The Women’s Book Vol 1 is Here!

The Women's Book CoverIn 2014, while working on a different book project, I realized that it was time to address a topic that I had been avoiding for quite some time, one that I had intended to examine but, due to the complexity involved, had so far avoided.

That topic was women’s physiology as it pertained to nutrition, fat loss, muscle gain and training.   And it was time to finally address it.  For almost the next 3 years I would dive into the research and physiology, realizing that the degree of complexity and the differences present between women and men were immense.  The deeper I delved, the more differences I found and what I thought would end up being a fairly short book started to turn into a tome.

The work was exhaustive and I’d end up having to pull out the training sections and divide the book into two volumes (Volume 2 will cover training and will be out, well….I don’t know when exactly).

After all of that.  After all of the research, and writing and editing (helped immensely by feedback from Eric Helms, who also contributed an appendix on peak week for physique athletes and making weight for weight class athletes), it was done.


At a staggering 438 pages, containing over 850 scientific references, the Women’s Book Vol 1 covers virtually every possible topic relevant to women’s nutrition, diet, fat loss or muscle gain in detail.   Background physiology on fuel use, fat storage and loss, stress, menstrual cycle function and more are all examined in detail.  Many of these topics are discussed within the context of how women and men differ physiologically.


Women’s Maximum Muscular Potential

Since the women’s book is actually nearing completion (I’m about halfway through editing the final draft), I figured it was time to post up another excerpt.    This is from Chapter 18 on Goal Setting and deals with women’s maximum muscular potential in terms of how much lean body mass (LBM)/muscle they might carry.

Now, I have addressed this in a previous article, presenting my own and other models although most had less to do with maximum potential and more with the amount of weight/muscle that might be gained during the first several years of training (added together these predict maximum potential).   The numbers were also based on men although I at least noted that women should realistically reduce the values by perhaps half

Martin Berkhan’s model was the only that really addressed maximum potential (based on height) and while he has updated it recently, he did not present data for women due to a lack of an adequate sample size.

And that is the topic that this excerpt addresses: a woman’s maximum potential LBM/muscle mass.


Gaining LBM

While the goal of gaining (or at least maintaining) LBM is an important one for all women, many readers of this book may only be interested in gaining relatively small amounts without huge consideration for the total amount that is or has been gained. The combination of proper resistance training with some basic changes in diet generally accomplishes this without difficulty or attention to many specifics. For that reason, this section will be aimed at those women who are deliberately trying to gain muscle. This could be the serious trainee simply trying to improve appearance, the physique athlete looking to optimize their physique for competition or the performance athlete attempting to gain muscle for performance reasons. In some cases, this might represent a relatively small amounts of muscle gain while in others, the goal might be to gain the maximum amount of muscle possible.


Female Fat Loss Seminar with Eric Helms

Just one quick announcement this week, I will be doing a webinar with the one and only Eric Helms on the topic of Female Fat Loss via FitProDevelopment.  I of course have been working for what seems like forever on the upcoming women’s book (nearly done, I promise) and not only has Eric contributed two sections on peak week and making weight, he has provided endless feedback on my writing which comes out of his experience coaching female competitors.

Lyle McDonald and Eric Helms











Yes, that is what my beard currently looks like. Eric and I will have a beard off after the seminar.


Research on Women – Why Isn’t There More?

Since I got behind on writing this week (I had to set up for a 3 hour webinar yesterday), I’m running an excerpt from the forthcoming women’s book (which is coming along I promise) about research on women and why there isn’t more of it.  It’s probably subtly different from what is actually in the book since I did a lot of rewriting but hopefully gets the concepts across.  There’s exactly nothing practical here, it’s just kind of some interesting (I hope) blather to introduce the topic.

Research on Women: Part 1

For a number of reasons, a great deal of early research (with the possible exception of diet research) was done on males. This was especially true in the athletic realm and especially in the early days of sports science research. It wasn’t until about the 80’s when a great deal of the gender specific or comparative research really started to be done (1). But as more and more research started to develop that either repeated the same studies in women or compared men and women, it became rapidly clear that there were differences, some of which were subtle and some of which were distinctly not so subtle.

A singular example will hopefully make the point. Endurance athletes such as runners or cyclists will often use a dietary strategy referred to as carbohydrate loading where they combine intense exercise with a drastically increased amount of carbohydrate in their diet. The goal of this is to increase the store of carbohydrate in the body (muscle and liver) to improve performance.

And early studies showed that this worked well for men. They increased the storage of carbohydrate in their bodies and performance improved. But in women it didn’t seem to have the same effect. In one comparative study, while men increased their muscle carbohydrate stores when fed a 70% carbohydrate diet, women did not. For fairly logical reasons, biological differences were assumed to be the case since, as often as not, it does explain the differences that are seen. But this was actually wrong.


Male and Female Physiology – Q&A

Question:     How much of the recommendations for women in your upcoming book should men with low T take into account? As a young man with low testosterone who has neither the funds to afford TRT or the desire to throw fertility into question, I am constantly wondering if I should follow the dietary/fitness/etc guidelines for women or men. In my case low T presents itself as a lack of muscle mass and more feminine “stubborn fat” areas. How often and in what situations should men in similar situations as me follow guidelines and instructions set for women over those set for men?

Answer: The short answer, very little.   Now here’s the long answer.  To understand the short answer, I need to explain why male and female physiology (or many of the issues I’ll be addressing in the book) is more than just the differences in hormone levels per se.  Yes, that has an impact but that’s not all there is to the picture.  But first

A pedantic note so I don’t get crucified by Jezebel: Strictly speaking, sex and gender are different.  Sex is a description of biology, testicles, penis, ovaries and such.  Gender refers to what someone identifies as sexually.  A biological male can identify as a female and a biological female may identify as a male.  Without getting into it here, I will forever argue that there is still a lot going on under the hood related to biological differences (i.e. it’s NOT just a social choice) but this isn’t the time or the place.    For example, I personally identify as a cis-heternormative Savannah baboon and you can’t oppress me by telling me my choice is wrong (#smashthehumanarchy).  But I’m already off track.

In research, scientists use sex and gender interchangeably with seemingly no general preference and I will too (as I do in the book with the same pedantic note).  I acknowledge and understand that they are NOT the same thing and it’s simply a stylistic writing choice with no implication whatsoever that sex or gender are relatively more or less relevant or important than each other.  So get over it.

Anyhow, here is a (hopefully) brief look at some of the differences that separate boys from girls.