When I talk to women about weight lifting the most common thing that I hear is, without a doubt: “I don’t want to get bulky.”
While the female body isn’t predisposed to pack on muscle quite like men do, there are some ways to help achieve long, lean muscles rather than bulk.
Part of that is up to your own body. We’re all different and I’m a huge believer that everyone has a different ideal fitness routine. You could put five women on the same regime and they would all have slightly, if not vastly, different results. So step one in achieving your goals is going to be getting to know your body.
Enter – Trial and error.
Sounds exhausting, right? It doesn’t have to be. Think of it like an adventure. Try everything that sounds fun and pay attention to how your body responds. Weight training, classes, running, CrossFit, swimming, yoga… The options are endless.
I have an athletic build and put on muscle fairly quickly, but I also plateau quickly, so for me it’s all about mixing things up. I usually switch up my programming every 12 weeks or so. I’ll do 12 weeks of weight training with running, then 12 weeks of bodyweight circuits, barre, and swimming, and then I’ll tackle a 12 week challenge program.
The same way we all respond different to workouts, our bodies need something different to fuel them. For some people, their allergies or sensitivities will come in to play. Others will notice that they feel more energized with more carbs, or more lethargic after a high sugar day, or that they wake up starving if their dinner is too large.
The best way to find a way of eating that can be a lifestyle rather than a crash diet is to try different ways of eating. Over the years I’ve tried vegan, raw, and paleo, but what works best for me is a gluten & lactose-free vegetarian diet.
And while the ideal diet is going to vary from person to person, there’s one important tip that works for virtually everyone – Eat whole foods.
Processed foods, even if they’re labeled healthy, aren’t the answer. I definitely include protein powders and protein bars in my diet, but they’re not making up the bulk of my nutrition. Eating a variety of produce each day, drinking lots of water, and having plenty of healthy fats and protein is a great way to approach your diet.
Your ultimate goal should be – Eat real food.
How you move and what you eat are obviously important for staying lean and achieving your goals, but they’re not everything.
Sleep, recovery, and downtime play important roles in shaping your body.
If you’re highly strung, sleep deprived, and constantly stressed, you’ll crave less healthy food, retain water weight & fat, and not feel your healthiest. Learn to slow down, take adequate rest days, and give your body time to recover.
Creating a healthy, relaxing nightly routine has been a big goal for me lately and I can tell you that the results are palpable. When you sleep well and have lower cortisol levels, everything you do is easier.
Want some tips on this? Check out these posts:
- Nighttime Ritual
- Upgrade Your Self-Care Routine
- Morning Routine & Greeting the Day
- Self Care
- Links You’ll Love: Self Love
It’s easy to get preoccupied with what you’re doing in the gym, but you have to remember that gaining lean muscle mass isn’t about any one single thing that you do. There are a variety of factors, including your own genetics, that impact your results, and which you need to keep in mind.
Good luck with your goals and please let me know what YOUR tips are for helping avoid bulk and gaining lean muscle mass!