©2019 by Dr Maria Luque

  • Dr. Maria Luque

Female Muscle - Misconceptions of Training and Nutrition

In the many years working as a fitness professional and health educator, I have noticed that there are some misconceptions that are most often voiced by women. These misconceptions can be the barrier between you and your fitness goals. So let's clear them up:

More Cardio = More Fat Loss

Sadly, too many women rely exclusively on cardio as their fitness and weight loss program. Cardio is great for your heart and should be part of your regular exercise routine BUT:

More is not always better. Too much cardio without weight-training can actually cause you to lose calorie-burning muscle mass, which will decrease your overall metabolic rate and bring your weightloss efforts to a screeching halt.

Resistance training done for about 30 minutes causes metabolic rate to increase by 150 calories over the 12 hours post-exercise. But that’s not all…the real benefit comes from the added muscles that resistance training builds. For every pound of muscle you put on, you can burn 30-50 calories more per day.

Recommendation: Include weight-training to your workout routine and vary your cardio workouts by mixing days of longer low-intensity bouts (lower intensity 1 hr) with shorter high-intensity interval bouts (20-30 min). The American Heart Association recommends doing cardio for at least 30 minutes on most days to maintain heart health.

Fear of "getting to big" 

  • You don't want to be muscular; you want to be "toned" - hmmm? Sorry, but to be "toned" means to have muscle definition, which you really can't achieve without being muscular. 

  • You fear too much muscle and think that weight lifting regularly, will make you look like a man.

Reality check: Muscle does not grow overnight and if you've ever talked to anyone extremely muscular they'll tell you just how hard it is. It takes a lot of dedication, time, training, and nutritional work to achieve a physique like that. There is no risk for the average fitness enthusiast to wake up one day and look like a professional bodybuilder. It’s really pretty simple: You work out until you like how you look and then you change your routine to maintain that muscle. Trust me, you're safe from Bulkoniasm!

The importance of resistance training: besides making you look good, muscle has countless benefits you don’t readily see such as increased metabolism and strength, reduced risk of osteoporosis, as well as increased cognitive function. It also plays a crucial factor in slowing down sarcopenia, which is the age-related loss of muscle mass, strength and function. Sarcopenia happens to all of us to a certain degree but we can significantly slow it down by including regular resistance training (at least 2 x week) into our routine.

Less Calories = More Weight Loss

  • Cutting calories will make you lose weight BUT cutting too many calories will backfire. Your body needs a certain amount of calories to function correctly.

  • You may have heard of BMR but aren’t quite sure why it’s so important. BMR is the basal metabolic rate and is the absolute minimum amount of calories your body needs to perform all of the basic bodily functions such as breathing. If you drop below your BMR, your body’s only concern is to survive. It is not concerned with building muscle and speeding up your metabolism. 

Solution: Find out what your caloric need is and never drop below that number. This number depends on many factors and if you want an exact number you should contact a fitness professional. But as a rule of thumb, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that women do not drop their caloric intake below 1200 calories. If you compare that to the calories in the average juice diet, you know you’re in trouble. 

I Don't Need More Protein

  • The average woman eats insufficient amounts of dietary protein. 

  • Protein is one of the major building blocks in muscle growth and also important in the proper functioning of your body (major structural component of our muscles, nervous system, brain, blood, skin and hair and is used by the body as a transport mechanism for vitamins, minerals, oxygen and fats).

  • Simple equation: If you don't eat enough protein, don't expect maximum results from your fitness and weight loss efforts. 

Recommendation from the American Dietetic Association and ACSM:

  • General population 0.4 grams per pound of body weight

  • Endurance Athlete 0.5-0.6 grams per pound of body weight

  • Strength Training Athlete 0.6-0.9 grams per pound of body weight

This list of misconceptions is a very short list as I’ve only listed a few of the ones I hear the most but there are many more and if you have any questions about other myths, feel free to contact me.

Stay happy & healthy

 - Dr. Maria Luque


 Waters, D.L., R.N. Baumgartner & P.J. Garry. 2000. “Sarcopenia: Current Perspectives.” The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging 4(3):133-139.

Nagamatsu LS, Handy TC, Hsu C, Voss M, Liu-Ambrose T. Resistance Training Promotes Cognitive and Functional Brain Plasticity in Seniors With Probable Mild Cognitive Impairment. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(8):666-668. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.379.

American College of Sports Medicine @ www.acsm.org