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Muscle build: The workout women need but dislike


Muscle build: The workout women need but dislike

Maryanne Bill stands tall, visibly lean and toned. There’s not an ounce of excess fat on her body as she walks into the lounge for her training session.

Several heads turn to look at her as she takes her spot in the gym to start her three-minute pre-workout warmup exercises.

“A desire of most ladies,” she cheekily vaunts, busking in the attention that her physique commands.

There was a time, nearly six years ago, when she attracted a different kind of attention. She didn’t like the woman she had become.

Working at a desk job in a local organisation and with tight targets set for her, she hardly had any time to spare for workouts.

“I dropped the ball on matters fitness. I also stopped being keen on my meals and ate anything available. I started accumulating belly fat within a short period,” says Maryanne after priming her body with the warmup.

Because of the good physique foundation she had developed during the earlier days when she had an active life, switching between playing basketball and spending time lifting weights, the fat gain went unnoticed by other people.

On the inside, she, however, felt the gradual change pulling down her sense of self-worth.

“I also lost my body composition, and that became an issue of great concern to me. I didn’t add weight, but my body fat percentage went high,” says the 30-year-old.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

Body composition refers to the percentage of fat, bone and muscle.

Besides the belly, the fat also found its way to her face, which ballooned. She also suffered from hormonal imbalance.

“I decided to leave the job and try to fix myself,” says Maryanne, who also reckoned she needed a career change to keep her from straying from the straight and narrow fitness path.

That’s how she turned her passion into a career by training as a fitness coach.

“I am a fitness and nutritionist coach certified by Innovative Fitness by Morgan Woods, specifically majoring in strength training and body conditioning,” Maryanne says, taking a position on the gym equipment to perform the dumbbell rows exercise.

She has carved her niche in the rapidly growing Kenyan fitness industry. She targets and trains women to gain muscles, a workout area that is shrouded by myths.

For most women, the fear of building muscles has always been that they might bulk up and look like men.

However, Maryanne notes that women typically and naturally carry less muscle than men and that the female hormone profile makes it harder for them to build muscle at the same rate as men.

“That’s the biggest stereotype you will always hear. Our hormone portfolio has androgens, while men have testosterone, which makes it very difficult for us to have equal muscles as that of a man. When a woman lifts weights, she will end up having toned abs and defined curves, but the thing is I am not going to be bulky and have a big chest because that’s what will happen to a man lifting weights because of the testosterone hormones,” she says.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

For those outlier women who spot bulky muscles as men, Maryanne says it’s always a result of the use of foreign substances like steroids, which are chemical chains manufactured in the lab.

“Naturally, no amount of weight lifting can make a woman look manly,” she notes.

Maryanne is adamant that all women, from skinny to slender to curvy and voluptuous, should gain some muscle mass to at least consider themselves fit.

Muscles and hormones

She observes that hormonal imbalance is one of the many problems that affect women, and as such, she argues that packing enough muscles can go a long way toward rectifying that.

“There are several factors that cause hormonal imbalance in women. It could be family planning contraceptives that would affect estrogen or progesterone hormones. Stress or food are other factors,” she points out, taking a brief break from the dumbbell exercise.

“In my case, it was the food because I would consume many sugary foods, carbohydrates and fast foods. When you eat like I did, your hormones are destabilised, especially when you are on the cycle,” Maryanne adds.

During the follicular phase of their menstrual cycle, women are most energetic and happiest. When they enter the luteal phase, they become more tired and moody.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

Maryanne explains that eating poorly and not working out in the latter phase spikes estrogen hormone, leading to fat gain, hence one adding weight

“This is why it’s important for a woman to build enough muscles to cut on the fats,” she says.

Muscle building in women

According to the fitness coach, to build muscles, one must follow a strength training and body conditioning programme.

“The programme has to be structured, ensuring you exercise at least three days a week. If you choose three days, you would decide on Monday to work your back and triceps because you need a strong back to function, especially when carrying a pregnancy. In the next session, you would do body toning. This is where you do weight cardio. Let’s say if it’s burpees, you do that with the plate weights. Remember, the goal here is to build muscles,” she says.

Unlike men, as women age, they tend to lose a lot of body muscles, putting them at great risk of being unhealthy and weak.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

“Muscle is the best anti-ageing trick, not the creams that many women do rush for. When you have enough muscle, even when you have those cheat days, it’s going to burn that [fat] off. Women need to know that it is muscles that give one a body structure; a definition defines one’s curves to help them look better, feel good and sleep better. This is the beauty of building muscles,” she emphasises.

But what about diet?

When building muscles, she says, it’s important to prioritise protein intake.

“You could supplement that with dietary supplements, it’s okay for women to take them. They are meant to supplement your intake not replace your diet. Enough protein, complex carbs and healthy fats such as Greek yoghurt, avocados and the like are key,” she advises.

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