A Guide to Building Muscle

While many people seem to feel that building muscle & gaining weight is a complex process with countless variables, the reality is the principles behind building muscle are actually simple & straight forward. While the type of training you do, your lifestyle and drive will all affect the results you get the ultimate law for gaining any kind of wait is, consuming more calories than you burn. It is literally impossible to gain weight over time if you are not doing this because your body must adhere to the basic laws of biology and it cannot create something, out of nothing.

Page Contents:

  1. Eating For Growth
    1. Total Daily Energy Expenditure
    2. Nutrient Tracking & Macronutrient Targeting
    3. Supplementation
  2. How to Train
    1. Resistance Training
    2. Progressive Overload
    3. Choosing a Routine
    4. Hypertrophy
    5. Rest & Recovery
  3. Exercise Plans & Useful Templates

Eating for Growth

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

So the number 1 thing you should focus on when you make a serious commitment to gaining, and even losing, weight is your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure), a fancy way of saying how many calories you need to sustain yourself without losing weight.

But what about protein, carbs, and fats? Just hold on.

First focus on hitting your daily caloric target consistently, it can be way too easy to get overwhelmed if you take on too many things to check off at once. The first thing you need to do is see your current TDEE, and if you are not gaining weight/growing muscle with your current caloric intake, you’ll know you still need to eat more.

Things to AVOID when calculating your TDEE:

  • Underestimating how many calories you are burning: There is a lot of technology out there that measures how many calories you burn during exercise, but this data should be taken as an estimate. If you are serious about gaining weight, it’s better to play it safe and overestimate actually how many calories you burn.
  • “Eyeballing” & guessing your caloric intake: Just to start, you can read the labels and google the calories of the foods you eat and add it up throughout the day. But if you’re truly committed, one thing that will never lie to you is the kitchen scale. Amazon has an Accuweight scale that comes with a glass top & batteries for $18.99

Targeting & Tracking Protein, Carbs, Fats & Micronutrients

Once you’ve got the hang of eating enough calories, you can start to optimize the nutrients that come in those calories. This is where you can start to transition your mindset from just “gaining weight,” to gaining the right kind of weight.The best way to do this in 2019, is with an app. The one I used that has yet to fail me is the free app chronometer. With chronometer & a kitchen scale, you’ll have all the hard true data you could want.

How to use the Chronometer:

  1. Fill in your goals & current stats/information.
  2. Before you eat your food, weigh your portion in grams.
  3. Now either scan the barcode of the label with the app or simply search for the food throughout their enormous database. (You can also create your own recipes and divide it up into portions as well as add unrecognized barcodes to the database.
  4. Repeat step 2 & 3 with all the foods you eat, and within a week or so, you can get a take a look at what your average calorie and nutrient intake actually is.

The Golden Nutrient Ratio: Aim for 40% Protein, 40% Carbs & 20% Fats

**Note: Some people may find they thrive better on a high-fat diet, in that case, you can play around with your carb and fat ratios.

Protein: As you probably know, but still overvalue, protein is essential to muscle growth & recovery. As a vegan, there is never a shortage of people warning me about my protein consumption. The reality is, if you are truly deficient in protein, you would technically be starving. If you are consuming enough calories, it’s more than likely you are consuming enough protein to stay healthy. In terms of muscle growth, however, its always better to have a target and pay a little bit more attention to this nutrient.

To gain muscle, it’s recommended that you aim for a minimum of .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

Carbs: Carbs tend to get a bad rep, but that’s because losing weight seems to be a much more common issue among the masses. Carbs, however, are the most efficient source of energy and you’ll want to consume enough of them to sustain your hard training.

Fats: A must have in any healthy diet. The one fat, in particular, you will want to consume the most of is unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are fats that are liquid at room temperature. Without going into too much detail, unsaturated fats have been shown to lower your bad cholesterol, which is linked to heart disease. If you are following a plant-based diet, there are very few things that contain saturated fat.

Supplementation

Supplements are supplements, and that’s how they should remain. What I mean by this is although some supplementation can make a difference, most of what you see on the shelf is literal garbage. Two supplements I can personally vouch for are clean vegan protein powders/weight gainers, and a plant-based multivitamin.

Drinking a plant-based weight gainer can be a quick, easy and healthy way to consume an extra 500–1000 calories per day. At the same time, however, real food is always a better option. Make sure that if you decide to take protein powder or weight gainer, that it doesn’t become a meal replacement.

Taking a multivitamin is the easiest way to ensure you aren’t missing any of the important micronutrients. If you are on a weight gaining journey, its typically best to have a meal plan because it provides convenience, nutrient & calorie data. At the same time, a meal plan can also decrease the diversity of foods in your diet, making it slightly more likely you’ll miss some micronutrients. The multivitamin I choose is 100% Vegan, affordable & dangerously tasty; Herbaland’s Gummy Multivitamins for Adults.

How to Train

If you’re not training properly, you won’t be gaining the right kind of weight. The type of training you do matters, so if you want to build muscle then you have to train to build muscle. This is done most efficiently with resistance training.

Resistance Training

Resistance training is the form of exercise where you push and pull against resistance, resistance can come in many forms like; gravity, your body weight, elastic bands, some machines, weights (barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells & really anything with weight).

Anything that brings significant stress to muscles, forcing them to adapt, can be considered as resistance training. But what happens when the weight you lift everyday stays the same? You not only don’t get stronger, you actually get weaker both mentally & physically. This is why randomly doing resistant training is not enough, you need a plan that utilizes something called progressive overload.

Progressive Overload

Progressive Overload (P.O) is gradually increasing the levels of stress on the body or certain muscle groups over time. When a plan has progressive overload incorporated into it, then by following that plan, and staying up to date with it, you are guaranteed to move towards your respective goal.

Progressive Overload can be applied to a plan in a number of ways. You can gradually increase anything that you can record data for. This could be increasing the reps or the weight, increasing your overall time under tension, decreasing the rest time between sets, and increasing or decreasing the lengths of your workouts.

Choosing a Routine

To be completely honest, almost any reasonable routine you commit to and train hard through will yield results. This is especially true if you are new to fitness & just getting started. As long as your routine is using P.O. then you are on track to progressing. There are some sample workouts as well as custom workout plans available down below.

Hypertrophy

If you feel confident in your ability to incorporate progressive overload into your routine, you can start focusing on the specific type of resistance training you should be doing. This is because resistance training is such a large category, and a method chosen to reach a variety of goals. For example, powerlifters use resistance training in a much different way than bodybuilders do.

The type of resistance training best suited for the goal of building muscle is hypertrophy training. Hypertrophy training is when you focus more on volume than the actual weight. Studies have shown that volume can be the differentiating factor between those who reach their muscular ambitions and those who don’t or take extra long to get there. This means you want to focus on higher rep ranges and a higher frequency of training. You can achieve this by keeping the minimum number of reps in a set to 8, and sometimes 6 on heavy compound lifts. You can also add some extremely high rep sets towards the end of your workout to release lactic acid, pump blood, oxygen, and nutrients into the targeted muscle. I.e) 2–3 sets of 20–30 lightweight barbell curls at the end of your bicep workout.

Golden Hypertrophy Rep Range: 6–15 reps, and typically 8–12.

Rest & Recovery

You are human. You need to rest. It’s especially easy to forget this when your getting started with building muscle. The truth behind rest & recovery is that once a muscle is significantly stressed, it will take 48–72 hours to fully recover. So if you train your chest on a Monday, you shouldn’t exclusively target it again until Wednesday or Thursday. This means you need to create your own or purchase a plan that provides adequate rest.

Sample Workouts & Exercise Plans

GET FIT

An 8-Week, CUSTOM Workout Plan with a 4-Phase progressive overload approach, based on your goals and current abilities.

Starting at $60.

Useful Templates & Resources

Until Next time, Strive to Thrive!

Aidan Morgan

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