I’m going to be very clear about this one ok? Are you listening? Are you sure you’re listening? As females, lacking the distinct male Y chromosome, we DO NOT have the amount of testosterone, naturally, in our bodies to look like a man. It just can NOT happen, naturally. No matter how much lifting a woman does she WILL NOT end up looking like a man. Her body is not capable of creating that kind of bulk on its own. Are there women lifters who look more like a man than a woman? Of course there are! That’s where this myth comes from right? But you can take it to the bank that those athletes have not reached that point without using enhancers. And even the ones who do not use enhancers have trained very hard, lifted very heavy and eaten very calculated foods every single day, 365 days a year for at LEAST 3 years before they even consider entering a competition. So, believe me when I say that you are PERFECTLY and completely safe from reaching She-Hulk status if you take strength training classes a few times a week or work with a personal trainer and enjoy the occasional glass of Cabernet or Sauvignon Blanc. Nothing we ever do as women will be manly because WE. ARE. NOT. MEN. Ok? Ok. Moving On.
“Muscle weighs more than fat.”
If you drop one pound of rocks and one pound of feathers off the top floor of a five story building which bag will hit the ground first?
If you answered anything other than “They will both hit the ground at the same time” I’m sorry to inform you that you are incorrect. One pound of anything weighs exactly the same amount as one pound of anything else.
So, what IS the difference between one pound of fat and one pound of muscle? Why do we prefer to have pounds of muscle as opposed to the same number of pounds of fat? Density! The amount of space it takes up under your skin is vastly different! Muscle does not weigh more than fat but it is much denser, causing it to occupy a much smaller amount of space on your frame. A 150lb body frame with 20% body fat is going to look much smaller, tighter and leaner than the same 150lb frame with 35% body fat. This is why fat loss and muscle gain is a much more concise fitness goal than just seeing a lower number on a scale. If you only lose weight you’ll simply be a lighter version of your former self. If you lose fat and build muscle your body will become a tighter, leaner and more defined version itself. That is what most people envision when they say the words “I want to tone.”
“I only need to use light weights.”
Light weights and higher reps are great if you only want to build endurance and focus on cardio, which is typically hailed as the holy grail of fat burning. But, as soon as you hit the cool down the cardio burn stops. When you lift heavier you prolong that fat burning action in your body for the next 24 hours resulting in more calories burned off overall than with cardio alone. Lifting heavy is where you will find the coveted muscle definition we all admire in our favorite Hollywood heart throbs and starlets. And while you can’t spot reduce your favorite problem areas, lifting heavy burn more of the deeper belly fat resulting in a flatter tummy. So how do you know if you’re lifting heavy enough to reap these benefits? You should be choosing a weight that is heavy enough to put you at around 85% of your maximum effort by the last two to three reps. That’s the sweet spot where lifting heavy really starts to make things happen. Don’t be afraid of it. Make friends with it. You’ll be glad you did.
I’m 1/3 of the way through the challenge now and I gotta be honest week 4 was a really tough one in many different ways. And no, it wasn’t just hormones. My blood sugar was dropping on me a couple hours after breakfast and I was very emotional, crying very easily. I was exhausted all the time, falling asleep on the weight bench in between sets and dozing off just about any time I sat still for more than a couple minutes at a time. Now before you jump on the “we have to save Stephanie” bandwagon, let me remind you that this is a learning experience for me, a brand new skill set, and I am being supported by lots of seasoned lifters in my challenge group that are there to knowledgeably and quickly answer any questions I may have and offer tried and true suggestions for how to train safely and smartly. I am happy to report that after increasing my protein intake by another 200 calories a day taking my total consumption up to a whopping 2,260/day, splitting my breakfast meal into two smaller portions, increasing my water intake to an appropriate level and getting my tight little tushy in the bed by 10pm every night I am feeling very much better and in need of no rescuing thank you very much. I’m asking a lot out of my body right now and I have to be prepared to take my self-care just as seriously as I have been about my training and nourishment. I can’t perform from depleted resources. Message received. Course adjusted. Moving on from here even stronger.
Here are my quarter comparison pictures from where I started 4 weeks ago to now.
Week 1 - 165 pounds
Week 4 – 161 pounds
That’s quite a bit of change for only a four pound difference. Muscle mass trumps the number on the scale every single time.
Stephanie Neher is a Tennessee belle living in Minne-SOH-ta with her very own Paul Bunyan. She homeschools their 2 little blue oxen and keeps her figure red-flannel-ready through Zumba, lifting heavy pieces of iron and anything else physical that strikes her fitness fancy.