Building muscle is the name of the game for most weightlifters, but achieving this goal requires taking various factors into account.
You need to work hard and stay committed if you want to build muscle, as you won’t notice results overnight or even from sporadic attempts to train. Devise a training programme that you can stick to over the long-term that ensures you put enough work in to allow muscles to flourish.
Hone your diet
No matter how much you exercise, your muscles won’t grow if you don’t feed them. Bodybuilding involves increasing your calorie intake and following a carefully constructed diet that’s loaded with protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats.
How much you’ll need to eat to boost muscle mass largely depends on your existing body weight. As a rough guideline, consume around 20 calories per pound of body weight. In terms of protein, aim for 1.5-2.0g of good quality protein per kg of body weight. Ideal choices include eggs, lean meat, fish and dairy. Carbohydrates should make up around 40-60% of your diet, but only include healthy types if you want to build muscle not fat. Stick to whole grain options such as brown rice, wholemeal bread or fibre-rich cereals.
As for fats, these should make up around a third of your diet. Building lean muscle not fat is crucial, so choose heart-healthy fats, such as oily fish, nuts and avocados.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids, too, as this will keep your body cells hydrated and prevent flagging energy levels.
Once you notice muscle growth, you might need to tweak calorie intake to make further gains, so don’t assume your diet regime is set in stone.
Maximise your workouts
If you’ve been struggling to gain muscle, your exercise regime might be to blame. Have a word with a personal trainer to see if there are any improvements you could make. Ideally, focus on compound exercises instead of isolation ones, so that all muscles are getting pummelled. Ensure you’ve got correct form when exercising, as you could be missing out on maximising gains, plus, you risk injury without it.
Don’t forget cardio
Many bodybuilders assume cardio and strength training don’t go hand in hand, but this is false. In fact, if you want to add mass to your muscles, you need to incorporate cardio into your routines. Cardio training delivers oxygen to muscles, helping them grow and recover faster following workouts, but it also keeps your body in prime condition, enabling you to exercise for longer. Stick to low or moderate intensity cardio for short periods, preferably a couple of times per week, to avoid burning excess calories, which you need for muscle growth.
Fine-tune your post-workouts
Be mindful about your time outside the gym, if you want your muscles to expand. Following a workout, fuel up on protein and carbs to replace lost energy stores, and give yourself time to rest in-between training. Aim for at least a couple of rest days every week. This allows your muscles to repair and recover, and it’s actually during this phase that growth takes place. Get good quality sleep each night and reduce stress, as stress can impede muscle growth and may even harm hormone levels.
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