The Giant Women Experiment
November 10, 2012 by Jason
Many of you will remember Deb from some of my previous posts (here, and most famously here). Of all the examples I have given you, she is by far the most popular because of her age (now 53) and the extremely regressed condition she came to me in (see the linked posts for details). Well, along with being a great client and friend, Deb is valuable to me for another reason: she trusts me enough to participate in my wacky experiments.
If you follow my work here on Everyday Paleo, you know that I am quite passionate about persuading women to lift weights, regardless of their goal. I have attacked this topic from a couple of different angles (here and here), but I still hear from women on a regular basis who are worried about lifting weights because they think it will make them look like men. So, I felt that we needed to hit this one head on. Despite the fact that we have never seen anything close to too much mass on any woman who has ever trained in my gym, and no woman has ever told me their muscles were getting too big and they feel they should stop lifting, I decided I was going to try to purposely pack as much muscle mass as possible on a few ladies, IF I could find willing subjects. See where the trust part comes in?
There were actually 3 women in my experiment, but I am only sharing Deb’s results with you here today. If you want to see the rest, you will have to wait for my book. (Yep, that was a shameless plug.) For 3 months, Deb trained like a bodybuilder and ate as much food as we could pack into her, but she did not stray from paleo. She did not eat a fat loss version of paleo, either. Instead, she pulled out the stops and tried to eat dense calorie sources as much as possible. She lifted weights like a mad woman, using high volume reps and sets commonly used for hypertrophy (mass gain), and she did absolutely no huffing and puffing throughout the entire experiment. That means no cardio and no metabolic conditioning. The only steps I may have been able to take to put more mass on her would have required garbage food and drugs. I would be a fraud if I condoned either.
Deb ate at least 3500 calories per day, every day. Her average day looked like this:
Breakfast – 6 eggs, 4 strips of bacon, salsa
Lunch – 1 pound of ground beef cooked in a pan with approximately a cup of vegetables.
Dinner – Grass fed beef steak (approximately 16 ounces), with extra fat left on by the butcher, and sometimes vegetables.
Snack – 6 eggs, 4 strips of bacon, salsa (same as breakfast)
She cooked everything in coconut oil or butter which adds more calories to this list. For those of you who are members of EPLifeFit, take a look at Deb’s food logs and you will see that this extreme intake is not actually very far off of what she has always eaten. Deb has a voracious appetite and loves meat.
Without further ado, let’s get to the results. Here is Deb on day one of the experiment:
And here she is after 12 weeks:
I know, I know, these pictures were taken in different lighting and different distances from the camera. That’s why we have measurements.
||37 5/8 inches
||37 1/2 inches
||32 1/2 inches
||31 3/8 inches
||37 1/4 inches
||36 1/2 inches
||12 1/4 inches
||9 5/8 inches
||9 1/2 inches
||20 3/8 inches
||19 1/2 inches
||14 3/8 inches
||14 1/8 inches
Yes, that’s correct, Deb actually got smaller on every single measurement we tracked. And this is a women who just spent the last 3 months doing things like bench press with a pair of 45 pound dumbbells for multiple sets of 10 rep, as well as back squatting 125 pounds for multiple sets of 10 reps. I wonder how many women reading this post would dare do such things, especially since training that way is supposed to make women look like men.
Just for fun, here she is in street clothes looking small and feminine and shining like a beacon of hope among most women her age:
Now let me clarify some things. First of all, Deb is relatively advanced in her fitness, having worked with me for a few years and gained considerable strength prior to beginning this experiment. If she had been completely deconditioned, we would have seen more dramatic differences in her measurements, but that would be because she would have begun with less muscle, not because she would have somehow ended up with more.
Second, I am in no way suggesting that any woman reading this post should train specifically for maximum muscle mass and eat 3500 calories per day, nor am I suggesting that, under the same circumstances, your results would be the same as Deb’s. This experiment was not about finding the perfect way for women to get fit and healthy, and there are certainly better paths to your goals. This experiment was about proving that women do not tend to have the ability to grow manly muscles, even when they try really hard. As I mentioned earlier, there were 3 women in this experiment (although I’m only sharing Deb with you for now), but these are still anecdotal cases and I am not claiming to prove anything. I am simply trying to appeal to you logically and get you thinking.
I have yet to meet a woman who ever went to the gym and got a masculine physique by accident, and you have never met a woman like that either. Women with big muscles put A LOT of concerted effort and years of their lives into that endeavor. BUT, women who lift weights and eat a solid paleo diet almost always find a shorter path to improved health, and improved health translates to sustainable improvements in the way their bodies look. Please, just give it a shot. You will be glad you did.
Go forth and be awesome.
A: Front Squat 7X1
B: For time:
10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 Reps of:
Front Squat 135/95
Post results to comments.