by Brent Wells, D.C.
There are a number of health benefits from regular exercise. It can strengthen and stretch muscles, increase your energy levels, reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, improve brain function, and even improve your mood. With so many physical and mental health benefits, it is no surprise that many people enjoy exercising. But novice and experienced exercisers often want to work-out with a specific purpose in mind: to build muscle mass.
Many people want to reshape and redefine their bodies through regular exercise. One of the most common goals, particularly for men, is to gain muscle mass and have a more sculpted body. Building muscle actually requires that you push the tissue until it tears. As the body heals the tear in tissue, the repairing process will strengthen and build mass in that muscle. Maintaining the tear and repair cycle is what helps you build a strong, sculpted body.
As you work towards increasing your muscle mass, keep the following five tips in mind to help you build muscle quickly and safely:
Maintain a Healthy Diet
When you are looking to gain muscle and are engaging in the necessary exercise to become stronger, it is important to ensure you are eating a healthy and balanced diet. The food you eat provides your body with the fuel it needs to continue working and building.
Make sure you are eating plenty of protein. Proteins are the substance your body uses to rebuild muscle and make that physical change you are looking for. Recommendations indicate that you should eat one gram of protein for every pound of existing weight. Focus on meeting those daily levels with complete and lean proteins so you do not get excess fat in your diet.
However, protein alone will not be helpful for building muscle mass. Along with protein, eat a balanced diet that includes many other healthy options to maintain overall health and to fuel your workouts. Focus on eating foods that contribute nutrients and energy to your body. Keep in mind that your body needs fruits, vegetables, and even carbohydrates for different nutrients and energy. Following this approach is a good way to eat enough nutrient-rich foods.
Meanwhile, you should moderate your consumption of nutrient-deficient foods that may tempt you — ask yourself if each food choice is actually contributing to your goal of gaining muscle mass. This will ensure your body has enough fuel to handle and maintain your workout routine, while you avoid foods that would add to unwanted weight gain or diminish your overall health.
As you eat your balanced diet, also give yourself the time to eat frequently throughout the day. Eating healthy, protein-dense meals often throughout the day is a great way to keep your body from metabolizing the muscle that you are trying to grow. Do not let a hungry stomach cancel out your hard work. You will need extra fuel for regular exercise as your metabolism increases.
Sleep is Important
You may think that your muscle growth is just happening when you are exercising. Indeed, when you are working hard and sweating at the gym, it can be a great motivator to imagine that activity is bringing you closer to the goal you are working towards. But there is also another key component to gaining muscle mass that you do not want to skip — sleep. Sleep plays a vital role in a variety of bodily processes, one of which is muscle repair.
While you are sleeping, your body has the time and energy to focus on repairing the muscles that are torn by exercise. And that repairing process is what ultimately creates new muscle mass. Without sleep, you will not be able to see the optimal physical results for muscle growth. You will likely also face other challenges such as low energy and motivation if you lack sleep.
Try to get the recommended eight hours of sleep every night. This is particularly important on nights after you do a difficult or intense workout. At these times, your body needs the sleep to rest and recuperate. So do not skimp out on your zzz’s. Your body will notice the difference.
Variety is Key
When looking to gain muscle, you should keep your workouts constantly changing. You build muscle through the tearing and regrowth of muscle tissue. However, if you are doing the same workout every time, your muscles will adapt to that challenge until it is no longer as much of a challenge. If you instead do a variety of activities, you will challenge and build various muscles.
This may seem like an obvious tip, but it is one that many people forget and let slip. Keep in mind that you may not immediately notice when your body begins to adapt to an activity you are doing or the weight you are using. This is especially true when those strengthening exercises are still somewhat causing your muscles to tire as you work up a sweat.
A great way to keep track of your workouts is to write them down. Use a notebook or an app on your phone to keep track of how often you have been working out, what weight you were using, and how many reps you completed. If you notice that your added weight or increased reps are lagging even as you maintain a regular exercise schedule, it might be time to amp it up.
Find a Workout Partner
If you want to build muscle mass, you will need to exercise consistently. There may be days when you do not have the energy or motivation to work-out, or when you simply feel that you do not have enough time. If you have a workout partner, this may be an additional source of motivation and a source of accountability as you work towards your goals.
As noted above, having a workout partner can also be helpful for safety. They can spot you as you do different activities and lift weights. They can make sure that you take the right actions to build muscle mass and do not do anything that could cause injury. Ultimately, your workout partner will be another great aid to helping you quickly build the muscle mass you want.
Keep Your Workouts Safe
When working out, it is vital to exercise safely. If your workouts are careless, you may injure yourself, or cause muscle strain or misalignment that can lead to pain or problems in the future.
While it may be common knowledge that lifting weights or engaging in other strengthening exercises causes muscle growth, to gain mass efficiently and effectively it is usually best to consult with a professional — especially if you are not familiar with the proper techniques.
If you have little or no experience with weight lifting or strengthening exercises, it may be beneficial to work with a trainer or experienced friend to ensure that you are using the weights and equipment correctly. Doing so can ensure that you are strengthening your body while keeping the proper alignment, which is an important component in avoiding injury.
Also, when you work out, keep your movements slow and controlled as opposed to exercising with quick, jerky movements fueled by momentum. This will help you to maintain good posture and positioning. It will also give an extra challenge to your muscles. It is also best to use a set number of reps for most exercises, usually around 8-12.
Finally, as you go through your workout, it can sometimes be easy to forget to replicate an exercise on the opposite side or to do a last set of reps when you are feeling tired. Doing this is important for more than just appearance. Ensuring that both sides of your body get an equal workout means you are less likely to develop poor alignment, which could lead to strain.
Brent Wells, D.C. is the leader in Anchorage Chiropractic care. He also has multiple chiropractic care centers across Alaska. His focus is always on patient comfort and care. With training in health care, Dr. Wells is well-versed in the best practices for building muscle mass.