Many people who go to the gym or who are starting out in strength and power sports struggle with the difficult task of gaining muscle mass.
And adding kilos of muscle to the skeleton is not an easy thing. For muscle growth or hypertrophy to occur, a series of elements related to nutrition, training and rest must be combined.
Therefore, if this is your goal, take note of these basic principles that everyone should know about increasing muscle mass:
1. Carbohydrates or proteins to gain muscle, which is more important?
The answer is simple: both are equally relevant.
An inadequate supply of protein will prevent your muscles from having the raw material to grow.
In the same way, an insufficient consumption of carbohydrates will cause your body to use its proteins as fuel to cover the energy demand of your training, causing a progressive loss of muscle mass.
Ideally, you should include a combination of different carbohydrates and proteins in each of your meals of the day , especially in the hours before and after your workout.
2. How to select the best proteins?
In general, proteins of animal origin, such as whey protein , casein or egg albumin, are considered “complete” proteins, as they contain all the essential amino acids that your body is not capable of producing.
On the other hand, vegetable proteins such as rice or grains are considered “incomplete” because they lack one or more essential amino acids.
The only exception to this rule is soy protein, which despite being of plant origin, is also considered a complete protein. This content of essential amino acids is essential when selecting your protein sources.
Including foods such as eggs, dairy products, chicken, fish and meat, along with supplement options such as whey protein, will guarantee an adequate supply of protein in your diet.
3. What supplements help me gain muscle mass?
The basis for increasing muscle mass is undoubtedly a perfect mix between proper nutrition and good strength training. However, there are some supplements that could help you achieve your goals a little faster.
Firstly, there are weight gainers, which are a combination of carbohydrates and proteins designed to increase the total calories you consume during the day, especially if your energy expenditure is very high.
Secondly, we find protein supplements such as whey protein or casein, and essential amino acids such as BCAAs, which can help you complement the protein content of your diet.
However, whether to use proteins or amino acids will depend on your individual requirements and your training routine.
Creatine monohydrate is a type of fuel that muscles use during strength and power exercises, promoting the increase in muscle mass.
3. Proteins before or after training?
You probably already know the importance of consuming protein after training, as it is the time when your muscles are most in need of amino acids to begin to recover the fibers that you break during your training.
However, it is also very important to consume protein in the hours before your workout, especially if you are going to perform strength exercises.
This will prevent you from starting to train in a catabolic state where your protein is going to be used for fuel, instead of being used to build muscle.
These pre- and post-workout protein intakes should be no more than 3 hours apart.
For example, if your session lasts an hour, you can have a protein-containing meal an hour or two before starting, and another right after, either through food or supplements.
This will guarantee a much more favorable environment for your muscle growth.
4. We grow while we sleep
When we were little, our mothers always told us that if we went to bed early, we would grow up big and strong. And as expected, they were right.
The greatest muscle growth occurs during nighttime sleep, thanks to the action of an anabolic hormone called growth hormone.
Not only is it important to sleep between 7 and 8 hours, but also the moment in which you fall asleep.
Some studies suggest that the optimal sleep cycle begins at 10 p.m. and ends at 6 a.m. As a general rule, you should avoid being awake at midnight or else certain catabolic hormones like cortisol will wreak havoc on your muscle mass.
So, if you are one of those who stays watching series or videos until dawn and you don't notice a significant increase in your muscle mass, you already know what it could be due to. So now you know: sleep to grow.
5. The “Law of Disuse”
What is not used atrophies. The same goes for our muscles. We can't gain muscle mass if we don't give the body a reason to do so.
When we perform strength training, either with our own body weight or with external loads such as weights or machines, our muscle fibers break and become disordered; and then, during recovery and through adequate nutrition and rest, these fibers form again, becoming larger and stronger.
Remember: you can lose fat without exercise, but you can't gain muscle without exercise. Always stay active and give your muscles a reason to continue growing.