Getting a Better Physique
Another reason people may choose to begin working out is purely for aesthetic appeal. This can be for personal preference or an obligation related to your job. If you see someone in the gym, odds are they’re there to improve their appearance. The process of building, gaining and retaining muscle is actually very straightforward, but the wealth of information available to people can cause some confusion. Especially when many sources frequently contradict each other. To avoid confusion we will compress the process into the bare minimum level of understanding required to proceed.
Damaging The Muscle
This may sound counter intuitive, but it’s actually what you’re doing every time you exert yourself and pick up a weight. This isn’t major trauma however, which can be detrimental to musclular development. It’s minor trauma, tiny tearing in the muscle fibre known as “micro abrasions”. When your body detects this trauma it breaks down proteins into the relevant amino acids and uses these to stitch the muscle together. Your body also “over-repairs” the muscle to ensure it doesn’t sustain the same level of damage again. That’s why constantly training with the same weights/reps at the same intensity won’t result in you gaining additional muscle. To offset this you preform a ‘progressive overload’. This is when you gradually increase the difficulty of your training by either increasing the load of the weight you are bearing, or increasing the number of repetitions during an exercise.
Every single time you do this, your body builds more muscle in order to ensure that exercise won’t damage it again. This is why you must write down what lifts you are preforming so that you can guarantee that your training is not stagnating in any way.
Your body needs amino acids to repair the damaged muscle tissue. Amino acids are for all intents and purposes the building blocks of your muscle tissue. Where does it get these amino acids from? Protein.
Protein is effectively a long series of amino acids stuck together. When you digest protein, your body breaks it down into it’s constituent amino acids and uses these to fulfil a variety of tasks in your body. An insufficient protein intake will result in your body not having the ability to repair these muscles effectively. This can lead to longer periods of muscular pain as your body takes longer to accumulate the nutrients necessary for repairing the damaged tissue.
Meat is very high in protein and a meat intensive diet will help avoid this. Many people struggle to eat enough protein daily through food and opt to take supplements. The most popular of which being protein shakes.
Rest is absolutely critical to ensuring muscular development. You can not train a muscle every single day, your body simply does not have enough time to repair it before you begin damaging it again. Sleep is also invaluable in terms of recovery: this is when your body is the most efficient at carrying out repairs.
Bulk muscle without increasing your body fat
The key for muscle building is, essentially, the combination of a hard, well-thought training plan and a highly caloric, although healthy, diet. You already know there is no way you could see your muscles growing without the habit of a challenging physical activity, but how much do you know about muscle building nutrition?
When it comes to fitness, whether you are trying to lose fat or gain lean muscle, there are a few factors that come into play. Some of them you can’t modify, like your gender or genetics, which should inspire you to put a big effort on the ones you can actually work with – what you do and what you eat.
Today, we are going to focus on your muscle building diet, one that will provide you with the energy and nutrients your body needs to correctly perform your workout sessions, without gaining fat mass.
Increasing your caloric intake
The only way to get that Wolverine-like body shape is by increasing your daily/weekly caloric intake, so you eat more calories than you burn.
You could probably try and guess how much you need to eat roughly, but you will see better results if you calculate it and follow these numbers to the letter. You want to find out how many calories your body currently needs by calculating your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate, or, in other words, the calories your body use at rest) and the amount of calories you burn in every workout. How can you do this?
Well, you can use an online calculator, but we are going to give you the formula which will help you know your BMR. Then, you can use an app to keep track of the calories you burn every time you work out.
Men: BMR=66.47+ (13.75 x weight in kilos) + (5.0 x height in cm) – (6.75 x Age)
Women: BMR=665.09 + (9.56 x Weight in kilos) + (1.84 x Height in cm) – (4.67 x Age)
Once you know how many calories your body needs to maintain its current weight, you will need to add from 300 to 1000 calories day, depending on how much you are aiming to gain per week:
+0.5 to +1.5 lbs per week = +300 to +500 calories per day
More than +1.5 lbs per week = +500 to +1000 calories per day
Your daily goal should look like this:
Daily caloric intake for increasing muscle=
BMR + calories burnt in workout + 300 to 1000
These numbers are, of course, orientative. Every body is different and reacts in a different way to changes made on its activity and nutrition. This is why you need to stay objective but flexible; if you find that you gain weight too fast, try and lower down the number of calories you take, as it could lead you to gain fat mass; on the other hand, if you are not gaining weight at all, you should boost the amount of calories you are consuming.
Make peace with the scales
If you were trying to lose body fat, we would tell not to get obsessed about your weight, as it could be counterproductive for your self-confidence and it wouldn’t really tell you how much you are improving, due to the multiple changes your body weight can suffer throughout the day. However, when you are looking to gain weight, a good and effective way to know if you are going in the right direction is, in fact, weighing a couple of times per week, always in the morning. However, try to keep focus on the bigger picture and don’t panic if you don’t see big changes from one day to another. Building muscle, as losing fat, takes its time.
Proteins, the bodybuilder’s best ally
Proteins play a major role in muscle growth, as one of its main functions is rebuild and repair damaged muscle tissue. This is why most bodybuilding diets are protein-based.
Your daily protein intake should fall between 0.7 to 1.5 gramms of protein per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 180 pounds, you should be eating around 180 gramms of protein per day. Keep in mind, though, that protein is highly satiating which can be counterproductive, as you are increasing your caloric intake and it could stop you from eating as much as you should! To help you fight that fullness and be able to eat all your calories, try to distribute those 180 over your day, including 30 to 50 gramms of proteins in every meal.
Here is a list of only 14 great sources of protein you can easily find in any shop.
What happens with fats and carbs?
Healthy fats and carbs need to take part of your daily meals when gaining weight and building muscle. Not only they contain the nutrients your body needs to perform all its functions perfectly, but they are also a good source of calories and quite delicious!
Calorie-dense fats contain more than twice the amount of calories of carbs and proteins per gramm (9 calories per gramm of fat), and they add flavour to your plates. This makes them a great addition to your meals, making it easier for you to reach your calorie goal and enjoying them even more. Try to keep it healthy and include both saturated and unsaturated fats, avoiding trans fat, as these are not natural and can affect your health negativily.
A lot has been said about complex and simple carbs, but when your goal is muscle building you should include both of them in your menus. Complex carbs, for instance, are rich on nutrients and fibre. While this is not bad, it can become counterproductive, as fibre is highly satiating and, as we said before about proteins, eating too much fibre can make you full for longer and stop you from eating all your calories. Simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, are fast-digesting sugars. This means they are quickly turn into energy for your working muscles, and they are burnt easily so you could be feeling hungry again in just a couple of hours, which will definitely encorauge you to take some more of your daily calories.
Meal frequency: how many times should you eat a day?
Now that you are trying to consume more calories than you are used to, you are probably starting to feel that your stomach is not big enough for those massive meals.
There is no need to say that it’s easier to eat 3000 calories across five or six meals rather than three. Measure your portions and have as many of them as it takes you to hit your daily goal.
You can also distribute your meals throughout the day as it suits you better, but we recommend you keep an eye on these three, so you don’t skip them:
- When you are asleep and, therefore, not eating for sometimes longer than 8 hours, your muscles start to breakdown. Eating your breakfast within the first 45 minutes after waking up will give your body and muscles fuel to start the day with energy.
- Post workout. A rich in proteins and carbs meal or shake is exactly what your body needs in the next two hours after working out. It will give your body the energy it needs to start the repair and recovery process. At the same time, working out could make you hungry, so this is probably the best moment for you to have your bigger meal of the day.
- Nighttime snack. As we mentioned before, a muscle breakdown process takes place during the long hours you spend sleeping at night. To avoid it for as long as possible, you can consume a last meal before going to bed. You should prioritize proteins, but adapt it to your daily needs.
Sometimes you won’t be hungry enough, or simply won’t have the time to prepare and have all these three meals. This is where a protein shake can help you better, as it takes away the meal prep process whilst still gives you all the nutrients and calories you are looking for.
Forget about eating clean 24/7
Eating clean has lots of benefits. It’s based on the idea of choosing healthy foods that have been minimally processed or not processed at all, which leaves them with all their nutrients and lowers their calorie volume, which is fantastic!… when you are trying to lose weight.
On the contrary, clean foods, which are rich on proteins and fibre, will make you feel full with a lower volume of calories, so you wouldn’t be able to eat all your calories.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should be eating junk food every day! While we encourage you to have at least a cheat meal once a week, so that you can forget about all these rules and really enjoy what you are eating (and also, hopefully, hit your calorie goals!), we also recommend you to keep a balanced diet. One that won’t hurt your health on the long term.
You can choose calorie-dense healthy foods like oats, nuts, yogurt, bagels, avocados, peanut butter, olive oil, bananas, granola and pasta. They will give you more calories without making you feel full.