How to Gain Muscle Mass: What You Really Need to Know
As some of you may have noted, we live in a strange time (and I am not even referring to politics). Despite there being more information than ever, people are more confused or misinformed than in days past. Some even refute the existence of dinosaurs…
In the fitness world, the picture is particular grim: low fat, low carb, paleo, supersets, drop sets, all organic, intermittent fasting, occlusion training, beast mode, and yet very few good physiques.
What is the culprit? The Kardashains? Hormones in the water? North Korea?
None of the above. It’s information overload.
How to Gain Muscle Mass
People really can not see the forest for the trees anymore. They become victims (customers) of the fitness industry telling them the only way to succeed is by buying their products. I belong to the same industry, but I only run a humble personal training business and sell a kick-ass book (both actually provide value for the money).
So what does really matter? Basically, we can wrap it up in two main categories: training and diet.
For training, there are really two principles that matter most and yet they are constantly being violated! Progressive overload and SAID (specific adaptations to imposed demands).
Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training. This principle refers to continually increasing the demands on the musculoskeletal system in order to continually make gains in muscle size, strength and endurance.
In simplest terms: in order to get bigger and stronger you must continually lift more and more and make your muscles work harder than they are used to. If you don’t, your muscles will not become any stronger or bigger than they currently are.
Sounds simple enough yet we all know someone who goes to the gym for years on end without getting anywhere. In nine out of ten cases, the overload principle was violated.
What is to be done?
Set up a program where you increase either load or volume for about 4-5 weeks, then take a week of active recovery. Switch exercises and start anew.
SAID. Exercise is a form of stress. Your body adapts to the stresses you place upon it. This is the essence of specificity. Hence the term SAID — Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. This principle states your body will get better at performing the specific exercise you choose to do. The physiological adaptations you experience as a result of regular exercise depend on the type of exercise you perform.
Note the term “specific”; if you want to get better at squatting you should squat twice or three times a week. NOT squat on a wobble board to make it more functional (oh, wait! That was last week’s topic).
Your Muscle Building Diet
As for diet, here is the ladder for success:
Calories > macros > meal timing > food quality.
First you must figure out your basic caloric needs. The following logic will help you:
- Men: Baseline total daily calories = weight (lbs) x 12
- Women: Baseline total daily calories = weight (lbs) x 9 or 10.
This will be your baseline calorie formula; from here you will need to adjust depending if you want to lose or gain weight.
Daily macro nutrient breakdown:
- Proteins: 1 gram/pound of body weight. One gram of protein has 4 calories.
- Carbs: 1.5 grams/pound of body weight. One gram of carbs has 4 calories.
- Fats: Whatever is left from the daily baseline number of calories. One gram of fat has 9 calories.
This logic holds for reasonably lean people; outliers on both sides need to adjust their intake. But then, very lean people are usually very active, so they will know to consume more food, whereas very heavy people are not going to move a lot so their energetic needs are lower. People with poor insulin sensitivity should lower their carb intake and eat more fats.
Nutrient timing matters only if the above is in check. Let me sum up nutrient timing for you:
- Eat protein evenly during the day
- Eat carbs within a four to five hour window around the workout
- Eat fats away from the workout
As for food quality (whether you eat organic or not), that is mostly an ethical question. If it makes you sleep better knowing you just ate a happy cow, go for it.
All the rest is white noise or snake oil sales men trying to push stupid products on you.