7 tips to guide you through your journey to lean mass
The goal of gaining of lean muscle mass proves to be a formidable endeavor, surpassing the relatively easy pursuit of fat loss.
Many individuals, including some females and males, believe the misconception that muscle gains can be achieved at an extraordinary pace. However, such beliefs are unfounded, as gaining muscle at an accelerated rate is either delusional or perhaps contingent on rare genetic mutations, which are not applicable to the majority.
In the realm of combat sports, this challenge assumes even greater complexity. The arduous workload encompassing intricate technical practice, weightlifting, sparring, and other demanding facets presents a mind-boggling amalgamation of efforts.
To provide a glimpse of the relentless road ahead, let us look at some certain calculations.
Take, for instance, a hypothetical 20-year-old individual measuring 1.80 meters in height and weighing 155 pounds. The basal metabolic rate (BMR) for this individual stands at approximately 1510 calories. Assuming a rigorous training frequency of 4 to 6 sessions per week, one must multiply the BMR by a factor of 1.80 to obtain the BMR adjusted for an “active lifestyle.”
This adjusted BMR amounts to 2700 calories, which solely caters to maintenance. Imagine the challenges faced by individuals possessing greater body mass and consequently higher BMRs.
To achieve muscle gains, an additional 500 calories per day, culminating in 3200 calories, must be ingested. However, herein lies the crux of the matter—incessant feeding and the optimization of digestion amidst regular meals and training sessions. A telling example of such challenges manifested in UFC’s renowned athlete Georges St-Pierre, who encountered digestive complications in preparation for an upcoming fight and a subsequent gain of nearly 20 pounds. His affliction, ulcerative colitis, likely stemmed from the constant feedings.
Regrettably, a widespread failure to grasp the realities of muscle gains, especially in terms of sustaining progress, prevails. Steroids and sensationalized media representations of heavily muscled weightlifters further obfuscate genuine understanding.
Indeed, realizing a reasonable degree of muscle growth demands the presence of several critical conditions—adequate muscular stimulation, accompanied by the requisite periods of rest. Nutrition plays a pivotal role, with the timing and quantity of nutrients assuming paramount importance. Fulfilling daily caloric needs consistently over an extended period is just a fraction of process. Moreover, digestion emerges as a crucial player in all this, significantly affecting recovery and overall progress. The complexity and dedication involved in preserving such gains render it a truly demanding vocation.
In light of these insights, here are seven recommendations—some readily achievable and others more arduous—to guide individuals on their quest for some serious muscle gains.
1. Create a caloric surplus.
You can’t be on a diet. However, it doesn’t give you a free pass to the buffet. Don’t go crazy on the bulk up phase bandwagon because you’ll end up gaining fat more than muscles. Think quality nutrients for the win. The golden rule is 500 calories. You need to calculate your basic caloric needs with physical activity included and add another 500 even 1000 calories more.
2. Maximize sleep!
You grow when you rest and obviously sleep. Aim for a good 8 to 10 hours of quality sleep every night. How can you maximize sleep? Set the mood, dim the lights, grab a book, and your mind will start winding down. Do you have a busy tomorrow? Grab a pen and paper and write down all you have to do, so you won’t wake up in the middle of the night thinking about something that you can’t forget to do.
3. Increase protein intake.
Proteins have all the building blocks to help recuperate faster. On that note, I would also make sure that digestion is optimal. Chew your food, use digestive enzymes if you have digestive issues such as heartburn, bloating, or gas.
Here are a few quick tips on maximizing protein intake from Charles.
4. Alternate phases of hypertrophy and strength.
Strength is the cornerstone from which all other physical attributes of performance such as power, pace, and agility are created. These qualities cannot be optimized without proper strength growth. Increase strength, and you’ll be able to use heavier on your 8 to 10 RM, the hypertrophy goldilocks zone.
“Research on the writings of the top East European strength experts, and discussions with strength expert Dietmar Schmidtlbeicher lead me to elaborate such undulating patterns. Indeed, for most individuals alternating high-volume phases (known as accumulation phases) with high-intensity phases (known as intensification phases) is very conductive to progress. In fact, my own model of undulating loading patterns has been compared in the scientific literature to other modules of training and has been shown to be superior, particularly when training the upper body[i].’’
– Charles Poliquin
5. Use BCAA’s.
Leucine activates a pathway in the body that stimulates muscle protein synthesis. People who consumed a drink with 5.6 grams of BCAAs after their workouts had a greater increase in muscle protein.
6. Prioritize Compound Movements in Your Workouts
While exercise is crucial for building muscle, not all workouts are created equal. To optimize your muscle gains, focus on compound movements in your training routine. Compound exercises involve multiple muscle groups and joints working together, allowing you to lift heavier weights and stimulate more muscle fibers. Examples of compound movements include squats, deadlifts, bench presses, pull-ups, and overhead presses. This is what we call “most bang for your bucks exercises”.
7. Stay Hydrated and Consume Sufficient Electrolytes
Proper hydration is often overlooked but is crucial for muscle growth and overall performance. Water plays a vital role in transporting nutrients to muscle cells, regulating body temperature, and supporting metabolic processes involved in muscle synthesis. Additionally, maintaining proper electrolyte balance, especially sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, is essential for optimal muscle function and recovery.
A study published in the Journal of Athletic Training investigated the effects of dehydration on muscle endurance and strength. The researchers found that dehydration significantly impaired muscle performance during strength and endurance tasks. They concluded that adequate hydration is necessary to maintain muscle function and exercise performance. (Judelson, D. A., et al., 2007)
Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition explored the impact of electrolyte replacement on muscle recovery after intense exercise. The study revealed that consuming a beverage containing electrolytes during and after exercise improved hydration status and resulted in less muscle soreness and faster recovery. (Sawka, M. N., et al., 2007)
By incorporating compound movements into your workouts and ensuring proper hydration with adequate electrolyte intake, you can enhance your muscle-building efforts and improve your overall training performance.
Remember that gaining lean muscle mass requires consistency, dedication, and patience. Combine these tips with a well-balanced diet and a structured training program tailored to your goals, and you’ll be on your way to achieving your desired results.
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[i] Mutations in the MSTN gene cause myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy. The MSTN gene provides instructions for making a protein called myostatin, which is active in muscles used for movement (skeletal muscles) both before and after birth. This protein normally restrains muscle growth, ensuring that muscles do not grow too large. Mutations that reduce the production of functional myostatin lead to an overgrowth of muscle tissue.