Not everyone wants to lose weight, some are looking to gain muscle, or even better, replace fat with muscle. That’s kind of what I’ve done. My goal was to lose weight and gain muscle. What ended up happening was that I replaced 10 pounds of fat with 10 pounds of lean muscle. Regardless of your situation, here are 10 tips to gain muscle.
1. Add an extra meal to your day.
Contrary to popular belief, you need to eat to both lose and gain weight. But, it’s even more important if you’re looking to gain muscle. Your intake will need to be higher than usual, because you’re burning through calories at a higher rate. That is, if you’re on a training program.
For those looking to gain, most just eat whatever, whenever to just get the calories down and the macros for what most of us in the fitness world call “dirty gains.” I would encourage you to target the right kind of macros and the right kinds of micro-nutrients as well. You wouldn’t put crappy fuel into your car, so don’t do the same to your body.
Opt-in for healthy fats and high protein foods. These will fill you up and make you feel more satisfied. Not to mention they will give you the fuel that your muscle needs. Complex carbohydrates, such as wheat pasta, oatmeal, fruits, beans, lentils, etc. will help as well. Snacks between meals take a little extra preparation, but you can always opt for a protein shake as well when on the go.
2. Protein, protein, protein.
When you’re hungry, you typically ask yourself what you’re in the mood for. But successful athletes don’t think about their taste buds first. Instead, they consider their primary source of protein. Whether it’s chicken, steak, fish, or eggs; ensuring your meals include 30-40 grams of protein should be your top priority. Then you can consider how you’d like it cooked and flavored.
3. Drink more calories.
Many fear that eating more calories will leave them feeling stuffed all the time, which is a common complaint. A good response to that is to start drinking more nutrient-dense liquids.
The reasoning for this is that liquids simply digest and absorb faster than whole foods, especially foods with high amounts of fats or fiber. A protein shake with a fast-digesting whey isolate will clear your stomach much faster than a meal of fried chicken.
This isn’t an invitation to drink soda or fruit juices either. Avoid high-calorie beverages with tons of sugar, because those are what have contributed to the obesity epidemic in America. Instead opt-in for clean protein shakes and clean weight-gainers.
4. Pay attention to density.
If you’re always full, you’re probably eating too many high-volume foods and too few calorie-dense foods. Foods like soups and salads can add a number of important micro-nutrients to your diet, but if you need to gain weight, don’t fill up on them.
Just like I said in #2, protein, protein, protein. Go for those muscle-building foods like chicken or eggs.
5. Pick the right supplements.
Yes, the supplement market is full of crazy products, but here are four that you should seriously consider:
- Creatine mono-hydrate has a muscle-building and power-enhancing effect by increasing the availability of creatine within the muscle, which helps to maintain energy during high-intensity exercise such as weightlifting.
- Caffeine is often thought of as a fat burner, but it has been shown to decrease fatigue and increase alertness and focus, so you’ll be less inclined to skip a workout.
- Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) especially Leucine, help regulate protein metabolism by promoting protein synthesis, which may improve recovery of muscles damaged during resistance training.
- Whey is a fast-digesting protein that helps improve your muscles’ ability to recover and adapt after strenuous exercise. It also stimulates muscle protein synthesis more than other sources of protein.
6. Maximize your results.
Examine the choice of exercises in your routine. If you’re not familiar with the concept of multi-joint and single-joint movements, then that could be why you’re not seeing any progress.
Multi-joint exercises are just like they sound. They are movements that involve more than one joint to perform. For example, the elbows and shoulders are engaged while bench pressing. When more than one set of joints are working in unison, you can push more weight. With single-joint or isolation movements like cable cross-overs or dumbbell fly’s, you can’t move nearly as much weight. Long story short, multi-joint exercises will significantly increase muscle.
7. Check your volume.
Exercise scientists will tell you that training in the eight to 12 rep range while approaching muscle failure and using good form is best for putting on size. However, science also tells us that doing sets for six or fewer reps optimizes strength gains.
8. Push yourself.
If your idea of working out is to put everything on cruise control while you alternate doing a few exercises and posting selfies, then it’s no wonder you’re not making progress. Even if you do all the little things right and work hard, you still might not be seeing gains. That’s because you have to work smarter as well.
Our bodies adapt to routine and we are creatures of habit, so it’s natural to do what we’re familiar with. Being comfortable is your enemy in the gym. Get yourself a good spotter, use the Smith Machine or Hammer Strengths, Precor’s, etc. to push past your usual routine with heavier weight or more reps.
9. Limit excess activities.
Gaining mass requires that you take in more calories than you burn. Movement is good for the heart and the mind, but if you’re looking to gain, you might want to limit the amount of cardio you engage in. So if your goal is to put on mass, put cardio activity on the back seat for the time being and focus your energy on getting bigger.
10. Get better sleep.
Great sleep translates to more growth hormones, more energy and increased mood. But, we’ve been hearing this our whole lives right? Well this day and age we are always plugged in to the TV, iPhone, iPad, etc. This makes turning the brain off more difficult than ever before. So try to unplug an hour before bed and/or try a ZMA, zinc or natural oils supplement to help with sleep as well.