Gaining muscle, whether to build bulk or carve out definition, can be a difficult process.
Fortunately, most people jump into the process without all the critical information necessary to make the most of their strength training and healthy eating efforts.
That’s why we’ve gathered a list of some things you should know to maximize your muscle-building efforts with less work and less time wasted in the process.
A feeble body weakens the mind.
– Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Here are 10 things you need to know about gaining muscle.
First, it’s important to understand that muscle is highly metabolic, meaning it takes a ton of energy to do its thing.
Because of this, you need to consume a large number of calories to maintain your physical energy.
But the kind of calories matters too.
2. It’s all about protein
Protein is one of three different kinds of macronutrients that can be converted into energy for the body, the other two being various forms of carbohydrates and fat.
However, protein is particularly important in this case because it helps build and repair muscle.
When you use your muscle, especially with great intensity, you are actually causing all kinds of little tears in the muscle that need to be repaired regularly. As your muscles are rebuilt, they’re further developed and stronger.
Protein is the currency that helps make all of that happen.
However, there’s just one problem.
3. Carbs are important too
Not only is excess protein bad for the body, potentially producing kidney stones, if all you do is consume calories in the form of protein, your body will absorb that protein for energy and you won’t have enough left to repair and build muscle.
For that reason, you need to consume a fair amount of carbohydrate calories as well. The body will prioritize carb calories first, protecting your protein stores so they can do their thing.
4. You need to eat more frequently
Because the body needs so many calories to both recover from the stress of strength training and to burn for energy, you’re going to need to eat more frequently.
A simple and straightforward recommendation if you work out in the evening is this:
- Breakfast (wake up)
- Brunch (3~ hours later)
- After workout snack
Exactly how many calories you’ll need to consume is entirely up to your body weight and how intensely you’re training. Use something like bodybuilding.com’s calorie calculator to get a better idea of what you should be shooting for, and consult a dietitian to learn more about your individual dietary needs.
5. Eating at the right time is just as important
On that note, it’s also really important to make sure you’re consuming those calories at the right time.
Consuming a high-protein snack or shake within 30 minutes of your workout can help optimize muscle gain and assist the recovery process.
Your body needs nutrients to recover, especially after a tough workout.
6. Do not repeat the same routine
The body has something called muscle memory. It’s a really cool function that allows it to adapt to any physical activity it has to perform repeatedly for a length of time, reducing stress and potential damage and improving performance.
However, this can be detrimental when strength training. You want that stress on the muscles because it’s what allows you to build new muscle.
Changing up your workout regularly and adding new challenges (progressively lifting heavier, etc) can help counteract this adaptation process.The time period isn’t an exact science, but try rotating a few movements in and out every few weeks to keep things fresh.
7. If you’re a woman, you won’t get too bulky
Many women worry that strength training will make them develop too much muscle and they’ll become ultra bulky.
However, this is mostly a misconception. The reason men can do this is because of their testosterone levels, something women don’t have enough of for that same kind of bulking up to happen.
So, if you’re worried about bulking up, don’t be. Strength training is immensely valuable for both health and fitness, so don’t keep yourself from taking advantage of it because of a misconception.
8. Sleep is a critical recovery period
If you’re doing regular strength training to build muscle and tone your body, it’s important to know that your body needs time to recover from the stress you’re putting it through.
The time for the lion’s share of that recovery is sleep.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, your body doesn’t have enough time to recover, grow muscle, and burn fat.
The general recommendation is six to eight hours of sleep, however, it’s important to pay attention to your own body to see what is your optimal sleep cycle.
9. You get what you put in (intensity breeds exponential results)
If you take an hour just to slosh your way to the gym, several more minutes to get dressed, and fiddle with your smartphone for five minutes while you sit on a machine between sets, you’re not getting nearly as much from your muscle-building efforts as you could.
That’s not just because working harder will bring you better results (as with anything in life), though. That’s also because building your heart rate up and alternating between exercises that work out different muscle groups instead of taking repeated breaks in between actually helps you get fitter.
You get what you put in, so work out with your full focus and intensity.
While it’s true that we lose muscle mass as we age, it’s not true that we lose the ability to build new muscle.
One of the most extraordinary health finds in the past two decades has been that we retain the ability to build muscle and maintain a healthy body well into our golden years.
With the right diet and strength training routine, you can be as fit as a 30-year-old in your fifties.