One of the best aspects of your daily routine to apply a life hack to are your personal fitness goals. This is something we’ve covered in past posts, but today we’d like to expand the list.

By carefully selecting the time of your workout, the combination of techniques, and the proper post-workout snacks, you can maximize your workout to build muscle. Here are the essential tips you need to know.

1. Work out at the right time of day

The time of day when you choose to work out can make all the difference when it comes to working out to your maximum potential. According to Dr. Stuart McGill, an expert in back pain, you should avoid working out first thing in the morning. This is because the discs between your vertebrae fill with fluid during your sleep, making you more susceptible to injury in the morning.

2. Weights before cardio

According to the minds behind Dumb Little Man, “trainers, serious athletes and bodybuilders do weights first: this way, your heart rate goes up and when you lift, your body is in more of a fat burning mode. Doing the opposite means that your muscles are already tired by the time you get to weight-training.”

3. Eat frequently (and take in more calories)

Keep your energy up and give your body plenty of fuel for building muscles by eating small meals every three hours or so. Make sure to eat plenty of protein, ideally the equivalent amount of protein in grams as your current body weight in pounds. For example, a 150-pound man would aim to take in 150 g of protein per day.

Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis adds, “Your body can build at most about a half-pound of muscle each week, so if you eat too many extra calories trying to build more muscle, you will gain fat, too. I would suggest consuming an extra 250 to 500 calories per day.”

4. Eat a snack immediately after your workout

According to Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., senior sports nutritionist at Healthworks Fitness Center in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, protein-heavy snacks should be eaten within 15 minutes of wrapping up your exercise routine. “It might optimize the healing of the tiny muscle injuries that happen [normally] while people exercise,” she says. “Also, protein is satiating”…and that means you won’t be tempted by junk food later on.

Men’s Health also agrees with the need for protein, but argues that it needs to be balanced with carbs as well. “Although you might think that the carbs will slow weight loss, the opposite can be true. Carbs plus protein helps build muscle (especially if you eat the combo just before and after exercise), and that can indirectly enhance fat loss, because muscle is metabolically active tissue that helps burn more calories around the clock.”

5. Stay hydrated

The last thing you need complicating your workout is a cramp or fatigue, so drinking water before, during, and after your workout for best results.

6. Never skip the warm up (or the cool down)

Stretching prevents muscle strain, gets your blood pumping, and can help lower cholesterol when done as part of a yoga or pilates routine. Muscles also need to realign themselves after an intensive workout, which a few minutes of stretching can help to accomplish.

7. Combine compound and isolation movements

While isolating certain muscles is important, you need to alternate compound motions as well, which will target multiple muscle groups at once. Compound workouts are good for beginners and for toning certain parts of the body.

However, fitness expert Mark McManus argues that compound exercises do have a downside. “ If one muscle within the group being worked is quite weak, it will be responsible for the termination of the set before the other muscles obtain the requisite intensity to stimulate growth. With compound movements, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Take the lat pulldown for example:  the weaker biceps and forearms will fatigue before the more powerful lats do, meaning you didn’t thoroughly stimulate the body part you intended to when you selected this exercise!”

8. Gradually increase your weights

Increase the weight you’re lifting on each exercise by 5 percent each week. If you bench-pressed 100 pounds this week, for example, then next week you should try doing 105 pounds. This gradual increase will yield the best muscle building results without overly straining your body.

9. Budget the correct amount of time for your workout

The team at Muscle Hack argues that timing is of the essence when planning your workout. “You shouldn’t train for much longer than an hour at any one time,” they say. “At the end of the day, if you’re not willing to spend an hour in the gym, you haven’t got the right mindset for success.”

10. Get narcissistic

By which we mean, of course, to do all your weight lifting in front of a mirror. That way, you can correct your posture and make sure you are fully extending your muscles. Correct form means means maximized results.

What tips can you share to help build lean muscle? Tell us in the comments below, follow us on Twitter, or take the conversation over to Facebook.

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