Muscle Growth Rules
• Train at a high intensity. In order for muscle growth to occur, the body must be placed under a lot of stress. This creates tears in the muscle fibres which the body rebuilds bigger as a response to the stress it has been put under. This is the body’s response to heavy resistance training and it is called hypertrophy. Many people simply do not work hard enough in the gym and make little or no progress with their muscle gain goals.
• Train hard but train smart. Many people get too hung up over the amount of weight they are lifting and do not pay proper attention to form, technique and range of motion.Muscle growth requires that things such as time under tension and rest periods are taken into account, to ensure that plenty of small tears in muscle fibres are created in each session and that the right hormonal environment is created within the body. A good training session should of course be a challenge, but to begin, concentrate on moving through a full range of motion with proper technique. This lessens any chance of injury when first starting resistance training and prevents any imbalances from occurring. Getting taught the main lifts by a qualified personal trainer is advisable. Once you are comfortable with all the techniques then by all means push yourself hard, but never let your ego choose the weight you lift!
• Consuming adequate calories from clean sources is vital. The training is the stimulus for muscle gain, but your diet is the fuel. If you do not eat enough of the right foods, you simply will not grow. Eat organic, unprocessed food to avoid ingesting toxins such as pesticides and ensure each meal has a balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates which is suited to your metabolism.
• Eat sufficient protein. A diet deficient in protein will prevent muscle from repairing and growing, as well as inhibit other bodily processes. Although eating above your minimum requirements for growing muscle is a good idea, you do not need as much as many people in the health and fitness industry advise. A frequent recommendation is 2g of protein per lb. of bodyweight, meaning a 150lb man would need a massive 300g of protein per day, which would be hard work for anyone to eat! Studies have shown that 120g of protein per day is a good target to aim for; already well trained men taking part in a study were fed roughly this amount of protein over 10 weeks of resistance training and saw an impressive gain of 4.5 lbs of lean muscle. This is doubly impressive considering the men already had experience of lifting weights and were past the “beginner gains stage”. It seems force feeding yourself more than this will not speed up muscle growth, as has been shown in other studies.
• Drink plenty of water. Muscle consists of 70% water, so drinking at least 1 litre per 25kg of bodyweight on non-training days is vital. On training days increase your intake by at least 1.5 litres. When even slightly dehydrated your performance in the gym will suffer noticeably. Losing 1.5% of your body’s water will result in a 10% drop in maximal strength.
• Eat lots of antioxidant rich foods. Training for muscle growth causes a lot of waste products to be produced by the body. Your diet must be rich in foods packed with antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. Green tea is also a great addition as it is packed with chemicals called flavonoids which have a strong antioxidant effect. One food getting a lot of attention at the moment, and rightly so, is blueberries. A recent study has shown that subjects who consumed a blueberry juice drink at 12, 24 and 36 hours after a heavy training session had less muscle soreness compared with those fed a placebo.
• Protein shakes are not a necessity. It is possible to consume more than enough protein for muscle growth just from food. Some cheaper protein powders are also packed with low quality ingredients and sweeteners which are detrimental to health. However, a good quality shake is ideal if you are very busy and struggle to meet your daily requirements.
• Creatine is the only supplement proven to accelerate muscle growth. It has been shown in several studies that creatine will give more muscle growth in people supplementing their diets with it against a control group. In fact, a study has shown that subjects who drank a combination of creatine and a fast acting carbohydrate resulted in greater lean mass gains over an eight week period than a group who had protein and carbohydrate shake. 5-10g in a drink immediately after a workout will be a suitable dose for most.
• Get a good night’s sleep. During sleep is when the highest amounts of human growth hormone and testosterone are released, both of which are essential for muscle growth and a lean physique. 7-8 hours gives your body enough time to recover properly and grow new muscle.
• Take magnesium before bed to replenish your body’s supplies. Training for muscle growth will significantly deplete your body’s reserve of magnesium. Magnesium is needed in the muscle to facilitate the use of ATP which is what fuels the contractions. It also helps calm the nervous system after heavy training and is therefore ideal taken at bedtime. A dose of 300-500mg before bed will enhance the quality of your sleep.
• Take a fish oil supplement. The omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil will help decrease inflammation throughout the body. They are also essential for a healthy cardiovascular system and supple joints. In addition to the above points, they also help correct the ratio of omega 6:3 in your diet.
Bhasin s, Stoer TW, Berman N, Callegari C, Clevenger B, et al. The efecs o supraphysiologic doses of testosterone on muscle size and strength in normal men. 1996; N Engl J Med: 335:1-7 (cited in Pilon, 2008: 47)
Tarnopolsky MA, Parise G, Yarkely NJ, Ballantyne CS, Olatunji S, Phillips SM,. Creatine-dextrose and protein-dextrose induce similar strength gains during training. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2001 33(12) 2044-2052 (cited in Pilon, 2008: 69)
McReay, Y., Barnes, M., et al. Effect of New Zealand Blueberry Consumption on Recovery from Eccentric Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.2012. 9(19) (cited in: Charles Poliquin (2012) Tip 356: Eat Blueberries to Recover Faster From Hard Training [Online], available from http://www.charlespoliquin.com/Blog/tabid/130/EntryId/1236/Tip-356-Eat-Blueberries-to-Recover-Faster-from-Hard-Training.aspx [accessed 22.080.2012]