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How to Successfully Build up Muscles
More muscles, less body fat, an attractive appearance: Who does not wish for that? Clearly, there is no universal and easy recipe for achieving it. But there are some valuable rules that one should rely on. Basically, you need to know: nobody is alike. While some people have difficulty building muscle mass (hardgainer), others have difficulty controlling weight and body fat (softgainer). Still others pursue the goal of building up maximum muscle mass (ambitious &professionals). In any case, the diet must be individually designed and adapted to personal factors such as body composition, training times and daily routine around family and job.
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In the tabs below you will find specific information on nutrition and training when it comes to muscle building, fat loss and performance concepts for hardgainers, softgainers, ambitious and professionals.
Muscle Development and Mass Gain
Apart from choosing the right approach for a strength training that focuses on muscle hypertrophy (growth of muscle cross-sectional area), the diet also has to be adapted accordingly. It is especially important to maintain a positive energy balance with enough protein but also carbohydrates - low carb diets should be avoided. It also makes sense to consume carbohydrates before and/or after workouts to ensure that the energy required to fuel high-intensity exercise is available. In addition, creatine supplements can be used to enhance strength and thus enable a more intense training.
Protein shakes containing fast-digesting whey protein are ideally consumed within 30 minutes after a workout or 30-60 minutes before, depending on the workout and daily routine. Unless carbohydrates are not consumed in any other way, protein shakes should either be enriched with maltodextin or replaced by a blend of both. Such a carbohydrate protein combination should be consumed again within two hours after the workout or replaced by a whole meal. Before going to bed another meal containing slow-digesting protein should be consumed in order to keep the usual catabolism phase during night as short as possible.
Dietary principles for muscle build-up
• Muscle mass is only built up if the body has enough protein available.
• The optimal protein intake for muscle and mass building is about 1.5-2.0 g per kg body weight (» Protein Synthesis).
• The diet often only covers about half of the protein requirement.
• Supplements may play an important role in supplying the optimally suitable type of protein in concentrated form (» Protein Overview).
• Protein intake should be divided throughout the day: at breakfast, lunch, as an afternoon snack, with dinner and before going to bed. Rule of thumb: ideally every 3-4 hours about 25-30g of protein (» Protein Calculator).
• The accompanying diet is varied, balanced and high in fiber.
Training principles for muscle build-up
• Without suitable resistance exercise, no success in muscle building can be achieved.
• Pay attention to exercise variety and variation so that the training and growth stimulus for the muscles remains large enough.
• Every training session should also include exercises for large muscle groups, as these increase the growth stimulus.
• Ideally 3-4 strength training sessions per week.
• Pay attention to timing! Take a suitable, easily digestible protein-carbohydrate supplement immediately before and after training.
• Always start weight training with adequate energy stores and consume either a main meal or protein snack 60-90 minutes after training.
Fat Reduction and Fat Burning
A person who is overweight or obese but desires to build up muscle mass should reduce calories but take care to consume enough protein. Calories can be reduced by substituting some of the protein with essential amino acids or by low carb meals and supplements that support fat metabolism.
Dietary Principles Body Fat Reduction
• Proteins satiate much more than carbohydrates.
• About 20-30% of the calories from protein are needed for digestion and burned as heat (thermogenesis). More energy is therefore used for digestion than with carbohydrates (5-10%) or fats (even only 0-4%), so fewer calories are absorbed.
• An increased protein content in the diet supports the maintenance of muscle mass, which in turn maintains a higher basic calorie metabolism.
• In general, you should try to maintain a low-carbohydrate diet during non-training time.
Training Principles for Body Fat Reduction
• Follow a training routine with periodic focus on muscle build-up (strength training) and body fat reduction (especially endurance training) in order to minimise interference effects. For example:
• 3-4 resistance exercise sessions with 1-2 endurance training units per week for 3-4 months. Afterwards 3-4 endurance and 1-2 resistance exercise per week for 3-4 months.
• Or one training week with focus on endurance, followed by 2 weeks with focus on resistance exercise.
• If quick results are desired, combine strength/endurance phases with two training units per day on some days: e.g. a fasted endurance training in the morning, followed by a workout of resistance exercise in the evening.
» further articles about weight loss
Recommendations for people having difficulties to build up muscles
Often it is not only insufficient energy and/or protein intake that hinders efficient muscle build-up. Inappropriate training, high energy output (e.g. through daily physical work), strong growth in adolescents and a very active energy metabolism can also have an effect.
Basically, in such cases one should not only take enough protein throughout the day, but also try to significantly increase total energy intake. Of course, this must be combined with adequate and sufficient workouts, otherwise an increase in body mass will substantially consist of body fat. With this nutrition and training plan, muscle building is successful:
» Nutrition and Training Plan for Hardgainers (download PDF)
Recommendations for people building muscles quickly and/or having too much body fat
In contrast to hardgainers, there are people who respond very quickly to training and a positive energy balance with an increase in muscle mass and body fat. These people should keep the carbohydrate content as low as possible and use rather pure protein shakes. It may also be appropriate to experiment with different protein-carbohydrate ratios to find out the individual amount of carbohydrate needed. This is because a certain amount of carbohydrate is necessary to have enough energy for intensive training and to feel good. With this nutrition and training plan, muscle building is successful:
» Nutrition and Training Plan for Softgainers (download PDF)
Ambitious & Professionals
Product Tips for Muscle Building for Highly Ambitious Athletes and Professionals
Ambitious athletes and professionals not only use basic supplements for muscle building, but also rely on very specific «top of the pyramid» products. These help to get the most out of training, optimise protein synthesis and maintain muscle substance after intensive workouts.
» Product Tips for Professional Muscle Building (download PDF)
Apart from caffeine, commonly used in weight-lifting to enhance performance, supplements that promote nitric oxide (NO) metabolism are also very popular. During weight-lifting blood flow increases in order to eliminate lactic acid and supply the muscle with sufficient oxygen and fuel. This increased blood flow causes the muscle pump effect which depends on NO formation.
Strength & Power
The importance of carbohydrates for strength training is often underestimated. Trainings have to be intense enough in order to stimulate muscle development and only carbohydrates provide the fuel required for such intense trainings. In addition, creatine supplements can be used to enhance strength and thus enable a more intense training.
Intense strength training with heavy weights not only requires muscles but also slow-adapting ligaments, tendon, cartilage and joints which are primarily composed of collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin. These structural macromolecules occur naturally in foods of animal origin such as gelatine (collagen) and connective tissue but they are only found in small amounts in classic protein powders.
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