Expert Nutrition

How to Build Muscle

How to build muscle seems like any easy topic - train hard and eat well, but for most people the goal isn’t just about building muscle, it’s about getting results fast and in the most efficient way. In this article we discuss what is required to stimulate muscle growth and how to maximise your returns.

Muscle growth is a function of 3 contributing factors which is best described in the following equation.

Increases in muscle mass = adequate muscle loading + adequate nutrition + adequate recovery

You’ll notice that the word adequate is heavily emphasised throughout this equation, this is important because failure to achieve adequate levels of each of the 3 contributing factors will significantly impact on the results.

If we were to simplify the equation and just say:

Increases in muscle mass = muscle loading + nutrition + recovery

Everyone would say I already do that, but as soon as you add the word 'adequate' into the equation, this challenges people to stop and ask the question - is what I do adequate to get the desired results?

Training hard and not getting the desired muscle growth result?

If you're training hard, eating well and getting plenty of rest, but not reaching your goals, there are really only 2 problems that could be holding you back.

  1. Your muscle building goal was unrealistic in the first place (which could be limited by a number of factors including genetics), or

  2. At least something in your training program is not adequate.

Assuming your goals are realistic (best to discuss with a qualified trainer), let's now look at how to make sure your program (muscle loading + nutrition + recovery) is sufficient.

Muscle Loading

Any form of muscle loading (eg weight lifting, endurance exercise, calisthenics etc.) has the potential to build muscle, however resistance exercises such as weight training will generally deliver the desired result in the most efficient way.

There are 5 forms of weight training, these include:

  • Hypertrophy training – to build muscle size
  • Strength training - to make you stronger (not necessarily bigger)
  • Functional and sports specific training – to make you more efficient at performing certain movements, which also includes stability training
  • Power and speed - to make you faster and more explosive
  • Muscle endurance – to improve long distance sports performance such as cycling and running.

If your goal is simply to build muscle size, then muscle hypertrophy training is likely to get the best results. Given that the muscle's ability to produce force increases as the cross sectional area of you muscle becomes greater a secondary benefit of hypertrophy training is that it also makes your muscles stronger. Having said this, the opposite is not always true. If you are doing a strength training program, it is possible that you get stronger without increasing your muscle size. Therefore if your primary goal is to build muscle size, hypertrophy training is a better option than strength training and the 2 should not be confused. Learn more about muscle hypertrophy.

Now that you’ve got the right training program and adequate muscle loading for muscle growth, let’s turn our attention towards adequate nutrition.

Nutrition for Muscle Growth

Trying to summarise adequate nutrition to build muscle in a few paragraphs I’m sure you will agree is too hard and would only leave our visitors feeling disappointed and with questions. Therefore to give the topic of optimal nutrition for muscle growth the attention it deserves we have published a number of articles that will give you all the information that you need.

All of these nutrition articles are listed at the bottom of this page, but before clicking on any of these links we suggest you finish reading this article first. Don’t neglect the section on recovery as this is where so many athletes go wrong.

In summarising nutrition for muscle growth we suggest you start by visiting the article on foods that build muscle to ensure you're getting a proper balanced diet. You can then get more specific and focus on individual nutrients like protein by reading - How much protein do I need? To finish with, you then want to read about nutrient timing, high protein foods and what you should be eating in your pre workout meal and your post workout meal.

Muscle Recovery Time

Adequate muscle recovery time is an absolute must if you wish to maximise your muscle growth potential following each muscle loading session. The time it takes for your muscles to recover however is not easy to predict and is a function of the first 2 factors already discuss in the article (ie muscle loading and nutrition).

If you have adequately trained (loaded) the muscles to stimulate muscle growth, but failed to provide adequate nutrition, recovery time and growth will be prolonged and can even be impaired or have the opposite effect of muscle breakdown. Likewise if you consume optimal nutrition but fail to adequately train the muscle, then muscle growth is likely to be impaired. Consuming excessive amounts of protein for example would be a waste of money and time if you never exercised or loaded your muscles.

To best explain how much time you need for your muscles to recovery we have dedicated a whole article towards muscle recovery. Additionally given that recovery time is influenced largely by the type of training being perform (ie hypertrophy vs strength training) the topic of recovery time will also be discussed in more detail in each of training articles.

In summary, how to build muscle is a function of 3 things and failure to give each of these elements adequate attention can significantly impact on the outcome. To ensure that you get the best results, take your time to read all of the relevant articles below.

Happy reading, happy learning and good luck with your training program.

Related Articles


Resistance Training 101

Muscle Building Nutrition Advice

Protein Powder and Gym Supplement Advice

Muscle Building Training Advice

Fit Body Photos and Images

These articles will provide you with the necessary tools to start a successful gym training or bodybuilding program. These principles are only the beginning. Remember that discipline, knowledge and consistency are the keys to achieving your goals. Good luck!

Over the coming months we will be developing this chapter. Please visit our blog and subscribe to our rss feed such that when new articles are added to this chapter you will be notified.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us for advice.

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