How to build muscle

To build muscle you must have a positive energy balance, that means you must consume more calories than your body is using. It is estimated that to build 1Lb of muscle per week you need roughly an extra 500 calories per day (3500kcal per week). This will vary from person to person depending on genetics, make up of diet and training.

In this blog we will give you advice on nutrition, training and recovery to help you ensure you are doing everything you can to build muscle.

Nutrition

Its important that your food helps you work towards your goal of gaining muscle:

Protein is the building blocks of muscles.

You need to ensure you consume enough protein, we recommend 2g per 1kg of body weight. The aim is to have sufficient amino acids (proteins) flowing through you blood at all times, this is known as your ‘amino acid pool’, this will ensure that muscles are repaired following training as efficiently as possible. Ensure you are having enough protein and then divide your calories between carbs and fat however you find to work the best – ‘sort out your protein first and fat and carbs will sort themselves out’

Carbohydrates give you energy as it is stored in muscles as glycogen.

Some people train well on low carb diets, some people prefer higher carb diets, the only way to know what is best for you is to experiment. Your body converts carbs to glycogen most efficiently in the morning upon waking up and post exercise when glycogen stores are depleted. A maximum portion of carbs in one sitting should be around 1g per kg of bodyweight.

Fat gives you energy and is required for almost every process in your body to work.

So, whether you are gaining muscle, or losing weight, you MUST consume fat. Ensure its from healthy, natural sources and avoid all processed ‘trans’ fats. Great sources of fats are nuts, seeds, coconut oil, avocado, eggs, dark chocolate and oily fish.

Top Tips for building muscle:

  1. Eat breakfast. If you are trying to gain muscle you need to get a lot of calories in and these should be spread across the day, you want to avoid missing meals as you need to get the calories in. Ensure your breakfast has protein, fat and carbs.
  2. Eat protein. Aim for a minimum of 1g of protein per 1kg of body weight. So, if you are 80kg you should consume at least 16g of protein every day. Always have protein from a variety of sources to ensure you get a varied intake.
  3. Eat carbs and protein after your workouts. The ideal ratio is 3:1 carbs to protein. These nutrients need to be rapidly absorbed, because of this avoid fat in this meal as it slows down digestion and absorption.
  4. Eat fat. Fat is essential for health, but make sure its natural, un-processed fats, not the sort found in deep fat fryers. You should be consuming fats with every meal (except post workout) from healthy oils, nuts, seeds and fish.
  5. Eat whole foods. These are packed with nutrients which will make you healthier and ensure that you body can process and assimilate nutrient.
  6. Drink water. Your body needs water to carry out every function it needs to. Being dehydrated will significantly impact on your performance. Aim to drink at least 2 litres of water every day.
  7. Eat regularly. You need to get calories in every day, the easiest way to do this is across the whole day. Aim for 3 standard meals across a day and add in snacks, maybe 3 across the day (mid-morning, mid-afternoon and post training). Depending on what type of job you have and when you train this will be different for everyone. Make sure you follow what suits you best.

Exercise

To gain muscle you must train hard, the basic principle is progressive overload. This means adding weight, sets or reps and constantly overloading your muscles. This is a simple way to look at it:

‘Imagine your leg muscles are made up of 100 Lego men. If you don’t push your self your brain will maybe send in 50 Lego men to do the work because its easy. If you never push yourself all 100 Lego men will never need to work, so your body will never need to improve – its not being overloaded. If you really push yourself you brain will send in all the Lego men, if you fail your bodies response will be to adapt, by making more Lego men or making them bigger and stronger.’

Top exercise tips to build muscle:

  1. Get strong. The stronger you are the more weight you can lift and the more volume you can move in a session.
  2. Stick to compound movements. These will give you the most bang for your buck, compound movements involved a combination of muscles working together to move weight. Stick to squats, chin ups, deadlifts, bench presses and similar big movements.
  3. Increase weight. Always try to increase the weight you are lifting, you should ensure that across weeks and months you are lifting more weight.
  4. Increased frequency. If you want to get stronger you need to use muscles regularly. Most squat programmes will involve training legs 3-5 times per week. You need to be efficient with your time in the gym and ensure you are hitting body parts more than once a week.
  5. Be realistic. Its important to set goals that are realistic. When you start out training if you can gain 1kg of muscle per month that’s pretty amazing. Focus on improving yourself and working towards your goals.
  6. Make sure you get plenty of sleep, baths, eat well, drink water, stretch and foam roller to make sure you recover properly. One of the reasons that the eastern block got so far ahead is that they realised recovery is key, if you recover effectively you can train more often and harder.
  7. Be consistent. ‘Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard’. To get consistent gains in muscles and strength you must be consistent with training, recovery and nutrition.

Gaining muscle can be the most complicated subject, but to make a great start follow these simple principles.

 

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