Many women can develop impressive, muscular physiques with intense diet and training.
Male bodybuilders certainly have the edge over women in the sport, thanks to naturally higher testosterone levels. However, as female bodybuilding gains exposure, more and more women are taking to the stage for pose downs. Women may not have the ability to build the large, bulky muscles that men can, but many natural female bodybuilders are still able to achieve impressive, muscular physiques through intense training, diet, and supplementation regimens.
Female Bodybuilding Training
Women have to train hard to develop significant muscle mass. While they may not lift the same weight as male bodybuilders, they still must train as intensely. Training to build muscle, referred to as hypertrophy, requires lifting moderate to heavy weights. Generally, training for hypertrophy involves completing around three to five sets of eight to 12 repetitions for each exercise performed. The weight used must be heavy enough so the last couple of repetitions are very difficult to finish. Training routines are usually broken up into splits, so that certain muscle groups are worked on certain days each week. This helps ensure all the muscles are properly trained and receive adequate recovery.
To gain muscle strength and size, female bodybuilders have to follow a strict diet. A concise training plan can be easily derailed if nutritional intake is off. Female bodybuilders must consume diets high in protein and complex carbohydrates to provide their muscles with the necessary tools to repair and grow. The best macronutrient ratio may vary between different women, but generally, active women should get about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. To provide the body with energy to power through tough training sessions, an intake 2 to 3 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight is usually adequate. Eat a small amount of healthy fats from sources such as almonds, avocado and extra virgin olive oil to help meet caloric needs.
Women can benefit from many of the same nutritional supplements that male bodybuilders use. Whey protein, branched-chain amino acids, glutamine and creatine are popular muscle-building supplements among female bodybuilders. Essential fatty acids and multivitamins are also great additions to the supplement plan. Always do your research and discuss supplements with your doctor before deciding to add any to your regimen. Be aware of interactions between different supplements or with any prescription medication you may be taking.
Some female bodybuilders use anabolic steroids to achieve bulky, masculine muscles. Not only is this illegal, but it's extremely dangerous. Women can develop masculine features such as a body hair, acne and deepening of the voice, which are irreversible. If you're a woman interested in the sport of bodybuilding, it's a good idea to seek out natural bodybuilding federations that test for drug use.
Alternative Competition Categories
In recent years, more competition categories have been added for women. These alternatives call for different physiques from bodybuilding and have opened up the competition stage to women who don't want to build highly muscled bodies. The physique and training requirements for these other categories vary, and include physique, fitness, figure, and bikini competitions.