I was wondering what you suggest for your female athletes with regards to their body changes. I started eating Paleo in January and have succeeded in eliminating all grains and dairy (never drank milk before anyway) and I do feel great In May, I weighed 115 lbs at 5′ tall and my body fat was 15%. Fast forward to August, now I weigh 110 lbs and my concern is whether it was a loss of fat or muscle. A loss of body weight translates into me not progressing in my lifts. I think it would be better to gain a few pounds of muscle and have my lifts go up. Talk to me Johnnie….

Naffele N.

P.S. Thanks for the FANTASTIC CrossFit Football site! You do a great job every day.

Naffele – I would start by assessing your goals. What do you want to accomplish?

If your only goal is to get stronger and progress on your lifts, then added body weight is going to help. You can increase strength by increasing the size of a muscle; greater muscle diameter should translate into added strength. You can also get stronger by training your nervous system. I recommend you do both. I know hypertrophy is a dirty word in the functional fitness community, but it has its merits. And we have learned a lot about getting strong through nervous system specific training from athletes that are restricted to weight classes.

If your goal is just to stay lean, I would start by getting your body fat tested again. If your body fat decreased, you lost 5 lbs and you were able to maintain your lean body mass then you have done well.

However, if your goal is to gain weight, then I can help as I have some experience in putting on mass. However, I must throw out this disclaimer…I never recommend a female athlete she should put on body weight as it can cause body image issues and I not great dealing with emotions. That is a decision you must make on your own, I can only help if you decide you want to put on some lbs.

Here are some easy steps to follow:

  1. Consume 15-17 calories per pound of body weight
  2. Consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
  3. Stick to your Paleo diet. Supplement with whole milk and creatine as you can pack on some muscle. About 1 liter a day of whole milk. ½ immediately following your training and ½ about an hour later. We tested the 1-liter of milk a day for 6 weeks with one of our girls training for the 2010 CF Games. She put on some solid muscle in that time period.
  4. Scale back the metcon, focus on speed during your lifts and take full recovery between sets, 3-5 minutes.

I would say the added protein and calories are going to help you put on some muscle. Red meat already has a nice anabolic effect, mix that with some creatine and the muscle building properties of whole milk and you are in business.

Here is a study forwarded to me by Dr. Lalonde, called Body Composition and Strength Changes in Women with Milk and Resistance Exercise that is pretty interesting.

The article states, Resistance exercise is a potent stimulus to increase muscle protein synthesis and to stimulate positive net protein balance. If resistance exercise is performed chronically (i.e., resistance training), then successive bouts of positive protein balance are thought to summate yielding hypertrophy overtime. To maximize hypertrophic potential of resistance exercise, it appears that consumption of high-quality protein in close temporal proximity after resistance exercise can augment muscle protein synthesis and also enhances resistance training induced increases in muscle mass. Thus, combining consumption of high-quality protein with resistance exercise, in particular of milk-based proteins, has been shown to enhance gains in muscle mass in young healthy untrained men. Women engaging in resistance training for as little as 6wk show comparable relative gains in strength and lean tissue mass as those seen in men. Apart from these studies, we remain largely ignorant of the longer Y term potential for a greater training response in women when both exercise and feeding are simultaneously manipulated…

Good luck!