Once you’ve clearly defined your fitness goal, you want to see results fast. Although this ambition is the perfect motivation for training, it’s best to stay realistic and be patient. Though gaining 5 kilos of muscle mass in one week is ambitious, it’s also quite unrealistic, unfortunately. According to Alan Aragon, fitness coach, nutrition researcher and lecturer at the American National Academy of Sports Medicine, beginners can build up to 1.5 kg of muscle mass per month without gaining much body fat. Advanced athletes could add between 0.5 and 1 kg, and professionals just 0.2 kg of pure muscle mass in one month. And Aragon says that these values would be even lower for women. He explains more about this in his book “The Lean Muscle Diet”. However, you should remember that these figures strictly concern muscle mass, and the goal is to add as little body fat as possible in the process.
Individual factors such as your age, lifestyle, and even genetics play a big role in muscle building – something that you shouldn’t underestimate. We share tips on healthy ways to boost your muscle and mass gain, and what science has to say about it.
#1 Eat More Calories
The key to success has been proven to be quite simple: if you want to build mass – either fat or muscle – you need to consume more calories than your body uses while resting. We recommend a calorie surplus of 300 to 500 calories per day. Tip: Calculate your daily calorie requirement here!
Instead of going all out straight away, increase your calorie intake slowly. Otherwise, you may end up gaining more fat than muscle. Click here for our recipes for building muscle.
If you’re having a hard time consuming more calories, reach for nuts! Simply snack on a small portion of almonds, walnuts, or cashews in the morning or afternoon – as well as a source of valuable calories, they also contain a lot of healthy fats.
#2 Eat Sufficient Protein
More calories? Check! However, it’s not just the quantity of food that matters – the quality does too. High-quality protein should account for 35 to 40 percent of your daily meals. Protein is the building material for your muscle cells. To build muscle mass, we recommend around 1.5–1.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight – this applies for both sexes.
Whey Protein, fish, lean meat, tofu, seitan, eggs, cottage cheese or skyr, soybeans, chickpeas, and lentils are all good sources of protein.
Find out more: Want to know how much protein your body needs per meal in order to build muscle? Come this way.
#3 Don’t Skimp On Carbohydrates
If you want to build muscle, carbohydrates are just as important as proteins. Your body can convert the energy they supply immediately, so your muscles get the power they need and can perform at full capacity. Studies have shown that when it comes to building muscle, you get the best results if you eat a meal high in protein and carbohydrates after strength training. The recommended intake per day is 4 to 6 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. Good sources include potatoes, grains or pseudo-grains, rice, and pasta.
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#4 Focus on the Basic Exercises
If you want to build muscle fast, you should focus your training on the big four basic exercises: bench presses, deadlifts, squats, and overhead presses. They should make up about two-thirds of your workout. Why? Basic or compound exercises train several muscle groups simultaneously, so that you work your leg, glutes, torso, and arm muscles at the same time. Studies have shown that doing exercises with the correct technique and appropriate intensity releases a particularly large amount of the growth hormone testosterone – and that plays a crucial role in muscle building.
Isolation exercises like leg curls, bicep curls, and tricep dips complete your workout plan. Their goal is to provide isolated stimuli and deliberately overload individual muscle fibers so that they grow.
#5 Train with Free Weights
If you want to get more out of your strength training for fast muscle building, you should grab your free weights – i.e. dumbbells or kettlebells– as often as possible. Training with free weights is proven to be particularly effective – one reason is that your stabilizing core muscles are continuously working.
If you’re a beginner, however, it’s better to start with training on equipment or have a coach show you the basics. Training with free weights is very demanding and requires some practice and experience.
As a rule of thumb, do three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions per exercise, and push yourself on the final ones. After the final set, your muscles should be so exhausted that you wouldn’t last another round. Remember that technique always comes before volume – make sure that you get your form right so that you avoid the risk of injury. Once you can easily manage more repetitions, it’s time to switch things up.
The last and most important tip for fast muscle building is to give yourself enough breaks – i.e. days with no training. If you’ve given your all in a workout, the muscles you’ve used will be pretty exhausted afterwards. To get ready for the next time, your body will repair the damaged muscle fibers and build substance during recovery, which means that the muscles grow. If you were to train again too soon, it could set you back significantly. Many studies point to the importance of breaks for muscle repair and growth.
If you find doing nothing difficult, go for a walk on your non-training day, practice Yin Yoga, or do some gentle mobility training.
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