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Whether you’re just getting interested in fitness and muscle building, you’ve hit a plateau in your gains, or you simply struggle to put on lean mass, you are not alone. The following 9 tips for building muscle mass are universal and will suit you well regardless of your personal situation.
There’s only one way to put on weight, and that’s through calories. Not only do you need more calories than normal, but you’ll also want to make sure you’re getting your calories from the right places. The average macronutrient ratio for gaining lean mass is 50% carbs (mostly complex), 25% protein, and 25% fat. However, you may need to adjust based on your own personal genetics and metabolism.
When you don’t eat frequently enough, your metabolism slows down. In fact, that’s why people who starve themselves to lose weight often gain it right back – even if they don’t eat much. To promote anabolism and ensure that your body is primed to for building muscle mass at all times, aim to eat every three hours. It’ll speed your metabolism and the rate at which you gain muscle.
If you’re just starting out, you can’t expect to build mass, improve your cardio, step up your performance, drop a couple of body fat percentages, and get six-pack abs all at the same time. Mass building is just that, and if you want to gain mass quickly, you need to focus on it. Cardio, performance, fat loss, and abs can all come later.
All of those calories will turn to fat instead of muscle if you aren’t forcing your muscles to work. What’s more, unless you’re a literal hulk, you’ll need to do more than five reps at a time. Most experts agree that anywhere from five to 10 reps is the right zone for major gains.
Back in 2001, a study at the University of Texas found that powerlifters who drank shakes containing amino acids and carbohydrates before a workout enjoyed far more gains than those who didn’t. Their shakes contained six grams of an essential amino acid blend and a whopping 35 grams of carbs.
The vast majority of protein synthesis and muscle tissue growth occurs after workouts. Because you’ll burn so many carbs during a workout, you’ll need to supply your body with even more afterward. Several studies have shown that you’ll improve the rate at which you rebuild muscle on your rest days if you do.
When you’re building muscle mass, a “rest period” isn’t measured in hours or days. It’s actually the amount of time you stop to rest between sets. For an experienced lifter trying to break a world record, recovery could take months – even up to a year. However, if you’re just starting out, aim for an average of three minutes between bench and squat sets, and about a minute and a half for everything else.
When you’re building muscle mass, cardio is a no-no for a while. You’ll probably want to use the energy boost you get from lifting in productive ways, but resist the urge. In fact, if you find yourself with extra time on your hands, consider using it to sleep. You’ll need at least eight hours a night to help your gains since protein synthesis picks up while you sleep, and some bodybuilders even take long afternoon naps just so they can boost their gains.
Back squats work more of your large muscles than any other lift. It’s also very stimulating, and it puts your entire body under the strain it needs to stimulate protein synthesis. If there’s one time when you should really push yourself and do all 10 reps every single time, it’s with the back squat.