Let’s Be Honest About Building Muscle
I hear them all the time: I want to get jacked. Time to get big bro. What’s the best way to pack on the muscle?
There’s a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk. Choosing ‘personal trainer’ as a career option means I have to hear these things several times a week and, I have to admit, some make me do an eye roll. Look, building muscle is hard work. You better believe that you have to push yourself on the training floor, but don’t be surprised if some of that hard work spills over into your personal life.
I’ve had a quite a few clients come to me with aspirations of being too big to fit through a doorway. And then reality smacked them in the face. If gaining muscle was a simple as lifting a few heavy things, your local FEDEX driver would look like the Incredible Hulk. But it’s not easy and he doesn’t look like that. So while the questions are nice they usually don’t have the requisite behaviors to back them up.
That’s why I decided to put together a list of the things you need to be honest about before you begin your muscle building quest.
- You Don’t Eat Enough Food. Every guy I run into swears by the same thing: man, I eat a TON of food. If you did, you’d grow. It’s not so much an issue of eating a lot in one sitting. Anyone can do that. Meal frequency is the focus. You should be eating 5-7 times a day. In extreme cases, 8 meals may be needed. To clear things up, take your bodyweight and multiply it by 16. That’s the minimum you should be eating to gain mass. So a 165 pound male should eat 2,640 calories….as a starting point. And trust me: that 2600 calories is not going to be enough to get that guy to 190.
- You Go to Bed Late: There’s quite a lot of anecdotal – and periodical – evidence to point to quality sleep and muscle mass gain. Your body needs that time to let its hormones go to work. After all, you build muscle outside of the gym when the hard work is done. Besides that, it’s pretty difficult to stay up till 1am and then squat at 7 am. By the way, you should be up before 7am. Why you ask? Well, that leads to point #3….
- You Wake Up Too Late: Wait, I said you need quality sleep, right? Yes you do. But you need to be in bed by 10 pm. That means you’re up before the sun comes up. The reason being is that you need time to eat. A healthy mass gain diet calls for eating around every 2-4 hours. Let’s just say every 3 hours, you should be eating food. So if you wake up at 10am, you now have a limited schedule to get those feedings in. Sure, one late start is forgivable, but too many late mornings means a lack of calories. And your body can’t grow on insufficient food intake.
- You Don’t Spend Time in the Kitchen: No, I’m not talking about raiding the pantry looking for Pringles. You need two days a week to cook lean steaks, chicken breasts, and chop up some vegetables. You should be grocery shopping frequently and the fridge needs to be well stocked.
- You’re Too Social: Look, you need to have a life. I get it. But there has to be some moderation. Seeing two movies in one day pretty much saps your chance of getting calories in. Plan on going out to the beach with your family? Better bring a cooler with you and try to keep the sand out of your rice. You don’t need to be a gym rat, but you certainly have to pick and choose when you go out (and who you go out with).
- You Rely on the Dirty Bulk: The dirty bulk states that you can eat Oreos, Jimmy Johns, and chocolate milk and gain a ton of muscle. I wish this was the case. Guys who do this add 20 pounds (to their waistline), get disgusted with how they look, and diet down only to look exactly the same. Or worse. Doughnuts and ice cream can help get some extra calories here and there, but it needs to be in moderation. The last thing you want to do is wreck your insulin- the hormone responsible for carrying nutrients into your fat and muscle cells. In reality, about 10-15% of your calories can come from crap food.
To be honest, gaining muscle is simple. It’s just not easy. Its secret relies less on the perfect workout routine and more towards hard work and having your priorities in order. As they say: if it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.