Whether you are male or female, athlete or average Joe, you can build muscle if you know what to do. Many people assume that you can only build muscle by spending hours at the gym four or five days a week, drinking protein shakes for every meal and injecting steroids.
In reality, all you have to do in order to build muscle is to eat a protein-rich diet and to engage in a regular strength training routine.
While the amount of muscle you are able to build may depend on your sex and genetics, this formula works for everyone. If you want to build muscle or gain weight, follow these tips.
Strength Training to Build Muscle
Building muscle requires more than just going to the gym a few times a week and throwing the weights around. In order to build muscle properly you need to fuel your body with protein and work your muscles so they grow. If you aren’t familiar with strength training, you may want to think about scheduling a few sessions with a fitness trainer.
By working with a trainer you will learn proper form for strength training techniques and you will also get a workout routine that is designed for you. To make the most of your weight training sessions, you should lift weight that is heavy enough for you to feel the resistance, but not heavy enough to strain your body. Plan to do two to four sessions per week of 8 to 10 exercises, 8 to 12 repetitions for each.
Eating to Build Muscle
It is scientifically impossible for you to build muscle while simultaneously losing weight because, in order to build muscle, you must be eating a surplus of calories – that is, eating more calories than you are burning. To gain muscle at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds per month, you should plan to increase your calorie intake by about 300 calories on a daily basis.
If you find that you are gaining more than 2 pounds a month, it is likely that the extra weight is being added as fat. In this case, slightly lower your caloric intake until you reach the 1 to 2 lbs. per month gain.
Equally important to how much you eat in order to gain muscle is what you eat. If you do not provide your body with adequate protein, you are unlikely to build muscle and may actually end up gaining fat instead. To promote muscle gain you should plan to consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.
Depending on your height and weight this could end up being a lot of protein so it would be wise for you to break it up into small meals throughout the day because the body can only process so much protein at one time (about 30 grams). Drinking milk and eating eggs are simple ways to increase your daily protein intake without drastically changing your diet.
Other Tips for Building Muscle
In addition to protein, your body also requires carbohydrates and healthy fats. During your workouts, your body will be using its carbohydrate stores (glycogen stores) as energy so you will need to replenish those stores after your workout.
After each workout, aim to consume about 4 grams of carbohydrate for every 1 gram of protein in order to facilitate glycogen storage and muscle recovery. While you shouldn’t eat a lot of fat immediately after a workout, it should be a part of your daily diet if you hope to gain muscle. Saturated an monosaturated fats will increase testosterone production and will also help with glycogen storage to prevent muscle wasting.
Foods to Build Muscle
Milk = Milk is not only high in protein but it is also nutrient-dense, full of other beneficial nutrients like calcium and essential amino acids. If you have done any research on building muscle you may have heard the acronym G.O.M.A.D. which stands for “a gallon of milk a day” – this is a saying often used by hard gainers. While it may not be necessary to drink a whole gallon of milk every day, adding milk to your diet is a great way to encourage muscle growth.
Beef = You probably don’t need to be told that beef is a great source of protein. In addition to protein, however, beef also contains zinc, creatine and iron which are all valuable minerals that the body needs. Zinc in particular has been shown to increase testosterone production and creatine helps with the production of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP.
Chicken = Another fairly obvious source of protein is chicken and other poultry. One 4-ounce serving of chicken contains roughly 27 grams of protein which makes it great for building muscle. Dark chicken meat has a fairly high fat content but breast meat is low in trans fats. In addition to protein, chicken also contains amino acids.
Fish and Seafood = Not only is fish and seafood high in protein, but it is also fairly low in calories. One 6-ounce serving of tilapia, for example, contains over 30 grams of protein but less than 180 calories. Fish is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and it can be prepared a number of delicious ways.
Peanut Butter = Though it doesn’t have as much protein as a piece of steak, peanut butter is a calorie-dense snack that has a good ratio of healthy fats and protein. Try eating a tablespoon of peanut butter with an apple for a healthy, protein-filled snack or make yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole-grain bread.
Eggs = Not only are eggs an excellent source of protein, but they are also very inexpensive. You can buy a dozen eggs for less than $2 which will provide you with over 80 grams of protein. A single egg contains between 7 and 8 grams of protein and they can be prepared a variety of different ways. If you are worried about cholesterol, make yourself an egg white omelet or purchase egg whites by the carton.
Almonds = Nuts are known for being a good source of protein and healthy fats but almonds also contain alpha-tocopherol Vitamin E. Vitamin E is incredibly important because it can help prevent free-radical damage after a workout – the less damage your muscles receive, the faster they will grow. To get the most out of this food, eat about 2 handfuls of almonds per day.
Yogurt = Yogurt is the perfect post-workout recovery food because it naturally contains the ideal combination of carbohydrate and protein to fuel muscle recovery and growth. The best type of yogurt for muscle growth is all-natural yogurt with fruit at the bottom. Flavored yogurts are often high in sugar and fat-free varieties are full of artificial sweeteners which aren’t good for the body.
Olive Oil = While you might not like the sound of drinking a cup of olive oil, using it for cooking may sound a little more manageable. Olive oil acts as an anticatabolicnutrient which helps prevent muscle breakdown by reducing the body’s levels of tumor necrosis factor-a, a cellular protein. All olive oil is high in monosaturated (healthy) fat but to get the most Vitamin E, go for extra-virgin olive oil.
Avocado = Though some people steer clear of avocados because of their high fat content, avocados also contain a unique combination of nutrients that is ideal for lean muscle production. A single avocado has about 250 calories, 10 grams of fiber, 15 grams of monosaturated fat and over 20 different nutrients. In addition to the nutrients it contains, avocado also helps the body to absorb antioxidants like carotenoids.
Lentils = If you have never tried lentils before you should definitely begin introduction them into your diet. Lentils are packed with protein, fiber and slow-digesting carbohydrates which makes them incredibly beneficial. One cup of cooked lentils weighs in at 230 calories with 16 grams of fiber and 18 grams of protein.
Quinoa = It may be surprising to hear that you can actually get protein from a grain but it is true of quinoa. Quinoa isn’t actually a grain at all, though it looks like one – it is really the seeds of a plant. One cup of cooked quinoa contains about 220 calories, 8 grams of protein and more zinc, magnesium and fiber than brown rice.
Building muscle takes time so do not become frustrated if you don’t see results at first. Everyone’s body is different so it may take some time for you to find the right caloric intake in order to encourage muscle growth. Just be patient and keep meeting your daily protein intake – in time you will see the results you’ve been working for.