If you were looking to gain quality muscle in 2015 and didn’t quite succeed, then make 2016 your muscle mass gaining year.
The number one reason people struggle to gain mass is because they consume an insufficient amount of food.
To gain weight, you need to consume more calories than you burn throughout the day, resulting in a caloric surplus, this surplus is what your body uses to build and repair muscle tissue broken down during training, there is no other way around it.
Caloric surplus requirements varies with the individual but if you had trouble gaining weight in the past, a good starting point for consuming macros is 1.25g of protein and 2g of carbs per pound of body weight per day.
When working out the amount of surplus, be sure to eat the aforementioned amount of protein and carbs for at least one month before changing it. This gives your body enough time to adjust to the change in caloric intake. If you are gaining weight, you are eating enough, if not, you aren’t.
I would not recommend eating over 1.5g of protein per pound of bodyweight, if you have to add more calories, add it in the form of carbs.
Never mind what some keyboard warrior says, meal timing is important when trying to gain mass, especially if you are trying to gain minimal fat at the same time. Eating at least once every four hours keeps your body in an anabolic (muscle-building state) via a steady supply of nutrients to your muscles.
It is easier to spread the enormous intake across several meals every 3-4 hours rather than cram in 3-4 big meals. Have you tried to eat 1,200 clean calories in one sitting? I did once and it almost ended in brown rice and chicken coming out of my ears.
It is far more practical to eat 6 smaller meals at 600 calories each than three meals at 1,200 calories each.
A great way to get the most out of the protein you consume throughout the day is to supplement with BCAA’s. They provide an immediate source of fuel for your muscle tissue and unlike whole food proteins or even whey isolate, BCAA’s are easily absorbed into the bloodstream. This nearly instant rise in blood level’s of BCAA’s provides your muscle tissue with the readily available fuel it needs to carry out protein synthesis.
BCAA’s offer several beneficial muscle-building and recovery benefits backed by research. These include increased rates of protein synthesis, reduced protein muscle breakdown and reduced markers of soreness.
Rather impressively, in a study in the Journal of the Federation Of American Societies for Experimental Biology demonstrated that taking BCAA’s around 2 hours after a meal prolonged muscle protein synthesis. This study was conducted on rats but researchers saw no reason that this would not be exactly the same for humans as well.
There is no direct evidence supporting increases in muscle strength and size when supplementing with BCAA’s, having the ability to recover quickly allows you to train at or near full strength the next day, which over time will really propel your gains.
BCAA’s have a high concentration of the amino acid leucine, which is a critical stimulator of the mTOR pathway, and thus, muscle protein synthesis. Most BCAA supplements provide BCAA’s in a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine to valine to isoleucine.
So to get the 3.5g of leucine that research suggests leads to maximum activation of the mTOR pathway, consume 7g of BCAA’s 30-45 minutes before two of your meals.
I definitely think this is one thing that makes a huge difference, I am guilty myself of not sleeping enough. When you sleep, your body is resting and burns far fewer calories than when you’re up and about and doing things. Sleep is also the time when your body can turn to repairing damaged muscle tissue too.
When you sleep enough, your body releases growth hormone, which can help aid recovery. Missing out on those eight hours of sleep can leave you foggy, lethargic, irritable and maybe even depressed.
Try and get eight hours sleep per night, a duration that will help you recover and get you ready to smash those workouts and tasks next day.
Supplements will help with sleep and these include tryptophan and melatonin, Magnesium may also help with sleep as well.
These are things people often get wrong when trying to gain weight.
If you are in the gym for more than 75 minutes, you are either doing too many sets or resting way too long between them. Fixing these problems will lead to more gains and less time spent at the gym, meaning you could fit in an extra meal or sleep an extra hour.
Aim for 16-18 sets for large body parts and 12-14 sets for smaller body parts. Choose a weight heavy enough so that you can stop 1-2 reps short of failure during a desired rep range, but light enough that you can get there using good form and really feeling it in the muscle you train.
As for rest periods, never take longer than 90 seconds between sets, I try to aim for 60 seconds as I feel I get the most stimulation and pump from this interval. The only real exceptions to this are squats and deadlifts.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to rest long enough for your breathing to normalize after your set, this is a sign that you have replenished the huge amount of oxygen taken during these exercises.
If you struggle getting enough calories due to not eating enough, fats can be a great source of calories. A gram of fat yields 9 calories, versus the 4 calories per gram that carbohydrates or protein contain. So fats have over twice the caloric content.
Be sure that most of your days fat intake comes from fats high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Foods and oils containing these fats include avocados, olive oil, nuts, natural nut butters, seeds and oily fish like salmon and mackerel.
Consider supplementing with omega-3 fish oil too. Aim for 2g of omega-3 fatty acids per day (equal parts EPA and DHA). For optimal absorption, take it in the morning with a fat source. When taken in the recommended amounts, these fats can help with fat loss, optimize hormone production and brain function and also support healthier skin and nails.
Really, never do. Aside from becoming the butt of regular jokes and looking like an upside down triangle, you are leaving some serious growth behind if you don’t train legs and train them hard at least once per week.
Research has shown that performing exercises that recruit a large amount of your body’s skeletomuscular system (things like squats and deadlifts) will cause a hormonal response that boosts circulating free-testosterone levels and growth-hormone levels. This can translate into more muscle tissue and a favorable body recomposition. Basically you will get jacked and burn fat.
When I go through periods of not training in squats or deadlifts regularly, I don’t feel as strong in any of my other lifts, I also don’t feel to be progressing as fast as I do when performing them.
This is a big one for me. For one, having a good training partner makes you accountable for your training schedule. You are more likely to go to the gym and put in the work when you know someone is relying on you to be there and train with them. No one wants to let their friend down and that is what you do if you skip a session with your partner. This has worked time and again for me in the gym, even when I don’t feel like it.
After training with the same person for a while, they are able to hold you accountable to achieving the proper intensity level in each set. A good training partner will be the first one to call you out and say you can get out more reps, go heavier or do something better and you will do better because of it.
A training partner can also hold you accountable to training with a decent rest period. You should rest just long enough for your partner to hit his or her set and then you should be right back at it.
This tempo you develop with a training partner can be invaluable. The motivation someone who really pushes you can make a huge difference to your gains.
I really believe in eating whole foods, I also believe there are some benefits of sports supplements that simply cannot be had from whole foods alone. I also believe that some holes in a very balanced diet can only be sorted with supplements.
The first supplement that fits this category is quality whey protein. This will provide the body with rapidly digested and easily absorbed protein, perfect for right before training, after training or both. It works any time of the day as a protein source.
Research has shown that you can gain muscle much faster by supplementing with whey.
The second supplement to consider as a must-have is BCAA’s for reasons shown in point 3 above.
The last supplement to seriously consider is a pre-workout. It provides a kick of energy to help you power through your workout and if you select the right formula, you can actually get appropriate doses of several proven performance-enhancing ingredients with one product.
Any ingredients you take as part of a pre-workout will have to be taken consistently to see any real benefit. Creatine monohydrate and beta-alanine rely on consistent supplementation to really affect performance. On the other hand, if you want an immediate boost, look for ingredients such as caffeine or citrulline malate to supercharge your workout.
It doesn’t what brand you select, just make sure you are getting your money’s worth by selecting one that has efficacious amounts of the actives, not just stimulants that make you feel like you need to be scraped off he ceiling 30 minutes after taking it.
You have probably read/heard this before but if you haven’t then here it is, you don’t grow in the gym.
You actually do the opposite, when you are in the gym, you are damaging and breaking down muscle tissue. It is what you do outside of the gym that allows your body to repair the damage, and this in turn causes the muscles to grow back bigger and stronger. I do believe in taking one active rest day per week though, I didn’t say off day, just an active rest day.
This day is to give your muscles and nervous system a break from the strain of weight training and to actively promote recovery. This can be done in a few different ways. My favorites are a lot of foam rolling, light cardio and static stretching. Massages and tissue work are nice but not necessary.
This day is to get your blood moving, work on getting rid of the soreness in your muscles and using the extra two hours to keep up with other areas in your life including meal prep.
Following all of these steps will help you get through the new year and gain muscle much faster than you thought possible before.
You can also reduce fat whilst you build muscle as well, take a look here for a guide on how to do just this.
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