Not everyone is trying to lose weight all the time. In fact, not everyone should be trying to lose weight all the time.
One of the single best ways to increase your quality of life and increase your likelihood of ageing well, is to spend more time during your life trying to gain muscle than trying to lose weight.
However, so much of our personal and our industry’s brain power has been focused on weight loss that the information and tools for how to effectively put on muscle get neglected.
So, this article is going to be a crash course in Muscle Building 101.
How Your Body Gains Muscle
For many people, gaining muscle can seem like a mystery. Have you spent years in the gym toiling away, only to make basically no notable progress? Well, you are not alone. There are countless people who spend a lot of hours in the gym trying to gain muscle but can never crack the code.
Today I am going to unlock that code for you using two very simple principles.
Principle 1: You have to put enough stimulus on your muscle to force it to grow
Principle 2: You have to be eating in a caloric surplus for an extended period of time.
How Do I Build Muscle?
Training to build muscle is both an art and a science. It is also a little more complicated than weight loss.
Fundamentally you can lose weight doing basically any type of exercise and just eating in a deficit. However, building muscle requires a few key things:
The volume of a workout is determined by three factors: weight, sets, and reps. The equation for counting your volume is relatively straightforward.
You have to slowly and steadily increase the overall volume of your workouts.
It is simply volume=sets x reps x weight
For example, if you did 3 sets of bicep curls for 10 reps with 30 pounds, that exercise would be:
3 (sets) x 10 (reps) x 30 (pounds) = 900.
Now count that up for each exercise. And overtime that number for each training block should be increasing.
It is about the weight on the muscle, not the weight on the bar
One of the fundamental differences between weightlifting/powerlifting, and bodybuilding as a sport is that weightlifting/powerlifting focuses on moving a weight, whereas bodybuilding focuses on moving a muscle.
This seems like a trivial idea, but it is actually everything… like e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.
In fact, one of the most iconic quotes in the history of body building was when Kai Greene said, “I am not a weightlifter”
Muscle growth requires mechanical tension on the muscle and the greater the tension, the greater the result. This means that when you train to build muscle you should focus way more on the quality of the rep and the engagement of the muscle during that rep.
Less variety is actually better
One way to ensure you stall your progress building muscle is to change the exercises you do every couple of weeks. The thing about building muscle is that you need a similar stimulus in type but a greater stimulus in magnitude over time to keep growing.
Every time you switch exercises you essentially reset the type of stimulus and the magnitude of the stimulus. The most successful bodybuilders will do the same exercises for months or years before they change them.
Be super consistent in what you do, and be consistent in how well you increase the volume of what you do.
How Many Calories Do I Need to Gain Muscle?
This is where 98% of people who struggle to build muscle fail.
You HAVE to eat enough food to gain muscle. And it is more than you think… and it takes WAY longer than you think.
In fact, you have to consistently eat in a surplus for MONTHS to make any meaningful headway.
For example, let’s say that you want to maximize your muscle growth and you want to gain 10 pounds of lean muscle. Since most people can add 0.25-0.5 pounds of lean muscle a week, that means you have to eat in a surplus, essentially every single day for 5-7 months.
If you miss a few days every week that means you have to extend that to like 10-14 months.
This is where 95% of people fail. They just cannot eat that much food consistently.
Now that we agree that you have to eat in a surplus for an extended period of time and failing to do so stalls progress, how much of a surplus should you be in?
Turns out, there is a decent amount of research on this topic and we can distill all that down to a pretty simple idea. Your body needs a 300-500 calorie per day surplus to maximize muscle growth while minimizing body fat gain.
How Do I Calculate My Macros for Muscle Gain?
Now that you know that you need to be at a 300-500 kcals per day surplus to maximize muscle growth, how do you know what your personal calorie needs are and what how do you structure your macros for muscle gain?
Let’s start with the first question: what are my personal calorie needs?
There are two ways to answer this question.
The first is to utilize a macro calculator and estimate a starting point for your calorie needs. We have a free calculator that has been utilized by over 1 Million people. Put in your information as accurately as you can and it will give you your personal calorie needs. You can even double check those with a Macros Inc coach for free in our community. Follow those calories for 4-6 weeks and your body weight should be increasing ~0.25-0.5 pounds per week over that time frame.
The second way is to determine what your current maintenance calories are by tracking your current food intake and finding what calorie intake you are completely weight stable at over 4-6 weeks and then adding 300-500 calories a day on top of that. This will take a little longer than option one, but may be slightly more accurate as there is much less guess and check involved.
How Much Protein Do I Need to Build Muscle?
That is a great question… and the answer is actually relatively straight forward.
You will need to be fairly close to 1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight if you want to ensure you are maximizing your muscle growth.
You will also need to make sure that you are consuming at least 1.0 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight, but may need to be closer to 1.5-2.0 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight (we usually start muscle gain clients at 1.5 and then adjust from there).
Then you can round out the rest of the calories from either fats or carbohydrates, depending on your preferences. Just make sure you are getting at least 10-15% of calories from fat if you are adopting a lower-fat diet.