5 NOTES ON MUSCLE BUILDING
1. It takes time. Take a big spoonful of patience because it’s not going to happen overnight. Consistency overtime reigns supreme.
2. Focus on performance and getting strong AF. Smart, individualized training is about applying enough stress to the body to make it adapt without applying too much stress (distress). Where there’s distress, it decreases the body's ability to repair and to positively respond to your training, which can lead to overtraining, boredom, injuries, and reductions in performance/energy.
3. Recovery. You need to avoid the exhaustion stage where you're doing more in your training than your body can handle- planned rest days throughout a training week, active rest days, autoregulating, and deloads, between weeks of hard training, can help in avoiding an overload of stress. Recovery means prioritizing sleep, nutrition, smarter training and not going balls-to-the-wall one side of the equation.
4. “If you want to gain, you need to eat” and while there may be some surface-level truth to that, it completely ignores the complex process of building muscle. A great paper on this topic by Garthe et al. investigated the effect of different nutritional interventions on body composition and performance in elite athletes. There was a group of athletes with the goal of putting on muscle and they were put into two groups: one followed a traditional “bulking” approach where they ate 600cals. on average more than the second group, which just ate at a slight surplus. What happened? The group eating 600cals. more gained triple as much body fat, but their gains in strength and lean body mass were not significantly different than the group eating a modest surplus.
Another great paper by Slater et al. ‘Is an energy surplus required to maximize skeletal muscle hypertrophy’ investigated this specific topic. The exact energy ‘cost’ of skeletal muscle hypertrophy isn’t known. A hypertrophic response may be elicited from endogenous sources (internal fat stores - gaining muscle and losing fat) or exogenous sources (diet- can only gain muscle and fat).
Building muscle is the product of:
1. Mechanical tension across tissue (i.e training)
2. Sufficient amino acids (i.e protein)
3. Adequate calories (i.e ideally not a deficit)
Here’s a truth that’s overlooked by the fitness mainstream. you can build muscle in:
- A Deficit
- Maintenance, and
- A Surplus.
This has been demonstrated in the literature multiple times and we don’t fully understand the ‘energy cost’ to building muscle. The reality is changes in body composition are far more complex than simple changes in body weight that you see on the scale. We don’t understand how much of a surplus, and what magnitude of stimulus, is required to build ‘X’ amount of muscle. It seems to be a moving target, that is different for each individual based on the type of training, age, current body composition, genetics, and much more.
5. Cardio. If you’re not in a fat loss phase, you probably think it's the devil lol. It kills your gainz bro. Cardio should be used as a means to improve the function of the Cardiovascular System (i.e. Heart, blood vessels, lungs). When you put it like that, you start to realize just how important it is (pretty fucking important), good luck making gains when you're dead. Cardiovascular training is one of the most under-utilized tools for improving someone's ability to recover and manage stress responses.
6. Read #1 again :)