How to Gain Muscle | Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

How to Gain Muscle

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

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  • Gaining muscle can not only lead to a more fit appearance but a healthier lifestyle.
  • Anybody can reap the benefits of muscle gain regardless of gender or fitness level.
  • Your nutrition is a vital component when gaining muscle.

If you want to build muscle, you must add plenty of protein and calories to your diet and find a way to stick to a consistent and progressive weight training program. This can not only make you appear more fit but improve your overall health as well.

Ladies, guess what – it’s time to put aside your fears of bulking up – It’s a pretty safe bet that you’re not going to be the next female bodybuilding champ if that’s not your goal. A great workout plan including weightlifting will help improve not only your appearance but also your health.

If you are having trouble finding or sticking to a routine, we have the resources to help. Go PRO today for access to certified personal trainers, workout plans, and more.

Health Benefits

As you age, your muscle mass naturally decreases and those flat abs you had in your youth will turn into flab. Exercises to help you gain muscle mass can preserve and boost your muscle mass no matter what your age, says Mayo Clinic physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist Dr. Edward Laskowski.

Without a regular program of strength training, lean muscle turns to fat.

According to the Mayo Clinic, additional benefits obtained from a consistently performed strengthening program include:

  • Protecting your joints from injury
  • Increasing your balance to help prevent falls
  • Increasing bone density through stressing your bones
  • Improving your focus
  • Controlling your weight
  • Reducing fatigue
  • Lessening the symptoms of numerous chronic conditions such as back pain, diabetes, and arthritis

Workout Tips for Beginners

Laskowski suggests several tips to help you gain muscle mass safely:

Start slowly. Begin your routine with a five-to-10 minute warm-up. Once you know what workout plan you’re going to follow, find a weight or resistance level that is heavy enough to tire your muscles after a maximum of 12 repetitions – the twelfth repetition should be extremely hard to complete.

Choose a proper amount of weight or resistance to build muscle tone. One set of 12 repetitions, using the appropriate amount of weight, builds muscles just as effectively as more sets completed with a lighter weight. Rest each specific muscle group for at least one full day to give your muscles time to recover.

As you make progress, gradually increase the amount of weight you lift and increase the intensity of each session to ensure muscles experience a sufficient amount of stress needed to produce results.

Two to three sessions of strength training a week for only 20 to 30 minutes each can produce noticeable differences in your appearance and the strength of your muscles.

Keep in mind that sharp pain or swollen joints are a BAD sign, indicating that you need to reduce your amount of weight or repetitions, or perhaps take a day or two off altogether to recover. Proper recovery is vital to gaining muscle.

How Protein Helps Build Muscles

To gain any amount of muscle, you not only need to follow your bodybuilding workout plan but also set up a diet rich in high-quality protein. Proteins are contained in every cell, organ, and tissue in your body. The proteins in your body are constantly being broken down and replaced.

Making sure your body gets enough protein helps repair your damaged cells, which is especially important to those who stress and damage their muscle cells through weight training.

When you digest dietary proteins, they break down into amino acids — the building blocks that form proteins — that stimulate the building of new proteins in your body. Protein that comes from meat and milk products provides the necessary essential amino acids your body can’t produce itself that you need to rebuild stressed muscles.

Moreover, when muscle fibers experience trauma, as during resistance training, they activate cells, called satellite cells, which multiply and lead to series of events that also aid in the protein-rebuilding process that helps repair damaged muscles. During this process, many satellite cells fuse to muscle fibers to produce new muscle-protein strands that increase the size of the muscle and enable it to synthesize more proteins.

A diet that consists only of vegetable protein may not contain all the needed essential amino acids, although there are some vegan protein powders available. If you’re going the vegan route, make sure you’re getting enough quality protein!

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Designing a Protein-Rich Diet

A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, determined that eating a little over one gram of protein per each kilogram of body weight in a day can help you increase your body’s rate of protein synthesis.

However, exercise physiologist and celebrity nutritional consultant Dr. Jim Stoppani recommends that you consume two grams of protein for each pound of your body weight on the days you workout as well as on the days you rest.

Stoppani also highly recommends eating a lot of eggs to boost your muscle growth. In fact, to increase the size of your muscles, he suggests eating a minimum of three egg whites and three whole eggs daily.

He also advises the intake of whey protein — 30 minutes prior to your workout and 30 minutes following your workout.

Adding protein-rich foods to your diet can help you reach your goal of obtaining a more muscular physique. For instance, eating a 3-ounce piece of meat will add about eight grams of protein to your diet, and consuming a chicken breast will give you around 30 grams of protein.

If you eat a hamburger for lunch, you will add about 28 grams of protein. In addition, a healthy piece of salmon will give you around 34 grams of protein, and a can of tuna on your sandwich or plate will add a whopping 42 grams of protein to your diet.

Adding a cup of cheddar cheese to your daily intake will provide you with around 28 grams of protein and cottage cheese can add about 15 grams of protein. Drink whole milk with every meal to get an additional 8 grams of protein. Protein can also be obtained from non-animal sources, such as peas, grains, some vegetables, tofu, nuts, and seeds.

Adding Calories to Gain Muscle

Bulking up your muscles also requires that you obtain enough calories through healthy foods, including complex carbohydrates and vegetables. Increasing the number of calories you consume will give your body the energy it needs to fuel your workouts.

Stoppani suggests the intake of 20-to-22 daily calories for every pound that your body weighs on days that you train and consuming approximately 18 calories on the days that you rest.

Carbohydrates are also an important factor in muscle growth. You should eat about two-to-three grams of carbohydrates for each pound of body weight on the days you train and reduce this amount to one and a half grams on the days you don’t work out.

In addition to the whey shake you drink before lifting weights, it also helps to add about 20-to-40 grams of slowly-digested carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, 30 minutes before you begin.

Within half an hour of your last exercise session, you can consume another protein shake and an add 40-to-100 grams of quickly-digested carbohydrates.

Moreover, calories need to come from saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. To help pump-up those muscles, you need a half gram of fat for each pound that your body weighs daily.

One-third of your fat should come from saturated fats, one-third from monounsaturated fats and one-third from polyunsaturated fats, such as the omega-3 fats in fish.

A typical day’s menu might consist of:

  • A shake made of whey protein and some fruit at the very start of your day
  • A second morning meal including eggs and oatmeal
  • A mid-morning snack consisting of cheese, bananas, rice and a protein shake containing whey
  • A generous portion of rice and a chicken breast at noon
  • A mid-afternoon snack of apples, carrots, and peanut butter
  • An evening meal that include potatoes, broccoli and a juicy steak
  • A late-evening snack, featuring a small serving of rice and a protein shake

Keep in mind that these are guidelines, and you should consult your physician before starting any new workout plan or diet.

Reality Check

Getting that hard, toned, and muscular body you desire requires dedication to your weight-lifting plan and commitment to a strict diet of foods that promote muscle growth.

In fact, your diet is often considered more important than lifting heavy weights for gaining muscle. If you can’t stick to a high-quality diet, you’re probably not going to get the results you want. We never said gaining muscle was going to be easy.

Whether you’re an experienced lifter looking for a mass gaining workout, or are someone more interested in a beginner workout plan, you can get started on your fitness journey today by going PRO and gaining access to certified personal trainers, workout plans, goal trackers, and more!

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