In the fitness world, muscle is constantly a hot topic of conversation, how to build it, how to grow it and how to maintain it. In recent years fitness influencers on social media sites have helped to promote a strong lifestyle, with more women than ever now also taking up weightlifting in order to build their physiques. Sadly, as with any industry, once the topic becomes hot the black market also tends to jump on board promoting their ‘cheat’ ways to achieve results without putting in the required effort. ‘Cheats’ such as steroids, are often illegal and can lead to damaging long term effects. So if you’re looking to gain muscle naturally, then here are 7 top tips.
Be realistic in your expectation
Contrary to what 12-week plans and crash diets will lead you to believe, putting on muscle actually takes a significant amount of time – we’re talking upwards of 6-months to a year. At the beginning of your journey fat loss, often caused by upping your exercise routine, will start to show more of the preexisting muscle you already have, but in order to actually build and gain more muscle, you need to be setting realistic goals for a much longer time period.
Eat enough food
Food is fuel and without proper fuel, your body will not focus its efforts on building muscle and in severe caloric restriction diets will in fact begin eating the muscle you’re working so hard to gain. Work out what your baseline caloric amount is, that is how many calories you need to sustain your current weight, and then slowly increase this which will help to control fat gain while ensuring your body has the calories it needs to put on muscle.
Eat enough protein
In a conversation about muscle gain, it’s rarely very long before the subject of protein comes up. Protein is needed in a diet for muscle gain as it is an important component of muscle fibres. You can get protein from a variety of food sources including animal products such as chicken and milk as well as plant-based sources such as lentils, beans and tofu. Regardless of how you choose to get your protein, you will need to be sure you’re getting enough of it. In general, athletes agree that you should be aiming for 1gram of protein per 1lb of body weight as a minimum, so start tracking your macronutrients through an app to see if you meet this on a daily basis. If you struggle to get enough protein from food then you can also consume it in the form of natural supplements from retailers such as Muscle Rage.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is a hugely underestimated resource when it comes to muscle gain and a lack of sleep could be the reason why you aren’t seeing the results you should be. As a general rule, you should be aiming to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night which provides your body with the time it needs to repair and rejuvenate ready for the day. If you aren’t getting enough sleep then your body will struggle in the gym and you’re more likely to cause yourself an injury.
Change the way you train
Every 6-8 weeks your body begins to become used to the exercises and training regime you are putting it through and this can lead to a reduction in muscle gain. Try switching up your fitness routine and the way you train every 6-8 weeks or so to stop your body becoming complacent and to promote fresh muscle gain. One option would be to change your muscle-splits and another would be to change the exercises you rotate through.
Don’t restrict carbs
People who are new to building muscle tend to start restricting their carb intake in an attempt to get lean but this isn’t the best way to build muscle. Restricting carbs can lead to catabolism which is when your muscles begin eating themselves in the absence of adequate fuel. The best time to eat carbs is before a workout as this ensures that your body has access to adequate amounts of glycogen to fuel your workout.
Finally, be consistent! With muscle gain being a long game it can be all too easy to start letting up on the weekends or to skip a week or two of training when you’re feeling unmotivated but all of these off-days add up to restrict your progress. Set yourself a goal, make yourself a plan and stick to it no-matter-what. At the end of the day, consistency is key to any fitness goal.