If you are new to strength training and muscle building, it might seem like there are a lot of things to learn, remember and do in order to achieve your size and fitness goals. It can be hard at first, but through a combination of smart training, the right "fuel" and efficient rest and recovery, you will soon start to gain muscle and build mass.
Here are some things for you to keep in mind if you are serious about building muscle for the long-term...
Tip 1: Start with a committed, positive mindset. As with many aspects of physical health and fitness, the first step towards building muscle is to frame your goals in your mind and believe you can achieve them. A positive attitude can make all the difference. List the reasons you want to gain muscle, so you have those reasons to fall back on if and when your motivation faulters. Visualise yourself with the body you want and refuse to quit until you get it. All of these techniques, as well as surrounding yourself with like-minded people (perhaps a training partner), are likely to make the muscle building process easier.
Tip 2: Set clear and realistic goals on a regular basis. This is an important exercise, because it is easy to get discouraged if you don't see results instantly. Huge muscles can take years to build, so it is unrealistic to expect to look like Arnie overnight! So you need to set smaller goals for yourself that work to shorter timescales, so that you can see you are making progress towards the realisation of your dream body. For instance, it can be useful to keep a log of your measurements, BMI etc. As long as these are going in the right direction, you will feel encouraged, without having to achieve record-breaking growth instantly. It is important not to try to do too much at once, or you will risk injuring yourself. Similarly, your enthusiasm may see you in the gym 7 days a week - again not a good idea if you want to maximise the results of your training efforts. Once your muscles have been broken down through exercise, they need an opportunity to recover in order to grow. Without this essential rest period, you will be hindering the development of muscle mass and will likely set your plans back so that you have to wait even longer for results.
Tip 3: Create an effective training program. A lot of people make the mistake of only training with high intensity, or a lot of weight, but when you do a high number of repetitions, you end up creating lactic acid, which is something that promotes muscle growth. So make sure to integrate some high volume workouts into your training regimen, with medium intensity, and do as many reps as you can.
Tip 4: Fuel your body right. If you want to maximise your growth and muscle potential, it is essential to give your body the right fuel so that it can grow at an optimal rate. Without the right diet, you could be training 24/7 and you still would be unlikely to see the results you are aiming for. At any rate, results would certainly be short-lived. Hard training for a sustained period without the correct food intake to meet the body's demands will ultimately lead to burn out. So make sure you are accessing a broad spectrum of nutrients (including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega oils, amino acids etc), sourced from whole foods that are naturally low in fat. This will not only help with faster recovery, but will also support stamina, performance, immunity and ultimately better growth. Opt for lean protein and also be sure not to forget an adequate intake of carbohydrates. This last tip may seem strange to you if you are new to muscle building - particularly if you are mentally committed to a low carb diet for your weight - but what you might not realise is that your body's primary source of energy is the glucose from carbs. If you don't have enough energy from carbohydrates (and this becomes a likely possibility as your caloric requirements are higher when you train hard), your body starts to burn fat. If your body doesn't have enough fat, it starts breaking down muscle. But quality is key - opt for complex, rather than simple carbohydrates. This will fuel your body more efficiently and also help to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your stomach feeling fuller for longer.
Tip 5: Consider supplements. If you are looking to build muscle and gain mass in the fastest possible time, why not make use of all tools and resources at your disposal? Similarly, if you reach a plateau in your growth or want to see if you can gain muscle more quickly, there are a lot of products that you can try. A word of caution though - there are a lot of cheap and nasty products on the market! Avoid anything that promises muscle growth in what seems like an unrealistic timeframe, or that contains artificial ingredients. While you may be keen to see results, there is little point going to all this trouble to get your body in tip-top condition, if you are just going to pump it full of harmful chemicals. Linked to the tip above, it is essential to fuel your body in the right way. Otherwise, you risk suffering the consequences later down the line. Give your body natural, food-based nutrients that it was designed to work with, in the right quantities, of a high quality and from the right sources. If you do this, you will have everything you need to achieve your muscle mass goals.
Good examples are muscle gain support supplements include:
- L-Glutamine: an amino acid used by the body for tissue recovery
- Plant protein powders: in contrast to traditional animal sources of protein (such as meat and dairy), certain plants and vegetables are able to offer a first-class source of protein (with a complete amino acid profile), while being low in saturated fat and also high in dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Ideal for supporting an intense training regimen, sustaining energy levels, while keeping the metabolism up and weight down. Examples include hemp and pea protein.
- Omega oils: Of particular relevance are the anti-inflammatory properties of EPA and DHA (two types of fatty acid). Since high-intensity exercise and weight training lead to an increase in inflammation in the body, reducing this response in any way you can is likely to be beneficial for recovery and growth.
- Antioxidants: Similarly, exercise and training lead to increased oxidation in the body (a natural process that can lead to cell damage and body strain, particularly on the immune system). As such, supplementing with antioxidants may offer your body invaluable support during intense periods of training.
Good luck with your muscle building adventure and with the realisation of your body dreams. Take the tips in this article and incorporate them into your training regime and, more importantly, your day-to-day life. You will hopefully find that building muscle mass is much easier when you know how!