The Science Of Gaining Muscle
The science of muscle gain is very simple. Your body uses a specific amount of calories each day in order to do it’s daily activities. Based on your weight, muscle mass, metabolism, genetics, etc determines how much calories your body needs to do these daily activities. If you introduce a stress to your body in the form of weight training, while simultaneously increasing your calories by around 250-500 calories per day. Your body will use these extra calories for gaining muscle. The extra calorie principle is known as a “caloric surplus”. It is the opposite of the “caloric deficit” which will cause you to lose weight.
Just as a pound of fat is the result of 3,500 extra calories. A pound of muscle is the result of 3,500 extra calories put to good use! Lifting weights does not make your muscles grow, directly. The act of lifting weights works to tear down your muscle fibers. After you are done lifting weights through proper nutrition, rest and drinking water do your muscles grow back bigger and stronger!
The First Year Of Working Out
If you are just starting to work out, I have great news! Now is the time where you will experience the most drastic change in your body in terms of muscle gain. The period where a person first begins to workout is known in the fitness industry as “newbie gains”. During this time your body is most likely going from a state of not moving very much to working out hard and eating efficiently. In this time it wishes to adapt to the new stresses by gaining some muscle in order to help you do the activities you’ve been forcing it to do. During this period you can expect to gain around 10-15 lbs. of solid muscle during your first year of training. The best part is that you can do it simultaneously while losing weight. Can you say getting jacked?
After Your First Year Of Working Out
After your first 6 months to a year of working out your “newbie gains” are over. You will not be able to gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously. You will have to chose either muscle gain or fat lose to pursue at a time. I learned this the hard way after my first year of training. I tried to continue to lose weight and gain muscle at the same time. I ended up extremely tired and my lifts kept decreasing in weight and volume even through I tried to lift more each week. The reason for this was that my muscles weren’t rebuilding because I was not in a caloric surplus. I was tired all the time because I was not eating enough carbs (carbs are for energy) because I was trying to lose weight as well. For that reason I decided to increase my calories and decrease my cardio over time.
Bulking Up To Gain Muscle
After your newbie gain phase is over you will work each year to build upon the muscle that you built the first year. However, if you are a woman or satisfied with the way your body looks you may also maintain the physique that you built as well! As I mentioned earlier in order to gain muscle you need to be in a caloric surplus. Some people take this term a little too far and eat everything in sight in order to gain muscle. This is known as “bulking up”. The thought behind this is that people who want to gain muscle eat way over their caloric needs in order to make sure that every bit of muscle that is possible to be had is produced. All of the extra nutrients are of course stored as fat.
While eating way over your caloric limit does work to build as much muscle as possible, it comes at a price. That is excess fat gain. If you’ve worked to lose fat before then you know what it takes to do so. I don’t recommend eating WAY over your caloric limit in order to gain weight. What I do recommend is that you watch the scale and the mirror and try to stay relatively lean while gaining weight. This will ensure that you don’t gain TOO much fat and then it will be easier to lose the excess fat when the time comes.
People Ramping Up Their Calories Too Quickly
Some people get lean and get the abs that they’ve always dreamed of. Then they wish to begin to gain some more muscle mass. They think that they can just go from eating at a caloric deficit to eating 3-4,000 calories a day without any negative consequences. Just as I said in my weight loss section about dropping your calories too quickly, increasing your calories too quickly is a no-no as well. After you are done with your diet, your body may have thought that you just experience a famine. If you increase your calories too high and too fast, your body will be like “whoa we almost died in that famine and now we get to eat like a king!” At that point it will store all of the excess calories as fat in order to prevent you from dying if another “famine” were to hit. It’s all a result of the survival mechanisms that your body sets in place!
For this reason, after a diet, it’s imperative that you slowly begin to increase your caloric intake. This will ensure that you don’t go and gain a ton of fat right off the bat when you were really trying to gain muscle!
Progressive overload is a term used to describe, the act of constantly increasing your workout capacity in some way. This can be done a variety of ways such as: doing 4 sets instead of 3 for one of your major lifts, doing the same amount of repetitions as last week in a given lift but with better form, doing one more rep than last week, or by doing the same amount of reps as last week but with slightly more weight. Weight lifting is just like dieting, in the sense that it’s all about the very last bit. I’ll explain. In dieting, most of your calories actually just go to your body, to run itself. The very last 250-500 calories, more or less will go towards losing weight or gaining weight. In terms of weight lifting, after a while all the weight that you lift will only serve to maintain your physique, however extra exertion will go towards giving you that extra edge to get those gains you’ve been searching for.
The Best Way To Gain Muscle
Now that you know your formula to gain muscle. I’ll tell you the BEST WAY to gain muscle. Here are some general guidelines which will aid you on your journey.
- Determine your lean body weight in pounds and eat that amount in grams of protein each day. Protein helps you to both maintain as well as build muscle.
- Lift weights with intensity. You should be trying to constantly (slowly might I add) increase the weight and volume of your lifts and workouts. A term known as “progressive overload.”
- Eat balanced meals for all your meals. Your meals should have a balance of protein, carbs and fats.
- Slowly over time increase your carb intake. Increase your fat intake as well but make sure you don’t increase your fat intake too high, as to avoid excess fat gain. Fats are important as fats control your hormone production.
- Get plenty of sleep. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night will help you to gain muscle!
- Drink plenty of water. Water aids in muscle gain as well as fat loss!
Muscle Gain For Hard Gainers
There is a group of people who claim to have an extremely hard time gaining muscle. These people are either blessed or cursed depending on how you look at it. The blessing is that these people have an extremely high metabolism. They are able to eat an incredible amount of carbs without gaining weight. The fact that they have a naturally lean body type means that they will have an easy time dropping any fat that they put on and will generally gain muscle in a very lean fashion. The curse is that these people will have to eat an incredible amount of carbs to gain weight. Some people will either enjoy or hate this. The moral of the story is, if you’re a hard gainer you can gain muscle just fine as long as you eat more carbs.
Don’t Buy A Weight Gainer
A weight gainer is simply an expensive protein powder that is loaded with powdered carbs and some extra fats. In essence it is just calories in powdered form. It is a fitness scam which only works because hard gainers just need extra calories. What I do recommend is to make your own weight gain supplement. Simply take a few scoops of protein, a cup of oats, a scoop of peanut butter and some fruit and blend it up. Delicious, nutritious, less expensive and way healthier than artificial powdered carbs.