10 of the Best Tips for Building Lean Muscle
Is your goal in the gym to build lean muscle? Whether you are a complete newbie, have hit a plateau in your training efforts, are training for a competition, or are just trying to look and feel your best, we’ve put together the best tips for building lean muscle.
The 10 Principles of Building Muscle
1. Make Sure You Are Eating Enough
One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to build lean muscle is not eating enough calories.
Building muscle requires energy, meaning you must consume adequate calories to gain muscle. If you consume fewer calories than you burn in a day, the body will break down muscle to use as a source of energy.
The right number of calories for your body depends on the intensity of your workouts, your weight, your goals, and your metabolism. You can use an online calculator to determine your ideal total daily calorie expenditure to give you an idea of where to start.
2. Maximize Muscle Building with Protein
Protein is comprised of amino acids, which help create and repair muscle tissue. The body needs to store protein for muscles to grow larger. However, the body’s protein reserves are constantly being drained to make use of other important functions, such as making hormones.
This leaves less protein available for building muscle. To ensure you have adequate protein for building new muscle, you need to make sure you are building and storing new proteins faster than your body is breaking it down.
As a general rule, aim to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight in a day. The rest of your daily calories can be equally split between healthy fats and carbohydrates.
High protein foods include:
- Unsweetened yogurt or kefir
- Lean beef
- Chicken or turkey breast
- Peanut butter
- Fatty fish such as sardines, salmon, or anchovies
- Cottage cheese
- Whole eggs
As with anything else, it is possible to get too much of a good thing. Consuming more than 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight does not offer additional benefits and may even be detrimental.
3. Train Heavy with Fewer Reps
If your goal is building muscle, focus on training heavily and efficiently rather than completing high reps. Rather than aiming to do 10 to 15 reps, consider doing 5 reps total at a higher weight for a total of 4 sets.
4. Train Smarter, Not Harder
Isolation training has its place, but multi-joint movements are an amazing way to challenge the body and build muscle. Since multiple muscles are involved, you can lift heavier weights during multi-joint exercises. Think squats, pushups, dumbbell rows, bench presses, and deadlifts rather than bicep curls or lat pull.
Along with promoting muscle growth, multi-joint moves use multiple muscles, mimicking how we use our body in everyday life.
5. Don’t Forget Recovery Days
Did you know recovery days are just as important for lean muscle growth as the actual training itself? When you train, you tear your muscles down. During recovery, your muscles build themselves back stronger.
If you train as hard as possible every day, your muscles will not get the time they need to recover and your efforts will be counterproductive. Overtraining also puts you at risk of injury.
Avoid working out on back-to-back days and be sure to prioritize rest days that include active recovery such as a hike, yoga, or stretching.
6. Have a Protein Shake Before or After Your Workout
Exercise increases blood flow to tissues, meaning a protein shake before a workout may lead to increased uptake of amino acids into the muscles. Consuming a protein shake post-workout gives the body the amino acids it needs to repair muscle tissue.
Opt for a high-quality protein shake with at least 20 grams of protein, a low-calorie count, and no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
Liquid meals also get absorbed faster, making a protein shake a convenient way to fuel your body about 30 to 60 minutes before your workout or within 30 to 60 minutes after.
7. Eat Carbs After Your Workout
Research suggests that consuming carbohydrates on rest days can help build muscle faster. Eating a post-workout meal that contains carbs increases insulin levels, leading to a decrease in the rate of protein breakdown.
For more tips on the healthiest foods to eat after a workout, check out our blog on the best post-workout meals.
8. Focus On Time Under Tension
One effective way of overloading your muscles is a concept called “time under tension”. Rather than quickly lifting and lowering a weight, focus on using the weight in a controlled, steady motion. For instance, consider lifting the weight for 3 seconds and lowering the weight for 3 seconds with good form for each rep.
Completing sets this way keeps muscles under tension for longer, leading to an additional effort that can help promote muscle growth. This concept can be used with a variety of exercises, such as pushups, pullups, curls, squats, and deadlifts.
9. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is crucial for lean muscle growth. During sleep, muscles recover, muscle-growing hormones are secreted, and the body works on repairing itself. Aim to get high-quality sleep every night and focus on keeping a consistent sleep schedule that involves going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day.
To get higher quality sleep, try the following tips:
- Sleep in a cool room
- Keep your room as dark as possible
- Follow a consistent bedtime routine
- Diffuse lavender essential oil before bed
- Avoid electronics or screens too close to bedtime
- Don’t eat too much before bedtime
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Do calming activities before bed such as reading, taking a hot bath, meditating, or using relaxation or breathing techniques
- Limit naps
- Avoid consuming caffeine in the afternoon hours
10. Challenge Your Muscles with Progressive Overload
One of the key ways to build lean muscle is by pushing your muscles to handle increasingly more difficult challenges. While this generally means lifting heavier and heavier weights each time you workout, this is not realistic in the long run. Everyone will reach a point where they simply can’t handle more weight.
Instead, focus on improving in some way each time you workout. Even if you do not go heavier in weight, you can push yourself by using a better form, increasing your time under tension, decreasing your rest time between sets, increasing your reps, or doing more sets.
We hope these tips for building lean muscle help you get closer to your strength and fitness goals. Looking for more ways to maximize your results in the gym? Ask our team of experts about the Isagenix energy and performance supplements that would be the ideal complement to your training routine.
Whether you are a complete gym junkie, play professional sports, train for marathons, or compete in fitness competitions, Isagenix’s scientifically formulated products can help support your performance and get you closer to reaching your wellness goals.