What’s the most important thing to build muscle? Is it hauling your behind to the gym, counting your calories or having your fill of protein?
It’s all of those things and more. So if you are doing all three, good job.
But then why does it still take so long to see results?
When am I going to get jacked?
Everyone can relate to this. We’ve all stared in the mirror countless of times and flexed for progress photos.
The truth is that many people have unrealistic expectations of how fast they can build muscle mass. When you work with an unrealistic timetable, you only set yourself up for failure.
Any fitness regimen or strength training program, be it muscle building or fat loss, requires reasonable expectations and patience.
Invest In The Process
Muscle building is a time consuming investment, but yields an amazing payoff if done right.
Let us take a look at how it is built.
Contrary to what many people might think, muscles aren’t exactly built at the gym or in the kitchen.
When you first begin lifting, your brain learns to adapt to this new stress by recruiting more muscle fibers, which allows you to produce more force to perform the lifts.
This neuromuscular process, otherwise known as the “mind-muscle connection” is responsible for most of your strength gains initially.
However over time as your body conditions itself to the stress, this neuromuscular activation decreases. Through repeated recovery and activation, your muscle mass has grown to adapt to this force.
Muscle Gains Are Not Proportional To Strength Gains
As mentioned, even if you are gaining strength consistently, you will find that your muscle gains take a much longer time to develop.
A workout causes increased blood flow which temporarily enlarges your muscle. This is not a “real” increase in muscle mass. In fitness vernacular, this is commonly called the “pump” and unfortunately it subsides relatively fast.
Appreciable muscle size increase, at least to the naked eye will not happen after just a few weeks of working out.
Research has shown that progressively increasing the amount of weight you lift will help build your strength and muscle mass.
According to this Japanese study, the largest strength gains occur within two months of starting a workout routine. However, it took test subjects up to an average of three months of consistent strength training before noticeable gains in muscle mass were seen.
That said, it is worth remembering everyone has a different background. Variables like age, fitness level, training frequency, etc all affect your progress one way or the other.
So even if you are stronger but you still don’t notice any visible muscle gains, don’t give up. Strength gains is still progress. Keep at it and the results will come!
Building Muscle Is Energy And Calorie Intensive
It takes more energy to build a pound of muscle than it does to lose a pound of fat.
We know that losing weight is a matter of being in a caloric deficit. This means eating less calories than you burn.
There’s 16 ounces in each pound, each ounce has 28.35 grams and each gram of fat contains nine calories. So, 16 by 28.35 by nine comes out to a little over 4,000 calories. Therefore to lose that pound of fat, you just have to burn those 4,000 calories.
However to build muscle, you not only need to consume an excess amount of calories for that pound of muscle but also to fuel the corresponding chemical reactions involved in the process.
Muscle is made up on protein and protein only has four calories per gram. Again, 16 by 28.34 by four is 1,800 calories. That means to gain a pound of muscle, you need to eat at minimum 1,800 calories, preferably more as there’s DNA and cellular components in the process that require energy as well.
Muscle building is a complex process and it takes a lot of extra calories on a consistent basis.
Be Consistent, Be Persistent
Be persistent in being consistent.
On average, you can expect to gain half a pound of weight per week. This represents a healthy pace of weight gain and would ideally translate to roughly 25 pounds of muscle gain in a year.
Of course, your diet, nutrition, training and recovery all have to be equally consistent over a long period of time.
To gain muscle, you need to be consuming between roughly half a gram to a gram of protein per pound of body weight.
Incorporate a resistance training program that continuously increases the amount of weight and repetitions.
Things like age and gender can also affect your progress. Keep this in mind if you start to feel discouraged.
That said, dot your I’s and cross your t’s. Building muscle is a significant endeavor that requires compromises, sometimes even an overhaul of your existing life habits.
Make the right changes, be persistent and be consistent. You will not only gain muscle but also build a better quality of life for yourself over time.