It has taken me more than 10 years to gain 40lbs of muscle. Most of my gains have come in the last few years as I have learned better and smarter ways to build up my physique.
Here are 33 ways that can help you gain muscle in a healthy way:
1) Weight train: This is the best way to gain muscle. Choose few compound exercises and aim to grow stronger in those. For awesome benefits of weight training read this post. There are many prevalent myths surrounding weight training too, you can read them here.
2) Eat more than your Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE): Once you calculate your TDEE all you need do is to eat 15-20% more than this! For example: Say your TDEE comes out to 2200 calories. In order to gain weight you need to eat roughly 2500 to 2700 calories everyday. This will ensure that most of the weight is lean mass. Do note you will probably also gain some fat ( ~20% of total weight gain ) which is totally acceptable!
But if you go crazy and eat more than 3,000 calories thinking this way you will gain faster, think again! Most of your weight gain will be fat which then you will have a hard time cutting.
4) Become Strong: Creating muscular tension is the primary way to build muscle. And the way to create muscular tension is through progressive overload. Besides muscular tension, numerous studies support an anabolic role of exercise induced metabolic stress, although do note that metabolic stress does not seem to be an essential component of muscular growth.
Pump training (muscular fatigue/stress) through moderate rep range (8-12) induces more metabolic stress than muscular tension, and I believe is only icing on the cake! In the end, remember getting a pump is easy, but getting stronger in key compound lifts is tough work!!!
5) Eat these muscle building foods: When we THINK muscle we think protein. Most of us believe that just by eating 10 egg whites, half kg of chicken and gulping down unnecessary whey isolates will help you build muscles fast, then you are mistaken.
Eating protein is simply part of the whole story. Muscle-building is a complex process and it requires other nutrients in adequate amounts (eaten everyday). These nutrients are complex carbohydrates, healthy fats (includes omega-3), vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Read this post to know the muscle building foods.
6) Include enough Healthy Fats in your diet: Most of us fear fats. What we don’t know is that there are good fats and bad fats. Our job is to eliminate bad fats and eat good fats ( and in adequate quantity). Roughly 40% of my diet consists of good fats. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat, instead overeating, refined carbs and inactivity does.
7) Eat enough proteins: Numerous studies indicate protein requirements for active individuals are approximately double that of the RDA—at least 1.4 – 2.0 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. Learn more.
8) Do carb cycling: I am not a carb lover! I love eating proteins and fats. My body does well on these. However, I do realize that eating 300-500 grams of complex carbs at least few meals before my workouts can tremendously help me in lifting kick-ass weights. Just few meals before and 1-2 meals after my workouts I binge on carbs. Rest of the time I take it easy. This way of eating has allowed me to improve my insulin sensitivity (my fasting insulin is less than 5).
9) Practice Intermittent fasting: Our genetics were built 2.5 million years ago when humans alternated between periods of feast and famine.Greeks and romans were strong and muscular, right?
Imagine their lifestyle. Do you think they ate 5 to 6 smaller meals a day? Of course not! They fasted through the day (except for some light snacks like nuts, fruits etc ) and then feasted at night!
Ori in this amazing book The Warrior Diet explains the concept of intermittent fasting beautifully. He states that during the fasting hours, your body is at peak capacity to remove toxins and generate energy while staying alert and resisting fatigue and stress. Long periods of undereating increase protein efficiency, so when you do eat protein, it will be utilized much more efficiently. You can read more about this way of eating here.
10) Sleep enough: No matter how good your training program or your nutrition is, if you don’t sleep enough, you are not giving your body enough time to recover. During recovery the body replaces, repairs, and rebuilds tissue (including muscle tissue).
When you sleep, large amounts of growth hormones are released. Human growth hormone (HGH), a hormone, released by the pituitary gland, is vital for physical strength, health, and longevity. HGH is often called the “fountain of youth” as it helps in cell regeneration and slows down the aging process. It also helps build muscles and burn fat.
11) Train only 2-3 times a week with weights: I cannot miss my workouts even if i want to! Its so inbuilt in my system that I am naturally pulled towards it. My subconscious mind automatically schedules it.
One of the reason is that I only workout 2 to 3 times a week, so its very easy to fit in my lifestyle. Total time commitment for exercise is no more than 4 to 6 hour a week ( thats not even 5% of my total time commitment (there are 168 hours in a week).
12) Drink milk before bed: According to Ayurveda, warm milk at night helps you to sleep better. I do follow this practice and mix a tbsp of turmeric powder with a tall glass of warm milk. Milk has got casein protein which breaks down slowly and helps build muscle mass.
13) Keep track of your calories: I can bet 90% of the food ingredients that you eat are less than 10. For example: Eggs, milk, nuts, chicken breast, oats combined provides me with 1500-1800 calories everyday.
If I google the servings that I am having everyday its pretty simple to calculate my total calorie intake, right?
Calorie counting app are simply a waste of time, or I am just not that tech savvy..!
14) Keep track of your workouts: If you don’t keep records of how much weight you lifted few months back on Squats (and other exercises) how will you know if you are progressing? If you want to gain weight you need to keep getting stronger. Every time you enter the weights room you don’t want to guess! Keep a diary detailing all your lifts as it will help you progress.
15) Have a specific goal: What do you really want? Do you know what kind of look you want? Its not enough to say I want to gain some muscle and look good. BE SPECIFIC.
Who is your favourite actor you want to look like?
What is the weight range you want to be in?
What should be your bodily proportions? How strong you want to be?
What do you want your fasting blood sugar or fasting insulin be?
What about your resting heart rate (Did you know its one of the best indicators of your overall cardio fitness?)
16) Don’t EVER give up. Build Faith: I have been trying to gain weight for over a decade now. Have gained 40lbs ( 20 more to go ) so far. It was a slow process because I made many mistakes along the way. But I didn’t lose faith. I found better and smarter ways of improving my physique. My desire, my ‘Why’ is DEFINITE. I told myself I will build a physique that not only looks good ( I have specific proportions that I want to reach ) but is also super strong, functional and healthy.
You will face various setbacks, criticism and doubts on this journey! But you need to overcome these and come out stronger and keep moving forward. And finally ‘One Fine Day’ you will reach there! Don’t give up!
17) Enter the weights room with a firm goal in mind: If you want to gain muscle, you need to progress ideally every workout. Simply doing dozens of isolated sets won’t cut it. You will need to have a firm goal and that should be to BEAT what you did in your previous workout!
18) Drink Calories: Say its 6pm and you are tired. You don’t feel like cooking your dinner. Suddenly your eyes gets locked at the offer that Domino’s is giving “Buy 1 get One free!”
You are starving and you pick up the phone to order the pizza. All of a sudden you resist the urge to call and pull yourself in the kitchen and start making this amazing smoothie:
Chocolate whey concentrate (20gms)+Whole milk (250ml)+Crushed almonds (15gms)+Unprocessed honey(5gms)+Banana(100gms) + Lots of ice.
You mix all these ingredients in a high powered blender and within minutes you have an awesome meal ready. Your craving goes away and you feel great and congratulate yourself that you didn’t ordered the pizza!
My protein smoothies are almost 1000+ calories. Its MUCH easier to drink calories than eat it.
This is the main reason I have 20gms-30gms of protein from whey concentrates!
19) Keep It simple, Stupid (KISS): I don’t remember where I read this principle, but when I do I will surely give the author it’s credit.
Now, if there is a strong demand in the market for something, there will never be a scarcity of new, cutting edge products to fill that need. There will always be savvy marketers inventing the latest discoveries or some miracle diet, product, or training program.
MUSCLE BUILDING IS SIMPLE ( NOT EASY THOUGH ). Select few compound exercises and aim to grow stronger in these in rep range of 5 to 7. Eat a balanced diet ( with enough protein ) and eat slightly more than your maintenance. Do this everyday and you will reach your destination. Simple, not easy!
20) Do other activities besides weight training, but in limits: You cannot prepare for marathon and gain weight at the same time! Muscle are build when you are resting and sleeping. 4 to 6 hours a week you work hard in the gym breaking down your muscle and rest of the time you take it easy.
FBX Training is a multifaceted system that will not only helps you with weight training alone but combines it with HIIT, walking and other flexibility and neuromotor protocols. This ensures that you are extremely functional and healthy too!
21) Find 1-2 coaches you like or trust: Health and fitness industry is filled with scam artists. They will say anything or do anything to get your money. Empower yourself, find out the facts.
Find someone who is a) Qualified b ) Walks his talk c) Have the ability to get people results d) Lastly, find someone who you like and admire. This is one rule I follow to the T. No matter how much a person knows about muscle building, if I generally don’t like the person (for whatever reason; big or small) I drop that person off my list ( I have a long list of people I admire and who I want to meet and learn from).
22) Read, Read and Read some more: I have 2 fitness certifications from NASM. I am a qualified Yoga Practitioner. Recently I became board certified from American Association of Alternative Medicine as a health practitioner.
In this process I have spend thousands of dollars on my certifications, books ( have read more than 500+), and scientific journals. This is not to brag. I just enjoy doing this and wanted to make a career out of it. Of course you don’t have to go border obsessed like me. But you still need to read. You need to know the fundamentals and the basic science behind muscle growth.
Let me say this: If building a great physique is an important goal in your life, then you need to devote at least few months ( 3 to 6 months ) of dedicated reading. I can say with assurity that once you do this you will be more knowledgeable than most of the trainers you find at the gym!
In the end, just make sure to put in practice what you read:)
23) Limit your supplement use to these TOP 4: Whey concentrates, Multivitamins, Omega 3. I do use creatine monohydrate when I am in gaining phase.
24) Eat “tons” of veggies everyday: Muscle building requires micronutrients like essential vitamins, minerals to be present in adequate amount for the billions of chemical reactions to happen inside our cells and help our body to gain weight.Give equal weightage to veggies!
Did you know that broccoli is 34% protein? A tall glass of freshly squeezed vegetable juice can have anything between 15 to 20gms of protein:)
25) Get moderate exposure of sun for 10-15 minutes everyday and get your Vitamin D levels in the optimal range: There are studies that link optimal levels of Vitamin D with muscle strength. You can read this post to know more about exceptional benefits of this super vitamin and why you should strive to take your levels in the optimal range.
26) Visualise the end result: Its not who you are, its what you want to become. Visualize the end result. Meditate on how your life going to be when you reach your ideal weight. Who your friends going to be? Imagine yourself strong, healthy and happy. More specific you are, better results you’ll get.
27) Focus on “5-7” rep range most of the time: This is the optimal range to build muscle. This is where you create maximum muscular tension.
28) Don’ waste your money on weight gainers: Seriously! Most of you won’t need more than 2500-3000 calories to gain weight and this much can be easily be consumed by eating real food. Soon I will write a post on why weight gainers are pure waste of money!
29) Get yourself checked medically: If your BMI is below 18.5 there are no guarantees that you are healthy or fit. Get a check up done to make sure there are no medical issues that may be interfering with your bodies ability to gain muscle.
30) Avoid steady state cardio: If you are trying to build muscle, avoid jogs or running on the treadmill. Weight train 2 to 3 times a week, coupled with few sessions of HIIT and 10,000 steps daily is MORE than enough to help you build muscle at the same time keep your body fat low.
31) Let Vanity drive you: Sure you want to look good. Let vanity drive you initially, there is nothing wrong in that. eventually your motivations will evolve into being strong, healthy etc. Mine has!
32) Follow adequate flexibility and recovery protocols: A forward neck, tight hip flexors can created unwanted stress on your kinetic chain when you lift weights. Make sure you perform flexibility protocols after your workouts. This will ensure optimal structural and functional efficiency.
33) Lastly don’t forget to drink enough water : Dehydration can have negative effect on your recovery and performance in the weight room. 70% of your body is water, so make sure you drink enough !
What do you think about these ways to build muscle? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments below!