Muscle is Key to Looking Toned: 5 Muscle Building Tips for Women Over 40Aug 27, 2022
If I had a dollar for every time a woman told me, “I don’t want to look bulky, I just want to look toned", I'd be on a private jet to my villa in the South of France.
But here’s the deal, TONING isn’t a thing. Toning is a marketing term that was created to appeal to women. And it worked.
Muscles, by nature, have tone. But, if they are covered by a layer of fat, they won’t be visible. Muscles can only grow or shrink. You can build more muscle, or you can build more fat. That's about it.
Looking “toned” comes down to two things – gaining muscle and losing fat. You have to lose body fat to reveal the underlying muscle. And you have to build muscle so there is something to reveal.
Preserving lean muscle should be a priority for all women over 40.
We start to lose muscle after age 30, about 3-8% per decade. That loss is accelerated for several years during perimenopause, as estrogen and other hormone levels decrease.
Muscle is the organ of longevity. It is our “Fountain of Youth”. It directly affects how well we age. More muscle means more strength, energy, and stamina – and a decreased risk of falls and fractures. Increasing lean muscle improves our resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories we burn just being alive). Muscle is what gives us shape – and tone.
So don’t be afraid of muscle! And don’t worry about bulking up, even if you lift heavy (which you should). Women simply don’t have the hormone profile to bulk up, especially after 40. BESIDES, it takes significant time (years), effort, and a crap-ton of calories to build muscle. You don’t just wake up looking like Arnold one day.
Here are my Top 5 Muscle Building Tips for Women Over 40:
1. Strength Train. Full body workouts of major muscles, 2-3x a week. Lift “heavy for you” so that you reach muscular fatigue in every set. That means, if you aren’t struggling to complete the final 2-3 reps with good form, you aren’t lifting heavy enough. Your program should also have progressive overload (how you get stronger over time). My Bolder STRONG programs are designed using these protocols.
2. Eat Enough Protein. Most women don’t eat enough protein. Women over 40 have increased protein needs. And if you’re trying to lose weight (fat), you need even MORE. As a baseline, aim for at least 30 grams of protein per meal. You may consider an amino acid supplement, to help you reach your protein goals.
3. Bookend Your Workouts With Protein. Protein timing helps improve muscle protein synthesis, repair muscle damage and promotes recovery.
- Pre-workout: 20-30 grams of protein 20-30 minutes before your workout will help fuel your workout while preserving muscle.
- Post-workout: To optimize recovery, eat 30g of protein a with a little bit of carbs within 30 minutes post-workout for optimal muscle protein synthesis and muscle recovery. I like to have a post-workout protein shake with almond milk, berries, avocado, and either some hemp hearts or a handful of nuts (protein + fat + fiber).
4. Get Adequate Recovery Between Workouts As midlife women, we need intensity in our workouts more than ever (in the right amounts). However, we also have a greater need for recovery. Schedule your strength sessions 48-72 hours apart to allow for optimal recovery. Listen to your body’s feedback on then to push and when to dial it back.
5. GTF to Sleep (you know the book!): Over 60% of women in perimenopause and beyond report sleep issues. Aim to get 7-8 hours every night. Sleep is a vital part of recovery, muscle repair, and muscle building. It is also during deep sleep cycles that testosterone and growth hormone are released – vital for muscle growth, strength, longevity, and libido!
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