When you think of muscle mass in women, does your brain immediately jump to the image of ultra-muscled competitors and quote-unquote meatheads? Building muscle mass as a female athlete does not look like this image most of the time, yet women are still afraid of getting bulky. In this episode, I want to dive into what building muscle mass as a woman really looks like and the massive benefits for your overall health and longevity that can come from it.
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If You Want to Get Deeper Into the Conversation Around Muscle Mass, You Should:
- Stop letting society tell you that you should be afraid of getting ‘too bulky’
- Dive deeper into the topics touched on in this episode
- Learn and explore how muscle mass can improve your longevity and quality of life
Muscle is More than Aesthetics
For so long, the conversation around muscle mass has stopped at the aesthetic value. But the truth is, building muscle as a female athlete, especially a female athlete over 40, is about so much more than aesthetics. I want to challenge this conversation and urge you to dig deeper into the benefits that building muscle mass and getting strong can have for you.
Building muscle mass can help with your insulin sensitivity, boost your bone strength, enhance your longevity and quality of life, decrease the risk of falls, improve your cognitive health and cardiovascular function, and much more. It’s time for the conversation around muscle mass to focus on those things, rather than just the aesthetic value of muscle.
Quality of Life Matters
Longevity is one of the key benefits of building muscle mass. But I don’t just mean longevity in terms of living to 120 without the functionality or independence you want in order to live your life fully. I am talking about an all-encompassing longevity that not only maintains and improves your quality of life but gives you the confidence to keep going.
When it comes to muscle mass in females, the benefits are so far beyond the exterior. If you are looking for a way to preserve your freedom, gain confidence, improve your quality of life, and age in a way that makes you look and feel good, strength training is crucial to your success.
Are you ready to dive deeper into muscle mass than what lies on the surface? Share your thoughts with me below.
In This Episode
- Understanding why some women are afraid of muscle and lifting heavy (4:44)
- Different roles that muscle mass plays which can be associated with longevity (6:47)
- The broad role your metabolism plays in relationship with your muscle tissue (10:09)
- How your muscle mass can regulate your blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity (12:23)
- Why your adolescence can have a significant impact on your menopause transition (14:31)
“When it comes down to things, we have to build muscle if we want to experience some kind of sculpting or toning or any of that.” (2:35)
“The conversation, in my opinion, is lacking some of the deeper reasons why muscle plays very crucial roles in the body, and how those are associated with longevity.” (6:02)
“Our capacity to move through life, to do those activities of daily living, to perform physical exercise, which is also a very clear health-promoting habit. Those are associated with better longevity and improved quality of life.” (8:57)
“It is really important to lean on things like exercise, or specifically strength training or resistance training, to help us improve our insulin sensitivity. Exercise is a really important tool in your toolbox.” (13:55)
“We’ve talked about here mobility and physical activity, the sit-to-stand test, why this matters for discussions of quality of life, overall wellbeing, independence, being able to have mobility, and complete activities of daily living as well as physical exercise.” (18:21)
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Podcast production & marketing support by the team at Counterweight Creative
Muscle & Longevity Transcript
When it comes to women and muscle, the most common thing I hear as a rebuttal is I can’t do that is going to make me bulky. And in this conversation today, we’re going to talk about why it’s time to take the topic of muscle mass, and move it past just a conversation about aesthetics, and really understand how muscle mass and building it is associated with better health, and better longevity. It’s time to take muscle mass away from just the meatheads and show you why as a woman over 40, it is absolutely crucial for you and yes, you belong in the gym, lifting weights too.
If you’re an athletic 40-something woman who loves lifting weights, challenging yourself, and doing hardship, the Fuel Your Strength podcast is for you. You’ll learn how to eat, train and recover smarter, so you build strength and muscle, have more energy, and perform better in and out of the gym. I’m strength nutrition strategist and weightlifting coach, Steph Gaudreau. The Fuel Your Strength podcast dives into evidence-based strategies for nutrition training and recovery. And why once you’re approaching your 40s and beyond, you need to do things a little differently than you did in your 20s. We’re here to challenge the limiting industry narratives about what women can and should do in training and beyond. If that sounds good, hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And let’s go.
What’s going on? Welcome back to the podcast. Thank you so much for hanging out with me today, we are doing a series on muscle mass and strength and really looking at some of the lesser talked-about benefits or some of the reasons why you may want to consider strength training as a woman over 40 If you’re not currently, and if you are currently lifting, thinking about why you’re doing something super positive for your health and well being, you know when the conversation of muscle and building muscle and adding muscle mass comes up around women, there is no shortage of ways that the industry likes to codify language and say, Oh, but we want to sculpt and we want to tone and while I understand that, that might be more palatable to a lot of women in particular when it boils down to things we have to build muscle if we want to experience some kind of sculpting or toning or any of that.
So it’s important to be clear and frank and say if you’ve been using the word toning, that’s fine. You’re welcome to be here in this conversation. But just muscle mass tends to stop there we tend to talk about whether is it going to make me bulky is not going to make me bulky This is how I want to look. In the previous episode, we talked about, “anti-aging” and why paying attention to muscle mass is important as we age. In this episode today, I want to talk about some of the reasons why muscle mass plays a role in longevity and really why improving muscle mass is going to be associated with better health and better longevity, quite frankly, to take the conversation past just the physical show, just what is muscle going to help us look like and really dive in a bit deeper into the conversation. So that’s what we’re going to be talking about in this episode.
Before we dive in, please hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And if you’re watching on YouTube, Hello, thanks for being here. Please ring the bell for more notifications and hit subscribe as well. So I just gave you the preface here of this conversation, which is women are still terrified to build muscle mass, although things are changing. And if I also look back into 2010, which is when I started strength training, there were far fewer women lifting than there are now and we were definitely kind of on the fringe still kind of the freaks. We weren’t bodybuilding in the gym that I was in. But a lot of people have that association with, oh, if I start lifting weights of any kind, I’m going to end up looking like a bodybuilding competitor.
Now there are different types of bodybuilding. This is not a show about bodybuilding. But suffice it to say women’s minds tend to jump to the ultra-muscled competitors who go on stage there’s a very specific diet, there’s a very specific training regimen to get to look like that and oftentimes even performance-enhancing substances so it’s not like you’re going to walk into a gym and do three sets of five heavy back squats with a little bit of accessory work and ends up looking like you have maximized the amount of muscle mass that a human being could put on their frame.
But that is still enough to keep women from lifting And it’s really unfortunate. And I talk about this a lot. And people tell me, Oh, no, it’s still that couldn’t be happening still, you know, I don’t want to look bulky as if putting on some muscle mass. Bulk could be the worst thing that a human could do. But it absolutely does happen. And I get direct messages and comments on social media for days about how people have been discouraged, or the sort of ignorant things that folks have said to them about building muscle mass. Now, that, again, keeps everything on a very exterior physical level. And I think as we are aging, we are in our 40s, we are in the menopause transition, we are beyond that we’re in our 50s 60s, or even 70s. I’ve heard from folks listening to this show.
The conversation, in my opinion, is lacking some of the deeper reasons why muscle plays very crucial roles in the body, and how those are associated with longevity. Now, as I said on the previous podcast, I’m really interested in how to help people live well live fully, and be as healthy and well as they can potentially influence through their actions. And that quality of life matters. So it’s not just about living to try to be 120. And not having the functionality or the independence that you want to be able to enjoy your life very fully. So on this episode, we’re going to be diving into some of these reasons that you want to think about strength training and not be afraid of any muscle mass because it benefits you far beyond the exterior.
There are several different roles that muscle mass plays that might be associated with longevity. So I want to go over some of these. And I just want to say, this is again, a very broad brushstroke, sort of high-level description, we’re not going to get into any of these things too deeply. But suffice it to say, there are lots of resources and podcasts and folks who specialize in each of these areas. So if you want to dive into a deeper conversation or a deeper level of understanding, I would highly encourage you to do that search and find those resources.
Before we dive in. If you listen to this episode, and you’re like, Okay, I am ready to get to work, I want to take my strength, muscle energy, and performance and take it up a notch, I want to take it to that next level, I want to feel like a badass, but at the same time, do it in a way that works with my physiology, as an athletic woman over 40 with coaching and community support. Go ahead and check out Strength Nutrition Unlocked, this is my group program, we’re gonna lay out the framework for you and guide you as you implement and really customize it to all the things that you’re doing your preferences, your likes, and the places you want to go with it, then go ahead and get on board, you can start your process by submitting an application at StephGaudreau.com/apply, we’d love to hear from you and see you inside the program.
So first and foremost, of course, we know that muscle mass has a very important role in mobility in physical activity and movement, whether that’s movement through daily life, physical exercise in a formal capacity, or just some of the physical things that you like to do to stay active, even if you don’t consider those to be exercise per se. So for example, somebody might go to the gym and lift weights, and they’re like, Yes, this is definitely exercise. Some might also love to go walk their dog around the neighborhood or go hiking with their family and not necessarily consider that formal exercise, but are our capacity to move through life to do those activities of daily living to perform physical exercise, which is also a very clear health-promoting habit. Those are associated with better longevity and improved quality of life.
One of the ways that this is sometimes measured kind of in a broad sense, is something called the sit-to-stand test, which is essentially a test where a person sits on the floor with their legs crossed, and can rise from the floor without using their hands or any other part of their body for assistance and rising from the floor. Now, this is not a direct measurement of longevity. But we can think about things like lower body strength, what is the level of functional movement or functional independence that this person has? Potentially what is their risk of falling from being unable to stand, and so on and so forth? So we can infer some things based on how well a person can perform this sit-to-stand test. I know that in Kelly and Juliet’s direct book Built to Move they go into far more detail about the sit-to-stand test. So you could definitely check that out. And hey, maybe while you’re listening to this podcast to test your own ability to do the sit-to-stand test Alright, next, we’re gonna talk about metabolism.
Metabolism is incredibly complex. I am not a metabolism researcher, I do not play one on TV, and I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. So we’re not going to go into deep level on metabolism. But suffice to say just again, broad brushstrokes. muscle tissue is metabolically active and expensive. It requires energy for us to build and maintain that tissue and resources to build that tissue as well like proteins via amino acids. So as you build more muscle mass, you are adding more energy cost to your body because of maintaining your muscle tissue. It is not 1000s of calories a day, so don’t get excited. But that modest increase can compound over time, it also is more expensive energetically to move your body through space, because you’re carrying more mass. As you exercise, you’re expending more energy because you are moving more muscle tissue through that space. And then of course, as we build muscle tissue, we’re able to lift heavier, we get a better compounding effect there and we’re adding more maths so you can see how things can build over time.
We used to think that adding muscle was about the fibers themselves and potentially had no impact on mitochondria. There is newer research to suggest that strength training or resistance training may also have a positive impact on mitochondria mitochondrial adaptation. So again, we said things like aerobic training or cardiovascular training were the domain of improving mitochondrial adaptations and adding more mitochondria. It appears potentially that strength training may also have a positive benefit there in terms of our mitochondrial number our mitochondrial efficiency or our mitochondrial health. So there’s just that extra little benefit when we’re talking about metabolism that may bear out over time as we have more research. Next glucose regulation or glucose metabolism, again, is extremely complex further than we can go on this episode here. But muscle mass does play an important role in helping regulate our blood sugar levels.
When you exercise, not only do you potentially use glucose from the bloodstream for energy, but you also may tap into your stores of glycogen, glycogen is stored glucose that’s in your muscle tissue, you also have glycogen in your liver, but your muscle tissue is able to store much, much more glycogen than your liver. So if we add more muscle tissue, then we increase the potential storage tank, if you will, of glucose via glycogen, which is really, really important when we exercise, especially when we’re strength training, and of course, other types of exercise. But when we are in strength training, we increase our insulin sensitivity. And we also increase the likelihood that glucose gets into our muscle cells. Without this the necessity of insulin. And after we exercise, we are able to get glucose into the muscle tissue as stored glycogen.
So as we age, especially as we’re increasing into our 40s 50s and aging tends to increase the risk of insulin resistance. Also, the menopause transition may increase the risk of insulin resistance in some people, it’s really important to lean on things like exercise, specifically strength training or resistance training to help us improve our insulin sensitivity. So exercise is a really important tool, one tool in your toolbox for looking at glucose regulation, glucose metabolism, and insulin sensitivity as we age. Okay, next, bone health.
Bone health is incredibly important. We’re not talking about it enough. I think people think oh, well yes, like menopause and osteoporosis. But bone loss is occurring in younger individuals as well. So it’s really important to know that what happens when we’re adolescents can have a significant impact on how we age in terms of not just general aging, but also the menopause transition when it comes to things like bone strength, bone health, and bone density. And there’s some interesting research that says we may even be able to reverse things like low bone mineral density to some degree, we used to think we can only just sort of stop the progression.
But there’s some other research that’s come out more recently that suggests maybe we can start to build some bone back which is very, very exciting, or strengthen the bone at the very least. There’s also the podcast I did on creatine and bone health with Dr. Darren Kandao where we went far into detail on that so I will make sure we link that one up in the show. notes. So you can go off on that tangent of discovery if you would like. But suffice to say, when we contract our muscles, and particularly when we’re challenging our muscles, by putting a load on the bone, we are stimulating bone growth, and we help to maintain bone density. And that’s incredibly important.
We also know that Plyometrics, those types of exercises can have a positive impact, as well. And the stronger our muscles are, right, potentially, we build stronger bones. That’s also helping to mitigate or offset some of the risk of osteoporosis, osteopenia, or fracture. We also know that balance goes down as we age unless we continue to work our balance. And as balance declines, we also see an increased risk of falls. So with the increased risk of fall comes the increased risk of fracture. So if we build more muscle mass, we’re consistently working our muscles, they can potentially help to mitigate some of that risk, build stronger bone, and decrease the risk of falls. A couple of other noteworthy benefits here in terms of muscle mass, and the association with longevity, strength training, and strength training appears to have a benefit in terms of cognitive health and cognitive function. So that’s a really interesting avenue if you’d like to explore a little bit more about that.
But there seems to be a general link or general association that when we are exercising our muscles, we’re not just getting general exercise, but strength training may have positive benefits for cognitive health. Of course, we know that moving our bodies with exercise, and regular physical activity has benefits for cardiovascular function as well. And doing cardio is not the same as your heart rate going up when you’re strength training. We’re talking about different things here. But there is still a cardiovascular challenge. Oftentimes, when we’re lifting heavy, our cardiovascular system has to work harder to do those things. So you might notice, hey, yeah, my heart rate went up when I was doing that heavy set of five or 10. doing actual cardiovascular and aerobic training is a different subset of training, and so has specific benefits.
So we’re not saying that lifting weights is the same as doing cardiovascular exercise, but just in the general realm of looking at heart health, cardiovascular function, and knowing that, of course, again, as we age, our general risk of cardiovascular incident goes up. But as we also go through the menopause transition, we see an increase in women’s risk of cardiovascular disease. All right, so let’s go ahead and wrap up this podcast episode. I’m sure there are so many more elements to longevity, quality of life, and independence that we didn’t touch on in this episode. But I wanted to give you some general concepts that you could either further explore or even explain on a very high level to somebody you might encounter, hey, this is why strength, strength training, and adding muscle mass could have positive benefits for longevity and quality of life.
We kind of took a little bit of a broad brushstroke approach here. So we talked about mobility and physical activity, the sit-to-stand test, and why this matters for discussions of quality of life, overall well-being, independence, being able to have mobility and complete activities of daily living as well as physical exercise, we touched a little bit on metabolism. We discussed glucose regulation and how exercise can help with that specifically strength training. We looked at bone health and also touched briefly on things like cognitive benefit and benefit to our heart health or cardiovascular system.
Thanks so much for being here with me on this podcast episode. And just a quick plug for my strength training programs. Of course, if you’re a very new beginner, dynamic dumbbells is a great place for you to begin with compound movements and adding resistance. And if you’re a little bit more advanced, and you’re looking to really find a 12-month, progressive templated strength program that is purpose-built for women over 40 and addresses a lot of our concerns like balance plyometrics and power, strength, building muscle and so much more than check out strong with Steph. This is my app-based program that’s really going to provide the very best in strength training for you to address these concerns and so much more. Thanks so much for being here with me today on this podcast. We’re going to be back with another episode about muscle and strength very soon. And until then, stay strong.