Muscle growth is the primary goal of those going to the gym. Aesthetics and physical appearance has a high impact on our life, managing not only social but also psychological aspects. But have you ever wondered how to build muscle?
It can get really hard if you don't know what to do to build muscle. In fact, muscle growth is one of the hardest metabolic processes in terms of energy costs. But don't worry, cause we are here today to help you on this.
In this post we'll talk about what 'building muscle' means and a quick guide to do it fast and efficiently. But first I want to give you a serve of cold water and explain you what's the reality of building muscle.
Should we start now? Keep reading!
REALITY OF BUILDING MUSCLE
Muscle growth, also known as muscle hypertrophy, is defined as an increase and growth of sarcomeres (muscle cells) (study). Growth comes from adding sarcomeres, noncontractile elements and sarcoplasmic fluid (source).
For muscle hypertrophy to happen we need two main facts; resistance training and dietary intake of amino acids. With those two balanced properly we can determine our muscle growth and/or muscle loss.
HOW FAST CAN WE BUILD MUSCLE?
This answer is influenced by diet, your experience level and many other factors that we should consider. But in wide terms, we can predict that, if doing things correct, we could potentially gain 40-50lbs of muscle over our life.
This might not seem a lot, but when it comes to muscle seen with low fat percentages, 40lbs of muscle tissue can make you look jacked and huge at the same time.
However, this 40lbs is looking at your overall career. If we close the range to one year, it would probably be 5-8lbs. And the difference here is not as wide as the other example mentioned with 40lbs.
So building muscle mass is not as fast and easy as people may think. We need a few months to start noticing small changes in our body composition, and a few more years to turn this small changes into something noticeable.
Before getting into the list of tips to build muscle, you should know that as your experience level training gets higher, your mass gains will be lowered. This is because your adaptations to the external stimulii are so stablished already that making further adaptations takes more time, discipline and work.
Adapted from Layle Mcdonalds, here there's a chart to show you the predicted and estimated growth rates depending on your expertise. And again, there is a wide variability depending on your sex, age, lifestyle and diet (among others).
- Muscle growth is one of the most highly-cost metabolic processes
- Muscle hypertrophy is an increase and growth of sarcomeres.
- Your experience level, age, sex.. determine your potential muscle gains.
- Building muscle takes time, and the long term behaviour is what determines your success
HOW TO BUILD MUSCLE FASTER
We cannot row anti nature, but we can manipulate and change our strategie to row faster and get to your goal before and with greater results. In this guide we'll go to some tips to make muscle faster, but more important, to make it more efficiently. Because it's preferrable to take small steps but confident than making large steps and take steps back overtime.
If you don't know how to build muscle yet, check out this list and make sure you are on the right path!
- Be in a calorie surplus
- Get sufficient protein
- Prioritize vitamins and minerals
- Perform resistance training
- Periodize your trainings
- Ensure progressive overload
- Don't overtrain
- Get enough sleep
- Kep you chronic stress levels low
BE IN CALORIE SURPLUS
Muscle protein synthesis is one of the most expensive metabolic processes. Only protein syntesis takes 485kcal for men and 120kcal for women everyday (study). This implies a lot of energy and metabolic activity.
To maximize and optimize protein synthesis we must be in calorie surplus for a prolonged period of time (study).
For those who are new in this world, calorie surplus is basically eating more calories that those being used within a 24h cycle. It creates a positive environment for muscle gains. Without calorie surplus muscle growth will be much lowered, and if the calorie deficit is kept for very long periods some muscle loss may occur as well (study).
But sometimes more is not always better. Excess of calorie surplus will lead to more fat gain and equal muscle gain. And that only means that you'll have to stop your bulking before to start cutting off calories and cleaning all the fat you have been accumulating. To avoid that, calorie surplus of 300-500kcal/day seem to be an efficient protocol to minimize fat gains and optimize muscle growth (study).
If you want to know more about calorie surplus, click HERE to keep reading about it
HIGH PROTEIN INTAKE
As we said before, for muscle growth we mainly need two things:
- Resistance training
- Protein intake as a source of amino acids
Of course there are more facts to consider, but this give us an insight on the importance of protein intake when trying to build muscle. Amino acids are the substrate used to construct proteins during the process called translation. Not only that, but they are also able to trigger and procceed with the metabolic process, high-regulating protein synthesis and making it more effective (study).
Recommendations on protein intake are quite controversial to the date of the post. While official organization recommend 0.8g/kg (study), scientists have found that these are way lower than the optimum dose to maximize protein syntesis. There's not a final decision on this yet, but doses between 1.6-2.2g/kg of protein seems to be the ideal range to maximize muscle growth (study). These findings show a strong evidence, being confirmed by meta-analysis.
DON’T MISS OUT ON VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Diets are not only calories and macronutrients. That would way too easy. Actually, vitamins and minerals, also called microutrientes, have a crucial role in our metabolism. Vitamins regulate thousands of metabolic processes in our organism. Low intake of these will lead to abnormal functioning of our metabolism and further consequences. On the other hand we have minerals, being important for enzyme activity, muscle contraction, neural connections and other functions.
Eating defficient amounts of these micronutrients is not the best for building muscle efficiently. Vitamins B, C and E are potential antioxidants and are associated with improved muscle damage and recovery (study). Vitamin D is also related with improved body composition (study). Minerals like calcium and potassium are involved in the transport of molecules across the membrane (study), also regulating muscle contraction. Magnesium plays a crucial role as cofactor in many metabolic reactions (study). Sodium, on the other hand, is involved in cellular hydration and mantaining stable water levels in the cellular environment (study)
And these are only a few examples of the high impact micronutrients have on body composition and many other aspects of our life. To ensure a correct intake of these, you will have to prioritize foods with high nutritional value. Go for fruits, leaf green vegetables, red vegetables, liver, fatty fishes, eggs,... In other words, follow a flexible diet including a wide range of foods.
PERFORM RESISTANCE TRAINING
If you are here you are most likely to be involved in some resistance or strength discipline. And if you want to build muscle, that's what you have to do. Science shows that resistance training programs are the best tool to build muscle fast and efficiently (study)(study).
Resistance training is able to induce muscle adaptations by 'destroying' muscle tissue and telling our body that, in order to adapt to the external stimulii, we have to build more muscle tissue. And we don't build muscle while we train. In fact, we build muscle after we train...
If you want to know more about muscle hypertrophy, we have one posts on TBS about it. Go and check it out HERE.
PERIODIZE YOUR TRAININGS
Periodized and well-programmed trainings are more efficient when it comes to muscle hypertrophy (meta-analysis). It significantly improves maximal strength and muscle hypertrophy when compared to non-periodized training programs. And this is why...
- Periodized trainings are highly individualized to your needs. They adapt to your lifestyle, your exercise selection and many other factors that make the trainings more enjoyable.
- Periodized trainings are able to handle fatigue and muscle recovery. Considering stress levels, sleep quality or personal problems, we have better and worse days at the gym. With periodized training protocols you are able to autorregulate your sessions and adapt it based on your limitations.
- Periodized trainings also take into considerations all the variables affecting your performance. Intensity, volume, frequency,... to ensure an efficient progressive overload.
ENSURE PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD
Progressive overload is a 'must' when it comes to muscle hypertrophy (study). It allows us to keep building adaptations to our trainings and keep progressing.
Commonly defined as an addition of the internal load, it can be induced on many ways. Of course adding weights (external load) will lead to an increase of the internal load, but it's for sure not the only way. Addition of advanced techniques, volume load, repetitions with the same weight, less rest time of better and more controlled technique are also great tools to induce a higher internal load.
What I recommed you is to only induce progressive overload through one of these options at the time. Build adaptations slowly and don't go wild from the beginning because you'll get stuck easier and before.
More is not always better. And this is an excellent example. As you can see in the graph below, there are two possible paths when we workout.
On the red one, we are training too hard and not giving enough sleep and recovery to our body. What happens? Performance deteriorates and there's no adaptations nor progress over time. We are stuck with the same weights and lose motivation...
On the green one, we are following our program and considering all the variables. We do our sessions and go home to get enough sleep and recover. There's a huge progress overtime and the weights are increasing like crazy. You feel so motivated and keep exercising with an excellent performance...
I'm just going to leave you this question: which one will make you build muscle faster? Leave it in the comments 🙂
Nutrition and training are the two main fields to consider when talking about body composition. But they are not the only one.
In fact, body composition and fat loss is multifactorial phenomena, and there are may factors interplaying to determine your progress.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP
If you let me, sleep, with nutrition and training, is the basis of body composition and fitness goals. In fact, sleep deprivation is associated with higher risk of weight gain and obesity (study)
There's a strong evidence supporting the importance of sleep on body composition. In this study (study) they observed how parameters related with weight loss were negatively affected by sleep deprivation. Not only that, but subjects with lower periods of sleep were more likely to follow a higher-calorie intake during the day.
The recommended daily dose of sleep is accorded to be 7-9h for adults, with childrens needing 9-12h (study)
KEEP YOUR STRESS LEVELS LOW
Being cortisol one of the main hormone regulating stress levels, it was found to be negatively associated with serum testosterone levels (study). This means that the higher the cortisol, the lower the testosterone. And we all know the importance of testosterone on muscle tissue...
Although not the scoop of this post, you can efficiently reduce stress levels by:
- Being physcially active
- Prioritizing sleep
- Having time for yourself
- Avoid self isolation
Muscle growth is quite hard if you don't know what to do. Being a multifactorial phenomenum, there are a lot of factors affecting the process.
In this post we have seen how to build muscle more efficiently and fast. If you haven't noticed yet, all tips are pointed towards either nutrition, training or sleep. Because these are the basis of body composition. If you have these managed, you are set and ready to go...
And this has come to its end :(. If you have any question about all the information discussed here, please feel free to leave comment below in the comments section.