Reality is there are more than 5 things you must do daily in order to build muscle, but without these 5 essential foundational components I don't care how many supplements, hours spent at the gym or how much food you eat, it will be very hard to build lean quality muscle. Stick to these on a daily basis to know you are meeting the minimum requirements for your body to build muscle.
1.Provide your body with a surplus of calories by ensuring that your caloric intake exceeds your caloric expenditure.
This is first and foremost on the list. Beyond planning a proper workout schedule with all of the right exercises, sets, reps and rest periods lies this one simple rule of muscle growth...
In order to build muscle, you must consume more calories than you burn!
This is a basic biological law of muscle growth, and if you fail to consume an adequate number of calories per day you will NOT build muscle, plain and simple. If you don’t provide your body with the raw materials needed to facilitate growth, this process simply cannot take place.
To give you an extremely basic way to do so. There are many other factors that can come in play with these numbers but they will give you an easy estimate. You should be consuming anywhere from 17-20x your bodyweight in calories every single day. So if you weigh 150 pounds...
150 x 17 = 2550 150 x 20 = 3000
Then you should be consuming anywhere from 2550-3000 daily in order to build muscle.
2. Consume the right types of calories from the proper food sources.
We’ve just established that in order to build muscle, you’ll need to always ensure that your caloric intake exceeds your caloric expenditure. That’s all fine and dandy, but it really only tells us half of the story.
Sit down and feast on big macs, ice cream cones and potato chips and your caloric intake would easily exceed your caloric expenditure... but do you think this would be an intelligent approach to building muscle?
Of course not. You need to realize this...
All calories are NOT created equally!
The 3 main food groups that you should be concerned with are...
1) High Quality Protein – Protein builds and repairs muscle tissue and is the most important nutrient for those trying to increase their lean mass. Stick to high quality, easily absorbed sources such as lean red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, skim milk, cottage cheese, peanuts/natural peanut butter and whey.
2) High Fiber, Low Glycemic Carbohydrates – Carbohydrates aid in the absorption of protein, provide your muscles and brain with energy throughout the day and also help to maintain an optimal hormonal environment within the body.
Stick to slow-release, low-glycemic sources that will provide you with a steady stream of sugars throughout the day such as oatmeal, yams, certain fruits, brown rice and whole wheat products.
3) Healthy, Unsaturated Fats – Not all fats will make you fat, and essential fatty acids fit that profile. EFA’s are highly beneficial to the muscle growth process by increasing testosterone levels, improving the metabolism and volumizing the muscle cells. Some good sources of EFA’s include fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and liquids like flaxseed and olive oil.
3. Increase your water intake
Water is an absolutely critical component to the muscle- building process and to overall body health in general. Failing to keep yourself properly hydrated throughout the day will have a negative impact on literally every single process within your entire body!
Most people know that they should be drinking "plenty" of water every day, but how many actually do?
If you really paid close attention to your water intake you'd probably be surprised at how little you actually consume.
What makes proper water intake so amazingly important?
Well for starters, it’s the most abundant element in your body. It is ranked only 2nd to oxygen as being essential to life.
Your body can survive for weeks without food, but without water you'd be dead in just a few days.
Roughly 80% of your body is made up of water; the brain is 85% water and lean muscle tissue is 70% water.
Research has shown that being even slightly dehydrated can decrease strength and physical performance significantly. In fact, merely a 3-4% drop in your body's water levels will lead to a 10-20% decrease in muscle contractions.
4. Be prepared to train HARD!
If you think that building muscle is going to be a walk in the park and that you can simply enter the gym, “go through the motions” and then go home, you are sadly mistaken.
The reality is that if you want to experience any appreciable gains in muscle size and strength, you’re going to have to be prepared to train hard. This is one of the key factors separating those who make modest gains from those who make outstanding gains.
Most people just plain don’t train hard enough!
As soon as the exercise starts to get difficult their spotter jumps in and begins needlessly assisting them, or they simply put the weight down altogether.
Intense weightlifting is perceived as a threat to your survival, and the body responds to this by increasing the size and strength of the muscles to battle against the threat. Therefore, in order to see the most dramatic response in size and strength, you must push your body as hard as you safely can.
5. Consistency is EVERYTHING!
You can have the most effective workout schedule possible, the most intelligent diet approach available and the most intimate understanding of muscle growth from every possible angle, but without the inner drive and motivation to succeed you will get nowhere, and very fast.
Just as the famous saying goes...
“Knowing is NOT enough. You must APPLY!”
Those who make the greatest gains in muscular size and strength are the ones who are able to continually and systematically implement the proper techniques on a consistent basis.
Building muscle is a result of the cumulative effect of small steps.
6. BONUS - The best supplements for muscle growth
A supplement is just that... a supplement.
It is there to supplement your diet by filling in the missing gaps and by providing you with greater amounts of specific nutrients that will slightly speed up your progress. Supplements are NOT there to do the work for you and will only play a small role in your overall success in the gym.
My 5 “recommended” supplements include...
1) Protein supplements (whey protein, meal replacements, weight gainers and the occasional protein bar) 2) Creatine 3) Beta-Alanine
4) Multivitamins 5) Essential Fatty Acids