How to tone and build muscle
Powerful protein for muscle growth & hormone health.
A blueprint for building muscle–the practical way
Before we begin, let’s debunk a myth we’re all familiar with: lifting weights will magically turn your body into a bulky bodybuilder.
Truth is, women naturally have lower levels of testosterone than men, which plays a significant role in muscle size and development. Becoming bulky—or achieving a heavily muscular physique—requires both an intense and specific training regimen (lifting very heavy, high-volume workouts, etc.), as well as a carefully planned nutrition program. Think: a caloric surplus and plenty of protein.
For most of us, active strength training won’t lead to a bulky appearance. Instead, we’ll experience improvements in strength, muscle tone, and overall improved confidence.
How to build lean muscle with strength training
All of that to say, building muscle is a gradual process! It takes persistent dedication. Based on research, here are a few key tips to help you embark on your muscle-building journey:
- Start with compound exercises: Focus on compound exercises that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, lunges, and overhead presses. These exercises stimulate significant muscle growth and increase overall strength.
- Aim for progressive overload: Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts by adding more weight, increasing repetitions, or reducing rest periods. Progressive overload challenges your muscles, promoting growth and strength gains. You can do this every 3-6 weeks.
- Optimal training frequency: Aim for strength training sessions 2-4 times per week, allowing for adequate recovery time between sessions. Consistency is key, but also ensure you give your muscles time to repair and grow stronger!
- Vary your exercises: Incorporate a variety of exercises to target different muscle groups and prevent plateaus. Include both compound exercises and isolation exercises that target specific muscles for a well-rounded workout routine.
- Ensure proper form and technique: Focus on maintaining proper form and technique during each exercise to maximize muscle engagement and minimize the risk of injury. Consider working with a qualified trainer to ensure you're performing exercises correctly.
- Prioritize rest and recovery: Allow your body enough time to rest and recover between workouts. This includes getting quality sleep, managing stress, and incorporating active recovery days or light workouts.
The power of protein
While consistent strength training is one piece of the muscle-building puzzle, properly refueling and resting!) are equally important. Protein, in particular, is crucial. First and foremost, protein provides the building blocks necessary for muscle repair and growth. During a strength training session, your muscle fibers undergo microscopic damage, and consuming protein helps to repair and rebuild these tissues. In turn, this leads to muscle growth and strength gains.
Did you know that protein has a higher thermic effect compared to other macronutrients? Meaning, it requires more energy to digest and metabolize. This can help support a robust metabolism. Protein also aids in satiety and promotes blood sugar balance.
In terms of how much protein you need, this varies! However, a general guideline is to consume approximately 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. For example, a woman weighing 150 pounds would aim for a daily protein intake of 120-150 grams. When possible, distribute your protein intake evenly throughout the day, including a protein-rich breakfast. Additionally, time your protein intake around your workout—this may enhance muscle protein synthesis.
Does muscle mass improve hormone health?
Yes! Hormone health is closely tied to muscle mass. Building and maintaining muscle helps regulate hormone levels, such as insulin, human growth hormone, and testosterone. Adequate muscle mass can also improve insulin sensitivity (hello, blood sugar balance), enhance metabolic function, and promote hormonal balance. Win, win, win. Lastly, as women enter perimenopause and menopause, regular strength training can help mitigate the age-related decline in hormone levels.
Post-workout protein replenishers
After strength training, it's essential to replenish your body with protein to support muscle recovery and growth. Here are some protein-rich snack examples that can be enjoyed post-workout:
- Greek yogurt: A versatile option packed with protein. Pair it with fruits or nuts for added nutrients and flavor.
- Protein smoothie: Add a scoop of your favorite vanilla protein powder to our tropical green smoothie!
- Hard-boiled eggs: A quick and convenient snack option. Eggs are not only rich in protein but also provide essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Add them to 1-2 rice cakes with mashed avocado.
- Cottage cheese: A creamy and protein-dense snack that pairs well with fruits or whole grain crackers. Try our strawberry cheesecake waffles for a post-workout brunch.
- Edamame: Non-GMO soybeans are a great source of plant-based protein and can be enjoyed steamed or roasted with a sprinkle of sea salt. Pair with roasted seaweed dipped in hummus or a handful of roasted almonds.
- Turkey or chicken breast slices: Packed with protein, organic deli meats provide a good amount of protein. Pair a few slices with a full-fat string cheese and baby carrots for a well-rounded snack.
A few favorites from this week
This lemon cheesecake smoothie is one of our favorite protein-packed breakfasts!
Craving pizza? Add some protein. Check out these Mediterranean breakfast pizzas.
To build muscle you have to sleep
In addition to eating more protein and strength training, you need sleep to build muscle. Women also need more sleep than men! Here are quick and easy tips to optimize your sleep.
- Pick a bedtime and stick to it.
- Turn your phone screen red if you’re using it at night. This reduces exposure to blue light at night which we know interferes with our sleep.
- Read a page-turning book at night instead of doom scrolling.
- Take magnesium.
- Get morning sunlight. Sun in the morning helps reset your circadian rhythm so you get a better nights sleep.
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