While more women than ever before are reaping the numerous health benefits of weight training, most still have an underlying fear of “getting bigger” or “bulking up”. But, believe it or not, there are still many women with the ever so unique goal of building significant strength and muscle mass (hypertrophy) with weight training. If you’re part of this selected group of women, it’s important to know that adequate nutrition is equally as important as training.

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To give you a better understanding of what it takes, I’ve compiled a list of dietary strategies that’ll effectively support gains in muscle strength and hypertrophy during weight training.

Monitor Your Carbohydrate Intake

Adequate carbohydrate intake is essential during weight training, but for women trying to build muscle strength and size, more isn’t necessarily better. In general, carbs are necessary for enhancing muscle glycogen stores, which serve as fuel during weight training, especially when blood glucose (sugar) levels are low. Problem is, women tend to use less glycogen than men during training and they also store less from carbs.

So, in order to reduce the likelihood of excess carbs being stored as fat instead of glycogen, you should always monitor your intake when training. The major of your carbs should come from leafy green and root vegetables, legumes and low-sugar fruits as opposed to grains and starchy vegetables.

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Consume Ample Amounts of Protein

Sufficient protein intake is extremely important for women seeking to enhance muscle strength and hypertrophy while weight training. It’s best, to choose high-quality protein sources that contain all essential amino acids such as lean meats, skinless poultry, fish and seafood, eggs, dairy foods, and soy products. Other potentially good sources of high-quality protein include whey, egg white, casein and soy-based supplements.

For maximum gains, aim to consume between 0.64 and 0.82 grams of protein for each pound of your body weight.

Related Article: Nutrition Basics: Your Daily Protein Intake

Add Healthy Fats to Your Daily Diet

Fatty foods are especially beneficial for women who wish to bulk up with weight training, as regular intake of such foods has been shown to beneficially alter hormonal levels in a way that promotes muscle hypertrophy. When consumed regularly, fat can naturally boost testosterone level. Testosterone is the male hormone that’s responsible for the development of large muscles.

Opt for healthy sources that are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids including salmon, tuna, egg yolks, nuts and nut butters, flax and chia seeds, olive oil, and avocado. To reap maximal benefits, shoot for no more than 0.37-0.52 grams of total fat for each pound of your body weight.

Related Article: Good Fats Versus Bad Fats: What You Need to Know About Dietary Fat

Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Calories

When training for strength and muscle growth, getting sufficient calories in your daily diet is critical. Inadequate calorie consumption can lead to an increased breakdown of muscle protein, which thwarts muscle hypertrophy. For optimal results, you must balance the number of calories you consume with the amount you burn during training. On strenuous or heavy training days, it may be necessary to substantially increase your calorie intake in order to achieve this balance.

The act of voluntarily increasing calorie intake may be foreign to some women as many are seeking to lose or at least maintain their current weight. But, when it comes to bulking up, calorie restriction isn’t at all a priority.

Maintain Good Hydration

Muscle is largely comprised of water. Since a significant amount is lost each day through urine, bowel movements and sweat, it must be continuously replenished in order to avoid dehydration (excessive loss of body water). On average, the body requires about 8-12 eight-ounce cups of water each day but during the days you train, you’ll definitely have to drink more (at least 3-4 additional cups).

Since ALL liquids count towards your daily water intake, this isn’t impossible to achieve. You’ll know that your water intake is adequate when you’re producing very light yellow or clear urine throughout the day.

Related Article: Why Water is More Important Than Food

Consider Creatine Supplementation

Although, I rarely, if ever, encourage the use of supplements, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that women can build substantial amounts of muscle while greatly improving strength by supplementing with creatine. Creatine is a substance that’s naturally produced by the body and used by muscles to perform brief, highly intense, explosive movements, which includes weight lifting.

When consumed regularly, creatine supplements can enhance output during high-intensity weight lifting, thereby increasing muscle hypertrophy over time. Powdered creatine supplements are among the most popular but creatine capsules are equally beneficial.

If you’re one of the few women engaging in weight training for muscle strength and hypertrophy your nutritional needs are definitely unique. Following these tips will help to improve your performance during training in ways that promote maximum strength gains and optimal muscle growth.

Related Article: How to Lift Weights Without Bulking Up