Can Women Gain Muscle Like Men?

 What You Should Know About Increasing Muscle

Can women gain muscle like men? This has been a subject I have always been curious about. I love to workout but I normally spend most of my time in the weight room. I love lifting weights because of the results I get from doing it.

I’m sure most gyms are the same, you will notice the majority of women doing cardio, I never see a lot of women working out with weights. The research I did for this article has helped me understand a lot more about gaining muscle, I hope it will help you as well.

Female Bodybuilder Posing

Many women are reluctant to train with free weights, a lot of them believe that they will get big and blocky like men. Yes, women can gain muscle in proportionate amounts but not quite the same as men.

Common myths about women who lift weights:

  • It will turn you into a hulk
  • Only guys do it
  • It does not burn as many calories as cardio
  • Women should only lift light weights
  • You will get a thick and blocky physique

None of those are true, in fact, the benefits of strength training for women far outweigh the negatives.

Male and Female Muscle Differences

Gaining muscle is not that simple, even men struggle with gaining it, that is why anabolic steroids are so popular. If gaining muscle were that easy everyone would be doing it.

While women think that they can’t gain muscle like men they can. In fact, it is equally possible for women to gain as much muscle proportionately as men.

The difference is that men already have an advantage in that their body has more muscle than women, this gives them an obvious advantage.

While men start off with more muscle and strength, the short term strength gains in women happen faster, especially when upper body strength is concerned.

Long term muscle gains seem to be equal among women and men plus women seem to make larger gains relative to their body mass when compared to men.

One of the reasons there is little information about how much muscle women can gain is due to a lack of research on the subject.

There are not as many women who participate in strength training or compete in the sport.

While men and women gain muscle in the same way, there are some significant variables that affect both training and recovery, these I found very interesting.

I found dozens of studies done on the effect of strength and muscle gains in both men and women and the results are eye-opening.

Briefly analyzing the studies of both men and women who lift weights showed that men got stronger by 29.41% compared to women who showed a strength increase of 37.42%. It seems women gained strength 27% faster than men did.

These strength percentages further increased in younger women by as much as 48%.

While men seem to gain muscle faster over a shorter period of time women seem to gain more muscle over the long term. It appears that long term strength training in women has a significant impact on reducing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass.

When we think of gaining muscle we think testosterone.

I always thought that the reason men gained more muscle was that they produce more testosterone. I was shocked to find out this is not the reason. It is true that testosterone is highly anabolic but it’s not the only thing that contributes to gaining muscle.

If you ask the average person why men have more muscle most will agree that its because men have more testosterone than women. Normal testosterone levels in women age 30 range between 30 – 95 ng/dL whereas for men it’s between 264 to 916 ng/dL this is a huge difference.

Testosterone is not the only thing that helps build muscle.

It seems women have higher levels of certain hormones than men do such as IGF-11 and while you may not think that estrogen 2 does not have a muscle-boosting effect it does.

Due to the difference in physiology 3 between men and women, it seems women suffer less from fatigue allowing them to train longer with more sets and higher reps.

Menstrual cycles can influence muscle gains

I thought menstrual cycles were just responsible for causing cramps and causing depression, it appears that timing is everything when it comes to gaining muscle and your menstrual cycle 4.

It takes women longer to recover from training during the last half of their menstrual cycle (luteal phase). Studies show that the best muscle gains happen during the first half of your menstrual cycle called the (follicular phase) During this time women experience more strength and muscle gains.

Women who take contraceptive pills may not experience these fluctuations.

How much muscle can women gain?

We already know that women can gain the same amount of muscle proportionately as men and in some cases, it can happen faster.

On average women can gain anywhere between 0.5 to 1.5 pounds of muscle per month, a lot depends on training frequency, intensity, diet and of course your age.

What does a woman’s body need to gain muscle?

A muscle building diet is about the same for women as it is for men, women tend to store more body fat than men which should be taken into consideration but the fuel your body needs to gain muscle includes health proteins and carbohydrates.

Women who can afford the extra cost may want to consult a certified nutritionist to guide them with a proper muscle building meal plan. I found that sticking with healthy meals that include fresh vegetables healthy carbohydrates and lean meats is pretty much what works best for me.

Final thoughts?

For years I thought that women were not as capable of gaining muscle as men, the truth is we are, but when you place those proportions on a woman’s more petite body it does not seem possible but it is.

The only exceptions are those women who take muscle development to extremes and take anabolic steroids to gain muscle, steroids not only increase muscle mass but also can increase bone thickness.

Most women just want to look good and feel better, strength training offers many long term health benefits plus it keeps your body lean and toned.

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2439518
  2. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-essr/Fulltext/2014/10000/Influence_of_Sex_and_Estrogen_on_Musculotendinous.7.aspx
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4111134/
  4. https://www.minervamedica.it/en/journals/sports-med-physical-fitness/article.php?cod=R40Y2017N01A0043
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