When I was a graduate student, I used to frequent my local Anytime Fitness because it was a block from my apartment building. I was always there by 8:00 a.m., and there was always another girl who was there at the same time I was. We struck up a few conversations every so often, and during one of those, I learned that she had the goal of building muscle.
Not surprising. It’s a goal that most, if not all people committed to fitness strive for. I laid out questions related to post-workout recovery and protein intake, and this girl gave me a look that I can only describe as a mix between a blank stare and the all-too-common deer-in-headlights look. It was pretty clear that she had little to no idea what I was talking about.
She volunteered that she drank a half bottle of water on her way home after every workout, and that was it. She would come to the gym for three hours every morning and mostly stick to weight machines. And all she would do at the end of those three hours was drink a half bottle of water.
Weights and Water Don’t Equal Muscles
While weightlifting and plenty of water are certainly major factors in building healthy muscle mass, they’re not the only ones. Your body is a finely-tuned machine, and that means you need to treat it right. If you don’t, it’s not going to respond to the pressure you’re putting on it through your workouts. What’s worse, is that it can respond in negative ways, including injury.
Protein Packs a Huge Muscle-Building Punch
If you’re big into fitness and are committed to building healthy muscle mass, perhaps the biggest thing you need is protein.
Protein, protein, and more protein. While this should be obvious to most, you’d be surprised at how many people aren’t getting enough protein. The girl I always saw at the gym? She got very little protein every day, certainly not enough to aid in her muscle gain and recovery when she was at the gym nearly every day of the week.
Eating a large amount of protein is key to the development of healthy muscles. Determine your target body weight in pounds, and that is how many grams you should generally be eating every day. If your target weight is 150 pounds, try to eat 150 grams of protein.
It fuels your body through your workout, but also plays an important role in muscle gain while you’re asleep. Your body has a number of biological processes that contribute to muscle gain throughout the night while you’re sleeping, so it’s important to make sure you eat (or drink) a bit of protein before going to bed.
Giving Your Body Enough Rest
Rest days and good nightly sleep are also extremely important to healthy muscle building. There are a number of people who hit the weight machines hard every single day of the week. While you might think this will help you build muscle faster, there’s actually a better chance that it’ll do more harm than good.
The act of lifting weights actually causes tiny tears in your muscles, which your body repairs through a process known as protein synthesis. Rest days allow this repair process to take place. If you’re not resting properly and are working these muscles over and over again every day, you’re not letting them get stronger.
How much rest should you get? At the very least, one full day. This means no running. No “light” lifting. No yoga. Do absolutely nothing. Let your full body rest the entire day. One full day of rest every week is the least you can do to help your body recover. I’ve always taken two, just to be safe. Rest days play key roles in muscle building because they allow your muscles to recover from the previous workout. Don’t skip them.
Remember to Work All Muscle Groups
When your end goal is bigger, stronger muscles, it’s pretty easy to stay focused on one muscle group. It’s always important to remember and go back to fundamental exercises like sit-ups, push-ups, and even squats.
These are the exercises that help you work numerous muscles at once, and they should be used as a staple in your weight routines. Fundamental exercises are also a great way to warm up for a more intense weight session.
One of the most important things to remember is that it’s always a good idea to challenge yourself (and your muscles!) in new ways. Change up your workout routines. Take one week to do higher reps with less weight. The following week, add more weight and do fewer reps. Different challenges like these help keep things fresh. When you’re not doing the same workout every day or week, you’ll find it much easier to stick to working out in general.
Don’t Forget Post-Workout Protein
Sometimes, the only thing you can think about after a session with weights is not feeling like jello. While that’s kind of a big deal, so is making sure your body has the protein it needs to recover the healthy way.
Here at NHC, we carry a number of high-quality, post-workout and protein supplements that’ll keep you on track for healthy protein synthesis, optimal health, and lean muscle mass. Some of my go-to recovery products are listed below:
- NanoGreens 10 from BioPharma
- Pure Synergy SuperFood Powder by Pure Synergy
- Vega One All-In-One Vanilla Chai Nutritional Shake by Vega
- Warrior Food Extreme Plus Protein from HealthForce Nutritionals
- Sportmixer BlenderBottle (Black & Blue) by BlenderBottle
What are your plans for building healthier muscle this year? We’d love to hear your stories, ideas, and comments. Please leave us a comment below!
Featured Image Credit: Sascha Wenninger via Flickr.com.