WHEN IT COMES to building muscle, there are numerous theories, methods, and preferences. Whether the goal is improved health, aesthetics, performance, or a combination of all three, there is no shortage of advice to help you get there. So much so that it can sometimes become overly complicated and you forget about the basic facts. But, it’s simpler than it seems.
Getting stronger isn’t just about what takes place in the gym, though that’s a key component. How you tackle the rest of your day and night, including sleep, goes a long way to determining how or if you build muscle.
1. It takes protein
Protein is vital to have with every meal because it builds and maintains muscles. 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. It takes carbs
Protein will only be used to build muscle if you consume enough carbohydrate calories to provide your body with energy. Otherwise, your body will tap into the protein for that fuel. Carbs provide energy for muscle function and act as the fuel for the brain. Go with minimally processed carbs such as veggies, steel-cut oats, and quinoa.
3. It requires frequent eating
Eating five or six small meals a day keeps your body’s metabolism firing. If you don’t eat often, the most readily available substance for the body to consume is muscle—not fat. The body is resistant to fat loss and will turn to attacking lean muscle first. Keep plenty of fuel in the tank so muscle is not consumed.
4. Sleep is key
It’s 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.
5. The foundation is important
Beach muscles and Olympic lifts draw more attention. But the many little stabilizer 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, physioballs, mini-bands, and rotational movements (lifting, chopping) pays huge dividends.
6. 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 for a personal best.
7. It’s about the rear view
Our sedentary, technology-based culture has produced a population of hunched over people with tight hips and bad backs from too much sitting. Building muscle effectively is difficult without a properly functioning set of glutes. By learning to move through the hips and activate and fire your glutes, you’ll be well on your way to moving properly and building muscleefficiently and with less risk of injury.
8. Women won’t get too ‘bulky’
Contrary to popular belief, women won’t get overly muscular unless they take steroids or other harmful supplements. Women lack the testosterone needed to put on that type of muscle.