There’s a big difference between toning up and becoming muscular. Building muscle mass takes just as much effort, commitment and patience as losing weight does. Many people think it’s only a matter of doing repetitions, but it’s more than that.
There are some specific strategies you can incorporate into your fitness routines to help you build muscle mass and bulk up to whatever level you want. It might be just filling your frame out a bit, or really bulking up to a larger-than-life level.
Add Calories You Can Turn into Muscle
Most people’s fitness goals are centered around losing weight, because it’s very common to have excess fat nowadays. However, there are plenty of people who are actually a bit underweight, and could benefit greatly from putting on some pounds in the form of muscle.
In order to do that effectively, you might have to add some calories to your diet to promote better muscle growth. Just as your body can turn excess calories into fat, you can also turn them into muscle.
When you work out and feel sore afterwards, your body repairs itself using the nutrition from the food you eat in order to create stronger and larger muscles. Having the right nutrition and having enough nutrition is very important for this, because the wrong kinds of calories can leave you without the proper food you need to put on muscles.
Arguably the most important part of your diet for putting on muscles is protein. Proteins are the building blocks of your body, and you need plenty of them for your muscles. Obviously protein can be found in any form of meat, so that’s going to be the best initial option for you.
Clean sources of protein like chicken are a staple of many weightlifters’ diets, because they provide plenty of protein without things like grease, fat, and extra carbs. If you need a bit of an extra boost, there’s always protein shakes.
Protein shakes are a great way to get in a boost of protein after a workout, and they can be made in seconds. Most often you’ll see people buy protein powder and mix it into water or milk to make a shake.
Chances are, you’re most familiar with whey protein, which specifically helps with muscle growth directly after a workout. This powder comes in all kinds of flavors, so you’re sure to find one you like.
There are other supplements that you can take to increase your caloric intake as well. For example, mass gainers are a type of shake similar to protein powder, but with a bunch of other added calories and nutrients to help you put on weight in general.
This can be helpful if you’re finding it hard to eat a lot throughout the day, which can be both costly and uncomfortable. By condensing a lot of calories and nutrients into one single shake, your body is more likely to put that mass to use.
Maximize Your Lifts
Many people don’t realize that when you go and lift weights, there’s a certain strategy to be employed when it comes to how much weight you’re doing and how many reps you’re doing.
Finding a balance between the two is important, but most people either tend to do high weight with lower reps, or lower weight with high reps. Depending on which one you choose, you can have some drastically different results in terms of how your body looks.
High reps and low weight will get your muscles used to higher amounts of stress and they’ll be better adapted for endurance, which is good for things like sports. However, for building muscles, you want to go with higher weight and lower reps.
You might only be able to do five reps with a certain weight, but training that way will help you get muscles better than you would with a lower, more comfortable weight. When you lift weights, you’re microscopically tearing your muscle fibers.
Not enough to seriously injure you, but this is why you feel sore. When you eat and drink protein, your body repairs those microscopic tears stronger and larger than before to accommodate.
This is how you get stronger and how you build muscles from lifting weights in the first place. By lifting heavier weights, you’re putting more direct strain on your muscles rather than testing their endurance, causing more micro-tears, leading to larger muscles.
Lifting heavy is how bodybuilders get into the shape they do, because they solely focus on putting on pure muscle mass while also being sure to shed as much fat as possible, making their muscles pop a bit more.
There’s a serious caveat to keep in mind when it comes to heavy lifting: you need to be careful. If you do everything right, you’ll put on muscles and keep getting stronger and lifting heavier weight.
However, if you try to lift more weight than you can actually reliably lift, there are going to be some problems. It’s not uncommon to see injuries from weightlifting, but most often it comes from people trying to lift as much as humanly possible.
You should be aiming for a heavy weight that you can lift for about five reps per set cleanly. If you mess up on your form and have to jerk the weight in a weird way, you can end up causing things like muscles separating from tendons, which can take months, if not years to fully recover.
Stop Getting as Much Cardio
Those who aren’t very familiar with fitness will sometimes lump a bunch of exercises with very different purposes together and just call it “working out.” This is commonly seen with cardio being lumped together with weightlifting.
If you want to put on muscle mass and gain weight, then you really don’t need to be doing much cardio, because it could actually be doing you more harm than good in terms of your goals.
When you do cardio, your body uses up its energy pretty quickly before going to reserves. It’ll use fat, which is why it’s good for people who want to lose weight. However, those are people with excess fat.
If you’re underweight and don’t have much fat on you, it’ll actually start using up bits of muscle mass, because that provides energy for your body just the same. Instead, you need to focus more of your time on weightlifting, which will increase your muscle mass rather than reduce it.
You might’ve noticed that in things like sports, there are a lot of different body types depending on the athletes. Runners are almost always skinny and barely have any muscle mass on them, with the exception of definition in their legs.
Someone like a wrestler, on the other hand, will have a lot more fat, but also a lot more muscle. For most people, the ideal body is muscular, but not to the point where you look unnatural, and cut down enough so that your muscles are visible and you don’t have excess flab.
If you’re starting from a point of already being underweight, you probably don’t need many adjustments in terms of body fat percentage – you just need to put on more muscle.
It almost seems counterintuitive that not working out in one way can help you get a better physique, but it’s true. Focusing on weightlifting alone also makes things less complicated for your schedule, so you don’t have to figure out a cardio day and a weightlifting day – just know when you’re going to go lift.
If you still want to keep your cardio in good shape, it’s recommended that you do high intensity, fast burst of cardio like sprints and circuits rather than doing something like long steady runs. This helps reduce the amount of energy that your body takes away, and can also help you develop some good leg muscles while keeping your heart healthy.
Take Supplements to Help Build Mass
Getting enough food to sustain mass growth just isn’t feasible in some cases. You need a lot of calories to gain weight – especially with a high metabolism, so you’d have to be practically force feeding yourself in order to put on weight effectively.
Not to mention, it also costs more and takes more time to keep eating throughout the day. In order to save time and money, you should incorporate supplements into your daily routine.
It’s much easier to fit calories in as fluids, since they don’t crowd your stomach quite as much as solid food would. For this reason, many have turned towards meal supplement shakes as a way to put on weight.
You can combine a ton of different foods into some basic shakes and get a great calorie dense meal without breaking the bank or wasting time cooking. Along with supplements, you’ll be set to go.
The most common supplement is mass gainer. It comes as a simple powder, usually with some kind of sweet flavor, and it is loaded with nutrients. A single scoop of the stuff can contain as many calories as a typical meal, loaded up with all kinds of carbs, fats, and proteins that you need in order to gain weight.
In one shake, you could have two meals worth of calories without the cost or stomach pains of eating two meals. People often don’t just drink their shakes with mass gainer alone.
You can combine it with something like protein powder, which has fewer calories, but bumps up your protein intake a bunch. This kind of shake would be perfect right after a workout to help you recover efficiently and retain all that progress you made at the gym.
You can also mix in foods to your shake if you use a blender, which is highly recommended. People have mixed in fruits, peanut butter, yogurt, and more to give themselves a better tasting shake with more nutrients, so you can really make just about whatever you’d like.
For example, you could take chocolate flavored mass gainer and blend it with milk and some strawberries, giving you a chocolate-covered strawberry shake. Before a workout, if you’re more advanced, you might consider supplements such as creatine or pre-workouts in order to help further the growth of muscle building. These products can have health hazards in some people, so be sure to carefully read the packaging to make sure it’s safe for you to take it.
Let Sleep Help You Build More Muscle
Gaining muscle isn’t all about working out. You can lift every single hour of every single day and you will gain muscle, just not as much as you could be. In order for you to gain muscle, you need to tear your muscles microscopically first.
This is what you’re doing when you’re lifting heavy weights. However, those tears get repaired by your body using protein and a variety of other molecules, leading to muscle mass increasing, along with strength.
So, while you might get those microscopic tears in the first place, if you’re not recovering properly, you won’t see the full benefits of the growth. Recovery is so important for building muscle, which is why many people have rest days in between workouts.
However, one of the most important stages of recovery is proper sleep. When you’re asleep, your body is doing quite a bit of work. Specifically, your muscles are keeping themselves busy by repairing whatever damage you might’ve done to them throughout the day or during a workout.
Your blood flow to your muscles goes up quite a lot while you’re sleeping, and during that time the blood is carrying along key nutrients that your muscles will use to grow and recover.
This is the point in time where that protein you drink and that food you eat is going to get put to use. Your body even naturally produces some HGH, or human growth hormone, which some people take excessively and artificially like steroids.
These hormones are crucial to helping your muscles build up, so proper amounts of sleep are very important to making sure you’re healing up properly. You should be getting around eight hours of sleep per night.
This gives your body enough time to go through all of the necessary stages of sleep, including the stage that involves muscle recovery and growth. If you cut off your sleep early, you might not reach that stage, leaving you still feeling sore the next morning.
Find a way to fit proper amounts of sleep in your schedule, no matter what. If you don’t sleep enough, not only will you not see an increase in muscle mass, but you’ll also have weaker lifts.
If you’re not well rested when you go to work out, your body isn’t going to have prepared itself enough to reliably get working. If you want to see yourself lift heavier weight and put on more muscle, get to bed earlier and wake up on time.
As you embark on your mission to gain muscle mass, keep track of what works and expand on that rather than completely switching gears or giving up. You might see some gains with increased calories, for example, so if you want to gain more, you may have to eat even more.