1) Eat Your Protein
If you want to maintain a positive nitrogen balance and increase protein synthesis, you must get in enough protein. The FDA only recommends 0.8 grams/kg for protein intake, yet studies show the benefits of an intake of 1 gram per pound of body weight. Given the importance of protein in everything from building muscle, to neurotransmitter production, to being a structural component to every cell in your body, it only makes sense to ensure you aren’t too low on this essential macronutrient.
2) Use Compound Movements
Doing curls can build you some biceps, but heavy rowing movements like barbell rows and pull-ups/chin-ups will really make your arms pop. If you want a better butt and legs, you could go station to station doing hip abductor, leg extensions, leg curls, and other butt isolation exercises, or you could get under the bar and squat and watch your lower body transform itself. If the exercise you’re doing only moves one joint, you are limiting your muscle building potential. Stick to compound exercises.
3) Prioritize Your Goal
What is your goal? Are you trying to add muscle, lose weight, and improve your agility all while training for a marathon? We would all love to be the most well rounded athlete, being the strongest, leanest, and fastest person in the world. However, that’s just not going to happen. Certain goals need specific training and nutrition. Muscle building is no exception. If you’re trying to lose weight and add muscle at the same time, it’s certainly doable, but it’s going to be much more difficult than if you were to focus on one goal at a time. It is much easier to add muscle when at maintenance calories or above than it is to do so in a calorie deficit.
4) Emphasize Your Post-Workout Meal
No other meal will have as big of an impact on your muscle building as your post-workout meal. At no other time are your cells more receptive to receiving glucose. The first thing I do post workout is consume a blend of hydration, BCAAs, glutamine, and a good carbohydrate blend. This is a very anabolic time, and a meal containing carbohydrates and protein will ensure maximum protein and glycogen synthesis. Try to get your post-workout meal in within two hours after your workout for improved protein synthesis.
5) Get the Workout Frequency Right
There are all kinds of training philosophies out there, and all of them hold merit. They all have something in common, though—they leave enough time between working the same muscle groups to ensure proper recovery. Intense exercise can take 48 hours or longer to recover from. If you’re hitting the same muscle consistently on back to back days, you could be working against yourself. Try backing off on the frequency and increasing the intensity of the workouts you complete.
6) Eat Enough Calories
Nothing will inhibit muscle growth more than a lack of calories. Building muscle is a highly energy intensive task. For many people, they undergo the goal of building muscle at the same time as they are trying to lose weight. If you are trying to accomplish these two goals at one time, you might want to consider cycling your calories so that you are eating more food on training days, and less on others. Doing so will ensure you’re getting the extra energy intake when it matters most for muscle growth.
7) Don’t Forget about Sleep
Most people dismiss the importance of sleep. When we sleep, our cells repair all the abuse we do to them on a daily basis. If we go sleep deprived, our bodies become broken down, which is when injuries occur. In this depleted state, there is no way to build muscle mass. Studies have shown that we need a minimum of seven hours a night, and some people need even more—up to nine hours—for proper recovery. Don’t forget the most important key to building muscle!