Muscle Gain 101

Lean Body Mass increase or more specifically: muscle gain is a highly misunderstood subject. Every supposed “expert” seems to have the magical exercise or the magic formula for food intake to maximize your strength and muscle gains. The truth is that muscle gain is a difficult process to master. Gaining muscle takes a true commitment and long-term focus; there are no short-cuts and most certainly no magic movement, foods, powder or pill that will pump you up.

So let’s delve into the Facts and Fallacies of this subject and get you on your way to finally understanding how and why your body does what it does.

The Facts:
There are 5 absolutes to muscle gain. You must do these to be successful in your quest “to take up as much space as possible”.
Eat MORE than you burn
  • Science speaks: A system’s energy is equivalent to the energy consumed vs. the energy burned. This means that it takes the body extra calories to aid in the creation of new muscle tissue. I would recommend finding out how many calories that you’re consuming and then increasing your intake by 250-500 calories daily. This should be enough to stimulate new growth while minimizing any fat gain.
  • *If you do decide to eat more calories above maintenance than this then you should expect fat gain along with the new, added muscle tissue.
Nutrient Intake is ESSENTIAL
  • It’s helpful to think of nutrition as two separate sides of the same equation. There is food energy (calories) and the nutrients that food provides. The Twinkie (that delicious crème filled snack cake) has calories in it but just about no nutritional value. This food could help you become hypercaloric (energy above maintenance) but not help provide the nutrition necessary to gain muscle tissue, only FAT!
  • A Multi-Vitamin is an essential tool in insuring that you have nutritional insurance to increase new muscle gains and limit any fat gain. You do not get what you need from your food alone. Most individuals do not eat a nutritionally packed diet rich in anti-oxidants, whole grains and quality. A multi-vitamin will aid you in suring up any nutritional deficiencies that may stall muscle growth.
  • Additionally, you’ll want to eventually add BCAA and Glutamine to prevent using any muscle for energy and Creatine (experts) for recovery, and aid in creating an environment for muscle to grow.
Muscle Confusion Workouts
  • So now you’re eating right and taking your Multi-Vitamin but your workouts are feeling a bit stale. What used to get you ‘pumped’ to stimulate your body to change, has now dwindled to you working out really intensely and only increasing strength – not muscle.
  • Strength can be increased without the addition of muscle tissue. Training for strength gains and training for muscle increase are two different but interconnected goals.
  • Strength gains and muscle gains don’t have an absolute correlation. It is absolutely essential that you increase the body’s ability to move more weight or the same weight more times. However, your body will not increase the amount of muscle it has unless you create an ideal environment where it is forced to add muscle ie: Extra calories, recovery environment and nutrition.
Here’s How:
  • Science Speaks: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. The body adapts to any/every type of stimulus.
  • Overload Principle – The body must be challenged consistently and systematically in order to continue progress.
  • The body is an amazing machine. Its job is efficiency. In order for muscle growth to be stimulated, you must not let the body adapt to your current routine. Your intensity has to remain high but the workout has to change constantly. Change reps, sets, load, exercise order or days you train body parts.
Rest and Recovery
  • You’ve heard that you don’t grow while you workout but actually while you sleep. This is true! So be sure to get enough rest on workout days and on off days to better prepare the body for your next exercise bout. Also, be sure to take an adequate # of rest/recovery days (non-training) so your body will be fully recovered, your strength levels and mental focus at full strength and your body fully prepared to create maximum cellular damage 🙂
  • Science speaks: Working out actually damages your muscle tissue (actin and myosin contractile fibers are heavily damaged) and the recovery process happens during sleep. Nutrients are fed to the damaged tissues while toxins are removed.
  • The second part of recovery is proper hydration. Drink lots of water. It improves strength, hastens repair time and is a shuttle for nutrients to muscles.
Genetics
  • The above four facts are in your control. Genetics is not. Hopefully you didn’t choose the wrong parents and got stuck with skinny, endurance runners (no offense, we’ll talk about you guys soon enough).
  • Genetics are at least 50% of this whole deal. Genetics are the reason that you eat the same, lift just as hard, take the same dietary supplements as your friend but you’re wearing the same size shirt since high school and he’s on the cover of Muscle and Fiction Magazine. Some of us gain easy and some of us are hard-gainers. Don’t give up. Most of the time we are not even close to maximizing factors that we can control and a few specific changes to your routine are all it takes to start seeing results.
Fallacies
  • You will not gain more muscle just by consuming more protein. If it were that easy, everyone that is drinking protein shakes would be HUGE!
  • It is next to impossible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. Losing fat is difficult, gaining muscle is even more difficult. That makes it pretty tough to do both. Pick a goal and spend some time with it. It will serve you well long-term.
  • Ladies, please don’t fear Strength Training. As you can see from above, there truly is a difference in Strength Training and training for Hypertrophy. Strength Training will increase your calorie burn, help to prevent injury and help you look tight and athletic.
  • Go Heavy or Go Home! Not at the compromise of form. Heavy weights allow you to get more done quickly. However, if your barbell bicep curl looks more like a full body seizure, you’re probably not targeting that particular movement very well and I am sure that you’re increasing the risk of injury. Drop five lbs. off the bar and get better, safer results.
In summary
  • Everyone can benefit from strength training.
  • Gaining muscle tissue takes very specific programming.
  • Utilize tried and true concepts and philosophies.
  • Add in complex strength training movements like the squat, deadlift etc… (be sure to check with a Physician prior to beginning any training program).
  • Continually evaluate your programming for effectiveness.

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