A lot of health and fitness-related blog posts focus on losing body fat. I want to talk about something different today: building muscle.
Muscle building is just as important — if not more important than — burning body fat. They also aren’t mutually exclusive. Switching your focus from burning fat to building muscle could actually end up helping you burn more fat.
Read on to learn more about the benefits of muscle building. You’ll also learn four tips that will help you start making progress and getting some gains!
Benefits of Building Muscle
Before we get into the specific strategies you can utilize to build more muscle, let’s go over some reasons why you might want to work on gaining muscle mass. Building muscle isn’t just about getting bigger. The truth of the matter is that it takes a lot of work for someone to get “big” and “bulky” — especially if they’re a woman.
There are lots of other benefits that you can enjoy when you increase your muscle mass (and I’m saying “muscle mass” and not “lean muscle mass” because all muscle is lean — there’s no such thing as “fat muscle mass”), including the following:
- Faster metabolism: Muscle is a more “expensive” tissue than fat — this means your body burns more calories when you have higher amounts of muscle. When your body burns higher numbers of calories, you’re able to eat more food without putting on body fat.
- Reduced injury risk: If you place a greater emphasis on building muscle, you’ll likely find that your stability and mobility improve, too. This, in turn, can help to reduce your risk of injury when you’re exercising and when you’re going about your day-to-day activities.
- Decreased risk of heart disease: Strength training actually promotes good cardiovascular health and can help to lower your blood pressure and raise your HDL cholesterol — both of these things are important when it comes to warding off heart disease.
- Increased insulin sensitivity: Strength training improves your insulin sensitivity and helps you to control your blood sugar — this is essential for preventing conditions like Type 2 diabetes, and it can also help those who are already diabetic to better control their symptoms.
Tips for Building Muscle
Okay, you can see there are benefits to focusing on building more muscle. How do you actually do it, though? Here are four tips that are a great starting point:
1. Eat More Food
Unless you’re brand new to strength training, if you want to increase your muscle mass, you need to make sure you’re eating in a calorie surplus (eating more calories than your body burns). Without eating in a calorie surplus, you’re going to have a very hard time putting on muscle mass.
Eating more calories can be hard for some people, especially women who are used to always trying to eat as little as possible. If you’re in this boat, try slowly increasing your calories over a period of several weeks or even months. This will help to minimize the amount of body fat you gain (although you will still likely gain some).
2. Lift Heavy
In addition to eating more calories, you also need to make sure you’re exercising in a way that’s conducive to muscle gain.
The most effective way to lift if muscle gain is your primary goal is to focus on lifting heavier weights for fewer repetitions. Again, this can be a bit of a mindf*ck if you’re not used to exercising in this way.
For people who are used to hypertrophy or endurance-based workouts, lifting heavy weights for fewer reps might not seem like an effective workout. Once you get through your first strength-building workout, though, you’ll quickly change your mind.
If you’ve never done heavy weightlifting before, I recommend checking out one of the programs from Mindpump Media (I love MAPS Anabolic) or Strong Strong Friends (I’m currently running their Stronger by the Day program).
3. Eat Enough Protein
If you want to minimize fat gain and promote muscle gain while eating in a calorie surplus, you need to make sure you’re eating enough protein.
There’s a lot of debate over the appropriate amount of protein to eat when trying to build muscle. For most people, though, eating between 0.6 and 0.8 grams per pound of body weight is a good starting point.
Make sure you’re consuming complete proteins (protein sources that contain all the essential amino acids). Your body needs these amino acids to repair and build muscle.
The most accessible sources of complete protein are animal products. Grains like quinoa are also complete proteins. If you’re a vegan, you can also get complete proteins by combining certain foods, such as rice and beans.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Finally, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. If you’re sleep-deprived, you’re going to have a harder time recovering from your workouts and building muscle. This has to do, in part, with the fact that your body produces most of its growth hormone when you’re sleeping.
Make sure you’re sticking to a consistent sleep schedule as much as possible. Try to establish a nighttime routine, too, and add in activities that promote quality sleep, such as limiting screen time before bed or drinking chamomile tea. The better your sleep is, the better your gains are likely to be.
Start Building Muscle Today
Do you want to reap the benefits of increasing your muscle mass? Start by implementing these four tips into your routine.
Comment below and let me know what other strategies you have for building muscle!