Weekly Wellness: Best ways to build muscle and burn fat

Building muscle for women is a bit harder than it is for men, but can be accomplished with the right training and diet. (foongkwan81/Creative Commons)

Building muscle for women is a bit harder than it is for men, but can be accomplished with the right training and diet. (foongkwan81/Creative Commons)

Building muscle takes quite a bit of hard work and dedication to begin with, but for women, it can be even more difficult. First off, women don’t have nearly as much testosterone, a hormone that helps muscles grow, as men. They actually have 10 to 30 times less testosterone than men, so the stigma surrounding women being afraid to lift weights because they think they’ll get big is not at all true. We, as women, would need to take a lot of supplements that would most likely harm our bodies to get bulky like men do.

For us, lifting weights will simply tone your body and shape it into a more compact and defined version of itself. Though cardio is a quicker form of exercise and requires less equipment, it’s only good for fat burning. Lifting weights can also burn fat, but it will tone your body and overall, make it stronger and less susceptible to injury.

Women have a higher risk of acquiring osteoporosis, a bone disease caused by low bone density, than men do. Lifting helps prevent this disease because it gradually increases your bone density by up to 15 percent in six months. When muscles tissue is increased, your bones have to make room and accommodate for it, so they will increase their density. Overall, you’ll be improving your skeletal structure and lowering your risk for diseases like osteoporosis and others.

Research has shown that once you start weight lifting, your metabolism gets faster within 24 hours of a workout, causing your body to burn calories at a more rapid rate. The chemical reason for this is EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption), meaning that when more oxygen is consumed, more fat cells are being broken down in our bodies.

A lot of women who start weight lifting often get spooked by the fact that their body weight goes up. Though the number is larger than it might have been before, it’s actually a good thing. This is normal and simply means that your body has replaced the fat with muscle, and muscle weighs more than fat. One study found that if a woman lifts two to three times a week for two months, she’ll gain around two pounds of muscle and lose 3.5 pounds of fat. She will also be burning 35-50 more calories per day due to the quickening of the metabolism.  

Once your body starts getting used to weight lifting and undergoes these changes, you’ll most likely have more of an appetite. The classic saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is actually extremely true. Eating breakfast will not only supply you with enough energy to lift, but also give you something to burn off during your workout. It’s healthiest to eat about every 3 hours and make sure to include protein with every meal.

I personally find that making a protein shake or eating a protein bar is a fast and easy “college hack” way to get more protein in my diet. When it comes to protein powder, not every kind is exactly good for you, so you want to make sure it meets certain criteria. Making sure it’s low in sugar but also tastes good can be somewhat challenging. The same goes for protein bars. Clif bars, for example, might not be as good for us as we think. Some flavors contain more calories than a Snickers bar and are actually pretty high in sugar. Ideally, when looking for a meal replacement bar, you’ll want to look for one that contains around five grams of protein and three grams of fiber, so that you’re satisfied for longer. But as proven with Clif bars and even KIND bars, sugar is the number one source of evil you’ll have to watch out for.


Tessa Pawlik is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at tessa.pawlik@uconn.edu.