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If you are traveling down the road of fitness, you, like many others, are probably wondering, "How do I gain muscle (hypertrophy)?", "How can I lose fat?", or both. There are numerous routes that can be ventured to reach these goals. However, the best ways to gain muscle and get “cut” are: 1) increase testosterone and growth hormone levels in the body, 2) perform weight training utilizing compound exercises, 3) obtain proper workout nutrition and timing, and 4) get plenty of sleep.
INCREASE TESTOSTERONE AND GROWTH HORMONE LEVELS
Testosterone and growth hormones are the body's two largest anabolic (muscle-building) hormones. They are both linked to strength gains and larger muscle mass. Their levels are influenced by gender, age, and genetics, and they usually peak between the ages of 18 to 35 and decline thereafter. Males have higher levels of these hormones than females hence higher muscle mass. Some people are gifted with high testosterone levels and good growth hormone release. These fortunate individuals have the edge in obtaining the picture-perfect physique.
There are a number of things that one can do to help boost the natural release of these hormones in the body. Included in these methods are intense resistance training sessions that elevate lactate levels, getting sufficient sleep, increasing saturated and monounsaturated fat consumption, and decreasing sugar intake.
Training protocols that have been proven to increase hormone production and metabolism in the body for gains in muscle mass and loss of fat mass are those that:
Also, consuming healthy fats (saturated and monounsaturated fats) has been shown to raise testosterone levels. At least 30% of one’s daily calories should come from healthy fats. Studies show that diets higher in good fats have a nitrogen sparing effect (which means less muscle breakdown and wasting). Great sources of beneficial fats include nuts, canola oil, and salmon.
Finally, reducing sugar intake has a positive effect on testosterone and growth hormone production. Sugar quickly elevates insulin levels. In turn, testosterone and growth hormone levels are suppressed. Additionally, with high sugar intake having the negative side effects of increases in body fat, staying away from sugar is a good idea. .
WEIGHT TRAINING UTILIZING COMPOUND EXERCISES
Isolation exercises are movements that involve only one group of muscles. Common isolation exercises include curls, dumbbell flies, front raises, calf raises, and leg extensions. Compound exercises are exercises that include more than one muscle group at a time. Popular compound exercises include bench press, shoulder press, dips, rows, pull-ups, and deadlifts.
Compound exercises are better than isolation exercises. They hit more muscle fibers per lift hence require greater energy expenditures to perform. So choosing compound exercises to comprise the majority of a routine will lead to the most intense workout possible in a fraction of the time. This means greater releases of anabolic hormones for bigger muscle gains. Other benefits include more calories burned, a full body workout within a few exercises, and a much more balanced physique. Furthermore the after burn effect of these high intensity sessions yields a higher fat-burning metabolism for much longer periods of time (12 to 48 hours). Isolation exercises are great for tweaking the physique once hypertrophy goals have already been reached through compound movements.
Adhering to the following guidelines in a compound movement weightlifting program will deliver great returns:
PROPER WORKOUT NUTRITION AND TIMING
A proper diet is the most important part of any bodybuilding program. Without proper nutrition, even the best workout program will get you nowhere! More time is invested in feeding the body than exercising it. The body heavily relies on nutrients from the foods and supplements that are consumed to help create an environment conducive to hypertrophy. So to obtain a dream physique, the right foods and supplements must be carefully selected and incorporated into the daily diet.
Protein is essential for mass gains. It promotes the muscle-building process called “protein synthesis”. Protein is used by the body to repair muscle damage, build new muscle, and maintain muscle mass. Between 1 and 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight should be consumed daily by bodybuilders. It should be taken immediately upon rising from bed in the morning, one hour before workouts, within a half hour of the conclusion of a workout, and before heading to bed. Additionally, eating every three hours will help ensure that the body is receiving a sufficient amount of protein to support muscle growth. Great sources of protein include protein shakes, eggs, fish, meat, nuts, milk, and soy.
Having a nice balance of carbohydrates in tandem to this protein-rich diet is also of great importance. They help deliver the amino acids into muscles by boosting insulin levels, which drive nutrients into the muscle cells and catapult the muscle-growth process. This combo is especially critical immediately after workouts. Consuming 2 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight per day is ideal. This should equate to 40% to 60% of one’s total calories.
There are two classes of carbohydrates: 1) Simple Carbohydrates, and 2) Complex Carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates are composed of one to two sugar molecules. They are very rapidly digested hence the quickest source of energy for the body. Intake of these high glycemic carbohydrates with protein after a workout are ideal because they help drive nutrients into muscle cells quickly. Sources of simple carbohydrates include bread, fruit drinks, molasses, candy, honey, and table sugar.
Complex carbohydrates are often rich in fiber thus slow digesting and are often high in vitamins and minerals. They are commonly found in beans, peas, whole plant foods such as oatmeal and pasta, and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, and pumpkins. Most people should get the majority of their carbohydrate intake from these types of food. They trigger smaller insulin response hence increasing the likelihood of them being metabolized instead of being stored as body fat. Additionally, consuming high levels of fiber and protein increases the metabolism due to more calories being burned to digest these complex food types.
Along with proper food selection and timing, proper water intake is of high importance. Every single metabolic process of the body is fueled by water. This includes fat burning and protein synthesis. Drinking adequate amounts of water is one of the simplest measures that can be taken to boost body transformation results. It is recommended to have a daily water intake of half one’s body weight in ounces. For example, a 200-pound man should have 100 ounces of water per day. On workout days, additional water should be consumed as exercise will result in loss of body water due to sweating. Water should be consumed before exercising and on regular intervals during the exercise to replace lost fluids. Inadequate hydration results in fatigue, lackluster workouts, and poor recovery. Furthermore optimal operation of the metabolism for fat burn and muscle gain is not realized.
Sleep is one of the most important elements in a bodybuilding program. During lifting, numerous micro-tears occur in the muscle tissues. These torn muscles are only repaired during extended rest periods, such as sleep. During sleep, nutrients are utilized to replace, repair, and rebuild the tissue, leaving more muscle for adaptation to the strenuous activities. Also, anabolic hormones are naturally released during deep sleep to aid in the muscle regeneration process. Sleep deprivation results in the body not getting sufficient time to repair and recover muscles one hundred percent.
Studies have also shown that individuals who sleep more lose more fat than those who sleep less. On average, by sleeping 3 more hours, 400 more calories are expended, which translates to 2800 additional calories burned per week. When less sleep is experienced, the body slows the metabolic calorie and fat burn rate to preserve energy to meet the increased metabolic needs of longer waking hours. Hence for optimal functionality of the metabolism for achieving body sculpting goals, adequate sleep is of paramount importance.
Getting the body of your dreams is an obtainable goal. However, all ideal anabolic conditions must be properly staged. This includes optimal testosterone and growth hormone levels, a well-planned workout program, balanced nutrition with proper timing, and adequate sleep. When utilizing the above formula, one will find that spending five days per week in the gym is overkill. With just lifting weights two times per week, plenty of muscle can be built along with pounds of fat being melted away. Executing high volume, heavily loaded compound weight lifting exercises with short rest breaks while consuming a diet loaded in complex carbohydrates and high in protein, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of sleep will lead to great returns for the physique. These items all play an important role in affecting the hormonal system to increase muscle mass, which in turn, increases the resting metabolic rate for increased fat loss. Additional supplementation such as use of caffeine, fish oil, creatine, BCAAs, L-Citrulline, Glutamine, and CLA serve as great complements in quickly reaching fitness goals. However, following this blueprint should be plenty to arm anyone for success. Mastering this plan and making it a part of one’s lifestyle will chase away fat and bring heavy muscle gains with minimal time invested.