Muscle Building 101

When it comes to losing weight, there are hundreds if not thousands of methods ranging from strict diets to bizarre exercise regimens. However, there are some things that all weight loss gurus can agree on; building muscle is the ideal way to change the overall composition of the body. Besides the fact that muscle is metabolically active – meaning it helps burn calories even when not exercising – having more muscle mass leads to a leaner appearance overall, which is why building muscle should be a part of any weight loss routine.

Understanding the MechanicsMuscle is not built during the workout stage but during recovery. As muscle fibers are damaged or tear during lifting, the body requires a certain repair period to help strengthen those fibers. Each time this process occurs, the muscles become a little stronger. For women, they may be afraid of the idea of heavy lifting, believing they will become bulky and less feminine. However, as women lack testosterone, building the same muscle mass as men is virtually impossible. As a bonus, lifting weights also increases bone density, so older women in particular should look at adding weights to their workouts to stave off the effects of osteoporosis.

The Right Way to Lift

Put down the light weights, and avoid going for lengthy repetitions. Because the muscles need to be challenged to grow, anyone hoping to build muscle will need to lift heavy. For many people, this means lifting around 80% of their maximum load for six to eight repetitions. The last few reps should be a struggle, and if they’re not, the weight should be increased until the set is challenging.

Use compound exercises for maximum results. Compound exercises challenge major muscle groups and engage more than one muscle at a time. Because it is not necessary to train a muscle directly to get it to grow, using compound exercises will minimize workout time and maximize gain. An example of a compound exercise is the incline bench press, which works the muscles of the chest, arms, shoulders and core in one motion.

When working out, it’s important to utilize proper form to avoid injuries. Pay close attention to every lift, and consider asking for help or reviewing a guide if an exercise is unfamiliar. Breathing is key while lifting, and supplying the muscles with oxygen will allow for smoother and more successful lifts. Finally, if anything feels unusually strained or otherwise suspicious, stop lifting. An injury can put a halt to exercise for a long time; instead, just find another exercise to do, or consider calling it a day.

The Road to Recovery

To repair muscles, the body needs nutrients and rest. Avoid working the same muscle groups back-to-back, allowing one to three days in between workouts. As working out burns glycogen, carbohydrates should play an important role in any post-workout meal. Following a workout, opt for 50 grams of carbohydrates and 30 grams of protein followed by a healthy meal a few hours later. For the rest of the time after, opt for about a gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day to build muscle quickly. For those who struggle with eating enough protein, consider going the shake route, using whey protein, enzymes and protein-rich foods along with fresh fruit and healthy fats.