The Best Ways to Build Lean Muscle and Get Stronger

a muscular man

This muscular man knows how to build muscle | iStock.com

Though you may think that your gym routine is packed with muscle-building exercises and your diet is filled with more than enough protein, you may still be missing a few key ingredients when it comes to building up your muscles. It’s more than just your workout that comes into play here — rest is just as important as the lifting in repairing and building your muscle tissue, and you have to make sure that you’re adding enough calories into your diet for that extra fuel. Whether you’re looking to just tone your body or really bulk up, it’s time to take a look at your entire lifestyle to see where changes need to be made in order for your goals to be met. The following tips will help you make the most of your time spent at the gym or otherwise so that you can build muscle fast.

First, it’s important to analyze your food intake — this includes calories you’re taking in and what foods you’re getting these calories from. Muscle & Fitness recommends adding 300 to 500 more calories into your diet than you may normally be consuming (this would equal about 2,300 to 2,600 calories a day total for most men). You may run across many other muscle-building regimens that recommend an extremely high daily caloric intake, but when it comes to how much you’re eating, you can definitely sabotage your ultimate goal by eating too much. High-calorie diets typically lead to an increase in body fat while not necessarily encouraging more muscle, so stick to this recommended increase to stay lean.

Men’s Fitness discusses how eating five to six meals a day should give you ample opportunity to meet your caloric goals and also take in the carbs and protein necessary for muscle growth. Protein itself is highly regarded when it comes to building muscle because of its ability to actually stimulate the growth of the muscle itself. You should work to consume two grams of protein per pound of body weight, so don’t go filling your caloric deficit with chocolate milkshakes and pizza — there are certain foods you should shop for, and prepare yourself to make sure you’re receiving the most benefits.

Muscular man performing deadlifts

Muscular man performing deadlifts | iStock.com

Finding it hard to decide which foods are perfect for your muscle-building needs? Breaking Muscle lists some of the best foods for high protein content and muscle gain. Lean beef should always be a staple in your fridge or freezer — while it’s relatively low in calories, it’s packed with essential nutrients like B-vitamins and zinc, and it offers your body a lot of high-quality protein. Chicken without the skin, eggs, and fish like tuna and salmon are also great high-protein choices, as they offer all essential amino acids necessary for proper body function. Though most people have very polarizing opinions about seafood, think about adding more fish into your diet if you haven’t already — the high omega-3 content of fish is great for boosting the metabolism and improving fat loss while keeping the muscles intact.

If you’re finding it difficult to get enough protein and nutrition from your food intake alone, you can also consider adding dietary shakes to your diet. And, if lean muscle with loss of body fat is the goal, then Build the Muscle recommends consuming dietary supplements that are full of whey protein. This type of protein, which is the watery portion that separates from the curd when making cheese, is easily digested and one of the more common proteins that you’ll find in supplement form. You will be able to find different varieties and flavors of protein shakes containing whey in retail stores and GNCs everywhere.

While whey protein is king in terms of muscle-building supplements, casein protein is also an important one to add to your diet. Your body digests this one slower, and it also protects against your body feeding on your muscles for fuel. Other types of protein to consider adding to your daily diet would be creatine, which aids in supplying more energy to your muscles, branched-chain amino acids, which build and repair muscles, and glutamine, which helps to decrease how much your muscles break down once you’ve stopped lifting weights. Try searching for a supplement that has multiple types of protein to aid in the overall building and repairing of your muscle tissue.

Of course, nutrition isn’t the only part of your lifestyle you may have to tweak when it comes to getting the muscles you’ve always wanted, as the way you’re working out also plays a major role. BodyBuilding.com suggests that you revamp your typical workout routine by changing your rep range every few weeks to avoid any physical plateaus and lack of new muscle build. Though you may have a certain amount of weight you’re consistently lifting with a set number of reps that rarely changes, consider changing up this weight and the number of reps in order to surprise your body and your muscles. This change of pace is good every now and again to make sure that your body is not getting too used to your typical routine, as this will ultimately lead to your body adapting and plateauing.

cable exercise

A muscular man working out | iStock.com

As far as how much weight you should be lifting is concerned, studies have shown that the best approach to muscle growth is using a heavier weight for six to 12 reps, and then performing three to six sets of these reps. Weight lifting programs that require you putting forth maximum effort in terms of both weight and number of reps are key, and here’s why: Microtrauma, or tiny rips in the muscle, is created when the fibers are put under extreme tension, and this microtrauma actually increases the synthesis of proteins and releases more testosterone in the body that helps in building the muscles. The more weight and the more reps you’re performing, the more microtrauma, and the more helpful hormones for muscle growth are produced.

Using a lot of weight and a lot of reps seems obvious, but there is a catch — you can’t do this all the time, or again, your body will adapt to this high stress level on your muscles, causing plateau. You should also consider using a whole range of reps in order to spur maximum muscle growth. Though high weight with high reps is key, a smaller rep range of one to five reps per set can keep fatigue at bay while still keeping your muscles tense and prepared for those higher weights and rep ranges that come after, says Born Fitness, and this can ultimately assist in muscle growth.

Another way to kick-start your muscle-building process in the gym is to make sure you’re building up your largest muscle groups first in order to build your other smaller muscle groups. Build the Muscle suggests working out larger muscle groups at least once a week to encourage your smaller muscles to continue growing.

So, now you know — your lifestyle, your workout, and your nutrition are all interconnected to help you get the solid body that you’re looking for. You should also make sure to practice proper form in all cases of weight lifting as to avoid injury, especially when dealing with heavier weights and higher reps that can easily fatigue your body.