isn’t your jam, but regular and consistent weight lifting will help your muscles get stronger and grow to where they are visible (and gorgeous!).
- Dial in your diet- you know the saying “abs are made in the kitchen?” It couldn’t be more true. Work with a nutrition coach to figure out your optimal macro ratio or personalized plate plan or check out our handy collection of nutrition blogs for tips on how to get started!
- Lose the extra weight- it’s hard to see your muscles if they’re hiding underneath a layer of fat. Pair high intensity interval work and 1-2 steady, long cardio sessions with your weight training each week. Combined with a clean diet, a balanced exercise program with strength training and cardio can help you shed those last couple pounds to reveal your sleek muscles!
I don’t want to get fat. How much food is too much food? Do I need to avoid all junk foods?
Listen closely, sis. Our bodies need to be fueled in order to function optimally. The way we do that is through food. There are always going to be healthy options and *less* healthy options, but there are no bad foods. Just better for us foods. And there is certainly a time and a place for indulging in those less healthy options with moderation.
As a personal trainer, I can tell you that the issue I see more often than over-eating is under-eating…especially with women! Ladies, we need calories to fuel our bodies AND our activities. Especially if you workout every day (or even a few times a week), you need food to repair your muscles to help them grow. Carbs don’t make us fat. Fats don’t make us fat. Even desserts, chips, greasy cheeseburgers and french fries don’t make us fat! A surplus of calories is what can LEAD to weight gain. No food inherently causes us to get fat.
I like to live by the 85/15 rule. 85% of the time you can find me eating clean (and primarily for utility) to support my workouts and my health. But I also give myself wiggle room each week to enjoy a meal out with friends and get something that may be a little less healthy on the menu. I may enjoy a couple glasses of wine and that is totally okay! It isn’t going to make me fat and honestly, it’s very good for my mental health! Now if those percentages were reversed and I stopped working out consistently, I would gain weight. For many years, I was far too strict with my diet and while my physique showed my discipline, I always felt like I was missing out on fun things with my friends. Now, I eat clean most of the time but the flexibility in my diet has allowed for way more fun in my life!
For more information on how to figure out the right nutrition plan for you, check out this blog: https://redleafnutrition.com/blogs/nutrition-deep-dive/. It gives great insight into personalized nutrition!
Most of the questions we get from our ladies revolve around these things: 1) fear of gaining weight, 2) desire to lose fat and 3) looking great. Everyone shares these concerns, including men! But, ladies (and men!), this is so important: your body is beautiful and it is the only one you have. Losing ten pounds won’t make you a better human being. It won’t make people like you or admire you more. Your weight isn’t who you are. Your appearance isn’t who you are.
You should love your body with good foods, indulge in the treats you love every once in a while, and exercise in ways that make you feel strong, capable, and fulfilled! Committing to your health takes discipline. You aren’t always going to love choosing a salad or a chicken breast and rice. You aren’t always going to want to make it into the gym. But at the end of the day, doing these things for your body is telling yourself you MATTER! That despite all the other things clamoring for attention in your life, caring for your body and your health is always a priority.
Ultimately, men and women’s health isn’t all that different. Fitness is fitness. Exercise often, eat well most of the time, and allow yourself to have a little fun every now and then!