THE MUST KNOW SECRETS OF BUILDING MUSCLE
JDP Personal Trainer Jackson Hinch gives you the must know secrets of building muscle.
I want to tone up. I want to look better in a t-shirt. I want to get bigger. I want my bum to sit higher. All sounds like completely unrelated goals, and yet they are just different ways of saying the same thing, I want to build muscle. Men and women alike are hitting the gym with similar goals in mind whether they realise it or not.
Building muscle improves posture, relieves a lot of joint aches and pains, gives your body it’s natural shape and curves, and even helps burn more fat ! What’s not to like?? Unfortunately for us our bodies are forever against change and want to stay the same year in and year out, a state known as homeostasis. So how do we go about this endeavour you may ask, let’s break it down into the different stages and why muscle growth is a game of patience.
MUSCLE GROWTH IS A GAME OF PATIENCE
Firstly we need to give our body a stimulus to disrupt this homeostasis and give our bodies a reason to adapt. This is where heavy resistance training comes into play. When we work out and lift weights, trying to push our bodies beyond what it has done previously, the body realises that this could happen again (which it obviously will with a consistent training plan) and so it adapts. It send various messages around the body to start processes like building muscle tissue, increasing bone density, and increasing joint integrity so it is better suited to handle the stress next time. We then push harder next time so as to create a stimulus again that the body needs to adapt again to keep up, and so on and so on. The gains from each workout alone are minimal but once you stack up 20, 30, 50, 100 training sessions all causing your body to change it becomes very noticeable. The idea of constantly adding sets, reps, weight or reducing rest times is known as progressive overload, and it is invaluable in our quest to build muscle. If we do not keep challenging the body it will no longer adapt and we’ll have no more muscle growth, no challenge no adaptation.
Now going against what is the common train of thought, as you may have already figured out from the last paragraph we don’t actually build muscle while we are lifting weights, lifting weights is merely the messenger. We build muscle while we are resting and recovering from the stress of the workout. After lifting heavy and hard our bodies go into a state of vulnerability, we’re actually weaker than before the workout, this is where you eat, sleep and drink your way to bigger muscles. After a period of 24-72 hours (depending on the workout and the recovery protocols you use) your body overcompensates and you come back slightly better than you were beforehand. Given the importance of the recovery from workouts in actually growing muscle rather than just spinning your wheels you would think people would pay it more attention. It’s easy to beast yourself in the gym for an hour a day but to control your sleeping, eating and drinking the rest of the day is what separates the result getters from those constantly banging their head against the wall.
THE SCIENCE BIT
Muscle is made of proteins, hence why when we eat meat from other animals we are eating protein, we’re effectively eating their muscles. Your body cannot make protein out of thin air, so it only makes sense you need a relatively high protein intake in your diet to build muscle. Your body uses protein for other bodily processes too so you need an excess or surplus of protein in your diet for your body to use it towards muscle building as other things like just staying alive take priority. Along with thus surplus of protein you must also take in a surplus of overall calories to facilitate muscle growth. If you aren’t taking in a surplus of calories and merely eating at your maintenance level or in a deficit, your body does not have the overall resources to build any extra size as all the energy it has been supplied with is going into functioning normally. Muscle is calorically expensive for your body to build and also to maintain as it is constantly burning calories, so unless there is a surplus of calories floating around and also sufficient protein to build with, muscle building goes to the bottom of the food chain for what the body wants to do.
While training properly and eating towards your goal to be swole are the two biggest factors that will decide whether you succeed or fail, there are numerous other factors behind the scenes that will make your job easier if you get them right. Most important of which would be sleep and hormone health.
SLEEP AND HORMONE HEALTH
Sleep is essential to all of our bodies functions, and not getting enough sleep is like taking two steps forward and one step back when it comes to muscle growth. Getting enough sleep will mean you’re fresher and able to train harder and therefore able to send a stronger message to your body to gain muscle. It also has a huge effect on how you’re body’s hormones will work, whether it’s in your favour or not. During deep sleep is when our bodies release an extremely anabolic hormone called growth hormone. This is what causes us to grow from children into adults and grow in size along the way so it only makes sense it will be one of your best friends in your quest to get jacked. Along with this, getting enough sleep puts our bodies in a relaxed state and lowers our overall stress. Less stress is great for us as stress causes our bodies to release a hormone called cortisol which is very catabolic and hampers our efforts greatly.
The other hormones that are big players in the muscle growth game are our sex hormones, testosterone and oestrogen. Testosterone is extremely anabolic and is the main reason male’s can be far more muscular than females. Having a much lower testosterone count and higher oestrogen means that women don’t have the same muscle building predisposition as men, but they can still build muscle if they try hard enough. Keeping these hormones in check with a good amount of healthy fats in the diet plus making sure to pay attention to micronutrients as well as the overall calorie filled macronutrient will ensure you are giving your body the best chance possible to grow muscle.
Building muscle is no easy task and there are a lot of processes that go on within our bodies that we can’t see to get there. To build as much muscle as possible you must be implementing smart training principles such as progressive overload to send the right message, eating sufficient protein and calories to facilitate muscle growth, and keeping our recovery and hormone levels in check to make sure we aren’t fighting an uphill battle.