If you’re a woman looking to build lean muscle, you probably have questions about the best types of protein, how much you need, and what you need to do in terms of exercise. Here, you’ll get all the essential information you need to know to effectively build muscle, from a top women’s personal trainer in Melbourne and a leading women only gym specialising in strength training for women.
What’s all the fuss about protein?
Protein is a vital component for muscle growth and repair. It consists of amino acids, often called the building blocks of our body. Our bodies utilise over 20 amino acids, but only 9 of them are considered essential, meaning we must obtain them through our diet. These essential amino acids play various roles in regulating metabolism, balancing fluid levels, creating hormones, transporting nutrients, and repairing and growing our muscles.
What are the best sources of protein?
When it comes to protein sources, we typically consume them from animal or plant-based foods. Animal proteins are considered “complete proteins” because they contain all 9 essential amino acids required by our bodies. Examples of animal protein sources include eggs, fish and seafood, lean meat, poultry, dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese), and protein powders such as casein, whey, and beef.
On the other hand, most plant proteins are considered “incomplete” as they are low in one or more of the essential amino acids. However, by combining different plant-based protein sources, you can obtain a complete amino acid profile. Some examples of plant protein sources include beans, buckwheat, chia seeds, legumes, nuts, soybeans, spirulina, and various plant-based protein powders like pea, hemp, and soy.
If you want to increase your protein intake in a way that suits your lifestyle or specific dietary requirements, it’s best to chat to a nutritionist at a women only gym or your women’s personal trainer in Melbourne for expert advice!
How to determine your protein needs
To meet your body’s basic protein requirements and prevent protein deficiency, the current Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) suggests consuming 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, this number is considered too low for individuals aiming to build and maintain muscle mass, especially as they age.
Recent studies have shown that as we age, our protein needs increase due to the risk of sarcopenia, which refers to age-related muscle loss. Starting from the age of 30, we naturally lose 3-5% of muscle mass per decade. To counteract this muscle loss, it is recommended to increase protein intake.
For weight loss, studies suggest that a high-protein diet alone is effective in increasing satiety, reducing appetite, slowing down muscle loss, and boosting metabolism. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recommends a protein intake range of 1.2-1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight for individuals seeking to lose weight.
When it comes to muscle gain, a combination of a high-protein diet and strength training is crucial. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests a protein intake range of 1.2-1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight for those training to increase muscle mass.
Interestingly, the recommended protein ranges for weight loss and muscle gain are quite similar, indicating that exercise, nutrition, and optimal protein intake work hand in hand for muscle growth!
Don’t go overboard
While protein is essential for muscle growth, there is a limit to how much protein our bodies can effectively utilise per meal. Research has identified this limit as the “Muscle Full Effect.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that our bodies can only utilise approximately 20-30 grams of protein per meal to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
Consuming more protein beyond this limit does not significantly contribute to muscle growth.
Building muscle through strength training for women
To effectively build lean muscle, exercise plays a vital role. After all, you can’t just eat your way to well-defined, healthy muscles! Here is a brief overview of the three primary mechanisms involved in exercise-induced muscle growth:
- Mechanical tension: This refers to the force or stress applied to the muscle during contractions. Examples include lifting weights or performing resistance exercises.
- Muscle damage: When we engage in new movements, increase exercise volume or intensity, or perform exercises in unfamiliar ways, we may experience exercise-induced muscle damage. This typically occurs during the eccentric (lengthening) phase of an exercise. Muscle damage is often expressed as post-workout muscle soreness.
- Metabolic stress: Metabolic stress occurs when metabolites build up in our muscles during exercise, usually when we fatigue our muscles through repetitions or until failure. This sensation is commonly known as the “burn” or “pump.” These mechanisms signal the release of anabolic hormones like testosterone and growth hormone, which support muscle protein synthesis and limit muscle breakdown.
If you’re new to training or consider yourself a beginner, a leading women’s personal trainer in Melbourne recommends engaging in 3-4 resistance or strength training sessions per week at a women only gym. Depending on the program and exercise style, these sessions can last anywhere between 30-60 minutes.
Start strength training for women and get lean!
When you want to build lean muscle, eating right and exercising right is essential – and that’s where a women only gym can be invaluable. You’ll have all the resources you need at your fingertips, from your very own women’s personal trainer in Melbourne for personalised training to classes on strength training for women to guide your journey. All in a safe, welcoming, women-focussed environment!