We all have our own personal reasons for hitting the gym. Some of us want to lose weight, others want to build muscle and improve fitness, and some simply want to improve their appearance.
There’s no wrong answer in terms of motivation to start a fitness journey – whatever gets you excited about exercise is the right choice for you.
That said, your approach to health and fitness will depend on the type of journey you’re on. Someone who’s trying to lose weight will have a completely different experience from someone working through a mass building program.
But if you’re interested in the latter, you’ve come to the right place. Outlined below is the ultimate guide to bodybuilding, including tips for everything from diet to exercise to lifestyle choices. Keep reading to learn more.
Adjust Your Calorie Intake
Before you hit the gym and start lifting weights, you need to assess your calorie intake. Many people get in the gym and develop a good strength training routine but don’t get the results they’re looking for because their diet isn’t right.
In order to avoid this common pitfall, you have to ensure that your body is in a positive energy balance. Now, what does this mean? Well, the energy balance equation is as follows:
Energy balance = energy input – energy output
Weight loss and gain have been made to seem impossible by the fitness industry, but in truth, it all comes down to this simple equation.
If your energy balance is a negative number, or you burn more energy than you consume, you’ll lose weight. On the contrary, a positive energy balance, meaning you’re consuming more energy (or calories) than you burn, will lead to weight gain.
Because you’re trying to build mass, you need to gain weight, which means you need to increase your caloric intake. As with anything health-related, this should be done gradually.
If you currently eat 2000 calories a day, for example, bump your intake up to 2500 per day. Focus on hitting this new number for two weeks, then weigh yourself. If the number on the scale hasn’t gone up, increase your daily calories by another 500.
Eat a Nutritious Diet
Let’s say you discover that you need to eat an additional 1000 calories a day to gain weight. Fantastic – you can just eat an entire carton of ice cream, right?
Not exactly. Yes, ice cream is a great choice for those looking to build muscle, but be careful of the number of sugars and other unhealthy foods you consume in a day. First of all, overloading your body with sugar will diminish your energy levels and make it harder to conquer your workouts.
Additionally, though increasing your caloric intake by consuming sugary or processed foods will make you gain weight, you’ll likely notice a greater increase in body fat than you would like.
In order to ensure that you gain healthy weight, you need to eat a nutritious diet. This means plenty of lean protein, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and carbohydrates.
When you’re in the grocery store, try to fill your cart with as many single-ingredient foods as possible. Apples, salmon, broccoli, and almonds, for example, are all single-ingredient foods.
If you do shop the aisles, read labels carefully before making your purchase. High amounts of added sugars can be found in the most unlikely of foods.
Protein bars, for instance, are notoriously unhealthy. Though there’s nothing wrong with the occasional protein or energy bar, the goal should be to increase your energy and boost your protein intake, not eat a candy bar in disguise.
Get More Protein
We’ve gone over nutrition as a whole, now let’s dive deeper into the topic of protein. If you want to know the secret to how to bulk up, it’s simple: protein. About 20% of the muscle in your body is made up of protein, so it makes sense that you would need a lot of it when your goal is building mass.
How much protein do you need? Well, that depends on your weight. When you’re trying to build muscle, you should aim for about 0.5 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 170 pounds, you should be consuming 85-170 grams of protein per day. Be sure to increase your protein intake as your weight increases.
Some of the best sources of high-quality protein include eggs, nuts and seeds, fish, chicken, dairy products, lentils, and oats. To make this list even better, they’re all single to low-ingredient foods!
Fill in the Gaps With Supplements
We get it. Trying to consume as many grams of protein as you need to build mass with the most success is tough. Luckily, there are a wide variety of supplements that you can use to fill in the gaps!
We’ve already discussed protein bars, which are an excellent choice as long as you ensure that you’re getting more protein than sugar, but they’re far from the only option. One of the best ways to boost your protein intake is through protein shakes.
When you’re shopping for protein powder, look for one that includes a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are amino acids essential for fat loss, muscle building, and fatigue prevention.
A good protein powder will also have a limited amount of carbs and sugar (including artificial sweeteners), and contain around 25 grams of protein per 150 calories.
If you want to take your supplements to the next level, do some research into sarms for sale. Keep in mind, however, that it’s important to always consult your physician before adding any new supplements to your regimen.
Though they’re typically harmless, supplements can react negatively with certain prescription medications and underlying conditions.
In addition to making improvements in your diet where necessary, you should also take steps to ensure that you’re well-hydrated at all times. Shoot for a minimum of 4-6 cups of water per day, more if you exercise, as you lose more water than you might think through sweat.
Hydration might seem irrelevant to bulking and cutting, but think about it – your body is made up of around 60% water. And the percentage of water in your muscles is even higher! Water is an essential ingredient to all bodily functions, including muscle building.
By staying hydrated, you’ll maximize your energy levels, boosting your strength and performance in the gym. You’ll also improve your body’s efficiency and help it to rid itself of toxins and other waste, and you’ll flush out water weight, giving you a leaner appearance.
Improve Your Quality and Length of Sleep
Sleep is an essential ingredient to health but becomes even more important when you’re trying to build muscle. This is because your muscles aren’t strengthened when you’re exercising, they’re strengthened during rest.
When you put a demand on your muscles through weightlifting, your muscles are strained to the point of fatigue and tearing. Later, while you’re sleeping, your body goes to work repairing the injured muscles, rebuilding them bigger and stronger than they were before.
With that in mind, it’s absolutely crucial that you get 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep per night. If you struggle with your sleep, the first step to take is to ensure that you’re going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on the weekends.
Next, create a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a hot shower, then read a book, practice yoga, or meditate. Don’t work out too close to bedtime and try to limit your caffeine to the morning hours.
Focus on Compound Exercises
We’ve now talked at length about diet, sleep, and hydration. It’s finally time to get into the exercise portion of bodybuilding! Now, this was put last for a reason. Although exercise is essential to building muscle, your diet and other lifestyle choices are going to be 90% of the battle.
That said, when you do hit the gym, you need to focus on compound exercises. These are ones that involve multiple joint movements and hit multiple muscle groups. There’s a place for isolation exercises, but when your goal is to build mass, they are largely a waste of your time.
The specific exercises that you need to do are known as the big 5 of weightlifting. These are deadlifts, squats, bench press, overhead press, and rows. Each of these is a compound exercise that will engage all of your major muscle groups, allowing you to build muscle faster.
When you’re constructing your mass building program, your first instinct might be that more exercise equals greater results. But this is not the case. Remember, rest and sleep are the keys to success.
You should lift no more than 3-4 days a week, and never exercise the same muscle group on consecutive days. For example, if you work your chest on Monday, don’t do chest exercises again until Wednesday at the earliest.
Utilize Progressive Overload
Simply lifting weight isn’t enough to build mass. The trick to becoming bigger and stronger is utilizing the principle known as progressive overload. In doing so, you gradually increase the demand placed on your muscles over time.
This can be done in a few different ways. You can add more weight, increase your number of sets and reps, or increase your workout frequency (keeping the 4-day maximum in mind).
As you increase the intensity of your workouts, it’s imperative that you don’t do so at the expense of your form. Lifting with improper form will not only prevent you from achieving your results but can also lead to injury.
Track Your Progress
At certain points throughout your journey, you’re bound to feel discouraged. We all want results as fast as we can get them, but the truth is, making lasting changes to your body takes time.
Though you can’t rid yourself of the occasional feeling of frustration or impatience, you can decrease the amount of time you spend feeling this way. And the best way to do so is by tracking your progress.
Keep a log in a notebook or on a document on your phone. It’s best for this log to be portable so that you can bring it with you to the gym and track your routine as you go.
What to Include in Your Log
In this log, record everything that you accomplish in the gym and at home. Write down the exercises you do, the weights you use, the foods you eat, the number of grams of protein you get in a day, etc.
Once a week or so, take body measurements and record these as well. Avoid doing this step every day, as it will be counterproductive to the purpose of keeping a log.
As you track your journey, you’ll be able to look back and see, in your own writing, the progress that you’ve made. Any time you’re feeling discouraged, look at the difference between where you started and where you are now.
It’s easy to feel as though you aren’t getting anywhere, but your log will remind you that this is just negative self-talk. You are making progress, and you’ll continue to do so until you reach your goals!
Achieve Your Dream Body With a Mass Building Program
Now that you know how to build a mass building program, you’re ready to hit the ground running. There’s no reason you can’t get started in the gym today! But remember, the key is to remain patient with yourself.
You’re not going to reach your dream body overnight, and attempting to do so will diminish your health and lead to injury. Take your time, put your health first, and before you know it, you’ll have reached your goals.
Interested in learning more about improving your health and fitness through diet and exercise? Take a look at our blog!