By Sue Heintze
1. Train with challenging weights in the 6-12 rep range
Adding lean muscle (called hypertrophy) is achieved with challenging weights in the rep range of 6-12. Hypertrophy is the process of increasing the number of cells within an organ or tissue (such as muscle tissue), thereby increasing its overall size. If you train with higher reps you surpass this stage and train your muscles for endurance rather than lean muscle gain. But, DON’T be afraid of building huge many muscles – it simply can’t happen as women don’t have enough of the hormone testosterone.
2. Train at least 3 x week with weights
Muscle growth occurs through adaptation. You need to stress the muscles often enough to elicit the adaptation response. The muscle gets stronger and bigger, due to the stress placed upon it. Challenging weight training 3-5 x per week is recommended.
3. Eat plenty of protein
Protein is the building block of muscle tissue (among many other tissues in the body). When you are training hard you need to ensure you are getting enough protein to aid with recovery and repair of your muscle cells in order to achieve hypertrophy. Protein will also help keep you fuller for longer and it has a thermic effect on the body, meaning that it takes additional energy/calories in order to break down the protein to be digested and used. So it’s great for muscle building, recovery AND fat loss.
4. Reduce your intake of carbohydrates but don’t eliminate them
You can’t burn fat in the presence of insulin and every time you ingest sugars or carbohydrates, your body releases insulin. Yet carbohydrates are beneficial for brain fuel and your body’s preferred energy source, as well as for muscle recovery – so don’t eliminate them even. The best time to eat carbohydrates is around your training times – before, and especially after, a challenging workout.
5. Eat more veggies
Not only are veggies low in calories and packed with nutrients but they also have a high thermic effect so use up a lot of energy just to digest (particularly if eaten raw or as close to raw as you can manage).
6. Eat enough food
One of the biggest mistakes women make is not eating enough to fuel their body and assist with their fat loss and lean muscle gain goals. You need to eat regular meals packed with protein, some complex carbs, lots of veggies and some good fats. Starving yourself is only going to slow down your metabolism and see you gain weight long term, making it harder to get it off and keep it off.
7. Get enough rest and sleep
Many overlook the importance of sleep, but if you don’t get enough sleep you can’t function properly and this has two negative outcomes. The first is that you are unable to work to your full potential or hard enough in your training sessions. The second is that when you are tired, it messes with your hormones making it much harder to resist cravings.
8. Don’t overdo the cardio
If you want to lower your body fat and gain lean muscle too much cardio is counter-productive – especially the popular long, slow kind such as long distance running or cycling. Muscle wastage occurs when performing a lot of long duration cardio, so instead try 2-3 short, high intensity sessions and only add longer, more moderate sessions as a last resort. The aim should always be to do as little cardio as possible if body re-composition is your goal.
9. Throw away the scale
When you change your body recomposition for the better, you add lean muscle weight (while reducing fat weight) so you may not see a huge drop on the scale but you will definitely see it in the mirror and by how your clothes fit.
10. Be patient – body recomposition takes time
12 weeks is a great time frame to give yourself. If you are looking for rapid ‘weight’ loss, you will find yourself losing precious muscle tissue instead of fat.