Gain Strength, Feel Great, Be Powerful.

Gain Strength, Feel Great, Be Powerful.

carb cycling, lean gains, build muscle

I have something very exciting to tell you about today! Understanding how we build strength and muscle is muy importante because I don't want you to be wasting your precious workout time focusing on the wrong stuff... AND I don't want all that hard work to go to waste just because you're not eating properly for recovery while sticking to that low carb diet.

This is something that is VERY near and dear to my heart because a common theme among women is the fear of "getting bulky". I'm here to tell you that MUSCLE IS YOUR FRIEND.

Building Lean Muscle

Building muscle is an amazing way to help you burn fat and enjoy eating some of the foods you love guilt free! An increase in muscle mass will help you boost your metabolism so you’re burning more calories at rest and help your performance during workouts. Plus, those benefits are truly just the tip of the iceberg! If you’re looking to get LEANer, look no further and put the info below into action!


First of all: let's set something straight... Lean Muscle is a misnomer.

All muscle is fat free tissue. So all muscle is lean muscle. There's no such thing as "fat muscle" and therefore, no need to say “lean muscle”. It’s all simply muscle.

I do have a theory though, on where this redundant phrase came from…

It can be difficult to put on muscle mass- especially for women. Since you can't just make something from nothing, you have to provide the necessary building blocks for your body to create muscle tissue. It’s hard to put on muscle mass without also adding fat because of this need for extra calories. An unfortunate consequence of this caloric surplus is fat gain alongside the increase in muscle.

Lean Muscle vs Lean Gains

So, when someone says they want to gain "lean muscle", typically what they really mean is that they want to gain muscle without also gaining the fat. I've never heard anyone say "I really want to build muscle and put on another 5 pounds of fat." Why? Because body fat doesn't really help us. It's not really good for much (unless you’re preparing for a famine and then it's super nice to have around) and we usually prefer aesthetically to have less body fat rather than more. Most people want to build muscle while staying lean.

How do you build muscle?

So, how do our bodies build muscle tissue? We have to have two things: the right ingredients and the right stimulus. Think of it like baking a cake. You can mix all of the ingredients together, but if you don’t put it in the oven, it’s never going to magically turn into a cake! Conversely, if you put an empty cake pan in the oven and check on it an hour later, still no cake. Why should there be? You haven’t provided the materials that cake is made from. You need both.

You have to eat for it.

The ingredients needed to build muscle are mainly protein and carbs. These two macros support muscle growth and help replenish the energy we burned while those muscles were at work. That means you’ll be needing protein and carbs to put on the strong sculpted muscle you’re after. A low carb diet is usually not appropriate for active individuals looking to add some muscle to their frame.


You have to train for it.

The stimulus aka “the oven” from our cake example, is the actual workout. You have to challenge your body so that it has a reason to change. When you workout, specifically when you engage in strength training, you cause damage to the muscle. That damage has to be repaired. So your body gets to work, repairing the damage, and tries to fortify the tissue so that’s it’s a little stronger than before. If your workout isn’t challenging enough, it’s not going to cause much damage, and your body won’t see building muscle as a necessary adaptation. It's worth mentioning that strength training doesn't automatically mean you're using weights. Strength training is any kind of resistance training that will force the body to adapt by building strength.

Side Note: Getting Bulky

For all of the ladies out there that are worried that they’ll "get bulky” from strength training, you can lay those fears to rest! Unless you are eating for it AND training for it you just won’t add much muscle. Simple as that! As women, we do not have enough testosterone to allow us to gain muscle quickly or easily. It takes a lot of hard work to gain a visibly noticeable amount of muscle mass. Here’s my recommendation: give strength a chance, see how you look and feel. If you feel you put on too much muscle or get bulky, you stop what you’re doing and go back to other methods. You’ll lose muscle much faster than you put it on anyway, so it’s at least worth a shot. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Gain Strength, Feel Great, Be Powerful.

If you want to gain strength, feel great and be powerful (which are all amazing side effects of building muscle!) then all you have to do is make sure your workouts are adequately challenging and that you aren’t restricting your protein or carbs and making it impossible for your body to reap the full rewards of all the hard work you’re putting into your workouts!

Carb Cycling

Next week I’ll be talking about my favorite way to make sure you’re replenishing your muscle and gaining strength but minimizing your chances of also gaining body fat. Sounds too good to be true, right? It’s called Carb Cycling and if you love food like I do, it will change your life. Kiss that low carb diet goodbye!

Can't wait until next week to learn more about how to eat the carbs you love while losing body fat?

paleo diet macro diet iifym

About Ashley:

Ashley is a Pilates instructor and entrepreneur in NYC who specializes in biomechanics and exercise nutrition for women. She uses the science behind exercise physiology to empower her clients to lead healthy, happy lives. Her passion project is writing “The LEAN Life Newsletter” which goes out every Tuesday and focuses on Lifestyle, Exercise, Active recovery, and Nutrition and serves as the backbone for her L.E.A.N. Life online health and fitness programs. She aims to get this information into the hands of as many women as possible so they can feel stronger and more confident in their bodies. For more information head to or @AshleyBrownPilates on instagram, or click here to get on the L.E.A.N. Life List!