As a dietitian and a certified personal trainer, I get this question quite often: “I’m a woman. If I lift weights, will I bulk up?” Based on scientific evidence, bulking up is not easy, especially for women. It takes a lot of time, discipline, consistency, and a specific diet.
Keep reading, or watch the video to learn how your muscles and hormones work!
A common misconception about women who lift weights is that they will become “bulky.” Lifting weights will increase muscle mass, but it will not create a “bulky” look, for 2 main reasons.
A caloric surplus is when the number of calories that we consume (calories in) is higher than the number of calories we burn (calories out). When we want to build muscle, not only do we need to eat extra foods for more “calories in,” these calories need to come from nutrient dense foods that are higher in protein and carbohydrate, and lower in fat. A diet that is high in alcohol, added sugars, and fried foods will not achieve the same muscle building effects.
Body builders expend a lot of energy during their strenuous weight training routine (calories out), so in order to meet caloric surplus, some might express they even need to slightly “force” themselves to eat more.
Testosterone is the hormone that is primarily responsible for muscle growth, and men have way more testosterone compared to women.
It is very difficult for women to gain enough muscle mass to look “bulky.”
Women who lift weights may see some increase in muscle size, but these increase are typically much smaller than those seen in men. Lifting weights can help women tone their muscles and improve their strength and overall fitness.
The current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggests that each week adults perform 2 days of muscle strengthening activity. So make it part of your routine!