When it comes to building lean muscle, you’ll find countless theories, techniques and testimonials. Whether the goal is upgraded health, aesthetics, performance, or a combo of all three, there is no scarcity of advice to help you get there. So much so that it can often become overly intricate and you forget about the basic ideals of building that enviable definition and muscle tone. Trust me, it’s simpler than it seems. As compiled from Men’s Fitness magazine, here are the facts about muscle building that you really need to know.
1. It takes protein
Protein is imperative to have with every meal because it builds and maintains those striking muscles you’re after. Aim for one gram of protein per pound of body weight a day — less active people need less — and that should be spread out over five or six small meals. Don’t go overboard, though. Excess protein, especially from animal sources, has been linked to kidney stones.
2. Sleep is crucial
It’ll be an understatement to say that it’s uber difficult to build muscle without adequate sleep — seven hours a night, preferably eight. Sleep is when most of your hormones, such as growth hormone and testosterone, are released, allowing your body to recover and grow. Without adequate sleep, you’re sabotaging your efforts to build muscle, because without those hormones released, your muscles won’t respond to your workouts as well.
3. Yes, it also takes carbs
Protein will only be used to build muscle if you consume enough carbohydrate calories to provide your body with energy. Else, your body will tap into the protein for that fuel and you’ll end up losing muscle instead of building it. Carbs provide energy for muscle function and act as the fuel for the brain. But that doesn’t mean you down a bunch of fries! Opt for minimally processed carbs such as veggies, daal, oats and brown rice.
4. The foundation is key
The abs and biceps might gain more attention but the many little stabiliser muscles around your shoulders, hips, and midsection — collectively the core — provide a strong foundation. Challenging the stability and mobility of these key muscles with medicine balls, doing circuits, squats, lunges etc will surely give you huge paybacks.
5. Routine is the enemy
Training at a consistent time of day is a great thing, but having a routine workout is not since the body quickly adapts. Constantly challenge yourself by adding different movements. When you do turn to a familiar exercise, aim to improve on it by adding resistance or playing around with reps and sets.
6. Timing is important
At the end of your workout, your body is literally desperate for nutrients. The sooner you refuel the tank, the quicker your body will recover and your muscles will grow. One simple strategy is to place in your gym bag a post-workout recovery snack or a shaker bottle for your protein shake that you can consume immediately after the workout.
7. Water is essential
Sadly, we aren’t asking you to go swimming or scuba diving! Fact is, however you train, drinking sufficient amounts of water is essential to building lean muscles. Drinking enough water before, during, and after exercise can increase performance up to 25 per cent. Make it a habit to drink half to one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day to maintain hydration.
8. It’s not just about lifting dumbbells
You can build muscle from carrying heavy grocery bags, flipping tires, hauling buckets of water, doing push-ups and innumerable other ways. The best muscle-building exercises are those that mimic everyday movements. So if you don’t have a gym membership, don’t find excuses and get on your bedroom rug to squeeze in some push-ups.
9. The more muscles involved, the better
Why spend your time on an isolated exercise like a bicep curl or leg extension when you can get much more benefit from movements that pull in more of the body? Think in terms of rotational, chopping, and swinging movements that provide much more range of motion. That said, focus on total body workouts or assign days to cover each body part to get to your goal.
10. It takes intensity
Smartphones produce not-so-smart workouts. Don’t be the person in the gym playing with the phone for two minutes between sets. You’ll lose the focus and intensity required to build muscle. Better yet, don’t rest between sets. Superset with a pushing exercise, like a set of planks or crunches, followed immediately with a pulling exercise like a dumbbell row. You’ll produce better performance since the non-working muscles recover faster while their opposing muscles work.