In a recent survey on the Broke Single Mom Fitness (BSMF) Facebook page, followers voted muscle growth as their number one goal for engaging in exercise. But if you’re not a BSMF Facebook follower and aren’t interested in packing on muscle size, you can still benefit from this post. Your objective should be, at minimum, to retain the muscle you have. This is because muscle mass declines with age, and it is muscle that maintains our posture and provides firmness and tone to our bodies. Further, building muscle can benefit women in many other rewarding ways, below are six compelling benefits that can motivate you to make some #gainz.
1. Look Younger
The physical training required for muscle growth and repair, releases growth hormone (GH), which is responsible for rebuilding and repairing all the cells in our bodies. Babies, children, and young adults, in that order, have the highest levels of GH, which manifests in firm, youthful skin, and – at least for centuries prior to the internet era – lower body fat levels and healthy lean body mass (muscle) ratios. GH peaks during puberty and starts declining yearly in our twenties. The effects of lower GH means the cell turnover responsible for rejuvenating our skin, repairing our bodies, and retaining healthy lean body mass levels is less efficient.
Growth hormone (GH) serves important roles in adult life, including maintenance of lean body mass and bone mass, promoting lipolysis, thereby limiting visceral adiposity [fat], and regulating carbohydrate metabolism, cardiovascular system function, aerobic exercise capacity, and cognitive function. – Jose M. Garcia, MD, PhD, George R. Merriam, MD, and Atil Y. Kargi, MD.
A steady strength training routine is an avenue for increasing GH levels naturally, and the more regularly you engage in strength training, the more frequently you can benefit from increased GH levels, compared to a training program that does not emphasize muscle growth or repair, such as endurance cardio, which is more catabolic (muscle-wasting) than anabolic (muscle-building).
2. Burn Fat
Not only does the body burn calories during strength and resistance training but continues to do so days after every session while rebuilding and strengthening the muscles exercised. This is the primary calorie-burning advantage strength training has over cardiovascular exercise: extended afterburn.
3. Retain Firm, Strong Muscles as You Age
Muscle mass declines as we get older, which translates to less strength and looser skin. By at least retaining muscle through strength exercise, we can slow muscle atrophy and reinforce joints, strengthen and correct posture, and prevent bone deterioration.
4. Support Your Bones
The average person over 70 has or will experience a deterioration in their overall body frame, changing the shape of their bodies, e.g., widening hips, rounded back, stiff gait. Aging plays a role in this muscular-skeletal degeneration, but major causes are due to lack consistent physical exercise over a lifetime, poor nutrition, and loss of bone density. To mitigate or delay the onset of these body frame ailments, and worse, the effects of it: pain and risk of life-threatening injuries that can result, make strength training a part of your long-term fitness lifestyle.
5. Digest Carbohydrates More Efficiently
Recently, I read that the leaner you are and the more muscle you have, the more efficient your body becomes at breaking down and utilizing carbohydrates (as well as other nutrients). Now, there is more reason for diabetics to lift weights and put on muscle—insulin regulation. This is great news! But now that you’ve learned this, don’t go crazy and overindulge on carbs. The body stores carbohydrates throughout the day, unlike other nutrients, such as protein, which is primarily “stored” by the body as muscle mass but not made readily available for activity hours after being eaten. This is why eating protein throughout the day and even into the night or before bed is important if you train to grow and retain muscle. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are the body’s preferred source of fuel and is stored for ready use hours after each meal. To keep your carb stores low, eat smart and schedule your carb intake around workouts or early in the day, when they are more likely to be burned and not stored by your body.
6. Workout Less
This can vary depending on your goals, but compared to endurance activities, weight training requires less time to be effective. For a sleek muscular build, a workout routine of four days per week, one hour each is sufficient. Of course you’ll want to eat clean and use a split schedule to hit each muscle group sufficiently. Many endurance “athletes” train for hours, for marathons. Their joints, ligaments, and posture often suffer long-term effects and in many cases, let’s face it, they don’t even look like they workout. Well, weight training requires less time per workout to be effective and your hard work can be undeniably visible in a strong, athletic physique. Further, a well-thought-out strength routine re-enforces joints, strengthens and corrects posture, and can prevent bone deterioration as you age.
How to Start Building Muscle
Hitting the weight room isn’t the only way to build muscle. True, a set of weights or a public gym can be very convenient for access to a variety of weights and equipment to ensure gradual resistance is achieved over time, aka progressive overload, to force muscle growth. However, the amount of resistance, intensity, and progressions necessary for muscle growth can be achieved free of equipment or with very little equipment. The modern calisthenic fitness trend (a great lifelong fitness option, I’ll add) is an excellent example, featuring athletes who practice gymnastics strength training and engage in functional exercise for muscle growth. Below are resources to help you get started with calisthenic strength training, minimal-equipment muscle-building workouts, or making gainz at a public gym.
Websites + Videos:
Written by Sylvia Petro & Limus Woods
BodyLogicMD. “Growth hormone deficiency and HGH for women.“ Retrieved from https://www.bodylogicmd.com/hormones-for-women/growth-hormone
L.T. Davidson. “Anabolic Exercise vs. Catabolic Exercise.” Retrieved from https://healthyliving.azcentral.com/anabolic-exercise-vs-catabolic-exercise-11899.html
Corleone, J. “Foods that promote HGH.” Livestrong. Retrieved from. https://www.livestrong.com/article/526830-foods-that-promote-hgh/
Fung, J. “Fasting and growth hormone.” Retrieved from https://www.dietdoctor.com/fasting-and-growth-hormone
Jose M Garcia, MD, PhD, George R Merriam, MD, and Atil Y Kargi, MD. “Growth Hormone in Aging.” Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279163/
Mawer, R. Healthline. “11 ways to boost human growth hormone naturally.” Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-ways-to-increase-hgh#1
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Healthy aging.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/growth-hormone/art-20045735
As an athlete for over 18 years and a broke single mom for most of that time, I created this site to aid not only broke single parents to a life of fitness, but anyone who believes the road to fitness requires a lot of cash or time. In reality, the way to fitness is paved with knowledge and firm principles; teaching readers how to master both is the goal of this site.