So many times people think that going to the gym day after day and pumping iron is going to add muscle quickly and efficiently. What many don't know is that too much time at the gym can actually make you regress more than improve toward your fitness goals of adding lean muscle.
You're at the gym for an hour lifting weights, and you feel proud because even though others are only lifting for 45 minutes, you lift for an hour and a half! Well, wait right there!
Did you know that after around an hour of working out, your body actually starts to produce a hormone called cortisol? Why is cortisol not good for you? Because as your cortisol increases your testosterone decreases. This is very tough on your body, and has a pretty sizable effect on your ability for muscle growth. You may be asking yourself, "what should I do instead of going crazy at the gym for countless hours?" I'm happy you asked.
1. Reduce stress
Yep, you heard me. Reduce stress. This means you should make sure to relax a bit and do things that will help you get in a state that helps you not worry or get stressed out. Some practices included meditating, yoga, or even finding a good counselor to help you get through the good times and the tough times.
2. Sleep 7–9 hours a night
Most of us know how beneficial good sleep is due to many studies done in the last several years. Books have been written by people like Arianna Huffington and others that have shared how sleep can help your health and wellness. But another element that is helped by a healthy amount of sleep is muscle repair and growth. Sleep not only can help your body repair your muscles, sleep also is a big factor in helping burn calories.
3. Don’t workout for more than an hour at one time (I am assuming your workouts are intense)
Tim Ferriss talks about in his book the 4 Hour Body something called Minimum Effective Dose (MED) which takes into account the amount of resistance training that is needed to break down your muscle for future growth. Anything more is actually detrimental to your body and will not encourage lean muscle mass. So your extra 4 sets of squats may not be worth it if you are looking to grow and strengthen your glutes. There's only so much we can break down our muscles before they need time to rebuild and get stronger. Keep this in mind.
4. Eat 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass you have
Even though this seems like a no-brainer, this is important to understand and consider. This is a really simple and easy rule of thumb to remember in a pinch. If you weight 120 lbs, you will likely need to consume 110-130 g of protein per day, and you can't go wrong with 120 g. Remember, this is lean body mass. If you have 10+ lbs to lose to get to your desired weight, you have to make sure you use that number. You won't be using 180 g if you're 180 lbs and need to lose 30 pounds.
5. Do compound lifts
Our fat loss programs incorporate a ton of compound lifts to start things out because this is the best way to actually burn calories and lose fat quickly! When you do compound movements, they take a great deal more energy and caloric expenditure than a chest press does. A squat works your glutes, hamstring, quads, core, and biceps all at the same time. Some of the best movements include: squats, pull-ups, deadlifts, burpees, and dips.
6. Eat a pre and post workout meal
I'm not talking about a candy bar before and a bag of chips after. You need to fuel your body with the right types of foods that will help your muscles recover quickly and use the right fuel as they break down during your workout. This means carbs like rice or oatmeal before your workout, and then lean protein with some complex carbs such as sweet potatoes afterwards. The best time for your body to utilize protein is normally within 30 minutes or so of your workout. If you have to do a cheat meal, this is also the best time to do so (preferably after legs or back day).
7. Activate type I and type II muscle fibers
Type I muscle fibers are activated through activities like walking or jogging or other aerobic activities. Using a stairmaster would include this type of activity.
Type II muscle fibers are recruited during high powered and fast-paced activities such as weightlifting. If you want to burn a higher amount of fat, Fandom shares that "Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine have found that increasing the mass or size of type II muscle fibers will lead to a significant decrease in fat mass or the amount of fat in the body." So those who preach that you can't gain muscle and lose fat..you kind of can. Adding muscle just includes a by-product of a decrease in fat.
8. Lift past failure by using negatives, forced reps, static holds, and drop-sets
I remember talking to an older guy at the gym who was absolutely ripped, and I asked him what his secret was. He said "I do a ton of drop-sets and forced reps." To grow your muscle, you need to make sure you're breaking it down the right way. You need to incorporate these elements in your workout if you want to see lean muscle growth.
9. Take rest days and deloading weeks
For some people, rest day seems like a four letter word (well, technically it is. The truth of the matter is, rest days help your body rest and helps you repair as that is much needed. If you don't rest, you can risk issues like adrenal fatigue and other items that are just not necessary. Work smarter, not harder fam!
10. Be patient: muscle building takes time
I'll be honest with you to say that most people have a difficult time hearing that it takes years to build muscle without any types of stimulants. Most of the people you see on the cover of magazines have taken their fair share of anabolic steroids and have likely done incredible damage to their body for short term growth. It's not worth it! You can build lean muscle, just give it time! Patience is key.
11. Consistently add more weight: you need progressive overload to stimulate muscle growth
Guess what? If you add more weight over time, you will not only increase your strength, but you will also see muscle growth. Some suggest a weight journal, but that's not entirely necessary--it just depends on your ability to remember and your routine. I have been following a very similar routine for the last few years, and I know where I need to be for weights. Side note: If you are just starting out, do not choose a weight that causes you to not be able to complete your reps. And don't ever sacrifice good form for more weight.
So there you have it! Follow this advice and you'll be well on your way back to growing lean muscle mass! Looking for a guide to help you do so? Check out our Fit for 5 Program w/ our 8 Week Workout Program. This program incorporates plenty of compound workouts to help you toward your health and fitness goals and burn fat quickly and efficiently.
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