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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

      More by this author

      Florian Wüest

      Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

      Why You Should Keep a Fitness Journal to Jumpstart Weight Loss The Truth Behind Rapid Weight Loss and the Best Way to Shed Pounds How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss? How Vegan Bodybuilding Diet Keeps Hunger at Bay While Plant Based The Biggest Myth Debunked: The More Protein You Eat, the Faster You Build Muscles?

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      Last Updated on May 21, 2019

      13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

      13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

      Creating your productivity ritual — a routine that helps you to maintain a peak level of energy can get you the best out of your days.

      Part of creating your productivity routine involves removing activities that drain you (what I call “kryptonites”), and that includes your bad habits.

      Like it or not, bad habits are bad for you — mentally, physically, emotionally and even socially in some cases. While some bad habits are harder to quit than others, it doesn’t change the fact that you need to get rid of them. Here are 13 bad habits to quit right away:

      1. Stress Eating

      I used to be a serious stress eater. I would eat whenever I felt unhappy, stressed, disappointed, anxious, or even… happy! My eating had nothing to do with being hungry, and everything to do with using food to fill my emotional voids.

      While eating would comfort me, this feeling was momentary and would disappear right after I was done eating. Instead, what I had left would be the same emotional void that triggered me to eat in the first place (be it unhappiness or stress), a 2,000 excess calorie intake over what I should have eaten for the day, and anger at myself for having stress ate.

      I’ve since overcome stress eating. I have healthy eating habits and a healthy relationship with food today where I no longer use food as a tool to fill my emotions.

      If you are a stress eater, don’t fret — here’s how to manage your stress better:

      How to Manage Stress (A Step-by-Step Guide to Turn Stress Into Success)

      2. Nail Biting

      Not only is nail biting unhygienic, it is also socially repelling, leads to dental problems like malocclusion of the anterior teeth,[1] potentially cause stomach problems,[2] and lead to severely deformed fingernails in the long run.

      People who bite their nails tend to have shorter nails than the average person; their nail plates also experience scarring and may eventually become absent.[3]

      Understand what triggers your nail biting behavior and replace it with another neutral to positive habit. Make habits to break habits.

      For example, if you bite your nails when you are stressed, go for a walk or listen to music instead the next time you feel stressed.

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      3. Hanging out with Naysayers

      We all know these people — people who play devil’s advocate to every idea you have and every goal you want to pursue. We are already our greatest self-critics, so it doesn’t help when there’s someone beside us, ever ready to pounce on what we say and tear it down.

      Hang out less with these naysayers and spend more time with supportive people who share constructive feedback instead. You will be much happier this way.

      Learn how to get rid of naysayers with these 10 Ways to Ignore the Naysayers and Achieve Your Dreams.

      4. Being with People Who Don’t Appreciate You

      Haven’t all of us been in this situation before? Trying to please people who don’t appreciate us? Bending over backwards to be there for people when they are never there for us?

      While we give without expectations of return, we need to draw a line with people who don’t value us because these people damage our souls.

      Stop spending time with people who don’t appreciate you, and spend more time with people who do instead.

      Unsure who you should get rid of? Learn about it here: 5 Kinds of Toxic People That You Need to Get Rid of Now

      5. Smoking

      Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death globally.[4]

      In just the United States alone, about 500,000 deaths are attributed to smoking-related diseases annually. A recent study estimated that as much as one-third of China’s male population will have significantly shortened life-spans due to smoking! Gender-wise, male and female smokers lose an average of 13.2 and 14.5 years of life respectively — that’s over a decade of life right there.[5]

      Not only that, smoking causes pre-mature skin aging (i.e. wrinkles), yellowing of teeth, bad breath, and worse of all — jeopardy of the health of people around you, including your loved ones. Studies have shown that non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke are at risk to many of the health problems associated with direct smoking.[6]

      Smoking risks

        6. Excessive Drinking

        All of us know that drinking too much alcohol is bad for us, but do you know how bad it really is?

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        According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking too much — be it on a single occasion or over time — can seriously damage your health:[7]

        • Brain problems: Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, making it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.
        • Heart diseases: Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle, Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat, stroke, high blood pressure
        • Liver diseases: Steatosis or fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis
        • Pancreas problems: Pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.
        • Different types of cancer: Mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, breast

        If you drink a lot, perhaps cutting it out right away will be tough. Cut down the number of glasses you drink each time, followed by the number of times you drink a week.

        If need be, seek help from an AA group — you aren’t alone in this. Change starts from today.

        7. Eating Junk Food (Including Diet Soda)

        Junk food — they are everywhere in our society today. From McDonald’s, to KFC, to Burger King, to 24-hour takeouts, junk food such as fries, highly processed burgers and sodas has become a staple in our society today.

        If you think, “Hey, but junk food is tasty!”, think again:

        A study by Paul Johnson and Paul Kenny suggests that junk food consumption alters brain activity in a way similar to addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin.[8]

        “After many weeks with unlimited access to junk food, the pleasure centers of rat brains became desensitized, requiring more food for pleasure.”

        And you wonder why you seem to crave fast food when you just had some the day before?

        While it may not be possible to remove junk food completely from our diet right away, we can reduce our junk food consumption starting today. Instead of soda, opt for a fruit juice (fresh juice, not the carbonated kind) or mineral water. Instead of fries, switch to mashed potato, a salad, or rice (many food outlets allow for this today). Instead of a fried meat patty, go for a grilled one.

        Where possible, opt for healthy food joints like salad bars and delis as opposed to fast food outlets. Every little step goes a long way.

        Here’re some healthy snacks ideas for you: 15 Healthy Snacks You Should Always Have At Home

        8. Eating Too Much Red Meat

        There has been conclusive evidence that consumption of red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer; and suggestive evidence that it increases the risk of oesophageal cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and endometrial cancer.

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        In addition, some studies have linked consumption of large quantities of red meat with breast cancer, stomach cancer, lymphoma, bladder cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer![9]

        Personally, I’m a vegetarian so I don’t consume red meat, but for those of you who consume red meat, do watch out and limit your intake — better still, cut it out of your diet. World Cancer Research Fund recommends limiting intake of red meat to less than 300g (11 oz) cooked weight per week, “very little, if any of which to be processed.”

        Of if you’re thinking about becoming a vegetarian, check out this guide: 5 Practical Tips For Starting a Vegetarian Lifestyle

        9. Watching Too Much TV

        I stopped watching TV since eight years ago and I have never regretted it. Every once in a while I will switch on the telly to see what is on, and then I will switch it off because it’s just the same boring shtick over and over again.

        Watching TV, particularly well-written dramas, can be a good way to unwind. However, remember that TV isn’t your life.

        Spending three hours every night watching TV will not change your life for the better. Rather, using that time to reflect on your life, take stock, and take action on your goals will.

        It’s not easy to remove TV from your daily routine right away, but follow these 6 Steps To Remove TV From Your Life.

        10. Being Late

        Not only is being late being rude to others, it also means that you’re always rushing from one place to another, playing catch up in your agenda, and having to apologize to every person you meet.

        Stop being late and not being punctual, but practice being early instead. Target to arrive 15 minutes earlier before any appointment and bring along something to do in those 15 minutes (or longer if the other person turns out to be late). Then you can stop playing catch up and stay ahead in life.

        Learn more tips about how to be more punctual here: How to Be On Time Every Time

        11. Being in Bad Relationships

        Are you always dating the wrong guys/girls? Do you end up with jerks all the time? Well, you may not be able to stop yourself from meeting bad partners but you can certainly stop yourself from furthering contact with them, spending time with them, or even… entering into a relationship with them.

        I used to invest myself in this guy who was nothing but toxic for me. After a good five months of experiencing nothing but getting burned over and over again, I realized that he was a total waste of my time and I deserved better. I decided to cut him off, and it was soon after that I met my soulmate.

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        Learn about why you shouldn’t stay in a bad relationship and how to deal with it if you’re in one: Why Trying Hard to Stay in an Unhappy Relationship Is Not Love, but Fear

        12. Leaving Things to the Last Minute

        Burning the midnight oil isn’t fun — it’s exhausting.

        Those of you who got through college by burning the midnight oil would have learned this the hard way. Not only is it damaging for your body, it is also mentally draining as you’re constantly in a hyper-tense mode, feeling anxious about whether you can finish your work on time.

        Start today on a new note. Rather than react to your deadlines, be proactive about them by planning ahead, identifying what needs to be done for the week, and getting things done in advance.

        By staying ahead of your tasks, you can also use your extra time to plan ahead in your life and get more things done.

        Take a look at this guide and learn how to stop procrastinating: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

        13. Focusing on the Negatives

        In every situation, there are two ways you can react: zoom down to the problem areas and crib about how things aren’t the way you want, or celebrate the areas that are going well and work on making everything better.

        Many of us see the importance of doing the latter but in practice, we do the former. Why though? Criticizing and focusing on the negatives is easy but it doesn’t empower nor inspire us to be better.

        Make a change — for every negative encounter you run into, I challenge you to identify three things that are good about it. Practice doing this for one week, and by the end of the week you’ll find that your first instinct is to think positive, not negative.

        And here’re even more ways to help you stay positive: 11 Tips for Maintaining your Positive Attitude

        The Bottom Line

        So here you find the 13 most common bad habits and their consequences on your mind and body. The good news’ you can quit them all.

        Just spot out your own bad habits and take my suggestions to quit them. Then you’ll find your life a lot healthier and happier!

        Need more tips to break your bad habits? Check out these articles:

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

        Reference

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