Muscle mass is important in fitness. It is composed of skeletal muscles, smooth muscles and water. Muscles will not just give you the athletic look that others find attractive, they’re crucial in one’s strength, metabolic health, and ability to combat diseases.
The muscles themselves act like engines, hence building them will enable your body to burn energy and fat needed to perform your physical activities. Increasing your muscle mass also increases the number of burned calories, and your basal metabolic rate or BMR, which refers to the amount of calories necessary for your bodily functions at rest.
So how do you get them?
It’s easy to understand that many individuals would prefer to have instant results such that they are tempted to take shortcuts. That’s because growing muscles naturally is a relatively slow process that takes a lot of discipline when it comes to commitment to diet and training.
Athletes, bodybuilders and power weightlifters often reach their superhuman-like form with the help of steroids and/ or other performance enhancing drugs. Also known as pump, juice, and hype, anabolic steroids are potent prescription drugs that build muscle tissue and body mass by mimicking a man’s natural sex hormone which is testosterone.
While anabolic steroids can produce muscles much faster to help you with stamina and achieve the shredded appearance, these benefits do not seem to outweigh the risks they involve. Aside from their artificial nature, they can give rise to serious side effects such as acne, infertility, increased cholesterol, high blood pressure, even some types of cancer, to name a few.
Growing muscles the natural way
Natural muscle growth is the result of your body’s response to a stimulus, examples of which are resistance exercises and weight training. These would consist of lifting weights, bench presses, squats, and also using your own body weight as a form of resistance to your exercise. It is essential that your muscles are subjected to a progressive stress, which means you need to keep challenging your muscles each time by increasing the difficulty of your movements in order to stimulate their growth.
These muscles get “stressed” that they go into recovery mode to repair the torn muscle fibers. These thicken, which will contribute to muscle growth. As it becomes adjusted to the stress, subject them to a “guessing game” of sorts. Otherwise, progress will likely stall if your body stays in its comfort zone. Yes, you’ve got to be a step ahead of your muscles, by surprising them with new activities so they continue to grow.
Do these 5 natural, but highly effective ways and you’ll see those elusive muscles soon.
1) Slim down before adding bulk
This is a first step that can make a world of difference to your outcomes. While it has long been a fitness conundrum, becoming lean before bulking up is best for your natural muscle building endeavor, and here’s the lowdown.
Research has it that those who have high levels of body fat would have a low insulin sensitivity as well as a low amount of testosterone. This male hormone contributes to building muscle: if you don’t have much of it, it’s not going to happen. Along with this, you would want an increased insulin sensitivity because it reduces blood sugar, and getting lean will afford you this scenario.
If you have low testosterone, it’s likely you have an endomorph body type wherein you have a rather stocky build with a high body fat level. Mesomorphs, or those who have the quintessential athletic body can also fall in this area because they could gain fat quite easily. In any case, you can still amp up your testosterone by decreasing your body fat, which you can achieve through cardio workouts.
However, many have argued that cardio exercise hinders muscle mass gains. It’s true that cardio is more about weight loss and fat burn. But as a precursor to weight lifting or targeted training, you actually stand to benefit from higher muscle growth if your body fat has been pegged at 15 percent or less. This is reaffirmed in a study where they found that the calorie surplus of a lean person is being utilized to build his muscle mass, not to add unwanted fat which would happen if you were an overweight individual.
2) Eat your carbs (and a slew of the good yet healthy stuff)
In the world of health and fitness, diet takes precedence over exercise. However, the relevance of many food components has changed over the last decade. Carbohydrates have gotten a good deal of maligning, especially with the growing popularity of carb-averse diets such as Keto, Atkins, Paleo, South Beach, etc. that simply put these compounds practically in the bin while championing certain nutrients that are supposedly better for weight management.
But when you want to naturally grow your muscles, you need carbs. Carb is not the enemy, laziness is. Carbs supply the body with its much needed energy during physical activities. They are responsible for assembling proteins in your muscle tissue. Meanwhile, a word of caution: consuming lots of protein does not automatically mean increased muscle mass given its synthesis limits. Any excess can be burned by exercise though, if not, they get stored in your body as fat, which is the last thing you want to happen for sure.
Carbs are ideally consumed after a workout which could include brown rice, whole grains, quinoa, oats, etc. These are complex carbs that are slowly digested, and favorably impact their utilization efficiency. On the other hand, you must reduce your carb intake during your off days or times when you are not doing your muscle building exercises. You will not require additional energy on those rest days anyway and instead, keep at your protein intake and maintain your calories.
Fruits and vegetables never harmed anyone and are always recommended in the name of good health. Most of them are filled with vitamins and minerals, including fiber, which is vital to digestion. However, you should watch out for high-sugar fruits, because they can be just as bad as your processed sugars.
Other good stuff would be unprocessed food, healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, omega 3 fatty acids, fish oil, etc. all of which support “clean” eating. These can result in building lean muscle mass while staying nourished and energized for the day. Lastly but needless to say, drinking sufficient amounts of water throughout the day will facilitate transport of nutrients to the muscles where you would like it the most.
3) Put in real work (with some rest in between)
This time is for bulking, but not all exercises lead to muscle building, so it is essential to do the appropriate body training for this purpose. We have mentioned specific routines such as weightlifting and resistance training, both of which can offer isolation and compound exercises.
Isolation exercises target a specific muscle group wherein you use lighter loads, but are done with more repetitions. These help with blood flow to the muscle tissue therefore strengthening a particular muscle area. On the other hand, compound exercises involve more than one muscle group at the same time. These should make up the majority of your workout program given that the heavier weight handled during this routine can bring about consistent muscle fiber growth and more importantly, muscle strength.
While you’re at these lifting exercises, try doing them slowly. Doing them fast makes you use momentum instead of your muscle. And besides, it also adds a great deal of difficulty in your lifts during which you can really feel the heavy load with every move. Don’t forget to observe muscle balance to get your body proportions right by training both your upper body and lower body.
Guess what, muscles continue to grow even during the rest days! If at all you still want to stay active, you can throw in a short cardio without going beyond 90 minutes on each day, which otherwise will just make you even leaner instead of bulking up.
4) Supplement smartly
You can use a Grow Stack that will enhance all that training that you have been doing to build muscle. Protein shakes are top choices because well, proteins are muscle building blocks more than anything. You will also need vitamins B and D, magnesium, zinc, antioxidants, and compounds such as creatine that has been shown to improve the body response to training by way of increasing muscle. You should also consider other amino acids like betaine, citrulline malate, and glutamine as part of your grow stack.
5) Sleep on it
A passive, “non-activity” such as sleeping should be optimized to grow your muscle. In fact, sleep is your equalizer. After all that hard work you’ve put in, you need sleep to restore your body that will drive its muscle building adaptation. Sleep aids in muscle recovery and new growth because it produces corresponding hormones while in this state. Taking casein protein such as greek yogurt, milk and cottage cheese will also reinforce this function. Furthermore, you can always aim for an 8-hour sleep or try going to bed at least half an hour before your target sleep time to get those muscles growing.