I was featured in the Skinnymom article related to exercise and breast size. Click the link to see the complete article.
There is quite a bit of bro-science, or in this case, bra-science related to chest size, breast composition, and lifestyle. As you mention, the actual breast/mammary tissue is fat and veins, with the skin around the breast having some fibers capable of stretching and constricting as needed, similar to other parts of our body. As a counselor and coach working with women getting started in new fitness routines, it is quite amazing to see a body transition with the effects of diet and exercise.
Hormones will play a role in the activation of expanding/firmness and restriction of breast tissue that most women will recognize during their normal cycles. Estrogen and testosterone balance in the body also effects the body and exercise can change that balance enough to effect breast size.
Think of any fat in our body as stored energy. When our diets include a high ratio of fats and sugars (that become fats) to protein, we might hold more fat storage in our body, and that would include our breast tissue. Once we start to exercise consistently, burning calories making withdrawals from our internal storage. The body does not really discriminate from which “fat cabinet” it pulls from. Breasts being full of fat, are going to be easy targets for the body to pull energy from as you keep up your workout routine. The body makes quick work of the muscle tissue energy when we are doing our interval trainings and spinning classes. Once the muscles go, the body starts burning that fat storage. If you choose exercise like traditional cardio and don’t stay at it too long, you can develop a toned body and won’t use up too much fat tissue. In order to maintain a lean figure (think 80’s aerobics videos) your diet needs to be balanced in such a way that your caloric intake (especially sugars and fats) is not too high so you don’t give your body more energy than it needs to be happy and healthy. You can probably stay close to the recommendations from the food pyramids and live an active lifestyle without losing too much breast tissue.
If you are going to start some metabolic engine revving high intensity interval training (Insanity and the like) and weight training that the body continues to burn calories after you finish your activities, you need to understand that the body will recognize quickly that it needs to be pulling calories from all the available sources to replenish the muscles and recover. You might need to put your boobs on a milk carton sooner than later if you don’t go against traditional bro-science. For those crossfitters and strong is the new sexy types, you need to keep fat as a part of your regular intake. I try to make sure about 25% of my overall food content comes from fat, and that I am eating regularly throughout the day (grazing) to keep my engine running at a high level, and I recommend the same for the women I work with.
Our diets will help the body regulate the energy it uses and we can ensure we have enough to stay healthy and improve our composition without completely sacrificing our breasts to have a tighter butt. When we introduce muscle growth to our bodies, it increases testosterone production naturally, which can also effect breast size for the smaller. Look at the professional female bodybuilders for evidence of that.
Starting P90x will not turn you into a horse, and lifting weights is an amazing way to lift up that butt and put some meat behind the breast tissue to frame your shoulders and torso. While it will take some effort, those that add consistent muscle to their frames will appear toned up, not bulked up. The fear that training with weights equals bloated shoulders and thighs is really a myth, unless you are training for some kind of powerlifting world record. If that’s the case, eat whatever you want and watch everything on your body grow.
If you are a young woman that is concerned about losing those brand new boobs you just grew in middle school and high school, try one of the excellent toning up programs that include a meal plan and schedule like those from beachbody.com. You can be gaining muscle without the use of heavy weights, getting great cardio workouts, and keeping a healthy diet that won’t strip you of the nutrients you need to stay balanced and healthy. When your boobs start to retreat, you can adjust your fat intake a bit to see how that effects your results. Try throwing a stick of butter in your morning coffee like some bodybuilding pros are doing now. You can find more information at bodybuilding.com. They have a store, workout plans for free, peer support, and more bro-science than you can want.
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