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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.

      How I Lose Weight, Get to 9% Body Fat and Build Muscles with Vegan Diet The Biggest Myth About Losing Belly Fat: Can You Lose Belly Fat Only? The Truth of Rapid Weight Loss: How to Actually Shed Pounds Why You Should Keep a Fitness Journal to Jumpstart Weight Loss How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss?

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      1 Does Keto Weight Loss Diet Plan Actually Work? 2 10 Best Healthy and Natural Weight Loss Supplements 3 How to Find Weight Loss Meal Plans That Work for You 4 Intermittent Fasting Diet for Beginners (The Complete Guide) 5 17 Weight Loss Recipes That Are Incredibly Nutritious and Super Delicious

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      Last Updated on October 5, 2020

      Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

      Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

      Intermittent fasting weight loss is a type of diet that’s rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the way to lose weight. Scientists and nutrition experts like it, too. New books and articles on the topic are being published daily. Intermittent fasting is also popular with followers of the Paleo diet since our ancestors appear to have eaten this way for thousands of years.

      I’ve been following this type of diet myself for 2 years. Doing so helped me lose and keep off 70 pounds without ever having to count calories, limit carbohydrates, or eat 6 to 7 meals a day.

      This article teaches you all about intermittent fasting weight loss and details why it is one of the best weight loss diet hacks around. Once you finish, you will be able to implement into your diet and experience the benefits it offers almost immediately.

      What Is Intermittent Fasting?

      As you may have figured from its name, intermittent fasting weight loss is a diet plan where you set fasting periods during the day. This is usually between 16-20 consecutive hours, but it can be as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (or even 36 hours).

      While fasting you can eat and drink low calorie or calorie-free foods. Think coffee, tea, water, and vegetables.

      The more time you spend fasting every day, the better your results. You can do these fasts as often as you like. Again, the more often you do so, the better[1].

      Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

      Following this diet plan is super simple. All you have to do is choose a period of time during the day that you will fast. This should be between 16-20 hours.

      The longer you fast each day, the better. Don’t worry about calorie restriction or measuring carbohydrates. Just focus on going about your day until it’s time to eat.

      It’s best to choose a set period of time to conduct your fast. I like to fast from 8 PM to 4 PM the following afternoon. I’ll then have my first meal of the day and a snack or two a few hours later. Once 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s back to fasting.

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      My experience with intermittent fasting is that it’s best to start with a 16 hour fast (i.e. 8PM one evening to 12PM the next day) for the first 1-2 weeks. Once you are comfortable with this schedule, you can increase the amount of time you spend fasting. Do this by adding 30 minutes to each fast until you get to where you are fasting for 20 hours at a time.

      You don’t have to fast every day in the beginning either. You may be more comfortable breaking in slowly with 2 or 3 days per week, or trying alternate day fasting. Add additional days of intermittent fasting as you become more comfortable with this style of eating.

      Tips To Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

      1. Drink Plenty of Water

      Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.

      2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon

      The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since it’s good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.

      3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks

      One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite[2] like a drink that contains sugar and cause you to overeat.

      4. Don’t Gorge at Your First Meal

      The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.

      To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.

      5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars

      While intermittent fasting does make it possible to eat a little looser than normal, you should still eat as little bread, pasta, rice, etc. as possible.

      Focus instead on eating protein from beef, fish, or pork, carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats from foods like almonds, avocados, fish, and olive oil.

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      You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.

      How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

      Eating this way has many benefits with regard to weight loss. The first is that when you’re fasting, your body will be forced to use its stored body fat for energy. Burning calories this way, instead of from the food you’re eating throughout the day, will help you experience significant weight loss, but specifically lose weight from any excess body fat you’re carrying.

      This means that you won’t just be thinner, but you will also look better and be much healthier than if you lose weight the old-fashioned way[3].

      Intermittent fasting can help optimize the release of the key fat-burning hormones in your body. This is especially true for the two most important hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

      Human growth hormone plays a key role in turning on your body’s fat-burning furnace so that it gets the calories you need to work and play from stored body fat. Studies show that fasting can significantly increase the production of HGH[4].

      The influence intermittent fasting weight loss has on insulin is just as impressive and possibly more important. Keeping your insulin levels low and steady is key to losing excess fat and keeping it off.

      Diets that are rich in processed carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) and simple sugars (candy, cookies, and soda) have the opposite effect. They cause your insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash every time you eat one of these foods. The net result of this phenomenon is that your body will store more of what you eat as excess body fat instead of burning it off as energy.

      Chronically elevating your insulin levels like this can also lead to the development of type II diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. Intermittent fasting easily solves this problem.

      One study found that men who participated in intermittent fasting had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity”[5].

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      This happens because you’re not giving your body food, so it will not produce insulin, allowing insulin levels to balance out until you eat again. This helps your body stay in a calorie and fa-burning state. You’ll also find that it gives you more energy throughout the day.

      Another great weight loss benefit of intermittent fasting is that hunger pangs and cravings that may normally plague you throughout the day will be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. This is probably due to its ability to balance your insulin and blood sugar levels and, in turn, help correct other hormonal imbalances.

      Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss FAQs

      Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how to get started, it’s time to answer your other questions.

      Below are answers to the questions frequently asked about intermittent fasting. These answers should help you and make getting started a lot easier.

      How Much Weight Will I Lose?

      The amount of weight you lose with fasting is determined by how often and long your fasts are, what you eat afterward, and other factors. Fasting for 16-20 hours a day can help you safely lose 2-3 pounds of fat every week.

      While losing this much weight every week is great, it’s how it makes it happen that’s really cool. Losing weight with intermittent fasting means that you will never have to count calories or plan and prepare several meals a day.

      Can I Work out While Fasting?

      Yes, you can. In fact, doing the right type of workout while fasting will help you lose weight faster and even build muscle.

      The best workouts to do while fasting for weight loss are 3-4 intense strength training workouts weekly. This means anything from standard strength training to kettlebell or body weight workouts.

      Focus on doing 3-4 total body exercises per workout with as little rest as possible between sets. Doing this will help you burn more calories during and after your workout. You’ll also build muscle, which will help you look and feel better as the weight comes off.

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      Won’t I Lose Muscle When I Fast?

      First of all, you aren’t fasting long enough for your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. You have, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of calories from your stored body fat to use before that will begin to happen. Studies actually show that even after fasting for 3 days, no muscle is lost.

      Is Fasting Safe?

      As long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and aren’t taking medications, fasting is safe. Like all diets, you should discuss it with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting style of dieting.

      I also feel that it may not be smart to follow this type of diet when you’re especially stressed. Since this diet can be a little stress-inducing at first, doing so when your ability to be relatively stress-free and rested probably isn’t a good idea.

      Are There Any Supplements I Can Take to Make Fasting Easier?

      As with any other weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take a few nutritional supplements to ensure that your daily requirements are met. This includes a once or twice daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D.

      I’ve also found taking 10 grams of branch chain amino acids before and after my workouts really helps, too. They’re great for giving you more energy during your workout and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

      For supplements to specifically help with digestion, check out this article.

      Conclusion

      Now you know what intermittent fasting is and how it can help you lose weight quickly, safely, and pretty much effortlessly.

      If you want to give it a try, find a fasting schedule that fits with you lifestyle and give it a go.

      More About Intermittent Fasting

      Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

      Reference

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