Gaining muscle without getting fat is not rocket science. Yet, for many people, it is an endless cycle of bulking and crash dieting to trim down their belly fat and show off their hard-earned abs. Needless to say, this is not the best way to change your physique. And it is absolutely not the healthiest option in the long run for most people.
The guidelines sound simple, as a matter of fact. It can be summarized in one sentence: Eat quality food, increase protein intake, and train hard. The order on that list actually matters. It is important to remember that the more muscle you have, the more you have to feed your body with high-quality food, consistently.
Here is a thorough breakdown of the guidelines:
Eat the Right Food
Try to aim for a 40/30/30 percentage for your protein, carbs, and fats throughout the day. Yes, you read that right. You need 30% of carbohydrates in your diet to fuel your body throughout your workout days. If possible, eat the biggest meal after you train since your body’s metabolism will be kicking into high gear. You also want to take advantage of this window to fuel up your muscles again.
Amp Up Your Calories
You will never gain muscle or weight if you continue to deprive your body of calories. You need to take in more calories on at least a weekly basis. Most men, especially those new to the gym, make this terrible mistake.
To get a good idea of how many calories you need to intake, take your bodyweight and multiply it by 16. So, if you’re 180 lbs. times 16, that is equal to 2880 calories. If you are not seeing any gains after a couple of weeks, then increase your calories by 200 per day. Do this until you find that sweet spot.
More Protein Please
When trying to gain muscle by working out, your body will need to consume more protein 24/7. One slice of a delicious and juicy steak for dinner won’t be enough. Protein consumption must be spread throughout the day. The idea is to consume at least 0.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight every day. All four meals in your daily diet must contain some form of protein. Some of the most common choices out there are beef, lean chicken, salmon, cheese, nuts, eggs, quinoa, and cottage cheese.
Ditch Processed Foods
We talked earlier about increasing your calorie intake, but cheeseburgers and fries are not the way to do it. Sugar, salt, and saturated fat can throw all your efforts in the gym away. Instead, make sure you have plenty of vegetables and lean meats in every meal. When choosing food, pick whole grains, potatoes, brown rice, yams, oats, etc. You need to avoid refined oils, as these can sneak in some extra calories and cause you to gain fat.
Hit Hard in the Weight Room
Ideally, you need four strength-training sessions per week. Yes, you don’t need to work out every day. Rest days are as important as workout days, so split up your training throughout the week. A good routine for you would be splitting body parts (for example, chest and back for day one and three, and leg and core for days two and four) to gain size.
Keep the Reps High
Lower the weight if you want to keep that full range of motion with each repetition. This is because you need to stress the muscles long enough to stimulate growth. Aim for anywhere from eight to 15 reps in each set.
Add Some Drop Sets
Try to squeeze in some drop sets from time to time. Finish your regular sets by grabbing weights 25% lighter than usual and crank as many reps as you can. This will force your body to use every bit of muscle fibre to a total burn and stimulate growth more efficiently.
Time Under Tension Is Key
Get the best out of every rep by maximizing time under tension. This means mixing high intensity with high volume. For example, you can focus on hypertrophy and do 10 to 15 reps for each set.
Traditional strength training suggests five reps or less for size and power. These gains are actually for your neural system. Lighter weights let you squeeze your muscles in each and every rep.
Never Forget Compound Movements
Mix up your workouts with big compound movements. Deadlifts, squats, presses, and pull-ups are the big four of muscle building. Isolation exercises such as calf raises and curls can help define your show muscles, which are good. But the foundation of strength and function are in the big four. It also stimulates the release of testosterone, which is essential for gaining muscle. You should also check this full post on how to get bigger thighs.
Do JUST Enough Cardio
Many would say that cardio is bad for gaining muscle. The truth is you definitely need to do cardio to shed off some fat and keep your overall health. Cardio will help burn off excess calories when you’re trying to get bulked up. This does not have to be complicated though. Play a game of basketball, or go for a light jog in the park. This can make a huge difference in your health. This is not the time to throw a 20-miler on a weekend.
Steady-state cardio of one to two times a week is recommended. That is 30 to 60 minutes of light to moderate work, which is around 65% of your maximum heart rate (220 – your age). Cardio will also clear your body of lactic acid and cellular waste, as well as improve your lung and heart health. With good endurance, you will be able to improve your work capacity, allowing you to push harder in the weight room.
Get Enough Sleep
Rest is just as important as your workout and sleep is the best form of rest there is. During sleep, your body is able to release high levels of human growth hormone or HGH (as much as 75%), a complex protein naturally produced by your system. It is a crucial part of repairing the body. This hormone turns off the “flight or fight” response (from the sympathetic nervous system) and helps your body manage stress better.
If you want to get a lean, ripped, and summer-ready body, you should strive for seven to eight hours of sleep at night.
Track Your Progress
Last but definitely not least, you need to reassess your progress every four weeks. As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Tracking your progress lets you see the tangible results and keep you on track with your goals.
Take a photo in front of the mirror, and check your weight, body measurements, and body fat levels. If you see you have gained some fat, then you may need to rethink your calories in your non-lifting days. If you see very little progress, then you may need to add more calories in your lifting days.