Diet Mistakes Women Make Trying to Gain Muscle

Change Your Mind to Change Your Body

Women have it hard enough with less testosterone than their male counterpart to add food foibles to the list of why muscle definition isn't happening. We want lean muscular legs, tight backsides, and arm definition to rock the sexiest tanks but oftentimes fail in the nutrition department.

An overabsorption of extreme dieting and “don’t eat that” has plagued our society, and sadly many women continue to believe these untruths and simply don't consume enough nutrients to support muscle gain. Let’s take a look at a few diet mistakes getting in the way of women achieving muscle definition.

Common Mistakes


Follow celebrity fad diets: Fad diets are nothing but money making gimmicks filled with empty promises and “fake” health foods. The bottom line is many women are overtraining and undereating stumped with why muscle gains are not happening.

Restrict carbs and fats: Both carbohydrates and fats have been served a bad rap and countless women believe eating them will make them fat. Unfortunately, these muscle building macronutrients are left out of diet plans leaving women tired and frustrated with not seeing results.

Worry too much about fat loss: Worrying about losing fat and not paying attention to what it takes to build muscle is a “mental game” buster for women. The stress of not losing fat sucks the life blood out of many women who strongly desire shapely muscle, but they are still not willing to look at eating more as muscle friendly.

Food Guilt Issues: Too many women suffer from food guilt issues. They get down on themselves and let what they have done define them to the point of unhealthy exercise practices or giving up. Men seem to be able to down a cheeseburger and move on while women struggle for days thinking all their muscle building efforts are ruined.

Fixing the Problem

Diet Mistakes Women Make
Fix Diet Mistakes and Promote Muscle Growth. Jay Reilly Aurora/Getty Images

Toss the Fad Diets: It may be difficult to turn a blind eye toward all the glam fad diets out there. It will be necessary so you can begin taking control of a “real” nutrition plan that will provide lifetime results. Time to toss the “quick fix” approach. Stop eating pre-made junk meals, convenience “pseudo” health bars, and depending on a point system to get you through the day.

Fad diets are also not geared for women who are seeking muscle definition. They target the mainstream woman looking to be “skinny fat” and studies show gain all their weight back once the programs are over. Glam diets do not teach “Nutrition 101” for lean mass gain and leave women running around unable to fend for themselves in the kitchen. The solution to this mess is for women to be accountable for their food plans and learn how to shop, cook, and eat for muscle.

To find out more about restrictive diets, read: The Truth behind Very Low Calories Diets

Eat Carbs and Fats: Not eating healthy carbs and fat is setting your body up for no energy and no muscle. Too many women are running around feeling a great accomplishment dumping all carbs and fats. There is a big difference between the carbs and fats that should stay in your diet and those that should be removed.

If you have been stuffing your face with donuts, pie, and white bread, eliminating those would be a great choice. However, tossing vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, avocados, and healthy oils would remove essential macronutrients your muscles need for glycogen (energy) and anabolism (growth). Healthy carbs play an important role in a muscle building diet. They are stored as glycogen in the liver and muscle tissue and provide energy during your weight training session and post-workout. Our bodies will not tolerate carb restriction and will convert amino acids (protein) stored in muscle to fuel the workout instead. This process is called gluconeogenesis and is not what we want to happen to our hard earned muscle. Fats, especially essential fatty acids (EFAs), play an equally important part in muscle development.

EFAs are linked to muscle preservation, fat burning, and hormone function. Fats are involved in transporting nutrients in and out of our cells and helping with amino acid delivery to the muscle tissue. Leaving out essential carbohydrates and fat is not an option for anyone and especially those who are trying to gain muscular curves.

Focus on Muscle Growth Instead of Fat Loss: Instead of doing what it takes to build muscle and using food as a friend to make it happen, women tend to jump from diet to diet and getting nowhere. Fat loss worry has taken over the “mental game” and causes major damage for those trying to gain lean mass. Metabolisms are in the toilet and muscles are flat. There needs to be a mental shift from “fat loss focus” to eating for muscle gain and understanding how your body will benefit.

This does not mean “eating like a pig to look like a fox” but consuming nutrient dense foods in the form of lean proteins, healthy carbs, and fats to support muscle growth. It also means putting that food to work in the gym tossing the “I will look like a man” mentality because that is absolutely not true. Approach your workout with a determination to be challenged and without fear of the normal discomfort of lifting heavier weights. Your new outlook and efforts nutritionally and physically will create sculpted muscle and the ability to lose fat at the same time.

If you want to learn more about how to focus on muscle growth, read: Are You Eating for Muscle?

Stop Being Hard on Yourself: Women go through guilt cycles more than men in the food department. They will even apply unhealthy exercise or starvation habits over the next few days to work through the issue. Imagine how muscle tissue or better yet, the whole body responds to this punishment.

Hours of cardio making up for indulgence coupled with starvation hinders muscle development and causes physiological stress. “One unhealthy meal won’t make you fat and one healthy meal won’t make you thin” is a great quote to apply to having an occasional splurge and living a fit lifestyle in general.

The ability to enjoy a cheat meal and move on is a healthy perspective because growing lean muscle is not about restriction. If your mind is on muscle growth and not fat loss, then an occasional burger is not going to make or break your fitness bank. It will be the change in your way of thinking that will free you from being hard on yourself and the cycles of guilt.

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