Muscle strength is improved primarily by increasing muscle size (hypertrophy) and the number of muscle fibers recruited. Muscles experience hypertrophy when the muscle fibers increase in size. Increases in muscle size are highly dependent on diet, genetics, muscle fiber types, and the kind of training performed.
Circulating hormones such as testosterone play a large role in the development of large muscles. Men have between 20 and 30 times more circulating testosterone than women, and it is for this reason, as well as the fact that men have more numerous and larger muscle fibers, that men can develop much bigger muscles than women. Keep in mind that genetics and individual differences play a role in the rate and degree to which muscles mass increases in either gender. Men and women who train similarly can increase their muscle strength, but because women have lower levels of testosterone and fewer and smaller muscle fibers than men do, they cannot increase muscle size the way men can.
Can supplements help me get stronger or leaner, develop more tone, or lose weight?
Millions of people rely on dietary supplements for everything from enhancing their sex lives to improving their athletic performances. There is essentially no systematic regulation of the dietary supplement industry, so there is no guarantee that any supplement will live up to its claims. More important, there is no guarantee that any supplement is safe. Some dietary supplements are probably safe and effective if consumed according to the manufacturers’ instructions. An example is the traditional use of vitamin and mineral supplements. Although the recommended doses can improve a deficiency resulting from a poor diet, megadoses can have toxic effects. Because dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is no guarantee that what is stated on the label is actually in the supplement.
Will certain types of cardio help me burn more calories?
The type of exercise you select will determine the amount of energy you expend and, thus, how many total calories you burn. Many exercise modalities are marketed to women with the claim that they burn more calories, and the fitness consumer is left to wonder just what determines the number of calories burned during exercise. Just because you may sweat more in a particular workout (e.g., a cycle class or a hot yoga class) doesn’t necessarily mean that you are burning more calories. Additionally, acute bouts of exercise do not burn a huge number of calories. It is the consistency of the exercise that results in weight loss.
Understanding what determines how many calories your body burns during exercise and why your body obeys certain rules that dictate the magnitude of caloric expenditure is important when selecting exercises. With this knowledge you can create realistic goals for yourself with respect to fat loss and increased lean mass. In addition, you will be in a better position to discern the truth regarding many of the advertising claims that suggest that a particular exercise modality is best for caloric expenditure and weight loss. The fact is, the more you exercise, the more fit you will become. You will burn more total calories walking briskly or running 5 miles (8 km) than you will just 1 mile (1.6 km). So instead of burning 100 calories for 1 mile, you burn about 500, and that’s a lot more calories burned than if you had stayed on the couch. Bottom line: the harder you work, the more calories you expend, and you have to do this on a regular (ideally, daily) basis.
Read more from A Woman’s Guide to Muscle and Strength by Irene Lewis-McCormick.
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