As every gym-goer knows, gaining weight can be a good thing as long as the added pounds are in the form of bigger muscles and not a bigger belly. Whether you’re a skinny guy trying to pack on muscle or a not-so-skinny guy working to convert your body mass into muscle, bulking up isn’t as easy as it sounds. The trick is to feed your muscles and body by adding clean calories and nutrients so it can add muscle, not fat. This doesn’t mean you can binge on Domino’s pizza or stuff your face with a burger and fries without any guilt. While they may provide you with an extra dose of calories, the empty, fat-filled calories will show themselves in the form of love handles and a gut, not slabs of new muscle.
1. Count your calories
For muscles to grow, they’ll need to be fed. According to experts at Columbia University, this means eating an additional 2,270 to 3,630 calories a week to build as much as 1 pound of muscle during that period of time. When broken down into daily needs this equals about 500 additional calories a day. Then you’ll need to calculate your daily activity. If you’re hitting the gym regularly for an intense weight lifting session, you could be burning up to 500 calories an hour, shifting your caloric intake goal to be around 1,000 additional calories a day.
2. Power up with protein
Protein will become your best friend as you begin on this quest to build muscle. You’ll want to eat enough, but not too much as too many extra calories (even from protein) will only add fat. An average desk-bound male needs 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight, but if you’re hitting the gym regularly to build muscle you’ll want to shoot for 0.7 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. You can get your fill of protein from protein supplements, shakes, bars, and most importantly, natural high-protein foods like meat, eggs, peanut butter, and nuts.
3. Don’t nix carbohydrates
Most people focus on the importance of protein when trying to build mass, but carbs play an important role in building lean muscle. When you exercise your body converts stored carbohydrates into ATP molecules that are used for energy. If you skimp on the carbs you will have lower energy leading your workouts to suffer. Livestrong.com recommends eating a simple carbohydrate one to two hours after your workout. The carbs will drive nutrients into your bloodstream to feed your muscles while stimulating the release of insulin. This helps your muscles start the post-workout repair process.
4. Weigh the benefits of cardio
If you’re a skinny guy looking to build muscle and mass, you’ll want to leave cardio out of your weekly routine. Adding cardio to weight training can decrease your strength gains and muscle growth while burning more of your body’s precious calories. If you’re a bigger guy who is looking to slim down and build muscle, incorporating cardio into your strength training workouts may result in greater fat loss. When it comes to the relationship between cardio and weight lifting, not all cardio activities are equal. According to Bodybuilding.com, you should opt for cycling over running, as hopping on the bike is less detrimental to the impact of your resistance training. In addition, rather than jumping on the bike for a nice long ride, keep your time spent on cardio to less than 20 minutes a day.
5. Tailor your workouts for muscle mass
To see results, you’ll want to lower the number of reps and increase weight. Men’s Fitness recommends doing between six and 12 reps with a lower number of total sets. Use heavier weights and slow, controlled movements to complete each rep. Each set should last between 40 and 70 seconds to ensure you’re tensing your muscles long enough to stimulate growth. For the fastest, best results, set up your training schedule to either train the entire body in a single workout or concentrate on the upper body one day and the lower body the next. Don’t try to isolate one muscle group in a single session.