A Beginners Guide to Building Muscle
In an evolving industry worth billions of dollars it is fair to say that there are many conflicting opinions on the right and wrong ways to build muscle. Some facts are indisputable and that is the basis of this article.
To put it very simply: hypertrophy is an increase and growth of muscle cells. Hypertrophy refers to an increase in muscular size achieved through exercise. This basic principle is undeniable. Lifting weights is considered the most common way to build muscle, however many other catalysts are involved. In this article I plan on touching upon a few of the other undeniable, scientifically proven ways to help promote gaining muscle mass in conjunction with your current training regime.
Create a caloric surplus
Uncertain about how many calories you should be eating? This is extremely common. Calorie calculators continue to increase in popularity and counting macronutrients has become the new normal for more individuals, not just serious bodybuilders and athletes. Do not let that overwhelm you. Scientifically speaking, to gain muscle mass, a caloric surplus is one of the most beneficial components. A caloric surplus simply means to take in more calories than we burn. This will be an extremely beneficial step in the process of building muscle.
Note: A popular rule of thumb is your current bodyweight (in pounds) multiplied by 16-18 for a base number. Activity levels and metabolism can play a role in this as well, but each person is different so manipulating these numbers is completely fine.
There are seven major classes of nutrients but for a lot of individuals and to keep it simple: the main three macronutrients we focus on are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Another indisputable science is that for general muscle gain and sustainability - Protein is extremely important. Increasing an individual’s protein intake has led to significant muscle growth in as little as four weeks. Calculating this while trying to achieve a caloric surplus or deficit can be made much easier using a protein supplement.
Note: Another rule of thumb concept used by the general public is a gram of protein per pound of body weight.
Glycogen is a form of carbohydrate that is stored in your muscles and liver. Glycogen is the primary source of fuel during exercise, and low glycogen levels decrease your ability to gain strength and muscle.
The idea is to saturate glycogen stores so that the body does not use its own protein to produce energy.
Note: Supplementing with fast digesting carbs can be a great aid while attempting to manipulate glycogen during a workout!
Deciding what foods / supplements are beneficial
Every person is different. This means that the foods that agree with one person may not agree with the next. Experimenting with different carb, protein, and fat sources can be extremely beneficial. A few honorable mentions to get started would be:
A weight gaining supplement:
A caloric surplus can be extremely difficult to achieve and sometimes it seems like no matter how much we eat, gaining weight is impossible. For this we look at weight gainers or full balanced meal replacement supplements. Drinking your calories is an effective way to intake more daily while on the go or without needing to cook more whole food.
A lean protein:
One of the most common questions I receive is about gaining lean muscle mass while losing body fat. We have established by now that in most cases, losing weight is achieved with a caloric deficit. For anyone with this specific goal in mind, an Isolate protein seems extremely fitting. (Low in calories, sugars, carbs, fats - but high in protein).
Note: Isolate Proteins are best taken post workout. A carb or fat catalyst is encouraged if taken as a meal substitute.
A low-calorie meal replacement:
Although having similar macronutrients to the previous proteins, meal replacement supplements differ in some ways. These have a sustained release system built into it which means that there is no bad time to take these. Commonly taken before bed because of its ability to keep an individual anabolic through the evening, low calorie meal replacements are a great way to have a snack on the go without jeopardizing one’s diet.
This issue is extremely common and can be demotivating. Sometimes the body is unsure what to do when we drink our calories. We have established that certain individuals have sensitivity to whey proteins -the by-product of the cheese making process- although not having a lactose allergy. Fortunately, this market has evolved so rapidly that we have a plethora of plant-based alternatives.
Other issues include bloating, gas or diarrhea. In these situations, we encourage probiotics or digestive enzymes. If your caloric intake is where it should be, a good probiotic will take you further than imaginable. These completely reduce bloating, gas, settle stomach issues and help the body absorb the recently acquired nutrients.
Sleep and Rest!
Nutrition, training, and sleep are known to be the 3 most important principles in bodybuilding. Sleeping is part of the bodybuilding lifestyle and should be for anyone looking to increase muscle mass.
You grow while you rest and sleep.
While there are many different factors and aspects of recovery, sleep is by far the most important. The body will not grow without adequate rest and sleep.
The central nervous system plays a large role in any athlete’s success; however, the nervous system often becomes tired from overtraining and burns itself out. Sleep is the number one way for your central nervous system to recover.
Eight to ten hours of sleep every night should be the goal every night. While the body sleeps, protein synthesis increases and if the sleep is deep enough (REM sleep) The body releases growth hormone. Most recovery takes place while sleeping.
Supplements such as casein are increasingly popular before bed to help the body absorb more protein. Alternative methods to achieve a deeper sleep also exist. Sleep aids are formulated to help lower stress levels and promote a deeper sleep to create more of the growth hormone that will help you grow.
Note: Simple manipulations can be made to a daily lifestyle to enhance sleep as well. Cutting high glycemic or high sugar foods and alcohol which have been shown to over stimulate the mind and increase the chances of keeping you awake.
Building muscle? Staying hydrated is key. Fat loss? Hydration is key.
Your hydration status and meeting your daily fluid needs are important while trying to improve your body composition.
The body is made up of over 70% Water! This Tip may seem extremely simple but adequate hydration is extremely important. Not only can dehydration increase the likelihood of injury, research studies have shown that when cells lose water (and thus volume), protein production can slow down and protein breakdown speeds up.
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) are a great way to stay hydrated with additional benefits as well. BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, valine) all work best under stress so taking these during a workout can be a great insurance policy for muscle protection.
BCAAs are also flavored and high-quality ones contain active muscle recovery agents like Glutamine or a leucine derivative called HICA.
Leucine activates a pathway in the body that stimulates muscle protein synthesis. People who consumed a drink with 5.6 grams of BCAAs after their workouts had a greater increase in muscle protein.
Muscular hypertrophy can be achieved through weightlifting. You need to continuously break down and challenge muscles in order to see growth.
To build muscle through weightlifting, you need to have both mechanical damage and metabolic fatigue. When you lift a heavy weight, the contractile proteins in the muscles must generate force to overturn the resistance provided by the weight
Note: Hypertrophy of high volume (eight to twelve reps for three to five sets) and moderate resistance 50 percent to 75 percent of one-rep max is a common rule of thumb used while training in this format. Training until failure is extremely important and has been proven to be the best and fastest way to build muscle mass.
Supplements are exactly what the sound like. An addition to one’s diet.
As established earlier, diet is the key to getting the best vitamins and minerals, but in some instances, we find individuals who are still deficient in some areas and for those cases, supplements are extremely important. Many dietary supplements can improve overall health and help manage some conditions. Supplements are beneficial in so many ways, such as weight loss / gain, healthy skin, hair, teeth, bones, nails, muscles, brain function, body function, and many more.