Women: gain weight healthily through strength training – here’s how

Weights, red peppers wrapped with body tape measure

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For some women, gaining weight is not necessarily easier than losing weight. With diets and Fitnesstipps this is often forgotten. The advice to "just eat more" may be well-intentioned, but it rarely works. After all, you are not necessarily hungrier just because you want to gain weight. And you don’t want to rise like a yeast dough either. The solution: Healthy weight gain through strength training.

Hint: If you are severely, chronically underweight, you should consult a doctor before starting strength training to clarify health risks.

Healthy weight gain through muscle building

Most women have a real aversion to the topic of "gaining weight". One must look only once, how in the media about increasing one speaks: One becomes "thick", "fat", "flabby". Thereby gaining weight i.d.R. presented as something negative with the help of such terms.

But like most things in life, things are not quite so one-sided. You can gain weight in different ways. Mass is not equal to mass. Besides the fat mass, which is rather undesirable, you can also increase your muscle mass to a certain extent and thus put more kilos on the scale. This makes you "toned", "shaped" and "fit". Sounds quite different, doesn’t it? And this despite the fact that muscles also make you gain weight and become more plump. But just differently, which one then also visually perceives.

So it’s not the gaining weight itself that matters, but the way in which you gain weight.

So if you’d like to gain weight, you don’t have to eat as much as possible and only build fat, but you can also find your way to a healthier lifestyle and greater well-being with a mix of strength training and an adjusted diet. Muscle is the magic word. When you gain muscle, you feel more resilient, you have more strength and, incidentally, you have more appetite.

Strength training increases appetite

Underweight women who don’t exercise often lose their appetite altogether. This is because their basal metabolic rate is in the basement and the body has come to terms with getting by with little. Then, if you spend most of the day sitting in an office or at a desk, this effect is amplified even more. You don’t need much and you have no appetite because you don’t exercise, so you eat little. This process can be broken through exercise.

In fact, strength training helps you gain weight twice over. You not only build muscles, but you also get more appetite and desire for food. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that by gaining more muscle mass, you increase your basal and power metabolic rate. The body burns so also during the day more, even if one makes straight no sport. This also demands more energy, so you get more hungry.

On the other hand, there is then still the appetite-promoting effect of the strength training itself. During and directly after the training one has only inhibited appetite. This stress-induced effect fizzles out again after a short time. The muscles demand sugar that you have broken down in the muscle cells through training. You get hungry.

On myself, I’ve often found that my hunger after weight training is greater than after a long jog. That’s because endurance training, unlike strength training, makes more use of fat deposits and doesn’t leave the body clamoring for "material" to build up.

Muscle building and strength training: How it works

With strength training you can build muscle and thereby gain weight. As a woman you train for this no differently than men do. With endurance training, you also build muscle to a lesser degree, but as you adapt to the load, the training over time leads more to fat loss, meaning weight loss.

If you want to build muscle as a woman, you have to work the iron just like the men. For this, it is best to train according to the so-called hypertrophy training with 5-15 repetitions per set. The intensity, i.e. the weight of the dumbbells and machines, must be adjusted so that the muscle is clearly fatigued and "burning" after one set. After a recovery break of approx. 60 seconds you connect the next set. Do 3-4 sets per exercise.

To have a roadmap for the different exercises, you need a training plan. As a beginner you can z.B. Use my total body workout plan. Two to three training sessions per week are already enough to build muscle continuously and moderately.

Slight calorie surplus necessary

If you want to build muscle, you should follow your hunger after training and eat a balanced meal with all macronutrients. It is ideal to have a small snack immediately after the workout to tide you over. Homemade protein shakes, smoothies, fruit or muesli bars are practical. This way you can recoup the calories you burned during your workout.

However, muscle building works best with a slight calorie surplus. That’s why it’s important to plan an extra portion of carbohydrates per training session in addition to the snack. This can be a small dessert after lunch, an extra slice of bread or a banana. Oodles of food and protein is not necessary to build muscle.

If you’re not sure if you’ve been eating enough and balanced meals so far, track your calories and macronutrients. This will give you an objective overview. The minimum amount of calories to neither gain nor lose weight is based on your basal metabolic rate, added to your power metabolic rate. Every calorie more means calorie surplus and enables weight gain.

How much and how fast can you gain healthy weight as a woman by strength training?

As a woman, through several years of continuous strength training of the entire body you can maximum ca. 10kg of muscle mass Build up (Lyle McDonald model). However, this value depends on the body size. If you are smaller than the average woman, it is a little less, if you are bigger, it is a little more. The value is also valid for untrained women who have not done any sports before. And of course, optimal training and nutrition conditions for muscle building must prevail, i.e. cleanly executed training and a slight calorie surplus.

In any case, these 10kg represent a base value. D.h. it is the limit that you cannot exceed naturally during your whole life – a genetic maximum. So muscle growth is finite unless you use unhealthy aids.

If you start strength training untrained, you will make great and erratic progress in the beginning. Progress then slows with each year you strength train. So in the beginning it is realistic to have approx. To gain 500g of muscle mass per month. In the following year it is then only half, in the next following year half of the half, u.s.w. With time you will exhaust the 10kg, but it gets harder and slower the closer you get to this value. 5kg in the first year of training but are quite realistic as a woman.

It is also necessary to train continuously and with a split system. Breaks of several weeks already mean that the body reduces the muscle mass again. Strength training promotes even after several years of training in any case the preservation of the existing muscles.

By the way, in men the genetic maximum is about. 20kg muscle mass. You will not gain as much weight as a woman as men can do.

So you don’t need to be afraid that strength training will soon make you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. & If you start rather from the light underweight or lower end of the normal weight with the strength training, you also do not have the problem that by the muscles the fat tissue is pressed upward and you look first of all still thicker. Rather, the muscles will visually stand out, bring the body into a healthy shape, improve posture and body tension.

Strong weight fluctuations after weight training

Most women are unsettled by it, but some may be pleased: After strength training, you suddenly weigh more and look z.B. a little thicker on the thighs. However, this is only a temporary and short term effect, which is due to supercompensation.

Strength training temporarily increases water storage in the trained muscles. It is a normal process that is part of stress and regeneration. Within ca. two days, the water will be lost again. Both the weight gain and the thickened muscles disappear again.

How to know if I have gained muscle or fat?

The body scale at home tells us unfortunately only, whether we have gained weight. It measures the absolute mass value of our body in kilograms. What exactly it is, water, fat, muscle, it doesn’t tell us. The body scale is therefore not a measure of your progress, but at best an instrument for a rough estimate of.

The decisive factor is your body fat percentage. In the case of body fat relative ratio of muscle and fat mass shown. Aim for the lowest possible body fat percentage, even if you want to gain weight through strength training. Because as muscle mass increases but fat mass stays the same, body fat percentage decreases. If you gain weight, but the body fat percentage remains the same or even increases, then you also gain fat mass in addition to muscle mass.

It is worthwhile to let analyze its body fat portion in regular intervals of 4-8 weeks exactly. There are many gyms (especially the small and owner-operated ones) that have a professional body analysis scale or other measuring instruments. For a small fee, even non-members are often allowed to use the body analysis scale. Supplement stores and sports medicine centers also offer body fat percentage measurement for a fee.

Do not expect too much from yourself too quickly

If you do not eat enough calories so far, please do not ask too much of yourself too fast. The body needs time and you need it too to change your habits. Feel your way to strength training first and see what it does to your sense of hunger and well-being. Experiment in the kitchen, see what tastes good to you and what is good for you.

If you then train regularly according to plan and eat enough every day with a slight calorie surplus, the muscles will grow all by themselves. But just slowly and gradually. Exercising as much as possible does not help in the long term any more than eating as much as possible. Changing habits, observing yourself and correcting yourself again and again is worth its weight in gold.

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