Building lean muscle is, at the end of the day, all about diet and exercise. If you’re seriously looking to bulk up, look and feel your best, reach your optimal body fat percentage, and maintain your progress permanently then you have to take a comprehensive approach to your personal fitness. In each section of this page (Nutrition, and Exercise) I have done my best to organize each focal point into it’s own category (Nutritional Timing, Lifting for Mass VS Density, etc.), and have included techniques for maximizing your results using the information contained within.
Having the right diet is crucial if you’re serious about getting in shape, and staying in shape. One aspect of this is capitalizing on your muscle’s increased sensitivity to certain hormones and nutrients in the time immediately following your workout. You have about a 45 minute window of time after you exercise to do this, and the trick is to introduce the right ratio of carbs, protein, and macro-nutrients to your system in this period of time.
“What we found in our studies, is that you can recover more effectively, work out harder more frequently, increase muscle mass and enhance the physical adaptations that are happening when you exercise just by minding what supplements you use and when you supplement.” – University of Texas Feature Story “Timing is Everything”
Not all people, however, have the same body type, or weight training regimen, and how much you’re in the gym as well as where you’re at physically makes a difference in the details of your pre/post-workout needs. There’s a really good downloadable program that sets up a meal plan according to your body type, workout plan, time in the gym, etc. It was created by a nutritionist / bodybuilder to help maximize people’s results in the gym.
If you don’t want to spend the money and would prefer a more generic approach, which is understandable, eat a smaller meal about every three hours (5 or 6 per day). Never skipping a meal, make sure to maintain high enough protein intake per meal (15-20 grams minimum) and drink lots of water. As for your post workout meal, have a carb/protein ratio of about 4:1. From there make any adjustments as you go.
Lifting for Density VS. Lifting for Mass
Knowing how to trigger muscle growth in a desirable way is key to getting that cut, proportional, lean, muscular look. A popular theory among body builders, as well as academic textbooks, suggests skeletal muscle growth occurs differently according to a few variables. The different types of skeletal muscle growth are called Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy and Myofibrillar Hypertrophy, and how you lift determines the type of growth that occurs.
This is when the muscle creates more Sarcoplasm, which is a non-contractile fluid within muscle that acts as a fuel source. This rapidly increases the size, as well as endurance, while not contributing to the strength or density of the muscle. Training for size focuses on fatiguing the muscles, unlike density training, and is found in the 6-15 rep range (before muscle failure). Keep in mind that after 15 reps you lose any notable benefit. Visually, when overused, this type of training can cause a an undesirable “rounded”, or “puffy” look.
During Myofibrillar Hypertrophy, intramuscular contractile tissues increase in number, adding to the density and strength of the muscle fibers, while the actual size of the muscles change very slowly over time. According to this theory the 1-3 rep range is pure density training while the 4-5 rep range (before muscle failure) adds density with some size increase as well. Visually, focusing on this type of muscle growth exclusively can leave the muscles looking a little flat and undefined.
The best approach then, to achieve strong, as well as defined muscles is to be aware of the effects and limitations of both types of strength training and adjust according to the sort of growth that’s appropriate for you at a given time. Find an appropriate balance between Myofibrillar and Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy.
A good resource for exercise demonstrations, workout charts and more detailed guidelines for properly balancing your exercise routines can be found in the following link. It’s risk free, and has a 60 day money back guarantee.
Literally meaning “living in air”, Aerobic exercise metabolizes oxygen to fuel the slow-twitch muscle fibers. The faster the muscles can consume oxygen (to the maximum consumption rate called VO2 max) the faster they can move. Aerobic exercise, also referred to as Cardio, conditions the muscles to absorb oxygen faster and more efficiently allowing for greater endurance. Aerobic is slow to moderate pace exertion over long distances; walking, running, swimming, or any other continually paced exercise that doesn’t exceed the aerobic metabolic threshold. Some studies show that Aerobic Exercise can interfere in the recovery process of heavy strength training, so it’s important to time your exercise routines appropriately, and don’t push yourself too hard when you need rest.
This type of metabolism utilizes fuel sources stored in limited amounts within the muscles; ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) and CP (Creatine Phosphate), and also converts glucose (sugar) into ATP through glycolysis. Anaerobic metabolism uses these energy systems when more energy is needed than available through aerobic metabolism alone. This type of exercise is fast paced over short distances and includes sprinting, High intensity interval training, heavy weight lifting, or any exercise that pushes the muscles beyond Aerobic Metabolism.
Besides the visible difference, the health benefits of both Aerobic and Anaerobic conditioning include the following:
- strengthens the muscles involved in respiration
- Enlarges the heart, improving its efficiency
- Improves circulation, reducing blood pressure
- Increases the total number of red blood cells
- Improves mental health, reduces stress and lowers the incidence of depression
- Reduces the risk for diabetes
- Burns body fat, while building leaner muscle
- High impact exercises can increase bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis
It takes hard work! However, if you know what you’re doing you’ll see some real results without too many pitfalls. So to sum it all up, discipline yourself with your diet, making sure to eat an appropriate post-workout meal, meanwhile, in the gym, find an appropriate balance between mass and density strength training (Isolate, focus, proper form, equal and opposite!), and an appropriate Cardio routine to help maintain a healthy level of body-fat (don’t work too hard too close to your strength training days). It’s really as simple as that, thank you so much for reading, have fun, use proper form, be safe, and live a long, healthy, vibrant life.