When it comes to performance & aesthetics - optimising our muscle gaining strategies is key. Whether you're looking to lose, maintain or gain weight manipulating your nutrition & training to allow for greater gains or retention of muscle mass is important. Firstly lets go over the benefits of having extra muscle tissue.
1) It looks better! Many people have the goal of being "toned". Pound for pound, muscle tissue takes up less space (it is far more dense than fat tissue) so if you shred the body fat, but retain/add the muscle mass you will look slimmer, healthier and have that "toned" look you're after. Quick side note, if a muscle is toned it means it is very ready to contract, people usually mean they'd like to look leaner without looking bulky...am I right?
2) Greater potential of strength adaptations. You do not always need to put on more muscle tissue to be stronger, the adaptations from strength training is more neurological than physiological. What do I mean? Well there are two ways to build muscle tissue - Sarcoplasmic and Myofibrillar. Sarcoplasmic is all about increasing the surface area of the muscle mass, whist myofibrillar is all about increasing the contractual tissues within the muscle mass. Larger muscles allow for potentially greater adaptations in strength as there is more room to add more contractual tissues.
3) Bigger muscles need more calories to maintain them! People with larger muscles require more calories to maintain them. So if you train to put more muscle on your caloric requirement will go up!
4) Injury resistance - having bigger/stronger muscles will allow for greater resitance against strains and sprains. Your connective tissue will also strengthen from both the nutrition and training of increasing muscle mass.
So we have establised the maximising muscle mass is a good thing. But how exactly do we increase muscle mass? Both nutrition and training are very important (surprise surprise). Below are a few quick tips on how to optimise your nutrition and training so you start putting on the muscle mass.
If you want to really put on a large amount of muscle mass then being in a caloric surplus will help (intake more calories then you expend). The number of calories that you need will be totally subjective to you as an individual but you can work out your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), then work out your daily energy expendature (walking, climbing stairs etc), then work out the caloric requirements of your training. This may be a bit of trial and error at first.
You can also put on muscle tissue if you are in a caloric deficit if you are relatively new to training. As the resitance training is such a new stimulus on the body, the body will be forced to adapt by increasing muscle tissue. But be warned, gains in muscle tissue will be restricted if you are restricting calories.
2) Protein intake. The amount of protein you need will be based upon your training type, whether you're restricting calories and goals. Here are a few pointers on protein intake.
1) You need to ideally consume 1.8 - 2.7 grams of protein per kilo of body weight. So if you had a guy weighing 100kg, then he'd need to eat 180g-270g of protein depending on how is training looks. If he is training hard many times a week (7-14 sessions) then his protein intake will need to be more to allow for maximal recovery.
2) Eat 0.3 - 0.5 grams of protein per kilo of body weight per meal. This means that the guy weighing 100kg should eat 30g - 50g of protein per meal. This will ensure that your leucine (an important amino acid in muscle building) threshold is met!
3) If you are in an aggressive calorie restrictive diet such as Intermittent Fasting or daily fasting getting 1.8 - 2.7 grams of protein per kilo of body weight will become far harder. The key here will be to prioritise protein as your main macro-nutrient. How many grams you need will be subjective, but by increasing protein intake you shall retain muscle mass better and your satiety levels will be increased (meaning you will feel fuller for longer.
3) Eat enough carbs and fats to support training, cell function, digestion, hormonal management, stress and sleep. How much you need is very dependent on you - if you have further questions on this then please get in touch!
4) Get enough sleep & manage your stress - of course life gets in the way, but building muscle requires a good balance of hormones and good recovery, things that sleep and stress managment will help.
Training can become fairly complicated. As usual it depends on their individual, their chronological age, training age, sex, goal, needs etc. People who are new to training will be able to put on more muscle tissue faster for example. Below are a few pointers on how to train for muscular gain.
1) Increase mechanical volume. Generally you want to train each muscle group for 10-12 sets per session with reps being between 8-15. Smaller/individual muscles need less work (and will fatigue quicker) so keep to around 4-6 sets (same rep range). Training each muscle group once a week will be enough for beginners, but later down the line increasing that to training each muscle group at least twice will be ideal.
2) Prioritise compound movements such as Squats, Leg Presses, Bench Press, Deadlifts and Military Press.
3) Progress week by week. Whether you progress via increasing weight, decreasing rest time or even improving technique - make sure you continually stress the body every week to maximise performance.
4) Work on performance. Even though the main goal with a hypertrophy phase is to increase sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, we can measure progress via performance tests. Improving performance such as increasing the weight will show that you are putting on good muscle tissue.
5) If you use training techniques like AMRAPS, Rest Pause and drop sets use machines. This will ensure that the exercise is kept safe when you reach failure.
6) Concentrate on using the muscle you want to contract. Don't just "do" the movement, concentrate on the contraction and what muscle you are trying to build.
7) Train hard! Muscle tissue growth will be stimulated with intensity and muscular fatigue, if you are not pushing hard the muscles will not grow!
Building muscle can get complicated, but follow the steps above and you'll go far.
If you have any questions please get in touch!