Nutrition for Muscle Mass in Men and Women
The human body gains muscle mass through exercise, especially resistance training such as lifting weights. Muscle mass changes result from muscle utilization degree and subsequent build-up or breakdown, determining muscle growth or atrophy. Generally, men tend to be stronger and have a higher muscle mass than women (Kenney et al., 2019). Most people associate this occurrence with men having an advantage in gaining muscle even from the same exercise and nutrition as women. However, research by Moore and Philp (2020) concludes that both genders’ muscular composition and associated protein synthesis are the same. Therefore, both genders will gain the same muscle mass from heavy strength training. However, men possess a higher basal muscle mass due to hormonal variations that make them more muscular overall.
Muscle gain is the same for both genders when engaging in exercise, strength training to be specific if duration and intensity remain constant. Contrary to popular belief, Moore and Philp (2020) note no significant variances in muscle protein synthesis rates when comparing the male and female muscular composition. This assertion suggests that protein-abundant nutrition accompanied by strength training instigate protein synthesis similarly for both genders. With that realization in mind, men still have a higher overall muscle mass than women in absolute and relative respects. The divergence in muscle mass between the genders is first noted at puberty and persists throughout life. Regardless of age, both genders will acquire the same muscle mass from continued strength training, but ultimately, men will have almost double the overall muscle mass of women (Kenney et al., 2019). This outcome results from deviations between the male and female chemical makeup.
Multiple factors dictate the build-up of muscle mass in the human body for both genders. However, subtle yet important variations dictate the differences in overall muscle mass between men and women. Moore and Philp (2020) state that anabolic hormones and enzymes dictate muscle development with consistent strength training triggering muscle gain more than its breakdown; thus, growth is mass. The authors emphasize that while most people may believe that men have muscle gain advantages, their years of research strongly refute that belief. The key difference that gives males more overall muscle mass is testosterone. This hormone aids in the regulation of muscle protein synthesis and protein breakdown. Notably, men have ten times more testosterone than women, which gives them a higher muscle mass baseline to work with from the start (Kenney et al., 2019). With the higher baseline, men gain a comparative advantage over women by having a head start in muscle mass. Notably, hormonal differences rather than muscle composition and gain processes make men more muscular than women.
Men and women both gain equally from strength training or generally any exercise that builds muscle, but ultimately, men will have more muscle mass in totality. This phenomenon is widely understood as the male anatomy having a higher basal muscle mass even before training. However, contrary to popular belief, men do not have an advantage in muscle gain from exercise compared to women since both male and female muscles synthesize protein at the same rate and have the same anabolic composition. Overall, the higher amount of testosterone in men makes them more muscular even at a state of rest. These research findings have significant implications for athletics, where muscle mass is a key determining factor for many undertakings.
Kenney, W. L., Wilmore, J. H., & Costill, D. L. (2019). Physiology of sport and exercise (7th ed.). Human Kinetics.
Moore, D., & Philp, A. (2020). Nutritional strategies to promote muscle mass and function across health span. Frontiers Media.