6 Rules for Building Muscle
When you're not in the gym or garage crushing workouts, your muscles need to be resting and recuperating.
The are three aspects of increasing the rate at which our muscles recover and we get back into the gym sooner are simple; quality and quantity of your sleep, hydration (how much water you drink) and your nutrition, i.e. the quality of the fuel and building blocks you're using to feed your muscles.
In other words, your muscles don't grow while you're working out in the gym. They get big and strong when you're done working out...and in between your workouts, i.e. during your rest period.
While you only need to work each muscle group 3 to 4 times per week, depending on your specific workout goals, those workouts need to be high-intensity - and well-executed.
Of course, working out regularly is another very important piece of the equation.
When we talk about intensity we talk about working hard for the time that youre in the gym and avoiding getting caught up in telling Instagram that you’re there!
Next time you workout try to use a stopwatch to limit your rest periods to 60 seconds between sets - you’ll learn about intensity pretty quick.
And, guess what... in order to effectively make it through those high-intensity workouts, week after week, and month after month, you need the right kinds of fuel to keep you going.
And, we're back to nutrition again. Now, you can see why as much as 80-percent of muscle building comes down to proper nutrition.
So, the quality of your workouts and the quality of your nutrition go hand-in-hand. One can't work without the other. And, if any of them is missing or deficient, you will not see the kind of results you're after.
Nutrition: Protein Is Not Enough
Yes, we are all aware of the importance of consuming enough protein, in order to build muscle.
Protein provides the nutrients your body needs for muscle growth. And, you need a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, each day, just to maintain muscle mass. If you’re thinking of growing that muscle mass then an individual could look up to 1.2g/lb of bodyweight.
Of course, the problem is, most people focus only on protein consumption, i.e. the primary building blocks of muscle...and they ignore (or perhaps aren't aware of) the importance of keeping the body properly fueled, in order to build that muscle and maintain the muscle they've worked so hard to build.
You see, consuming protein will only make your muscles grow if your workouts are regular...and of high-quality and high intensity.
So, if you're guilty of spending hours at the gym and force-feeding yourself with protein, and still not feeling like you are able to build muscle fast enough, perhaps reading on at a few more important suggestions might help…
Water: Staying Hydrated
Even if they don't work out regularly, most people are often dehydrated simply from engaging in their day-to-day activities, because they simply are not drinking enough fluids during the day.
If you wait until you're thirsty before you have something to drink, it's usually too late...and your body is already dehydrated.
Keep your body well hydrated, sipping on fluids throughout the day.
Yes, you may have to visit the restroom more often, during your day. But, in return, you will have more energy, less headaches, and your body will function better and be much healthier...which would you rather?
And yes, staying hydrated will also help you build muscle more efficiently... AND keep you from getting fatigued too quickly during a workout. Remember - Weak workouts equal weak results.
Of course, if you're someone who works out regularly (as you should, for maximum muscle development), your body will obviously be revving slightly higher than normal, hence using up even more fluids than other more sedentary individuals. So, it's even more important to stay hydrated throughout the day...especially before, during, and after your workouts...so that you can execute high-quality, high-INTENSITY workouts.
And, no, we're not talking about sodas, coffee, alcohol, or even many of those bottled/canned high-sugar juices, when I refer to ‘fluids’.
Sipping on some water during your workout - in between sets - is highly recommended.
When in doubt, stick to plain water. You can always squeeze a little bit of lemon (orange or other fruits) into it, if it makes it easier for you to drink more water.
Nutrition: Glycogen (energy)
The most easily-accessible source of energy in your body is glycogen, which is glucose (sugar) in storage form.
The meals you've had earlier in the day, or even the previous night, can continue to supply your body with the glycogen reserve it needs to function normally. However, when you introduce a high-intensity workout into your day, you can start to use up that reserve much quicker.
As your glycogen reserves get lower, you will start to feel your body slow down more and more, until you're tapped out, not a great recipe for those high-intensity workouts we talked about.
So... in order to maintain your energy reserves during your high-intensity workouts, you need to plan ahead and keep your glycogen supply available throughout your entire workout.
Having a high-quality meal, high in protein and good quality carbohydrates, at least a few hours before your workout is a good idea here, since it can keep your supply up and provide you with the endurance you'll need for these muscle-building workouts.
Next, I highly recommend that you have the right snack, at least 30 minutes to an hour before your workout, however close you feel comfortable having it - everyone is different - try different times and see what you prefer.
An ideal suggestion would be, Almonds because they contain good carbohydrates, protein, as well as some healthy fats, which we will come up later in this article.
Plus, almonds also have a low glycemic index. Meaning, they burn slower and can continue to fuel you for longer periods (unlike, for example, straight sugar or even some fruits.)
Just a handful of almonds (6-12) can do wonders as a pre-workout snack. Be sure to drink enough water after eating the almonds, not only to wash it down but to increase that daily water intake!
Nutrition: Post-Workout Muscle Builder
What you eat - and how soon you eat - after a workout can make a huge difference to your muscle gains.
Having the right combination of nutrients (although not necessarily from a full meal) within the first 15-30 minutes of finishing an intense workout can improve your muscle gains considerably.
So, what is this ideal combination of nutrients to consume within 15-30 minutes of finishing a workout?
It is one part protein and 1.5 parts carbohydrates. Ideally around 20-30g Protein and 30-45g carbohydrates. As we have already discussed, Protein is the building blocks for your muscles, and pairing this protein with the right amount of carbohydrates helps your body absorb and utilize the protein more efficiently, while replacing muscle glycogen, fuelling your body ready for the recovery process to start.
Nutrition: More Fat for More Muscle...
If you don't already know, there is good fat and there is bad fat that exist naturally in foods.
And, if you're striving for good health and strong performance - along with some big muscles to show off...including healthy fats in your diet is a very good idea.
My first favorite is olive oil, which has already been well researched as one of the wonder nutrients for years, and is well-recommended as part of a heart-healthy diet.
Well, now you can add "muscle retention" to the list of benefits that olive oil provides.
Without getting too much into the science behind it, olive oil prevents our body's muscle from breaking down (getting smaller and weaker!) by lowering a specific cellular protein that tends to damage muscle.
We would recommend only using extra-virgin olive oil, which does a great job of providing your body with a solid dose of Vitamin E.
Vitamin E is also known to help your body maintain the muscle mass that you're working so hard to build - by fighting off free radicals... including the free radicals produced during/after a workout. A salad or your lean protein with extra-virgin olive oil dressing, or a meal cooked with this oil would work well.
My next favorite "good fat"? Fish oil, a great provider of your body with omega-3 fatty acids.
This "good fat" can actually help you in reducing your (bad) body fat, if taken regularly.
But, how does that help you to build more muscle, i hear you ask?
Well...to start with, by reducing the total fat weight of your body, all of your body functions will improve and become more efficient, including the muscle-building process. The muscle building hormone testosterone will become more readily available and your body’s levels of fat-promoting hormone oestrogen will be better regulated.
Lower fat weight will also help you to move around more easily and efficiently, allowing you ro have high-intensity workouts, without getting tired or fatigued as quickly as before.
And, let's not forget the side benefit: less fat on your body will always make you look more muscular, especially if you're going for that six-pack look! In fact, every major muscle in your body will become more prominent when there's less fat to obscure it.
When choosing a Fish oil supplement - be sure to get a high quality one that provides both DHA and EPA. This should be stated pretty clearly on the front label on the package.
The muscle-building formula is simple: high-intensity workouts, done effectively - and regularly.
Add to that some high-quality protein consumption on a daily basis and you'll be seeing some impressive muscle gains sooner than most people.
Of course, performing high-intensity workouts - and coming back for more, on a regular basis - requires that you keep your body well hydrated, optimally fueled, and well-rested to retain the muscle gains that you already made from earlier workouts (or are surely soon to make.)