You might think you already know how to bulk up successfully and maybe be even how to build muscle at home or the gym but you're wrong. I mean, sure, those tips are solid but if you want to maximise your gains, you might also want to read the below tips too.
Luckily, this time around it's not just me harping on about why you should be taking more protein, I also asked a real pro about the subject, the amazing Ebenezer Samuel (opens in new tab), C.S.C.S. and Essentia Water Fitness Advisor (opens in new tab), to weigh in on the subject. Eb was happy to share some tips on how to maximise your muscle building efforts.
Without further ado, please enjoy the fruits of Eb's wisdom, mixed with some commentary from yours truly.
You need to eat MORE to build muscle
A lot of people don't realise the difference between eating and eating enough in order to pack on muscle. You might have heard of the classic bodybuilder diet consisting of a million portions of rice and chicken, eaten cold out of a plastic container multiple times a day, and that approach is not too far from what you should do if you want to increase muscle mass.
Ebenezer recommends eating every three hours and eating a variety of foods throughout the day: "Mixing up vegetables and even protein sources is a good way to get a strong nutritional profile and a variety of amino acids, antioxidants, and other nutrients", he says.
You might wonder what's the point in eating thousands of calories a day when you're only working out for an hour, but that's just not how the body works. Providing your body will a steady supply of nutrients will enable it to perform its functions better and to focus on repairing the your muscles properly. At the end of the day, you're what you eat and if you eat the right things, you will be able to build muscle better. Easy as that.
Have some protein with every meal
This probably doesn't come as a surprise but the most important macronutrient when it comes to building muscle is protein. You probably eat some protein as part of your daily diet but you have to make sure you have enough protein with every meal. This is because our bodies don't have protein reserves, unlike carb and fat reserves, so you will need to provide this macronutrient in abundance if you want to build muscle like a pro.
As Ebenezer examples, "Protein is critical to creating an anabolic body environment. Every meal you have, aim for at least 10-15 grams of protein, even your snacks, and even if this results in a few more calories." Actually, having more calories is a bonus because you're probably not eating enough anyway.
The other macronutrient to keep an eye on is carbohydrates. Carbs provide the energy during high-intensity resistance training and this macro is also needed for other functions in the body too. If you want to include more calories in your diet, you might also want to include more 'good fats', as explained in our 'how to gain weight if you're skinny article'.
If you need some inspiration of how to structure your diet, Game of Throne's The Mountain diet might come in handy. He not only has rice and beef as a mid-morning snack but also chugs down a protein shake in the evening. And this system clearly works for him. Those individuals who struggle to put on weight might want to consider including mass gainers in their diet too.
Drink a lot and often
Ebenezer not only knows his way around water but he also understands why it's so important for muscle building and beyond. "Being properly hydrated is actually key to the "pump," that blood-rush feeling you get in a muscle after you've trained it significantly (think of your glutes feeling ultra-contracted after a workout, or the way your biceps feel after a few sets of curls)."
That's right, without water, you won't look buff. And I can hear you saying "But Matt, those bodybuilders on competitions look pretty dry to me" and sure, 'pro' bodybuilders can be dangerously dehydrated but you really don't want to walk around with minimal amount of water in your body as you go about your daily business.
As a matter of fact, you don't want to do that ever.
"We also want to stay super-hydrated to avoid injuries: water nourishes and lubricates our tendons and ligaments, preventing them from growing brittle so you can avoid joint pain", Ebenezer says, "If you're under-hydrated, then when you train, water is actually drawn out of muscle cells and into the blood to maintain basic circulation when you sweat or battle through a workout."
A good habit is to always keep a bottle within arm's reach. Ebenezer recommends setting an alarm for once an hour, and when it goes off, taking 5 gulps of water. Soon enough, you'll be drinking water without having to set the alarm. It's all about building good habits that last long.
Keep changing positions throughout the day
You know that sitting around all day is not good for you, yet you do it anyway. Well, we're here to remind you to keep moving. No need to put a walking treadmill under your standing desk and keep on walking all day, it's enough of you stand up and walk around for a bit every now and then.
What would be even better if you went out for a walk during lunchtime or in the morning before work. If you're worried about burning too many calories with your excursions, let me assure you, it will actually help you pack on muscle tissue. "Walking will create good circulation, burn calories, and send a release of good, muscle-building hormones throughout your body", Ebezenez confirms.
As Ebenezer explains, "Fidgeting burns extra calories and it can drive more circulation than sitting still so don't be afraid to bounce your knees or shake a bit during meetings. Sitting still is generally pretty overrated."
Fidgeting can help keep the metabolism going, along with all the other tips above. A small movement might not be all that much of an effort for your muscles, but a lot of small movements do add up at the end of the day.