Today’s world is so saturated with “ways to lose weight” or “how to slim down,” yet not everyone is looking to lose weight. Some people are quite the opposite and are looking to bulk up and gain some muscle. In fact, that’s exactly the path that I was on for a while. Right now, I am currently maintaining, but for a few years I was working on gaining weight and increasing muscle mass. Gaining weight sounds simple because all you have to do is eat more, right? That’s usually the generic advice people give you, but it’s not always that easy. Some people have very fast metabolisms or even medical problems that can make it difficult to put on size. Of course, eating greater quantities is part of the process, however, there is more to it than just that. That’s why I want to give you five tips about how to grow your muscles and add size.
- Caloric Surplus. This is the most important thing to do when it comes to gaining weight. Being in a caloric surplus means you are eating more calories than you burn. The extra calories will be used to create either fat or muscle tissue depending on the type of food you eat, the way you train, etc. The opposite of this is a caloric deficit, or eating less calories than you burn, which will result in weight loss. Ultimately what weight gain and loss comes down to is calories in vs. calories out. There are other factors that can come into play such as metabolism, hormones, etc, but this is the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to changes in your weight. Without excess calories, your body cannot build new muscles and tissue which is why you have to be in a caloric surplus in order to gain weight.
- Increased Training Volume. The formula for training volume is the following:
- Training Volume = Weight x Reps x Sets
Training volume can be increased by increasing either the amount of weight used during the exercise, the number of reps performed, or the number of sets done. Increasing any one of these variables increases the muscle’s overall time under tension, which is what is necessary in order for the muscle to grow. When muscles are used, the tissue is actually being broken down and being rebuilt. By increasing your training volume, you are intensifying the rebuilding process. This is especially why it is so important to make sure you are in a caloric surplus because the extra food is going to be used to rebuild the muscle being broken down during training.
- Training Volume = Weight x Reps x Sets
- Decreased cardio. If you want to see muscle growth, it is important to minimize the amount of cardio you do. Cardio is a great way to quickly burn a lot of calories and is often implemented into a person’s training program if they are looking to lose weight, however, this is the opposite thing that you want to do if you are trying to gain weight. Instead of burning the calories from cardio, your body needs the excess calories to rebuild and to use as fuel in order to increase your training volume.
- Supplements. Supplements are not necessary for weight gain, but they can definitely speed up your results and be used to compliment the process. Here are my top three supplements for weight gain:
- Creatine – Creatine increases the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the basic form of energy found within the body. Because of this, you are able to train harder and longer. Creatine also stimulates the hormone for muscle growth and reduces muscle breakdown during exercise. When first starting to take the supplement, creatine loading has been proven to be very beneficial in muscle growth. For the first week, it is recommended to consume 4 servings of 5g spread throughout the day in order to maximize your muscle stores. Then, the daily dosage drops to 5g per day.
- Whey Protein – Whey protein is the fastest digesting protein which means it is able to reach the muscles quickly to start repairing them. It is also a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be created by the body, so it is critical to get them from food or supplement sources. Whey protein is made from milk, so if you cannot consume dairy, there are other options such as plant-based proteins. Whey is the preferred protein for muscle growth, but plant-based proteins can suffice if your diet does not allow dairy; overall protein intake is what matters the most when it comes to muscles growth.
- BCAAs – BCAAs stands for branched chain amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, so it is vital to consume these in order to increase muscle mass. The main trio that stimulates protein synthesis and muscle growth is leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAAs help preserve muscle tissue during a workout and also aid in faster recovery to allow you to maintain a high training intensity.
- Proper recovery. Recovery is often overlooked, but it is critical in the process of muscle growth. During recovery, this is the time muscles repair and rebuild. Without proper recovery, the muscle tissue will not be able to develop. Here are my top three recovery tips:
- Sleep – Getting an adequate amount of sleep per night (8-10 hours) allows the body to replenish its muscles with glycogen (the stored form of energy). During sleep is also the time that the body repairs the broken down muscle tissue and participates in the rebuilding process. Additionally, the human growth hormone (HGH) is released when the body sleeps, which stimulates muscle growth and recovery. HGH uses the amino acids present in the body to perform this process, which is another reason why BCAAs and protein are two of the top supplements for increase in muscle mass.
- Stretching & Foam Rolling – Stretching and foam rolling expands the fascia and gives the muscles more room to grow. Also, if muscles become shortened or tight, their range of motion is limited, and thus the body cannot perform exercises to their full potential. This limits the time under tension of the muscles, which in turn, inhibits muscle growth.
- Water Intake – Dehydration causes fatigue, decreased strength and endurance, slowed muscle response, and cramping which hinders training. This is why proper water intake (minimum of half your body weight in ounces per day) is so important. Additionally, water transports nutrients throughout the body and assists in forming the structures of protein and glycogen.
Hopefully you learned a thing or two and can use these tips if you are looking to bulk up! Also, remember, muscle growth takes time and some patience, but these five things can help speed up the process and get you the results that you are looking for. Now it’s time to hit the weights and grow those muscles!