So your goal is to build muscle…
Here are the 7 main things you should know about muscle gain.
1. Gaining muscle is not just for bodybuilders
Many different types of people can benefit from gaining muscle, including the recreational lifter who has a hard time building muscle, the competitive athlete, the weightlifter whose main concern is strength, and those people who simply love to eat and workout. Ditch the idea that gaining muscle is only for bodybuilders.
2. Be prepared to gain some body fat while building muscle
One thing should be remembered when gaining muscle— the more aggressive the gain, the greater the risk of putting on excess fat during the muscle-building process. This is because muscle is built most efficiently while in a caloric surplus.
With that in mind, if putting on fat will compromise your health or mental state you may want to stay in a moderate caloric surplus, lowering the risk for gaining fat. However, if you’re ready to increase your muscle mass and gain strength as quickly as possible – preheat the oven and select a higher calorie target setting!
If you’re using Avatar Nutrition, you can select a range of settings from lean muscle gain, which will minimize fat gain to maximum muscle gain, which will put you into a larger surplus to add muscle mass as quickly as possible!
3. There is a realistic amount of muscle you can gain
We’ve all seen the ridiculous before and after pictures on supplement advertisements claiming that you can put on 10 lbs of muscle in 4 weeks, but what is the truth? Can you really build muscle that fast? No.
Supplement companies and guru trainers make their millions by selling outlandish claims for what is achievable naturally. With a rapid muscle gain approach, you can expect to be gaining roughly one pound per week (depending on how much you weigh). The slower approaches will have lower rates of gain, but also minimize the possibility of adding excessive body fat.
So, even with the most aggressive surplus, gaining four pounds over the course of a month may not seem like much at first. But when you expand your timeline to a full year, you could see substantial progress.
Ignore the hype, embrace the science, and set your expectations accordingly to experience the full benefits of gaining lean body mass at a realistic rate.
(Check out “How Quickly Can You Gain Muscle Naturally?” for more info on rates of muscle gain!)
4. You need to control your macro intake when bulking up to limit fat gain
If you eat everything in sight while following the perfect resistance training program, sure, you will maximize your muscle building and strength gaining benefits, but you will also get unnecessarily fat. This is because there’s an upper limit to how fast you can put on muscle—the law of diminishing returns, as it applies to your macro intake, kicks in hard here.
For weight and muscle gain, you need to be in a macro surplus, but a bigger surplus doesn’t mean better muscle building results. The Avatar Nutrition system will have you in a macro surplus that is both appropriate and specific to your goal level. The system caps out the maximal muscle building effects of a macro surplus, and going beyond these numbers won’t do anything to build muscle faster. The only thing that exceeding your target macros will do is put you at risk of fat gain.
5. The right dose of protein at each meal may help maximize muscle-building
Daily total protein intake is by far the most important nutritional factor in increasing muscle, but there may be a modest muscle-building advantage gained by eating 20 – 40 grams of protein at each meal.
Protein is made up of 20 amino acids, with the star player being the amino acid leucine, which serves as the nutrient signal that tells your body to build muscle. Research suggests that you need about 2.5 to 3 grams of leucine to fully activate the muscle-building pathway, and to get this much leucine, you would need to have a meal containing roughly 20-40 grams of protein (depending on the protein source, with whey being among the richest sources of leucine).
If you eat a steady stream of low protein doses all day, you won’t gain the maximal benefit of leucine spikes. But remember to keep things in perspective—hitting your protein target is far more important for reaching your goal than how you distribute that protein. If you do want to take advantage of leucine, your best bet is to get 4-5 high protein meals throughout the course of the day.
6. Lifting weights is the best way to build muscle (even beyond protein intake)
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were you.” This rings true for many things, especially when it comes to lifting weights and growing muscle. Over the course of your muscle-building journey, you’re going to need to be doing a lot of lifting—heavy lifting at that. Playing around with light weights and jogging every once in awhile isn’t going to do much for building muscle.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were you.”
As a matter of fact, frequent long distance running can interfere with your body’s ability to maintain and build muscle. The most powerful way to build muscle is to work your way into lifting heavy. This time spent under progressively larger amounts of weight will send your body the signals it needs to hear in order to set the muscle-building gears into motion. It takes more than increased protein intake to build muscle—you MUST add regular resistance training to your routine!
7. Keep hitting your macros, even if you feel you’re gaining weight too quickly
If you are putting on excess body fat it will show up on your scale as excess weight. If you’ve been compliant with your target macros and this continues to happen, the Avatar Nutrition system will detect that and adjust your target numbers accordingly.
Hit those new numbers as closely as possible, then report back with your weight—once again, if it’s still coming on too quickly, the system will adjust the numbers down to more closely match your specific needs. Keep repeating this process until the Avatar Nutrition system has your body’s response to macros pinpointed.