Unrealistic claims about programs and products promoting insane muscle growth often lead us to believe that gaining muscle is easy. As a result, most women expect to gain MUCH more muscle at a MUCH faster rate than they actually can. Women significantly overestimate how much muscle they can gain and how fast they can build it, and avoid lifting heavier weights because they don’t want to get “too big and bulky” (one of the biggest myths surrounding weight training for women).
Building muscle is actually quite hard for women and it takes a lot of time and patience. Women who you see with a significant amount of muscle mass have often spent a lot of time training and eating specifically with that goal in mind – it’s not something that happens overnight!
If your goal is to build muscle and you’re frustrated with not seeing the results you want, it’s likely due to these reasons:
1. You’re not in a calorie surplus
This is definitely the number one reason why most women struggle to build muscle. Most women are afraid to eat more because they think it will make them gain body fat. While you can build some muscle in a calorie deficit, you can’t do it EFFECTIVELY. Increasing your calorie intake to maintenance or preferably, a slight calorie surplus (eating more calories than you are burning) will provide far better results, while still minimising fat gain.
2. You’re not eating enough protein
Protein is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of muscle and other important structures in our bodies. As such, it is essential for the muscle building process. The primary function of the protein consumed in the diet is to build and repair cells, including the muscle fibers damaged through training. Without sufficient protein, your body will break down muscle in order to obtain the amino acids it requires to repair damaged cells – which is not what we want when trying to build muscle. For optimal results when it comes to building muscle, we recommend aiming to consume 1.5-2.2 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day. Leaner women should aim for the higher end of this range and those with more body fat should aim for the lower end.
3. You’re not following a training program
If you are going to the gym and just doing random exercises with no plan or you are constantly jumping from program to program, you aren’t going to get the results you want. In order to build muscle effectively, you need to follow a structured training program with planned progression. You need to spend time doing the same movements over and over again, perfecting your form and applying progressive overload (which we will discuss next)!
4. You’re not applying progressive overload with your training
Progressive overload means to continually increasing the demands on your muscles over time. If you don’t constantly force your muscles to work harder, you aren’t giving them any reason to grow or become stronger. You can apply overload with weight training in a variety of ways, but the most common are to increase the weight you are lifting, or to increase the amount of reps or sets you are performing for a given exercise. The easiest way to ensure you are progressing, is to keep a record of your training sessions.
5. You’re doing too much activity/cardio
Performing cardio will increase your calorie expenditure and may even put you into a calorie deficit! As we know, a calorie surplus is required for optimal muscle growth to occur so this is going to be counter-productive. If you want to do cardio you’ll need to increase the amount of calories you are eating in order to offset it.
6. You’re not getting enough rest
Muscle fiber repair occurs AFTER the workout, while the muscles are resting. New muscle fibers are produced to help replace and repair the damaged ones. More fibers are produced to make up for the damaged ones, and this is where the actual muscle growth takes place. If you aren’t taking rest days or you aren’t getting enough sleep, the repair and recovery process is going to be affected and subsequently, muscle growth. It’s very important to have at least 1 full rest day per week (this will depend on your personal recovery rate) and aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night if you want to build muscle effectively.
Optimising these things will drastically improve your results when it comes to building muscle. Then you just need to be consistent and patient!
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