Gaining muscle mass requires a symbiotic relationship between your workout and your diet.
Without a proper diet that is high in protein, carbohydrates, essential fats and water, any intense exercise is going to result in the loss of muscle mass, and without regular exercise, any calories that aren't used as energy will end up resting on the body in the form of fat cells.
There needs to be a healthy balance between the two in order to gain muscle mass.
Gain muscle mass through diet
In order to have the energy required to do intense workouts and for long periods of time, your diet needs to be high in complex carbohydrates.
These include foods such as wholegrain breads and pastas, brown rice, nuts, beans, as well as green leafy vegetables. As the body digests the carbohydrates they get turned into glycogen or energy.
This energy fuels the body, providing the stamina and endurance required for performing the types of exercises necessary to build muscle mass.
During a workout aimed at building muscle mass the muscles cells get torn and damaged.
These cells are made up of approximately 70% water and 20% protein, so to repair and replace these damaged cells, your body needs a diet rich in protein and water.
Protein is made up of amino acids, which are essentially the building blocks of your entire body. Without protein in your diet, the body has no materials for building the muscles you want.
Complete proteins, which are proteins that contain all 9 on the essential amino acids, can be found in foods such as lean meat, eggs, dairy products and soy products.
Unsaturated fats are also an important part of your diet as they provide the fuel to keep going as well as keep building!
If you are working out hard, then fats should make up about 25-35% of your daily calorie intake. Unsaturated fats are found in foods such as salmon, almonds, avocados and olive oil.
Gain muscle mass through exercise
Having a balanced exercise plan is the best way to achieve your muscle mass building goal!
This means you need to warm up, work harder in a shorter period of time (we are working for body mass here, not endurance!), work your whole body, reduce the amount of cardio you do (because this will use up you your glycogen and amino acids, that are vital to muscle cell growth), allow for rest days so your body has the time and energy to repair and build your muscles, and get sufficient sleep!
Start with a low intensity routine, to warm up the body and prevent injury. Focus your warm up on the muscles you intend to use. Then when you work into your full workout, keep the reps low, about 3-8 per muscle group, and 6-8 per set of your normal routine.
Keep the weight high so that the last reps are hard to complete. Avoid overtraining by mixing up your focus in each session. For example, focus on your chest and biceps and abs one day, your legs and triceps another and you shoulders and back another.
Roster your training days so that you have two days on, one day off. This will enable your body to work hard at training, and then work hard at building and repairing the muscle.
Practices that are great for building muscle mass in targeted areas include:
- Chest – Bench press, incline bench press and push ups
- Biceps – Pull ups (single and double hand), arm curls (single and double hand)
- Triceps – Dips and overhead dumbbell presses
- Abdominals – Crunches (standard and oblique), plank, sit-ups (weighted and inclined)
- Hamstrings and quads – Squats (normal and weighted), lunges
Remember that both diet and exercise working together will result in the gains you want to achieve. If one or the other is not up to scratch you will not see the results you would expect.