One thing that comes up time and time again with my female clients is this notion that weight training makes them look bulky. To put it bluntly, it isn’t muscle that is making you bulky, it is fat. Muscle is a defense mechanism against putting on fat and therefore a good thing.

Think about it, 1 kg of muscle is is going to be tight and small. 1kg of fat is going to be softer and larger. For this reason, it is far better to look at yourself visually and take a photo of your body to check progress compared to stepping on the scales.

To create muscle is hard work. Men have difficulty gaining muscle and they have the hormonal profile set up to gain muscle (just think about how many men buy protein powders, creatine supplements, and even illegal substances in trying). A female without the testosterone levels required is not going to gain mass muscle, even by lifting heavy weights.

When you lift weights you are creating damage to the muscle assuming you are using enough load. It is in repair that you become stronger and create muscle growth. This is why lifting heavy is often required. It is a misconception that females need to lift a lightweight for toned muscles. What even is tone? A female needs to create muscle to create tone. You may lose fat off your bottom but if you have no muscle underneath, there will be no toned bottom.

Muscle increases your metabolism.

Muscle increases your lean body mass which in turn increases your basal metabolic rate (BMR), causing you to expend more calories throughout the day even when you are not exercising.

Muscle is active body tissue. It consumes calories simply by existing. This means the calories you take in are more likely to fuel your muscles, which require a lot more energy than body fat does.

Muscle helps with long-term weight maintenance.

Fat loss shouldn’t be your only goal, weight loss isn’t for an event but for a lifetime. As you age your body does not need as much food. The reality is, no one wants to eat less, so exercising can help maintain your weight and prevent that weight creeping up.

Training with weights helps psychologically with weight loss.

Mood plays a role in weight loss too. You can’t lose weight when you’re miserable. When people feel down food or alcohol can provide comfort. It is well documented that weight training helps with depression and other mood disturbances. Exercise is a natural anti-depressant and releases endorphins.

Building muscle helps balance hormones.

Cortisol is our fat storage hormone, it is also known as our stress hormone. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress, helping to reduce the effects of cortisol. Weight training also improves the body’s insulin response and produces hormones like growth hormone which burn fat.

Now that you understand why muscle is important, start thinking about the training you are doing. You want to do the big movements such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, and military or shoulder presses which use more muscles at once.

Next time, take the challenge, move away from your lightweight and try a slightly heavier one. If you want change to happen, you need to make the effort and get a bit uncomfortable at times.

Blog post courtesy of Elizabeth Pattalis.

Elizabeth is a registered clinical nutritionist, Personal Trainer and a Pilates instructor for YogaBar. Her mission is to make healthy living simple, realistic and achievable for all her clients. Visit her at