Women who bulk when doing weights

by (259) Updated April 10, 2013 at 1:10 PM Created December 19, 2012 at 10:26 PM

I'm hesitant to even TRY asking this here because of the amount of self proclaimed experts and anecdotal "proof" people espouse... so please, keep it factual, and cite your sources if you can.

I'm new to sports. I've been a healthy eater forever, and paleo for 2 years, basically fish & veg with a fair amount of meat and some starchy veg with each meal totaling 100g net carb a day give or take, was around 1500 cals in total before I began sports.

I started rowing 2 months ago with the aim to (1) drop 15 lbs from 145 (at 5'7") to be a lightweight rower at 130 lbs, and (2) lower body fat % to look leaner and more toned. We do weights 2x a week (30 min), erg practice 2-6x a week, and circuits 2x a week (weightless, 45 min). I try to do yoga 1-2x a week as well.

Since starting rowing, I find that I am hungry ALL THE TIME and eating way more than I usually would, and in two months I have gone up to 157 lbs. I haven't noticed a huge change in my body composition, and I don't see roundness in my face, so it doesn't seem to be a fat gain, but I'm annoyed because I am not tall enough to be a heavyweight rower and at this rate I don't see myself making it to a lean 130 to be a lightweight.

Since I am new to figuring out diets to match an athletic schedule, I'm not sure what to do. If I go under 100g of carbs, I'm hungry all day, and when I train I find that I need to eat even an extra sweet potato to stay satiated, so I'm not comfortable on a solely lean-protein and veg diet.

Is it possible to get leaner or do I need to accept that maybe I'm just not built for it?

EDITS: I'm willing to experiment with my diet to see what works, so feel free to make more specific suggestions. I'm not willing to give up the sport because I really enjoy it, and that means continuing the training (sorry, stubborn) so if I want to lean out it will have to be done with this incorporated. BUT if I have to choose between my goals, I'd rather be lean than be a competitive rower, but I will NEVER compromise my health.

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8 Replies

571 · December 19, 2012 at 11:40 PM

Your reason to incorporate rowing was to lose body weight and fat %? The rowing is obviously not helping toward your objectives; the calorific and glycogen demand is clearly excessive and intrusive. If you HAD to do this Loren Cordain's book 'Paleo Diet for Athletes' explains your nutritional requirements after punishing training sessions. A little number crunching is required.

Personally I would drop down to just the weights sessions and the yoga. Of course you can get lean but take a Fat Free Mass measurement and current body fat % reading for guidance. You don't have to guess whether your recent 12 lb weight gain was muscle. It wasn't.

According to a Pennsylvania State University (2000) study, six solid months of weight training, 4x a week, on a group of 31 women yielded a muscle (FFM) gain of just 2 lb. http://www.ergo-log.com/looklikeaman.html

649 · December 20, 2012 at 12:31 AM

Everyone here has said it but I will repeat, your work is very glycogen demanding. You must eat carbs to match your activity level. I would not limit the starches and fruit with your work load. Make sure you are getting something close to 1 gram of protein for every lb of lean body mass of desired weight and make up the rest with fats, which will probably be more of a condiment and not take up major space on your plate. This alone can probably help a lot.

I am a woman who tends to get bulky when stress is high. I bet that is the issue here with you. If you want to restrict carbs, then you must lift, walk or yoga but not the intense rowing. If you want to row, you must use carbs. IMHO.

Also, I calorie track. If you want to lean out, use one of the many online calculators that measure your tdee - use very active for your activity level. Take about 15% cals out for cutting and leaning out. This is a very comfy and doable way to lose excess fat.

Keep up the sports. Community and having a tribe to hang out with is probably the healthiest thing we can do for ourselves.

722 · December 20, 2012 at 12:11 AM

At 5'7" a bodyweight of 130 is fairly low, but not necessarily to low, depending of your current body composition. Rowing is a sport that doesn't mix well with a low/mod carb diet. The glycogen needed to perform well in rowing is just way above your current intake. If you want to be lean and row well, you need to change your diet toward higher carb lower fat.

366 · December 19, 2012 at 11:51 PM

Being a male, I can't really give much of an insight, as our body compositions are altogether different in certain main aspects.

Best I can do is give you a link to have a read, it's actually quite good. It's an interview with Ursula Grobler.


It might give you a bit of an idea as to how she goes about things while "living paleo" (forgive the wording :-P )

Also, rowing being an endurance sport, this article from Mark's Daily Apple should help as well - http://www.marksdailyapple.com/jonas-colting/#axzz2FXqLP3Pc

Have a good one

~ Cricket

2401 · December 20, 2012 at 2:37 AM

Diet: www.leangains.com, www.rippedbody.jp

Training: www.dragondoor.com

Martin Berkhan at Leangains is the way to get lean and know what you are eating to get there. Andy at Rippedbody helps decode leangains macros and cycling numbers for the layperson to get started. Follow and you will get lean. Period.

Pavel Tsatsouline and the folks on the dragondoor training forum can answer any of your training questions about strength, power, hypertrophy, etc.

If you are a rower, in my opinion, power exercises like snatches and swings with heavy kettlebells are the way to go. That does NOT bulk you up, but does make you more explosive and increases strength-endurance.

-4 · April 10, 2013 at 1:10 PM

I'm a former lightweight rower turned marathoner. Also 5'7". When I rowed I had not yet discovered Paleo and got my weight below 130 by being obsessive about eating and running to and from practice. Now as a runner (where low weight is also an advantage, particularly with avoiding repetitive stress injury), going paleo has enabled me to maintain sub-130 weight effortlessly. The single biggest change I made was upping my fat intake. If you think eating more carbs will make you less hungry, first try eating more fat. Its counterintuitive, but fatty steaks/chops/(bunless)burgers have made it that I'm never hungry nor do I have a bloated midsection, as I did pre-paleo. I've never been so lean AND I've never thought about food less. Moreover, the goal is to be a fat burner, not a sugar burner, and that's only possible if fat is a major fuel source and sugar is not. Another appetite killer (in a good way) is liver/offal. Something about all of the nutrients they contain, it takes very little and the satiation lasts for days. On the exercise side, if you haven't made the sugar-to-fat-burner transition yet, you might want to cut volume (and carbs) and scale volume so your workouts aren't too painful. For strength, HIIT (erg sprints) are remarkably effective as are tabatas using only bodyweight (jump squats come to mind). These are much more efficient means of adding strength while reducing the stress your body is under which might be making you hungry. Having trained as an endurance athlete for years, being paleo has reduced my vulnerability to injury and improved performance and more importantly my relationship with food.

1972 · December 20, 2012 at 1:29 AM

I think the key to leaning out is watching what you eat. I am a runner and have completed 6 marathons in the past so like you, I worked out a lot while training for these. I have lost weight during some training cycles and gained during others. During the cycles that I lost, I did so by tracking calories and eating 1200-1500 calories a day plus whatever I burn that day. Your appetite has probably increased so much from all the excercise that you are eating more than you are burning. This happens to me too If I don't track what I eat. At 5'8, I have maintained a weight between 125 and 130 for 2 years now. Now that I am not trying to lose more weight, I no longer have to count calories.

5744 · December 19, 2012 at 11:24 PM

Just my take. As a male, I can't comment first hand about females. Anyway.

I think it's absolutely possible to get leaner. Look at many of the figure and fitness competitors out there. They can get insanely lean while still maintaining a very good "female" figure and muscle mass. I'm sure looks can be deceiving, just like in bodybuilding, as to what strength they maintain. The problem I think you're going to run into, especially as a female, is a conflict of goals here. Can you be as good as you want in rowing AND have the optimal lean look you want? If so, are you achieving both at the expense of your health?

What are your priorities and what are you willing to do? I think this would really help get some better answers/advice on here. My first inclination would be to attack the rowing goal with some performance-based goals and track that. Keep that your primary focus and cut out anything else that doesn't help improve your performance in that area. I'd really look at the other stuff you're doing outside of the practice and see what is really needed and what you're doing as "extra" to try and achieve the aesthetic goal.

As far as the diet, again, if you wanted to really focus on the aesthetic goal you could manipulate that quite easily to achieve a specific look. This is what any type of figure competitor does. It's not sustainable and not at all optimal for performance in a sport, but it's very easy to achieve. It sounds like you're matching carb intake with what you need to fuel up. Heck, with what you describe, you might need far more than even 100 grams on the low days.

I'll wait for some others to chime in and will respond there. Evaluate your goal priorities and feel free to share them here. Good topic, BTW.

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