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Last Updated on December 15, 2020

How to Gain Muscle Mass Naturally (A Step-By-Step Guide)

How to Gain Muscle Mass Naturally (A Step-By-Step Guide)

Summer is approaching and we all yearn for a great shape. The last few months are when it counts the most if you want to bring your A-game on the beach or at the pool.

I’ve coached hundreds of people on how to best build muscle. I know what you want – you wonder how to gain muscle mass as fast as possible, but still in a natural way.

You’ve came to the right place then – but I must admit, we don’t have magic answers. What we do have is scientific workout programs, nutrition coaching and motivating support. Read on to learn how you can increase your muscle mass quickly and naturally.

What is muscle mass?

One of the reasons I joined martial arts classes years ago was that I hoped that training regularly would give me a Bruce Lee body. It didn’t.

I lacked a fundamental understanding about how muscle build up works. Martial arts gave me the necessary skills for self defense and improved my endurance – but it didn’t make me a Dwayne Johnson lookalike.

    What I only later realized is that your muscles only build themselves up on a microsopical level when they need to. And you, as a macroscopic human, can foster that need in your muscles.

    For your muscles to build up, you have to train on a specific rep range and on a specific frequency.

    Healthy vs. Unhealthy muscle gain

    To gain muscles in the first place, you have to put your body under stress. Training itself is not generally healthy for you. You’re losing precious body fluids in the gym, you’re emptying your energy resources and you create micro-tears in your muscles. Only if your body feels uncomfortable, you build muscles in the first place.

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    Losing weight is also an extreme stress situation for your body in the short term. You’re taking in less energy than your body desires. This forces your body to restructure your organism in a way that needs less energy. In a non-scientific term: Your body starts burning fat, if you eat less calories.

    The common denominator of those two scenarios are necessity. Robert Greene, author of the international bestseller 50 Laws of Power calls necessity the ruler of the world. As humans only act when they need to. Necessity implies being under stress.

    This doesn’t have to get philosophical here, but healthy is always relative. Forcing an alcohol-addict to stop drinking may hurt him drastically in the short-term, regarding stress hormones – but in the long-term it might be a great decision when we consider the alternative.

    In the sense of muscle gaining: Muscle gain with severe amounts of meat might be disastrous, but if the alternative is obesity, it can be considered healthy in some form. As it increases the life-expectancy for the individual more than being obese.[1]

    What makes muscle growth healthy is the recovery phase. The pinnacle of a healthy muscle gain would be to do it on a plant-based diet, with plenty of sleep and optimum, stress-reducing personal life.[2] Also with no help of anabolic steroids, of course. But let’s try to look at it step-by-step.

    How to gain muscle mass naturally (Step-by-step guide)

    Here are the 7 steps that you can take today, to achieve maximum, healthy, natural muscle growth – in the shortest time.

    1. Commit yourself to building muscles

    The first step to every long-lasting change is your mindset. This may sound cliché, but if you’re not committed to changing your lifestyle, you might just as well stay on your couch.

    Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. — Abraham Lincoln

    Write down exactly why you want to gain muscles. Is it to impress that crush you have? To get more confidence? To be seen as a leader among your friends? Write all that down and keep it where you can see it every day.

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    Pro tip: Use inspirational pictures to increase the effect.

    2. Set a goal

    While you already have your pen and paper out, write down your goals. There’s something special about writing your goals down on paper. This is another side of commitment.

    Make sure you’re setting your goals the SMART way — Specific, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic and Time-bound. These are called SMART goals and they work.

    To build muscle mass is not a goal – to increase your bodyweight by 5 kilos until the end of July is. To look hotter is not a goal – to increase your subjective attractiveness from a scale 5/10 to a scale 8/10 is. To measure your success, be sure to take before and after pictures so you can compare your results.

    3. Find the right training routine for you

    I’ve got a client in the fitness center that I manage for whom I just recently designed a full-body workout. After a month, he came up to me and confessed that he isn’t following my training routine anymore. My response was simple: “It’s ok.”

    He was shocked by my answer. He expected me to be frustrated by his actions. I wasn’t. I know that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, and I know that the right training routine is the one that works for you.

    You could have the best workout routine in the world, but if you always have to drag yourself to the gym and never feel excited – it’s not the right routine for you. That’s why we focus on individuality on our plant-based online coaching service .

    While the traditional recommended repetition range for muscle growth is between 6-12 (based on studies of time under tension), there are also studies citing that 5-7 repetitions may be more optimal.[3] The exact same thing goes for training sets and rest periods between those sets.[4]

    I generally would advise you to keep your rest periods between 1-2 minutes. Start with a whole-body training plan (yes, even train your legs) and aim for about 8-12 repetitions as a beginner. When you’re experienced, meaning training more than one year, you can decrease that number of repetitions.

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    Do about three sets per exercises and aim to stay no longer in the gym than 1.5 hours. This way you’re minimizing muscle protein breakdown due to avoiding a long training session and most importantly, you’re not neglecting your personal life.

    4. Be consistent

    Having the right training routine is key because it helps you to be consistent. If you’re going to the gym regularly for 3 years, you will see results. It doesn’t matter if you have the best exercise program or your genetics, commitment will pay off.

    If you are consistent, you will see results. But make sure you consider step number 5.

    5. Focus on progression

    Fun fact: The first gym that I ever trained in was called ‘Progress’. I only understood the true value of this word later.

    You have to realize that progression is the major key when you are trying to build muscles.

    Adding more weight in the long term adds mechanical stress to your muscles. Your body has to see a reason to adapt, a great way to make it adapt is to add mechanical stresses.

    Train hard and train smart.[5]

      6. Eat more of the good stuff

      To build muscles, you need energy. You gain energy through your food which then is transformed into muscle tissue.

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      Eat big, get big.

      To gain muscle, you have to be in a calorie surplus: eat more calories that you actually need. Just make sure these calories are nutrient dense. Eat dried fruits or drink smoothies, as they increase your calorie intake without decreasing your appetite. I suggest you to aim for a calorie surplus of about 200 calories per day. This equals to about 1-2 extra smoothies.

      7. Switch up your routine

      This is similar to progression. Again, you want your body to keep guessing in the long-term. Once you hit a plateau in your training, you have to try a new approach to your training.

      Implement different exercises and train at a different rep-range. Have fun with your training and experiment. You never know when you will find what works for you!

      Summing it up

      Muscle growth is an extremely complex process that involves loads of different physiological functions and variables. You can spend hundreds of hours studying it and barely scratch the surface. But building muscles isn’t that complicated.

      Most people that I know that built a great body in the gym are not renowned scientists – they’re regular people following a proven plan. They have committed themselves to the gym. They are being consistent and they form a routine, while seeking constant progression. You can do this too. Use my advice above and get started building muscle today!

      Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

      Reference

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      Florian Wüest

      Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

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      Last Updated on December 28, 2020

      How to Build Muscle Fast: 5 Fitness and Nutrition Hacks

      How to Build Muscle Fast: 5 Fitness and Nutrition Hacks

      Building muscle isn’t rocket science. All it takes is repeatedly doing the things that are proven in the lab and gym to work. This article provides 5 great ways to build muscle fast.

      None of them requires you to spend lots of money on fancy fitness equipment or nutritional supplements. All you have to be willing to do is make a few adjustments to your diet, workout, and supplement routines. Put forth the effort, and you’ll be able to gain 5-10 lbs. of muscle in a month or two.

      1. Eat Enough Protein Every Day

      Contrary to what advertisements for protein powders say, you don’t need to eat and drink hundreds of grams daily to build muscle. The truth is, eating this amount won’t help you build muscle faster. It can actually be stored as fat.

      All you really need is enough to meet your body’s daily needs and then a little more to stimulate muscle gain. This works out to about .8 grams per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 150 lbs., you need to eat about 120 grams of protein daily.

      Don’t stress too much over exactly how many grams of protein are in everything you eat. Use the eyeball method instead. 

      This is done by looking at the protein on your plate and picturing an amount that’s the size of the palm of your hand. This amount contains about 28 grams of protein[1]. Do this every time you eat, and you’ll easily be able to make sure you eat enough.

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      What does 25 grams of protein look like?

        You also need to know which foods are protein rich. They include: beef, eggs, poultry, pork, and seafood. Drink a protein shake if you’re having trouble eating enough of these foods. The best type of shake for building muscle is one that uses whey and casein proteins as its primary sources.

        Research shows these are the best protein powders for building muscle. One study also shows that drinking a shake that contains casein protein before bed can actually turn on the muscle building process[2].

        2. Do “Big” Lifts

        Forget exercises like curls, shoulder presses, and flyes and training individual body parts (chest, back, biceps, etc.) if building muscle is your goal. Instead, perform strength training exercises that train several muscle groups at once. Scientific studies show that exercises that do this are better for building muscle than the aforementioned isolation movements[3].

        Exercises you should do often include: dips, deadlifts, farmers walks, kettlebell swings, military presses, and pull ups. These are the movements that will really stimulate your body to build muscle fast.

        This video below will teach you how to perform my favorite muscle building exercise: farmer’s walks.

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        3. Train Hard Often

        You don’t have to work out every day for hours at a time to build muscle fast. What you need to do is train using the exercises I mentioned above often enough to stimulate muscle growth. Lifting weights 3 to 4 times a week is plenty. Give yourself a day’s rest after every 1-2 workouts.

        Your workouts only need to have 4-6 of these exercises. Choose an exercise for every major muscle group at each workout, and you’re set. This includes your legs (squats, deadlifts, lunges), chest/shoulders/triceps (bench press, dips, military press, push ups), and back (bent over rows, pull ups).

        I like to include a total body exercise every workout, too. I find that they are the best exercises for building muscle fast. This includes exercises like kettlebell swings, kettlebell throws, and farmer’s walks.

        Perform 3-5 sets of each exercise for 6-10 reps. Use a weight that makes it difficult to do the last rep of each set but not so hard that you cannot do it without using good form. Increase the weight you use when you can do every rep of each set.

        4. Rest and Recover Between Your Workouts

        Working out breaks down your muscles and eats into your ability to recover. You build muscle when you aren’t exercising. Therefore, proper rest and recovery can speed the muscle building process.

        The best way is to get enough sleep. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night will enable you to train harder and longer, and build muscle faster. If you can’t get this much sleep daily, take a 45 minute nap during the day to make up the difference.

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        Another way to recover faster and build muscle fast is to back off a little bit with regard to the number of sets and reps you do at each workout every once in awhile. Studies show that reducing the workout volume (sets and reps) by about 50% every 8-12 weeks can help you make progress significantly faster[4].

        This means that instead of doing 12 total sets at a workout, you’ll only do 6 using the same weight. Do this for a week, and then go back to your normal routine.

        Cutting back every once in a while will help you stay mentally fresh, too. This, in turn, gives you more energy to put into your future workouts.

        5. Take Nutritional Supplements That Are Proven To Work

        Once you have the four other tips in place, you can consider taking nutritional supplements to help you build muscle fast. The key thing is to use products that work. Through my research, I have found that there are three that work best: branched-chain amino acids, creatine monohydrate, and fish oil.

        The first supplement, branched-chain amino acids, are shown in several research studies to give you energy during your workout, decrease muscle soreness, and “turn on” the muscle-building process within your body. I find that they help me increase my energy and decrease post-workout soreness. You should take about .05 grams per pound of body weight before and after working out for the best results.

        Next is my favorite, creatine monohydrate. If you’re only going to take one supplement to build muscle, this is the one. This is because there are dozens, if not hundreds, of scientific studies that show it safely helps you build muscle and get stronger[5].

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        If you decide to give it a try, make sure you buy a product that is tested and guaranteed to include nothing but creatine monohydrate to ensure its purity. When you take creatine, follow what’s referred to as the loading phase, which is taking 10-20 grams a day for 5-7 days for the best results.

        Research shows this is the best way to get as creatine into your cells as quickly as possible. You can then back off to 5 grams a day to keep getting benefits[6].

        Last but not least is fish oil. In addition to being good for the health of your brain and heart, it can also help you build muscle fast. In one study, subjects taking 2 grams of fish oil daily for 6 weeks added a couple pounds of muscle[7].

        They lost body fat, too, and all without changing their diet or exercising at all. When shopping for a fish oil supplement, make sure you buy a concentrated source that’s tested to be free of impurities and pesticides.

        The Bottom Line

        Getting fit and building muscle doesn’t happen overnight, but with some simple changes to your diet and exercise routine, you can still build muscle fast when you build from a place of motivation and persistence.

        Whether you’re working out at home or at the gym, apply the above tips and watch your muscles grow week after week.

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        Featured photo credit: Anastase Maragos via unsplash.com

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