Some people have the misconception that building muscle is only important for athletes or gym rats, which is far away from the truth.
One major importance of keeping your muscles strong is for the stabilization of the joints in your hips.
As your muscles weaken, their length starts shortening and it becomes tight. This can make normal day-to-day activities such as walking, climbing stairs and even changing clothes can cause pain or even lead to injuries.
Building muscle can be a challenging process for both women and men, so in this article, I will cover all the basics that you need to know about to build muscle effectively.
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If we describe what is required for building muscle in a basic format, there are 3 things you need to control~ Diet, Resistant training, and Rest & Recovery.
To build muscle, you need to damage the muscle fibers through resistance training.
Resistant training puts stress on the muscles which causes small tears in the fibers.
This might sound like a dangerous thing to happen. However, this is necessary because when your body repairs the tears, the muscle fibers become thicker and stronger thus increasing your overall muscle mass.
Additionally, resistant training promotes muscle fiber recruitment. Compared to daily physical activity like walking, resistance exercises engage more muscle fibers~ which leads to a greater muscle activation and growth.
It also increases your hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone, which both are vital for muscle growth & recovery.
No matter what resistant exercises you choose to perform, do not to overwork the muscles, as this can lead to injuries.
The most important macronutrient that you need to pay attention to and include is a protein-rich diet.
When you undergo resistant training, the tension causes micro tears on the muscle fibers. This is where protein comes into play because they provide the necessary building blocks to repair the damaged fibers.
With an insufficient amount of protein, the fibers are unable to repair properly, leading to slower muscle growth and recovery.
Another vital function of protein is to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
A study has shown that consuming protein before and after increases muscle protein synthesis, therefore maximizing your gains!
Furthermore, if you’re low on calories or protein during exercise, your body can break down the muscle tissue for energy. For this reason as a safety net, consuming enough protein can prevent muscle breakdown.
To get the best results you should aim to consume around 1.6 g/ body fat(Kg)/ day of protein.
People tend to put less effort into the recovery phase. Even with great resistance training and consuming enough protein, if you don’t give your muscle sufficient rest, it won’t be able to rebuild properly.
If you keep setting aside your recovery, the stress can increase which increases the chance of you developing injuries and overtraining. Overtraining can also lead to decreased muscle growth and performance.
One major aspect of rest you should definitely not overlook is the quality of sleep. Sleep deprivation is linked to numerous health risks in which loss of muscle mass is one of them.
Adults should try and get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
Another method for recovery you should implement is stretching-type activities such as yoga and static stretches.
Stretching naturally increases your blood flow, which helps deliver nutrients and oxygen to your muscle, while removing waste. This aids in muscle for recovery.
Macronutrients include protein, carbohydrates, and fats. I already went over protein, so I will talk about the importance of the other two.
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body. The body uses carbohydrates for energy by converting them into glucose which is stored in the muscle as glycogen.
As additional energy is required by the muscles during exercise, it is important to consume some carbohydrates after a workout to replenish the glycogen stores.
This also prevents the body from breaking down your muscle due to a lack of glucose.
Fats do not directly help to build muscle. However, consuming healthy fats throughout the week can reduce inflammation, which helps with muscle recovery.
A research was conducted to see if fish oil had any effects on muscle recovery and feeling of soreness after the workout.
By the end of it, persons who had the higher dose of fish oil had fewer sore muscles and had a higher degree of muscle recovery compared to the other groups.
For optimizing your muscle gain, you should aim to consume a balanced diet rich in protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
For protein sources try to consume more of the leaner cuts rather than the fatty ones such as chicken breast, turkey breast, fish, and lean beef~ this will help you control your calorie intake.
Plant-based proteins like tofu and legumes are also excellent sources of amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle tissue.
For carbohydrates choose complex carbs rather than simple carbs, this is because firstly they contain higher amounts of nutrients and secondly they take longer to digest, so they will provide you with a longer sustainable source of energy.
Complex carbs include brown rice, oatmeal, beans, sweet potato, and apples.
For fats, always make sure to reduce the ‘unhealthy fats‘ as much as possible because they pack little nutrient value and raise the bad cholesterol in your body.
The unhealthy fats include cakes, fried foods, takeaways, pies, and pastries.
Aim for healthy fats instead, some recommendations are salmon, nuts, olives, avocados, and ground flaxseed.
Now we cannot have a balanced meal without the daily portions of fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vital vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that your body needs for functioning optimally.
Calories are energy that food releasse after being ingested. This is why if you consume a higher amount of energy than what your body burns daily, you will gain weight and lose weight if consumed lower energy.
To determine how many calories you require, first figure out your daily maintenance calories. Here is a tool that calculates that for you.
The reason for this calculation is in order to build muscle, you need to intake more energy than your body burns daily. This is known as a calorie surplus.
Keep in mind, if you end up consuming way above your maintenance calories which could to gaining excess body fat.
A general guideline to target is consuming a caloric surplus of about 200 calories per day for a few weeks.
From there you can slowly adjust your calories, increasing it if needed to be. This method will provide your body with just enough energy while minimizing fat gain.
Choosing the correct exercises is vital if you’re looking to build muscles effectively. Here is an outline that you can work off on.
Firstly when choosing exercises, you should add more compound movements such as pull-ups, squats, and deadlifts rather than isolations.
Compound movements are when more than one muscle group gets incorporated to perform the movement. These help you build more overall muscle mass.
Secondly don’t forget to progressively overload which means adding stress on your muscles by increasing the weight, reps or sets.
This is necessary because once muscles get used to the intensity of the training it will stop growing because there isn’t enough tension.
Finally, the last tip which is probably the most important of all, is always make sure no matter what workouts you do, perform them in the correct form.
Learn the technique first before you start using heavier weights. Once you go heavier you will get bigger gains in the long run and prevent injuries with this.
If you are a total beginner to resistance training, then you should take things slow as your body would not be used to this kind of stimulation.
To train safely and see steady results, each muscle group should be trained at least once a week, but for better results twice a week is preferable. In this stage, your main priority is to learn the correct lifting technique, until it becomes your second nature.
Once your body starts getting accustomed to the workout you can start increasing your frequency to 3-4 times per week and adding extra weights.
After consistently training for a year, you will start understanding your body’s capability. In this case, if you have the time and the dedication you can up your frequency to 5-6 days.
Working out this often would only be beneficial if you work under your body limit and have a solid routine for recovery.
If you progressively overload and recover properly just working out 2-3 days per week will be plenty to build added muscle.
When you start training, it’s easy to just go with your gut feeling and learn as you go.
This approach might work in the beginning, however as you start advancing problems can start to arise.
So here are some mistakes that you should avoid:
You should always warm up before every session to get your heart rate up~ this should be done through stretching and low-impact exercise such as light jogging on the spot.
Warming up primes your body for resistant training, by loosening up your joints and muscles.
You get two benefits from this:
- Firstly your muscles and joints become more flexible, therefore it reduces your chance of any injuries.
- Secondly, it can improve your strength, due to the increased blood flow, oxygen is more radially available for your muscles to use it to produce energy.
You should forget about the weights and put your effort into perfecting your technique.
If you start lifting weights in improper form this can put unnecessary stress on your muscles, tendons, and joints, which can lead to strains, sprains, or other injuries.
Proper form ensures that the load of the weight is distributed evenly across your muscles and joints, reducing the risk of injury.
What this also means is it allows you to target the intended muscle groups more effectively.
For example with a squat, if you end up leaning too far forward~ the force which is mainly targeted toward your legs can be shifted to your back instead.
It’s important to keep up with your fluid intake during your workout because water is essential for many bodily functions, including regulating body temperature and transporting nutrients & oxygen to cells.
So when you exercise, your body will require additional water to regulate your internal temperature and keep your muscles functioning properly.
For that reason it is important to drink a sufficient amount of water during and after each session, to prevent dehydration which can cause negative effects on your performance and health.
Building muscles is important for all adults and not just for your typical athletes or gym rats.
As you get older your muscles start to weaken and if left untrained, aches & pains can start arising from just normal activities such as walking.
Make sure to keep these three things in mind, progressive overload, eating the correct macronutrients, and focusing on recovery.
Take things slow in the beginning and focus on your form. You don’t want to go extreme right from the start, this will cause excessive soreness on the body and can demotivate you.
Now the most important tip of them all is to keep working towards your goal, building muscle is a slow process that can take months before noticing some changes.
So don’t lose hope and give up along the way, believe in yourself because for sure the gains are coming your way!
Hey, my name is kevin and I am all about spreading positive information about living a healthy life. Leading a healthy life does not need to be complicated, there are plenty of easy methods that fit everyone. I share health & fitness topics over on my website raikevin.com~ feel free to check them out.