Bodybuilders have a lot of characteristics in common. Ambition. Drive. Focus. Strength. We men (and women) of muscle apply these positive traits to the gym each week, forcing ourselves to train harder, use more weight, show more discipline at the dinner table, and make the best choices when it comes to supplementation and recovery. We have many positive traits which have allowed us to transform our bodies from lanky mortals to muscle bound warriors. But there is one characteristic that many of us sorely lack: Patience.
When the name of the game is gains, nobody wants to take the long way to muscle building success. We read anything we can get our hands upon, ask questions, analyze workouts of our peers and the pros, and evaluate our own training and eating protocols to see if we can make further adjustments to improve our bodybuilding stock. Check out these ten tips for building muscle.
Bump up your calories
The body can only grow when you are in an anabolic state. An anabolic state cannot exist when you’re living in a caloric deficit. When you burn more calories than you are eating, then you lose weight, and get leaner, which is great – if that is your goal. If you’re trying to gain muscle, then you’re going to gain a little bit of weight at the same time. Consuming 500 extra calories each day (consisting of protein and carbohydrate sources), you will gain exactly one pound of muscle each week, which is an ideal goal for bodybuilders.
Lift more weight while you train. Sure, at the time it’ll be painful. But the newly torn muscle fibers will absorb the amino acids from your diet, and grow back bigger and stronger. If you keep training how you’ve always trained, then you’ll keep being the same size, and at the same strength level, as you are today. However, if you push yourself to lift more weight with each training session, you will grow bigger and stronger, provided you eat enough protein, enjoy adequate sleep, and consume supplements properly.
Keep the protein high
Amino acids are your best friend when it comes to building muscle, and they come from protein in the foods you eat. Consume at LEAST one gram of protein per pound of body weight, dividing your total 200 to 350 grams into six equal servings, served at each of your six daily meals. Enjoy sources such as fish, chicken, beef, egg whites, and protein powder.
You aren’t growing new muscle while you’re repping out in the gym, nor throwing down the steak at Black Eyed Pea. You’re inspiring new muscle growth by training, and giving your body needed nutrients by eating. But the actual growth itself takes place when you’re at home, fast asleep each evening. Make sure you enjoy 8 hours of sleep each night and at least 2 hours a day of “down time”, which will allow your central nervous system to recover as well.
While fat may be a 4-letter word for most untrained people, those who have a keen understanding of the muscle building process know that consuming dietary fats in the form of fish oil, almonds and egg yolks are very important for muscle building processes, as well as optimal function of the systems of the body. Make sure you’re taking your Omega-3’s each morning as well!
Most – and by most, we mean, nearly all – people in the gym do NOT train with a journal to record their lifts. They enter the gym for years and randomly knock out their reps and sets without any recording of the event. Two years from now, they’re moving the same weight for the same amount of repetitions – and looking the same as well. This isn’t a fate you wish to enjoy. If you want to see regular progress, then you need to regularly record your lifts and make sure you’re moving up each week – even if only by a pound. New workload results in new muscle and strength gains!
Most bodybuilding articles cover nearly everything you need to learn if you want to build muscle – training, nutrition, hydration, supplementation and rest. But very rarely do you ever read about stress management. Any time you stress – from work, to relationships, to illness – your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. This burns muscle and consumes body fat, and leaves you worse for the wear. Address each source of stress, then move on to training and nutrition with a clear mind. The results will be stellar!
Be sure to clearly list your goals in the gym, and modify them over time as they evolve. Simply saying “I want to become big and strong” isn’t a clear enough goal. Rather, you need to clearly list the strength goals for each lift, body fat percentages, and muscle measurements you with to attain – along with a timeline for attaining them. As you achieve each goal, modify your evolving list to ensure new challenges – ones within reach – are listed. Staying motivated is important – but keeping your training and nutrition on point to fulfill goals is equally important.
Water is the basis for everything in life. From your muscles to your bones, water is everything. Despite this, many lifters will load up on caffeine-rich supplement products and dehydrate themselves to a high degree – then wonder why they cramp during workouts and always look flat. Drink 1 to 2 gallons of water each day, and avoid heavy caffeinated drinks, alcoholic beverages, and prolonged periods without a drink each day.
Mix things up
Your diet, your training, your supplements – all are required parts of the muscle building process. However, if you don’t mix them up on a regular basis, you can end up in a situation where your results will grow stagnant. Mix up the exercises you use in the gym. Change out the protein sources on your dinner plate. Try different supplements every few months to inspire new growth and change in your body. Never let your body grow complacent. Always keep those muscle fibers guessing!