Let’s separate fact from fiction when considering women’s training and nutrition.
Myth 1: ‘Lifting heavy will make you look like a man’
This is a myth that many women believe and one of the main reasons that prevent them from even considering any form of weight training. Yes, any woman who lifts weights over time will become progressively stronger, but what’s wrong with that? It doesn’t mean that she’ll start to look masculine.
Women produce just a fraction of the natural muscle-building hormone testosterone compared to men; men typically produce 10 to 20 times more testosterone than women. Even serious female trainers with years of experience can’t build the bulky muscle that is so often seen with male bodybuilders. The majority of women featuring on the front of fitness magazines choose to take pharmological substances anyway. For the rest of us, the process of becoming stronger and building lean muscle mass is the accumulation of dozens, if not hundreds of workouts. By adding lean mass to your physique, you burn more calories on a daily basis and stay leaner so don’t be afraid to grab some heavier weights!
Myth 2: ‘Cardio is all you need’
If you’re after a ‘firm’ ‘toned’ and ‘lean’ body, you’ll have a long wait if you’re relying solely on cardio. Following a cardio-only fitness plan has its benefits when you’re looking to lose body fat whilst retaining some health benefits but it’s a tool we want to leave in the box for as long as possible. Although cardio provides superior caloric output per minute of exercise, weight training increases muscle mass, which increases the amount of calories burned at rest; this means you can ‘diet’ whilst consuming more calories to lose body fat. Ideally you’d want to be burning calories throughout the entire day, which is a further advantage of doing weights.
If you want a lean and toned body, it’s the addition lean muscle that will create this look, this requires the lifting of heavy weights to stimulate muscle growth.
In addition, weight training develops bone density to a greater extent than cardiovascular exercise, furthermore, increased strength assists in everyday tasks such as lifting.
Myth 3: ‘Carbs are the enemy’
As with anything, if you eat and drink too much then you can expect to gain weight. You need carbs in your diet for performance in the gym, if you’re not performing to your potential and not making progress with your weights/times, then how are you expecting your body to change? Carbs can boost your mood by increasing the production of the ‘feel good’ chemical serotonin. Carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that contains dietary fiber, which is essential for a healthy digestive system and regulates blood sugar for consistent energy levels.
Eliminating carbs would be foolish, this would result in an unbalanced diet, depriving you of essential vitamins and minerals. What will ensure you achieve rapid weight gain is to eliminate carbs; this will also create low mood and lethargy which can encourage unhealthy binge eating.
Another myth relates to eating carbs after 6pm. Why is that? It’s not like your body knows it’s 6 and automatically stores the carbs as fat. What’s more important is the overall carb consumption, the type of carbs it is and what works best for you and your lifestyle.
Myth 4: ‘Weight Loss Defines Program Success’
It’s easy to get fixed on a defined number, “I want to weigh 9 stone” is something we’ve all been guilty of saying.; the reality is that you might be happy with what you see in the mirror but weigh 9 and half stone. It really doesn’t matter about the scales, yes it can be a useful tool to monitor progress but it doesn’t tell you the whole story of how your body is changing. Linking back to myth 2 about lifting weights to create a toned physique, you will be improving your body composition by adding lean muscle, while losing body fat, making your scale weight more irrelevant as you get leaner. Remember it’s fat loss we are after here, not weight loss, the 2 are very different.
To get a more accurate analysis of your progress and stop you getting fixated to what the scales are showing, I suggest you do the following every 4 weeks:
Take before/after pictures (front,side,back) and in the same lighting
Measurements- arms, legs, stomach, hips, chest
Consider how your clothes fit and feel e.g. around the top of your legs. Waist etc
Use body fat readings using skinfold calipers
Myth 5: ‘Training abs everyday will help you achieve a toned stomach’
Training abs everyday will help you to develop a 6 pack but you won’t be able to see it due to your body fat being too high. You cannot target a specific area to lose body fat, the areas you want to target are normally your stubborn fat areas, this will reduce over time but requires patience and consistency with training and nutrition
What’s more important is paying attention to your diet in order to lower your body fat. Also doing compound movements in your routine like squats and deadlifts will give you results, not only will it increase your metabolism to burn body fat, but it will give you an effective core workout at the same time.