Looking for the secret to building muscle? Here it is… Eat, Train, Rest, and Repeat! Maybe you’ve seen this secret formula printed on a tee shirt, but it does accurately describe the necessary steps to achieve strength and muscle growth. Let’s look at each step more closely.
Healthy food builds healthy bodies (and muscles). To build muscle and grow in size and strength you have to eat more calories. But to add lean muscle without the fat, you have to eat the right calories from a balance of the right foods, avoid the old-school bulking-cutting cycles of eating everything in site and then trying to diet down and “cut” before a contest. By choosing healthy foods in the right combination you can feed your muscle growth and add lean muscle mass without the added layers of fat. Start with lean proteins with essential amino acids like meat, eggs and whey powders, add complex carbs from fruits and vegetables and finish with healthy fats and fatty acids like avocados, nuts and seeds and olive oil.
To fully understand how training and exercise build muscle you must first understand the musculoskeletal system, muscle fibers, and muscle fiber adaptation. In fitness, as you lift a dumbbell or perform a push-up, the muscles, tendons, joints and supporting bones are under “stress”. If you continue to lift that weight or do your pushups, those muscle fibers, tendons, and supporting structures will “adapt” until you body can perform that exercise without stress. Your body has now adapted to that stress, that exercise or movement with that weight for that number of repetitions.
Once your body has adapted, it will not progress further until you also understand the training concepts of progressive resistance and progressive overload. Without progressive resistance and overload, your body no longer needs to adapt and, therefore, will never get bigger or stronger beyond this stage. You must force your muscles to do more in order for them to grow.
This is where the magic happens, the rest and recovery phase. Your intense workouts, that you now know need to get progressively harder, cause small microscopic tears in your muscle fibers as you exercise. Each night as you sleep your body uses those nutrients you provided it throughout the day to repair and rebuild the damaged muscle fibers and each morning those fibers bounce back just the tiniest bit bigger and stronger than the day before. This is where the protein in your diet is especially beneficial.
Now, do it all over again! After your body and muscles completely rebuild and recover (usually 24-48 hours) start from the beginning – Eat a healthy and balanced diet, Train and exercise remembering to challenge your body and progress in your resistance, volume, and intensity, and then Rest to allow your body to feed your muscles and repair and build. Repeat.