What Should a Woman Eat to Lose Weight and Gain Muscle?

What Should a Woman Eat to Lose Weight and Gain Muscle?

Written by Megan Ayala. Last Updated: May 2, 2022

Muscle building is also a common fitness goal in women.

Gaining muscle ultimately makes you look and feel much stronger. It also reduces the risk of numerous chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

That said, it can be quite challenging to figure out how to apply the most suitable nutrition approach for lean muscle mass gains. Eating for muscle development has a huge difference from simply cutting down body fat. Your muscle is an extremely active metabolic tissue that needs essential nutrients for repair and growth, particularly after high-intensive exercises.

Naturally, most women have less testosterone than men. As such, gaining muscle can be a relatively slower procedure. Some women might shy away from following a diet plan for muscle growth because of worries about gaining body fat.

As a result, this misconception might cause restrictive dieting that never supports muscle growth and definition.

For women, weight training doesn’t increase weight, it actually builds muscle. It’s also worth noting that this is NOT synonymous with adding size. In this guide, you’ll cover how a female athlete (or any woman) can simultaneously lose fat and build muscle to improve their general performance and confidence.

We can all agree that if you’re confident in your appearance, you’ll perform much better when it counts.

Stay tuned as we get started with your diet plan for losing weight and building muscle.

WHAT SHOULD WOMEN EAT TO LOSE WEIGHT & BUILD MUSCLE

a woman in workout clothing eats and checks her computer between workouts

What should a woman eat to manage weight loss and build muscle? There is a wide range of dietary components she needs to consider first.

1. Identify Muscle Building Calorie Requirements

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, weight maintenance calorie requirements for moderately active and active women include:

  • 19-25 years old: 2,200-2,400 calories
  • 26-30 years old: 2,000-2,400 calories
  • 31-50 years old: 2,000-2,200 calories
  • 51-60 years old: 1,800-2,200 calories
  • 61+ years old: 1,800-2,000 calories

Is weight loss plus muscle-building your ultimate goal? Focus on consuming 1,200-1,800 calories every day, based on your starting body weight and how active you are.

2. Fill Your Plate Correctly

When dieting for fat loss and muscle building, use these healthy eating guidelines below to fill your plate:

  • One-fourth full of protein foods
  • Half full of vegetables
  • One-fourth full of starches

Also, remember to consume around 2-3 servings of dairy foods or calcium-filled equivalent fruits, and healthy fats at every meal to have a complete nutritious menu.

3. Know the Protein Requirements For Gaining Muscle

If you work out routinely, specifically if you’re working on muscle building, then your protein requirements are comparatively higher than folks who are sedentary.

RELATED: Is Easier to Lose Weight or Put on Muscle?

A professional dietitian will recommend you to consume around 1.4-2.0 grams of protein per kg. of your body weight every day, which is the same as 0.6-1 gram of protein per lb. of your ideal weight every day. For instance, if you have a goal weight of 130 lbs., then you’d need approximately 78-130 grams of protein per day to build or sustain lean mass and burn excess fat.

And this leads us to the next point.

4. Choose the Correct Protein Powder

Perhaps you thought that protein powder is only meant for men? Well, you’re wrong! Women looking to gain muscle and even lose weight can gain from drinking protein shakes.

You can find many different protein powders to pick from, including protein blends, rice, pea, soy, hemp, egg, casein, whey, etc.

You might be questioning which form of protein powder is ideal for muscle building in women?

Soy and animal-based proteins consist of all of the essential amino acids required to build and keep lean mass. That said, combining different plant proteins can give you the same results.

Research shows that whey protein powder is highly beneficial for gaining muscle and post-workout recovery. Studies prove that, during weight loss, protein boosts fat loss and helps in muscle mass maintenance. Generally, a single scoop of whey protein powder offers around 25 grams of top-quality protein.

When searching for the best protein powder for building muscle, understanding how the powders are created and what they comprise helps you pick one that best suits your needs and preferences. For instance:

  • Protein hydrolysates are metabolized amino acids that your body absorbs quickly.
  • Protein concentrates consist of 60-80% protein and around 20-40% dietary fat plus carbs.
  • Protein isolates have 90-95% protein and are typically a concentrated protein source.

Ensure that you check the supplement facts label for any hidden ingredients or even added sugar, and determine the total number of calories for every serving of protein powder.

5. Don’t Forget Carbs & Fats

Avoiding healthy fats and carbs might lead to low energy and even muscle loss in your body. You must learn the difference between the fats and carbs that can be useful to your body (certain fats and complex carbs) and those that won’t play a role in your fitness goals. Without sufficient macronutrients, your body can’t function at optimal levels. Most people end up being frustrated and tired because they aren’t seeing the results they’re working towards.

Both fats and carbohydrates have been blamed as the primary causes of excess body fat. Nonetheless, eliminating such macronutrients can deprive your lean tissue of vital nutrients for muscle growth. In turn, it becomes harder to obtain the results you’ve been striving for.

A good place to start is by lowering the simple carbs and fats, like those available in high-sugar, processed foods. There’s still no reason to limit the healthy fats and complex carbs commonly found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, avocados, nuts, and healthy oils.

Doing this robs your system of essential macronutrients that the muscles require for energy (glycogen) and growth (anabolism). Complex carbs have a significant role in muscle-building. They’re usually stored as glycogen in your liver and muscle tissue and supply energy during and even after your workouts.

Generally, our bodies don’t put up with carb restriction properly and will break down amino acids (protein) stored in your muscle to fuel exercises in the absence of carbs. The entire process is known as gluconeogenesis and may lead to losing hard-earned muscle.

It’s also worth mentioning that fats, particularly essential fatty acids (EFAs), have an equally important role in muscle development. They’re associated with hormone function, muscle preservation, and fat burning. Fats aid the transportation of nutrients inside and outside of our cells and usually deliver amino acids to your muscle tissue.

6. Go For Nutrient-Dense, Whole Foods

For a muscle-building diet plan for women, nutrient-dense foods play an important role. They offer your body a wide range of essential nutrients.

Some examples include plant oils, eggs, dairy foods or calcium-rich alternatives, plant oils, avocados, hummus, nuts, seeds, nut butter, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and seafood, lean meats or poultry, and soy protein.

Any food combination that offers you a good balance of protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich carbohydrates is a great option for fat loss and muscle building in women.

7. Eat Carbs with Protein

Studies prove that eating protein with carbohydrates helps in post-workout muscle recovery. If you’re looking to optimize your post-workout nourishment, you need to pick a protein powder shake that’s blended with fruit, a banana with plant milk and almond butter, yogurt topped with nuts or fruit, or grilled chicken with veggies and brown rice.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Meal Plan for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain for Men

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you should ingest around 20-30 grams of protein after a workout to enhance muscle building.

8. Try Protein Shake Recipes

Incorporate protein powder into your favorite ingredients to create refreshing, tasty protein shakes for building muscle.

Blend these ingredients to come up with a custom-made protein smoothie:

  • 1 scoop of protein powder
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of milk or plant milk
  • A handful of ice
  • 1/4 cup of fruit, 1 teaspoon of coffee, nut butter, or even matcha green tea powder

Use this protein shake recipe but add ingredients of your choice depending on your taste preferences.

When taking protein shakes for fat loss, consider drinking them as meal replacements or taking smaller shakes between meals.

9. Eat Frequently Throughout the Day

Since muscle building is your ultimate goal, you must eat frequently throughout the day (every few hours or so). For instance, you can consume three meals and two or three snacks. Such a practice will help you build or sustain muscle by ensuring that your body is correctly nourished throughout the day.

A sample muscle-building eating schedule may entail:

  • Breakfast: 8:00 am
  • Snack: 10:00 am
  • Lunch: 12:30 pm
  • Snack: 3:00 pm
  • Dinner: 5:30 pm
  • Snack: 8:00 pm

Come up with a meal schedule that aligns with your wake-up time, your work and workout schedules, as well as the time you head to bed every night.

10. Forget Fad Diets!

Fad diets might be tempting, but they simply don’t work. Restrictive diets and quick-fix approaches are temporary solutions. They mostly depend on pre-made meals, expensive shakes and supplements, and pseudo health bars. Fad diets won’t teach you nutrition, and that’s why most people are left unable to fend for themselves in the grocery store or even in the kitchen.

The billion-dollar fad diet industry is full of fake health foods and empty promises. Most people follow these pricey diets and are still unable to achieve and maintain their fitness goals. There’s no futile cycle like combining overtraining with under-eating since it’s more likely to prevent muscle gains.

Furthermore, fad diets aren’t geared for women whose objective is to gain muscle. They primarily target individuals seeking a quick way to lose fat. To build muscle, you’ll need to adopt a long-term nutrition plan that can offer long-term results. Utilize sustainable diet plans to find out how to shop, cook, and consume to build and keep muscle mass.

A SAMPLE MUSCLE BUILDING MENU PLAN FOR WOMEN

a woman eating healthy food

When selecting your muscle-building diet plan, it would be best to have a sample menu to guide you through the procedure. Here’s an example:

Breakfast

  • Black Coffee or tea
  • Cottage cheese
  • Whole-grain Ezekiel toast that’s topped with bananas and nut butter

Snack

  • Hummus
  • Veggie sticks

Lunch

  • Veggies
  • Grilled chicken
  • Whole grain pasta that’s topped with olive oil pesto sauce

Snack

  • A whey protein shake that’s made with plant milk, protein powder, and nut butter or fruit

Dinner

  • A taco salad prepared with taco seasonings, lean ground turkey, tomatoes, lettuce, black beans, salsa, and avocados

Snack

  • Greek yogurt topped with walnuts and raspberries

THE IMPORTANCE OF CHOOSING THE RIGHT MEAL PLAN

With a muscle-building diet plan, any woman can get the tight and toned body they’ve always desired. They’ll soon realize that muscle building isn’t only for men or athletes!

More and more women are now jumping on the bandwagon of gaining lean muscle to speed up weight loss, enhance body composition, and obtain the figures they want. And just like men, women benefit from such diet plans and drinking protein shakes.

Eating a balanced, protein-rich diet and regular resistance training helps:

  • Enhance body composition
  • Develop aesthetically pleasing body contours
  • Reduce body fat
  • Boost metabolism
  • Make you look much younger
  • Reduce waist circumference

You might not drop weight immediately when following a muscle-building and fat loss diet for women, but you’ll recognize improvements in body shape and overall reductions in fat.

Your muscle tends to burn more calories than fat. That means that even when you’re sleeping, building muscle increases metabolism to accelerate weight loss over time.

HOW SHOULD YOU EXERCISE TO GAIN MUSCLE & LOSE WEIGHT?

a woman uses battle ropes as part of her workout plan

The most effective method of building muscle is through strength training. Adding bodyweight exercises and weight lifting to your workout regimen can help you gain strength and increase muscle mass.

You don’t need any equipment — or just a few — to start a strength routine. Consider kicking off your strength training journey with a bodyweight circuit at home meant for beginners. A workout that consists of pushups, squats, lunges, mountain climbers, and planks can be a highly effective strength-building strategy. Build your muscle by incorporating all of these moves into your routine.

Elevate your bodyweight workout by using low-weight dumbbells. You can do a squat exercise as you hold dumbbells at shoulder height. You could also perform a lunge with dumbbells at your side. With that said, it’s always prudent to proceed with moderation.

Go Easy on Yourself!

There’s no need to go through guilt cycles with food. Our brains and bodies don’t respond well to workouts as punishment. Doing hours of cardio or highly restricting your caloric consumption to “make up for” indulgences prevents muscle development and might lead to emotional and physical stress.

RELATED: Is it Easier to Lose Weight or Gain it?

In case you get down on yourself and let slip-ups define you, you might be more susceptible to unhealthy workout practices or even giving up. Some people may enjoy an indulgence and eventually move on, but others believe that all of their weight loss and muscle-building efforts are destroyed by going off-plan. But in reality, they’re not!

Don’t forget that one less nutritious meal can’t make you tip the scale. In reality, it’s what we do consistently that determines our general body composition.

So if your mindset is generally focused on muscle growth instead of fat loss, then an occasional treat won’t make or break your results. Therefore, reframing your way of thinking is essential to free yourself from unnecessary and counter-productive guilt.

CONCLUSION

Gaining muscle is a common health and fitness goal, and you must eat well to facilitate lean mass gains. Once you incorporate proper nutrition, building muscle can cause effective fat loss too.

As a woman, you CAN lose weight and build muscle. Just like everything else in life, it requires persistence and dedication. Stop being afraid of weights! It’s time to embrace what they can do for your body.

References

  1. https://www.verywellfit.com/diet-mistakes-women-make-trying-to-gain-muscle-3121318
  2. https://www.fitmotherproject.com/muscle-building-diet-for-women/
  3. https://www.stack.com/a/female-athlete-burn-fat-build-muscle/
  4. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/a30611295/how-to-lose-fat-gain-muscle/
  5. https://www.girlsgonestrong.com/blog/articles/can-you-lose-fat-and-gain-muscle-simultaneously/
  6. https://www.workingagainstgravity.com/articles/how-to-lose-fat-and-gain-muscle-at-the-same-time