Feast on Fats
Okay, so you can’t feast, per se, but adding a decent amount of certain fats to your diet has numerous benefits. For one thing, mono- and polyunsaturated fats are associated with cardiovascular health, but more important, new research indicates that strength-trained women use fat differently than men. It’s no secret that women store fat more readily than men do, but according to a review of related research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, women actually burn fat more readily than men as well. Whereas our brothers over at Muscle & Fitness are always having to burn through their glycogen stores (the stored form of carbohydrate your muscles use for fuel) before triggering fat-burning, female bodies, it seems, will actually burn fat first to spare glycogen. This has major implications for what you, as a woman on a strength-training program, should eat.
While sports nutritionists promote a high-carb intake for athletes, that’s really ideal only for endurance athletes such as marathoners. For the purposes of gaining strength, however, the opposite is true. Strength athletes should, as the review says, “put less emphasis on a very high carbohydrate intake and more emphasis on quality protein and fat consumption,” with the majority of your calories coming from lean protein and healthy fat sources. Furthermore, the heavier you train, the more pressure you put on your joints, and healthy fats are critical to joint health.
Aim to get 20%-30% of your daily calories from healthy fat sources such as salmon, nuts (particularly walnuts), seeds and avocados. Keep saturated fat (found in dairy and meat products) to 10% or less of your daily calorie intake.