Sculpting a muscular physique is possible, even for hardgainers.
With society's heavy emphasis on weight loss, an endless supply of information about dieting and fat burning is easy to find. However, if you're on a mission to gain weight, a lack of sound advice and healthy strategies for doing so may leave you feeling a little lost. For many, having a slender frame and fiery metabolism is enviable, but if you're trying to build muscle in the weight room, a naturally small build can make your goals seem impossible. If you're not genetically programmed to build mass with ease, you can still reach your goals -- you'll just have to train harder and eat differently to get there.1.
Increase your calorie intake. In order to feed your muscles the energy they need to grow, you have to take in enough calories to meet your body's energy demands while providing a surplus for muscle synthesis. To maintain your current weight, you must consume about 16 calories per pound of body weight if you're a female, and 17 per pound if you're a man. Then you must consume additional calories to replace those you burn during exercise. Finally, you'll need an additional surplus of about 400 calories per day to support a gain of about one pound of muscle tissue each week.
Consume a balanced diet that's rich in lean proteins. All calories are not created equally. A daily 4,000-calorie diet of cookies and ice cream will produce very different results from 4,000 daily calories of lean proteins, whole grains and fresh produce. To build muscle, you must provide your body with ample amino acids from protein. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you should consume .63 to .77 grams of protein per pound of body weight. However, the IDEA Health & Fitness Association points out that protein requirements will vary depending on your physiology and level of fitness; athletes can require as much as 1.7 grams per pound of body weight.3.
Train with heavy resistance, at around 70 to 85 percent of your one-rep maximum. To maximize muscle hypertrophy, try to keep your repetitions between eight and 12 per set. Also, instead of sticking with the same weight and number of repetitions, change each set by increasing weight and decreasing repetitions, or decreasing weight and increasing repetitions. Just make sure you don't ever drop to a weight that you can perform more than 12 repetitions of, as this is more conducive to muscle endurance than growth.4.
Time your meals. Never train hungry; this can place your body in a catabolic state while you're trying to build muscle. Have a protein shake and piece of fruit, for example, to fuel your workout. Afterward, take in a post-workout shake or a meal high in protein and carbohydrates. Eat every three to four hours throughout the day to make sure your body has a steady stream of energy to grow and prevent muscle tissue breakdown.5.
Sleep at least eight hours each night. In order to build muscle mass, your body needs down time to repair and recover. Deep sleep may also increase growth hormone and testosterone levels and help keep your cortisol levels in check.
- To get adequate calories, try to consume calorie-dense foods such as peanut butter, bagels, lean red meat and dried fruit. Serve your meals on large plates to help you remember to eat more. An easy way to increase your calorie intake is to replace some of your water with sports beverages, especially when working out. A good training partner can also be very helpful in pushing you through the tough workouts you need to grow.
- Talk with your doctor before beginning a new diet or exercise program. When training, always use a spotter and proper form to prevent injury.