8 Tips to Help You Gain a Pound of Muscle
Going to the gym day in and day out pushing ourselves to the limit so we can build muscle is hard.
It doesn't matter if you are trying to improve your athletic abilities, improve your aesthetics, or simply living a healthier lifestyle — you may blame your lack of gains on your genetics or a fast metabolism. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to spur muscle growth more than you are currently achieving.
Related - Build Your Own Muscle Building Workout
According to Doug Kalman, R.D., director of nutrition at Miami Research Associates, "Most lean men who can't gain muscle weight are simply eating and exercising the wrong way."
So there are a few basic principles to follow to build precious muscle, let's check them out now.
Gain a Pound of Muscle
#1 - Protein
If you ask any meathead in the gym, they will say protein is king — and they are kind of right. Protein is the fuel our muscles need to repair and grow.
If you knew this, great. But did you know that our body uses protein to produce hormones? This means that there is less protein available for building muscle.
According to Michael Houston, PhD, and professor of nutrition at Virginia Tech University, "To counteract that, you need to build and store new proteins faster than your body breaks down old proteins."
If you browse around any forums or social media groups, you'll see that the "golden standard" is one gram of protein per pound of body weight.
There's some new research from McMaster University that suggests you may not need that much.
For ease of numbers, let's assume that a 160-pound man should consume around 160 grams of protein per day. That means they could eat an 8-ounce chicken breast, a roast beef sandwich, two eggs, one cup of cottage cheese, a glass of milk, and two ounces of peanuts.
According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association guidelines, the rest of your calories for the day is then split between two other macronutrients — carbs and fats. A solid approach would be to get 12 to 15 percent of your daily calories from protein, 55 to 60 percent from carbs, and 25 to 30 percent from fats.
While you don't have to be that precise with your daily intake, it's worth noting to put a priority in getting plenty of protein through nutritious sources. The rest of your calories should come from whole foods — limit highly-processed crap.
#2 - Quit Reducing Calories
While body recomposition is possible — losing fat and building muscle at the same time — it will serve you best if you do not try to build muscle on a calorie deficit.
If you are overweight, tackle that first. If you are ready for big muscle gains, eating enough calories with enough protein will help spur growth fast.
You may have to give it a week or two before you start seeing results on the scale, but you will feel the difference pretty fast when you are not always in a calorie deficit.
#3 - Compound Lifts
Compound lifts are kings for building muscle. When you are a beginner, you can experience gains quickly due to the fact that almost any workout will be intense enough to elicit protein synthesis.
If you're like me and you've been lifting for a while, you will pack the beef on much faster if you focus on heavy compound movements like squats, bench press, deadlifts, pull-ups, bent-over rows, dips, and military presses.
Heavy compound lifts elicit a growth response in our bodies, so when you are trying to kick-start your muscle hypertrophy, start doing a few sets of a few different compound exercises in the six to 12 rep range. Keep your rest times to about 60 seconds, and all of that protein you've been consuming will start packing on muscle.
#4 - Pre-Workout Game Plan
Kevin Tipton, Ph.D., an exercise and nutrition researcher at the University of Texas in Galveston suggests drinking a shake of amino acids and carbs before working out increased protein synthesis more than lifters who drank the same shake post-workout. "Since exercise increases blood flow to your working tissues, drinking a carbohydrate-protein mixture before your workout may lead to greater uptake of the amino acids in your muscles," he goes on to say.
Drinking a shake 30 to 60 minutes before your workout can make a difference since liquid meals are absorbed faster.
#5 - Carb Up After Your Workout
Insulin is an anabolic hormone. Research suggests that downing carbohydrates for a post-workout meal increase your insulin levels, slowing the rate of protein breakdown.
Don't be afraid to have a peanut butter sandwich with a banana and some milk.
#6 - Get Plenty of Rest
Our lives are busy, but if we can manage our stress and ensure we take a rest day after a hard workout will help us build more muscle.
Remember, we break the muscle down in the gym and rebuild it in the kitchen.
"Your muscles grow when you're resting, not when you're working out," says Michael Mejia, C.S.C.S., former Men's Health exercise advisor.
#7 - Try Frequent Feeding
Eating every 3 hours may seem like a hard task for most of us, but if you can take your daily calories and divide by six, that's about what you should eat for each meal.
Try to get about 20 grams of protein every three hours to take advantage of your body's ability to build new proteins.
#8 - Gear up Before Bed
Saving your last small meal of carbs and protein 30 to 60 minutes before bed will help reduce protein breakdown in your muscles. A cup of cottage cheese and a small bowl of fruit would do the trick.
A bed-time protein shake with casein protein breaks down more slowly, which means it is great to have before bed. This means while you sleep, your muscles can build and recover.
Wrapping It Up
When you look at building muscle, it seems pretty easy. You eat some nutritious foods, plenty of protein, lift some weights, and get some rest.
With our hectic lives, it's hard to remain consistent and push ourselves to keep going.
Take these tips and try them out — you don't have to do them all at once to experience some progress.