By: Alex Liska
Gaining lean muscle mass can be quite challenging but there are a few tips that i can recommend to make this task easier. Always remember, if you are trying to gain lasting lean mass it is better to take your time and do it right than to rush things, take too many different supplements and experience results that are short-lived.
When I first started weight training, YEARS ago, my goal was to gain muscle mass in my lower body since my legs/glute area was fairly narrow and lacking muscle density. I made a lot of mistakes, I would eat way too many carbs because I thought it would "add size/bulk" and I over-trained my lower body. I was so impatient, i expected to see results over-night pretty much and I wasn't giving my muscles enough recovery time. By taking supplements, I would gain water-weight in my muscles and feel bloated. After I would stop using the supplements (Creatine, Nitric Oxide, Weight-gainers) the results would fade away and I would be back where i started.
Over the years, I made some changes to my training programs, my diet and did all I could to avoid over-training and I reached my goal. Now I can maintain and if anything I could even afford do lose some size in my lower body :)
Nevertheless, here are some tips that I would recommend for some of you that want to gain quality lean muscle mass:
- Consume between 1.5-2grams of Protein per pound of bodyweight! For maintenance, 0.8grams/lb of bodyweight are recommended.
- Increase lean protein intake by a few grams each meal (depending on your current weight and goals). Adding anywhere between 3-5grams of a quality protein with each meal can add up to an extra 18-30grams of protein a day for those consuming 6 meals/day. By doing this you are also helping your body get accustomed to absorbing a bit more protein during each meal.
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep every night: I would aim for at least 8 hours of sleep. But if this is unreasonable due to work schedule/busy lifestyle, you can try to take a 20-30minute power-nap in the afternoon. You should rest so that your muscles have enough time to recover and grow after a workout.
- Consume a quality protein shake/protein serving before bed: I like to consume a protein powder that is a blend of Whey Concentrate/Casein because it breaks down slowly over-night, feeding my muscles much-needed protein. You can also opt for 1 cup plain/fat-free yogurt with 15-20 grams of Whey (low-carb) mixed together OR 1 cup of fat-free cottage cheese. To add flavor use Stevia (PureVia Stevia is what I use because it has a nice texture and no after-taste!) and a tsp. of vanilla extract.
- Decrease the number of reps in each set and perform at least 4 sets of each compound exercise: By decreasing the number of reps you are focusing more on training your fast-twitch fibers and helping your muscles to grow. Example- Perform 4-6 sets of 6-8 reps of Squats (Lower Body), Bent-over barbell rows (Back) & Flat Bench Barbell Presses (Chest) versus 3 sets 12-15 reps.
- Remember that larger muscle groups recover more slowly than smaller muscle groups so avoid over-training them: I would suggest while trying to add lean muscle mass, train each major body part once a week. Using heavy weights also requires more recovery time than using light weights.
- Opt for free-weight exercises versus machines: I like to use machines as well but I experience greater mass gains when I use free weights. Ex. Free-weight Barbell Squat versus Machine Leg Press.
- Drink 8-10 glasses of water a day (More if you are a very active individual): This goes without saying, you need to stay hydrated to ensure that your body is able to carry out its functions. Drinking enough water before, during and after exercise will ensure that you're replacing fluids lost during exercise.
- Consume High-Fiber Foods (such as complex carbohydrates) when needed VS. Refined starches/sugars: One of the foods that worked well for me as well as my clients when trying to add lean mass was cooked Oats with 1-2 tbsp Flaxseeds (I add PureVia Stevia/Cinnamon for flavor) for breakfast. About an hour or two after training I will consume a cup frozen berries (cranberries/blueberries/raspberries) with my protein. Complex carbohydrates are more filling, more fiber-rich and burn slower than refined carbs (fruit juices, white flour/bread, bananas, white potatoes, mangoes just to name a few of the carbs I stay away from because they will cause unwanted weight (bodyfat) gain)
- Be Patient! Give yourself time to reap the benefits of your hard work: Anything that comes too easy in life doesn't last long. The more time you invest into something the better the outcome. Stay focused on your ultimate goals and take small steps to achieve them. Determination is the key.
BEST OF LUCK TO YOU ALL, GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR TRAINING AND DIET!
-ALEX L. :)