Nutrition for ladies who lift

A basic guide to the nutrition behind lifting weights

So you have decided to put lifting into your routine? That is fabulous, as you will see the benefits of both lean muscle definition as well as fat loss, but only if you get your nutrition right. For many, this will mean eating more on training days - and eating more carbohydrates and fat - both things that we previously thought we should avoid to achieve that fit healthy physique. You may put on scale weight, but that is because muscle is heavier than fat. Just ask a few of our members - their body-weight has gone up and they finally have the physique that they want - with a higher percentage of lean muscle, and a lower percentage of body-fat!

The recommended 2000 calories per day for women is not enough on your lifting days - you need to be consuming around 2500, maybe more, particularly if you are doing squats and dead-lifts. Eat too little, and all the hard work will be for nothing - your body will work even harder to maintain the fat that you have. You will also fail to give your body the nutrients needed for the mental and physical energy required to execute the big compound lifts. These are complex moves - the dead-lift engages so many different muscles, and your timing is crucial for every part; you only get the timing right if your neuro-muscular pathways are fuelled to their optimum. To fuel your brain and body, think eggs, deep leafy greens, fish and nuts - and make sure you don't go low fat! 

The dead-lift and squat require more energy and fuel than any other move you can do in the gym. This means that you need to eat a large snack or meal around 1.5 to 2 hours before - with plenty of carbohydrate for intense lifting, as well as fuelling properly immediately afterwards. You have a 30-40 minute window of opportunity to refuel to get the best results from your training. You should ensure that your meal is at a ratio of 4:1 carbohydrate to protein – aim for around 25 grams of protein – 100 grams of meat or fish will give you just over 20 grams of protein, 400g of cooked quinoa or mixed beans will give similar and so will 3 eggs - then don't forget to the add the carbohydrate! 

Post-workout your body is in a state of damage, you have elevated cortisol levels (your body’s stress hormone), and your training has generated lots of strain and free radicals - this is how weight training works, but you need a diet that prevent the free radicals causing long-term damage. Your diet should encourage repair and growth, not hinder it. Protein and carbohydrate are critical – fail on the carbohydrate, and your body won't synthesize the protein or vitamins and minerals effectively. You need plenty of vitamins and minerals as these are what mop up the free radicals, vital for the growth and functioning of our metabolism. So, after your workout you need the obvious macro nutrients, but also the necessary micro nutrients - better known as vitamins and minerals - failure to get these, and slowly you will be eroding your health. 

For you to get the best from your weight training, your diet needs to be rich in all nutrients – missing out food groups will be detrimental unless a medical need. Grains are a wonderful source of carbohydrate, energy and fibre; dairy a great source of calcium; and eggs (white & yolk) are a great source of iron and fat soluble vitamins. Finally your diet needs to be rich in vegetables, with a little fruit - aim for the colours of rainbow every day. 

Here's to great lifting, great eating, great energy and a great physique.


About the Author
Nick Owen is a qualified nutritional adviser, holding a Diploma in Non-Medical Nutritional Advice. Nick uses nutrition to support a wide variety of client goals including weight management, fat loss and muscle building, general health and well-being; and improved energy levels, concentration and complexion. Nick’s approach is practical and realistic, starting with an analysis of current eating patterns and lifestyle, making recommendations for change and then working over a series of consultations to support achievement of the desired goals.


ymca | 10 March 2015