Disclaimer: Research in the fitness world typically regards cisgender subjects. This article will refer to differences between men and women due to inconclusive research regarding all genders.
As a woman, there has always been a part of me that is jealous when I see men in the weight room. I always wished I could tone and build muscle as easily as my male counterparts. For many women, this is a common thought and many women let this discourage them from heading to the gym. Although men have a naturally higher percentage of muscle and less fat, women need more fat to store estrogen and support childbearing. So, we can blame our hormones for the challenges in weight lifting, but they cannot be an excuse.
Lifting and Exercises:
Women and men differ in fat percentage and muscle percentage for survival reasons, but the style of lifting and losing weight are similar for men and women. When I head to the gym, I am always doing similar if not the same exercises as my male counterparts. The major difference between men and myself is that they are bodybuilders, while I lift to stay in shape and use it as a resource for anxiety and stress. My goals of lifting have never been to be a bodybuilder and yours don’t have to be either. I started lifting in order to lose weight and love my body again.
If I had to pick one big difference between men’s and women’s lifting styles, it would be fat loss. Women lose fat at a much slower rate than men due to our extra fat and necessity for that fat. As women, our bodies will fight to maintain the fat we need. So instead of fighting to lose that fat, we can gain muscle to show over the necessary fat. At first, I thought I needed to do cardio twice a day for 30 minutes each, but that is not the only way to lose fat. Instead of torturing myself with cardio, I started cardio-style lifting. I stuck to low weights and high reps to increase my heart rate and get a sweat going. I commonly combined lifts into supersets so I could work more muscles at once. While I still bike and walk on incline each workout, I spend 90 percent of the time lifting and barely any time on cardio. I also was able to choose the cardio I liked. I didn’t feel the need to run on a treadmill for 30 minutes. Overtime I started to lose weight and look better than before but I had started to love lifting. I wanted to keep building muscle and toning my body. That was when I started looking into supplements and lifting a bit heavier.
When you go shopping, you may notice proteins and supplements meant for women. While these supplements usually contain what women naturally lack, like omega-3 and other vitamins, there are basically no differences in proteins for men and women. There are many types of protein that can be used for lifting. I started off using whey protein or casein which are both a milk-based protein but being lactose intolerant I had to switch it up. I found that plant-based proteins were the best fit for me. I chose plant-based protein partially because it provided me with the vitamins I needed without having to buy those vitamins on top of my protein and partially because it didn’t make me sick.
It is important to realize that all protein is made to provide the body with what it lacks. Any lifter will tell you that it takes trial and error to find the right supplements for you. So, investigate some, ask questions and try them out!
When I first started lifting, I let all the misinformation about women lifting prevent me from getting to the gym. I was afraid I would be doing it wrong or be judged for being there. I learned over time that I could do the same exact things that were supposedly meant for men and see some impressive results. I didn’t have to do at-home DVD workouts, I could lift with the rest of the men and women in the gym and eventually I knew I would be as fit and strong as I wanted to be. Your lifting or fitness journey is your journey, and nobody else’s so don’t let others prevent you from starting.