Mini Pause #22: Why Up Your Calories? More Muscle Growth & Less Fat Gain

TL;DR (too long, didn’t read)

Eat more calories to build muscle. At any weight. At any size. At any fitness level.

WHY

I’ve been writing over the last few weeks (Mini Pause #21 & Mini Pause #20) about why women need to stop punishing ourselves with overly aggressive caloric restriction. Bottom line: you need to eat more food to provide the building blocks to assemble new muscles.

But… just how much? And what kind? Are we talking a tub of Häagen-Dazs or is it extra steaks? How many calories above maintenance are we talking about here

WHAT

If muscle hypertrophy is the goal, you need to provide the muscle (and the bones, tendons, and ligaments that support it) extra calories to assimilate and build said muscle.

The best evidence [*] suggests that if you are a beginner, you can profit off the newbie gainz to utilize more food for muscle accumulation. If you have been training for less than a year consistently, progressing slowly in your muscle growth journey, it seems like a caloric surplus of 20-40%of your maintenance calories is ideal. This works out to somewhere between 500-1000 extra calories daily.

Remember, as a new lifter, your rate of muscle turnover is much higher than a seasoned lifter, and as such, will require more calories (hurray!)

If you are an experienced lifter, where your progress and strength gains are near maxed out, you still require a caloric surplus, but it’s much lower. Something around 10-20% caloric surplus, or somewhere between 250-500 extra calories daily.

When you are close to your natural potential in muscle size, unfortunately, your fat gain potential is higher, and so fewer calories are recommended here.

HOW

For the record–I totally get how shocking these numbers might be. Especially if you’re someone who has been under-fueling and on some sort of “diet” for weight loss for a long time. Couple this with the cultural norms of women needing to be small, skinny, petite, and delicate, and it is a mind f*ckery at its finest.

I write about periodization of, well, your period, in The Betty Body where we increase calories every month in week 4 of your cycle by about 10-15%. I get 40% caloric surplus can feel like just too much too soon, so let’s start off nice and easy shall we?

There are so many benefits to nourishing your body in the way it requires and expects of you. You can gradually increase your metabolic rate, and your NEAT output (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis), and give your organs, bones, and muscles the energy they need to operate properly.

Are you with me?

NOW

  • Pick up a copy of The Betty Body.
  • Start tracking your food intake to determine what you’re currently eating.
  • You can keep these calories consistent in the follicular phase of your menstrual cycle.
  • In your luteal phase, you’re going to pinky promise me you’re going to TRY and increase your calories a little bit. Deal?
  • If you are menopausal, congratulations. You don’t have to worry about a cycle any more so you can just jump right into a caloric surplus of 10-15% today.

Question of the Week

Q: Should we be sore after a workout?

This question came in through my recent Ask Me Anything on IG. And there’s A LOT of debate around this. Here is where I stand on it:

Whenever you change up your routine (which you should be doing regularly) because it is a novel stimulus, having some soreness is normal for the first or second time you do it.

The absence of soreness doesn’t mean you didn’t work hard enough.

That being said, if you are never sore (even from a workout you are familiar with) I find this problematic. Workouts should be a sufficient stimulus that induce soreness from time to time.

For me, I am gunning for soreness in weeks two and three of my cycle. I just have the most energy, motor coordination, mental stamina, and hormonal landscape to go for it. So I’ll increase volume, weights, or both during this time.

So… I guess what I’m saying is… it depends. You know yourself best, and you know when you’re ready for a stellar workout. When you feel well-rested, mentally sharp, and prepared to work–see what you’re made of. Intermittent soreness is a good thing.

YOUR TURN!

I’ll be answering your questions every week right here in the Mini Pause! Let me know what’s on your mind. I’ll be checking for both questions and feedback at support@drstephanieestima.com.

WHAT I RECOMMEND: A Health Toolkit

I get a lot of questions from my Bettys about what they can do, take, or try to look, feel, and perform better in their lives. That’s why I compiled and launched a Health Toolkit for you this year.

I’ve curated numerous resources on my new website for my Bettys who are still cycling, experiencing symptoms of perimenopause, or going through the menopause transition. You’ll find solutions for sleep, skin, longevity, protein, energy, red light therapy, cooling hot flashes and more! Everything I recommend, I use myself. That’s my rule.

I invite you to get curious about the ways you can uplevel your health. Check out the Health Toolkit here.

And to answer the Betty question that came in regarding why I don’t use a sauna blanket anymore–I still do! (And now I interchange it with time in my Sunlighten sauna.) I love the sauna blanket for recovery after especially heavy lifting days. My preference is the BON CHARGE model. Use code DRSTEPHANIE for an exclusive discount on either sauna style you prefer.