We all know it is not easy building muscle mass. Building muscle mass takes some serious commitment. There are some good reasons behind the old cliché, no pain, no gain. Weight training and careful attention to diet are the primary keys to getting muscle mass.
But for those of us who go to the gym and do the workouts, muscle mass can still elude us. It is a fact that some people are more predisposed to building muscle mass than others. This does not mean that building muscle mass is impossible for some folks. It simply means that to get real muscle mass, some of us will need to pay closer attention to the kinds of workouts we do.
What we all need are some defined goals and methods for achieving those goals. Building muscle mass, like any other fitness goal, requires planning and working with the realities of your own body. Gaining muscle mass requires more than just hitting the gym and going through a standardized workout.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced athlete, this guide is designed to give you the information you need to build muscle mass. From the basics of how muscle grows to some concrete direction on things like cardio and diet, this guide will address the facts of building muscle mass for both men and women.
How do muscles grow?
Skeletal muscle is the most adaptable tissue in the human body. No other tissue is disposed to growth in size (hypertrophy) as skeletal muscle. For this reason, building muscle is not a difficult thing to do. Building muscle mass the way you want it requires some simple techniques and strategies.
When we put our muscles through intense exercise, the kind of exercise we go through in resistance training for instance, what we are basically doing is inflicting trauma on the muscle tissue. This trauma or disruption to the muscle cells activates what are called satellite cells that surround the muscle cells. These satellite cells begin to proliferate around the damaged muscle tissue and begin the process of repairing the damaged muscle cells.
What then happens is the satellite cells begin to divide across the muscle tissue and build more muscle cells. These satellite cells fuse to the damaged muscle cells and build protein strands that repair damaged tissue. This process results in new muscle tissue as the satellite cells repair and rebuilds the damaged muscle tissue.
There are a number of physiological factors that regulate and facilitate this process, but growth hormones and blood flow are among the most important. While our bodies are undergoing the trauma of exercise, growth hormones are stimulated along with the satellite cells. In order for all cells to repair muscle tissue and to grow new muscle tissue, the body requires an increase in blood flow. As we build muscle, we also facilitate the growth of new capillaries within muscle tissue.
How to build muscle
As we noted at the outset, there is no magic system for building muscle mass. But here are seven tried and true tips for how to build muscle.
Get plenty of protein
The more protein your body has in storage, the more your body can perform protein synthesis, and the larger your muscles can grow. This is a simple equation. However, your body is constantly using up protein to do the thing you are trying to accomplish.
For this reason, you must continually replenish your protein supply. What is more, you need to supply your boy with more proteins than it can break down for protein synthesis.
A good rule of thumb is to eat about 1 gram of protein for each pound of your body weight. If you are properly working out and training, this rule should give you the maximum amount of protein your body can use in a day.
To put this rule in concrete terms, a 160-pound man should consume 160 grams of protein per day. This is the amount of protein you would get from an 8-ounce chicken breast, 1 cup of cottage cheese, a roast beef sandwich, two eggs, a glass of milk, and 2 ounces of peanuts. If you balance this with equal amounts of carbs and fats, you will get the protein and energy you require to efficiently build muscle mass.
This may run counter to your natural inclination if you are trying to lose weight and gain muscle mass, but you need to eat more if you want to build muscle mass. In order to facilitate the physiological processes of protein synthesis, you need to provide the protein necessary but you also need to provide the calories for energy and the fats for burning that energy.
Work big, not small
Some of us were taught to focus on muscle groups in isolation. Working the biceps feels right when you are trying to build muscle. It is a fact that isolation training can be important, but you need to look at a bigger picture.
You want to work multiple muscles at the same time. Doing dumbbell rows, for example, will work biceps, lats, and abs. Also, by using multiple muscle groups you will be able to lift more weight. Pay attention to things like squats, pullups, and bench presses. These will stimulate multiple muscle groups and at the same time, and you will build muscle much more effectively.
This may be old news to some, but to build muscle mass you need to train heavy. The key here is to challenge muscle groups both concentrically and eccentrically. This is to put pressure on the muscle groups in every way these muscles are designed to function.
This translates into using more weight with fewer reps. It is, of course, always valuable to do 10-15 reps of anyone lift. But try putting more weight on things like squats and deadlifts and doing only 5 reps. This causes the muscle groups to exert at their maximum. The result will be serious muscle mass.
Drink something first
Drinking a protein shake that contains amino acids and carbohydrates prior to lifting has been shown to increase protein synthesis. A shake that contains 6 grams of essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins and 35 grams of carbs increases blood flow and protein synthesis. As we saw above, increased blood flow increases protein synthesis. You can get the same amount of protein and carbs from dietary sources, but protein drinks work faster and weigh less heavily during a workout.
Allow period to take it easy
You need to move your body every day. But you do not need to work out to your maximum capacity every day. Part of the process of protein synthesis and muscle generation involves periods of rest in which the physiological processes do their work.
This does not mean you should not go hard on the days you work your muscles. The point here is that taking days for less strenuous workouts is best for building muscle mass. Remember, the physiological process is one in which muscles are traumatized but then regenerate to build more muscle cells and tissue.
Eat every three hours and regulate carbs
You need to eat often in order to keep replenishing your body with the macronutrients necessary for protein synthesis. Rather than eating the usual three squares, divide your meals into six. In order to build muscle mass, you need to make sure the levels of proteins and carbs that are available remain in equilibrium with how much you eat.
This also means to need to make your carb intake. Cut down on carbs prior to working out and increase them post-workout. The post-workout carb boost will increase insulin levels, and this slows the rate at which your body uses up proteins.
Men vs women muscle
It has long been conventional wisdom that men naturally have more muscle mass than women. A recent study showed that men have more muscle mass overall, and particularly more muscle mass in the upper body that women. Women tend to have more muscle mass in their lower bodies. However, these findings do not suggest that men or women are any more or less able to gain muscle mass.
Scientists do not differentiate between women and men where it comes to fitness and exercise. The medical consensus is that men and women should get the same levels of exercise at a minimum and that men and women can build muscle mass in relatively the same ways. Studies show that while men have a slightly higher natural capacity to gain muscle mass, women can just easily build muscle. What is more, women can build muscle in the same ways as men.
The message here is that women can lose the pink dumbbells and start pumping iron just like the men.
Rest while building muscle
Rest while building muscle is not only acceptable, it is essential. The basic physiology of muscle synthesis involves periods in which the muscles are regenerating muscle cells. This requires rest. In order for the satellite cells that surround stressed and damaged muscle cells to accomplish the work of protein synthesis that results in new muscle cells, the muscles must be allowed to be at rest. If you do not allow for periods of rest, you will simply break down muscle tissue without building new muscle tissue.
Keep in mind that periods of rest reduces muscle fatigue and this allows you to keep building muscle. Rest reduces the likelihood of injuries. And rest will ultimately improve your overall performance.
Cardio and muscles
Building muscle generally requires a strict focus on weight and resistance training. We often think of cardio workouts as something altogether separate from the kinds of workouts necessary to build muscle.
But the fact is, cardio can increase your overall performance in working toward building muscle. Cardio enhances blood flow to working muscles. This has the effect of improving recovery times and enhancing strength training. The best way to go about this is by alternating your workouts. If you do strength training on Monday, spend Tuesday running or cycling.
Diet and muscles
The key to diet and building muscle is maintaining the right ratios of macronutrients. You need proteins, carbs, and fats to build muscle, but you need to make sure you are eating these things in the proper proportions.
Protein. We know we need protein to build muscle. But you should take to care to ensure that about 35 percent of your total calories consist of protein.
Carbohydrates. Carbs convert to glycogen and this is the primary source of energy for your body. To gain muscle you need sufficient quantities of glycogen to sustain the intense workouts. About half of your total calories should come from carbs.
Fats. Fats are also a primary source of energy for muscles. About 35 percent of your total calories should come from fats.
We all know it takes some commitment to build muscle mass. There is no around the fact that building muscle mass requires intense training. Weight training is still the gold standard for building muscle mass.
But some of the conventional wisdom needs to be revised. For example, the idea that since we require protein to build muscle, the more protein the better is not really the case. Yes, you do need to increase your protein intake if you are working out to build muscle. But you need to make sure your protein intake stays within certain limits. You also need to time your protein intake appropriately. A good protein shake is a great way to achieve this.
Also, we now know that carbs and fats are just as significant when it comes to building muscle. The process of generating muscle tissue requires a steady supply of energy. Carbs and fats are crucial to maintaining energy for your muscle as you work toward building muscle mass.
You also need to take periods of rest in your training schedule. The physiology of muscle protein synthesis is such that periods of rest are an essential part of the process. In order for muscles to grow at the cellular level, muscle cells require downtimes to do the work.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things we have learned in recent years is that men and women can gain muscle in the same ways. While it is a fact that men tend to naturally have more muscle mass than women, women can build muscle mass in the same ways as men.