Building muscle is tough! There’s no two ways about it. You can spend months hitting the gym every day, and you still won’t see the progress you want.
The problem: it’s not an exact science, so it’s tough to know how to build muscle. What works for one person may not work for the other, so you need to work with your specific body type and be willing to experiment a little.
On this page, we’re going to look at the factors that will enable you to build muscle the healthy way. From diet to workout to recovery, we’ll cover all of your bases so you can pack on those pounds of lean muscle as effectively as possible!
Factor #1: Diet
Without the proper diet, you won’t see the gains you’re looking for–it’s just that simple! A fit body is made 30% in the gym, but 70% in the kitchen. Wrapping your mind around this and putting it to practice can literally result in some very satisfying transformations.
It’s All About the Calories
How many calories do you need per day if you’re trying to pack on muscle? Before we answer that question, consider the following::
Are you underweight, overweight, or the proper weight?
- If you are underweight, your diet will be aimed at eating A LOT MORE calories. Think 3,000+ calories.
- If you are overweight, you’ll need to eat FEWER calories, but not so few that you run out of energy. Think 2,000 to 2,500 calories.
- If you are the proper weight, you should be eating A FEW MORE calories–enough to get you through your workouts. Think 2,500 to 3,000 calories.
The truth is that weight gain and loss is all about the calories. Fat is not literally turned into muscle mass, but you burn fat and replace it with muscle by training and dieting properly. Muscle increases while fat decreases.
If you have a hard time gaining weight, you’ll have to eat up to 500 – 1,000 calories MORE than you do now just to be able to gain muscle. If you can gain weight easily, don’t add too many calories to your diet. If you need to lose weight, it may be best to only reduce your calorie intake slightly.
Why? Simple: calories are energy. During intesnse training, your muscles will need and use a ‘truck-load’ of calories in order to get through the session. If you cut it too much, you’ll run out of steam before you complete your workout.
What should you be eating?
You need to eat anywhere between 1.5 – 2 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass (LBM) if you are trying to bulk up.
- If your LBM is 200 pounds, that’s 350 to 200 grams of protein per day.
Protein provides the nutrients that your body uses to repair and replenish the fibers of your muscles with each workout. Complete proteins are necessary, so stick with:
- Cottage Cheese
- Protein powders (Whey/Casein)
These are just a few of the bestter sources of complete proteins.
In additon, considering supplmenting with BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids) can also be usueful in helping your body synthesize protien, espcially if you’re trying to lose weight. I’ll cover supplements that you can use to build muscle and burn fat in a later article.
You don’t want to cut carbs from your diet if you’re trying to pack on the muscle. In fact, carbs provide the energy that your body burns to power your muscles as you lift weights.
A general rule for carbohdrate intake is to consume.5 – 1 gram per pound of LBM. I suggest starting at the lower recommendation and work your way up.
Here’s some great sources of carbohydrates:
- Oats (steel cut)
- Whole grains
- Whole grain pastas
- Brown Rice
Try to keep the consumption of sugar or refined, high glycemic carbohydrates to a minimum. If you’re a sugar addict like me, then try to eat your sugary treats after your workouts. Doing this will minimize the negative fat storring effect of insulin that will be secreted when your blood sugar levels are increased.
In terms of building muscle, fat is VERY important. Fat is the main nutrient responsible for the productin of vital muscle building hormones like Testosterone and HGH.
Try to keep your satruated fats to a minimum. If you’re eating a lot of meat then you’ll be getting plenty of saturated fat. Keep consumption of red meat to a minimum to avoid too much bad fat. Avoid trans fat at all costs!
Be sure to get plenty of omega 3’s, poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fatty acids from eating the following foods.
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Sesame seed oil
- Flax Seed
- Some red meats
- Some dairy
Get the right balance of nutrients, and your body will be in prime shape to start building muscle when you move on to your workouts. You also want to be sure you drink plenty of water.
A good rule of thumb is to consume half your body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you would consume around 80 ounces of water on rest days and a tad more during training days. Why more on training days? Losing 10-20 ounces of water in sweat during training – combined with a session of cardio is not uncommon.
To make my life easier I carry around a gallon jug of water with me. It might seem odd to some people but doing this allows me to monitor my water intake daily. I try to consume a minimum of 1 gallon a day.
Factor #2: Pumping Iron
Your diet is key! However, even if your diet is 100% on point you will not grow any new muscle mass if your not training correctly. It’s not enough to just hit the gym everyday and go through the motions. You need to know what you’re doing.
The whole point of training is to breakdown the muscle fibers. This is called micro-trauma. When done correctly, you will actually cause small tears is your muscle. It’s during your recovery that your body takes the food you’ve eaten and repairs the damaged tissue. This is when new muscle is produced.
Factor #3: Recovery
Recovery is one of the most over looked aspects of building muscle. Remeber is’t during the recovery process that new muscle is built. Recovery encompasses all of the time spent not trainng, basically the other 23 hours of the day. How you spend this time will determine your success with building muscle.
Sleep is often neglected in favor of partying or whatching TV and playing video games. If you’re not getting 6-8 hours of sleep EVERY night, then you’re not getting enough! Serious about putting on some mass? Get to bed! Sleep is when the vital muscle building hormones are produced and put to work.
Another aspect of recovery is setting up your training routine. You want to make sure you have found a good balance between working enough and working too hard. Find the sweet spot between the two. Under training won’t stimulate growth, over traning will cause injuries.
Building muscle really comes down to figuring out your diet, then being disciplined enough to follow it. Train hard enough to stimulate growth but structure your workouts so you don’t over do it. Then sleep as much as possible every night.
Seems easy but these are some pretty difficult demands for a young man to follow. However, if you’re serious about building muscle you’ll find a way to get these things done. Best of luck!