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What muscles grow the fastest?

Eight diet tips to help you build muscle mass

In order to build muscle mass, you need a positive calorie balance – i.e. you need to consume more than you burn. For every pound (450g) of muscle you want to build, you’ll need to take in around 2,800 calories. This is mostly to support your increased protein turnover, which is likely to be elevated with training.

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At most, your body can add around 227 (half a pound) of muscle mass every week. Consequently, if you consume a lot of additional calories while trying to build muscle, you are likely to gain excess fat as well. A daily increase of 250 to 500 calories is recommended.

Try to stay on the lower end of the range if you gain fat easily, and aim for the higher end of the range if you find it difficult to gain weight overall. Finding the right amount of extra calories to build muscle and stay lean will take some trial and error.

Moreover, research suggests that eating lean protein 15 to 20 minutes before, during, and within one hour of working out may help increase muscle mass. While you are unlikely to eat steaks or chicken breasts at the gym, a protein drink or supplement may be beneficial before, during, or after workouts.

It’s not all about protein, though. To build muscle, lose fat, and get stronger, a healthy, balanced diet should provide you with many meals that meet your caloric expenditures and provide you with nutrition. Here are eight great ideas to help you build muscle mass.

1. Breakfast will help build Muscle Mass

You’ll need an immediate burst of energy and breakfast will help give you this. It’ll also help you stay full until your next meal or snack. It also sets the trend: you’ll tend to eat healthier if your day starts with a strong and healthy breakfast. Your best bets if your trying to build muscle mass are omelettes, smoothies and cottage cheese.

2. Eat every three hours

Eating the right thing at the right time is crucial for helping you boost your muscle mass. The easiest way is to eat your breakfast, lunch and dinner as usual, interspersed with meals post workout, pre-bed and with two snacks in between.

By keeping your food intake up, it will mean you won’t be as hungry, because eating smaller meals more often versus a few big meals will decrease your stomach size. You’ll feel full more quickly and your waist will trim, while you’ll also have fewer cravings.

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Not eating for long periods can cause you to over-eat at the next meal or topping yourself up with unhealthy snacks from the vending machine. So to stop any cravings, eat at fixed times every day and your body will get hungry at those fixed times.

3. Protein with Each Meal Helps Boost Muscle Mass

You need protein to build and maintain muscle mass. To achieve this, you should be looking to eat at least 1g per 454g of body-weight. That’s 200g/day if you weigh 91kg.

The easiest way to get this amount is to eat a whole protein source with each meal. These include:

  • Red meat. Beef, pork, lamb, etc.
  • Poultry. Chicken, turkey, duck, etc.
  • Fish. Tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel, etc.
  • Eggs. Don’t believe the cholesterol myths. Eat the yolk.
  • Dairy. Milk, cheese, cottage cheese, quark, yogurt, etc.
  • Whey. Not necessary but great for easy post workout shakes.
  • Vegan options such as lentils, tofu, seeds and nuts.

4. Eat fruit and vegetables with each meal

Most of them (not all) are low calorie: you can eat your stomach full without gaining fat or weight. Fruit and vegetables are also full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre which helps digestion, but just be careful to check the sugar content of some fruits.

5. Eat carbs only after your workout

While you need carbs for energy, most people eat more than they need. Limit your carbohydrate intake to after your workout only and you’ll start building plenty of lean muscle mass.

  • Eat fruit and vegetables with all meals. These contain few carbohydrates compared to whole grains with the exception of corn, carrots and raisins.
  • Another Carbs Post Workout Only. This is rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, quinoa, oats, etc. Avoid white carbs and eat whole grain where possible.

6. Eat healthy fats to help build Muscle mass

Eating healthy fats helps improve fat loss and overall health as they digest slowly. In turn, this will help you build lean muscle mass.

Make sure you balance your fat intake, eat healthy fats with every meal and avoid artificial trans-fats and margarine. These are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that you’ll find in certain foods. These include:

  • Vegetable oils, including olive and sunflower.
  • Nuts and seeds.
  • Oily fish such as mackerel and salmon.
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7. Drinking water helps you build Muscle Mass

Strength training causes water loss through sweating which can impair muscle recovery. Therefore, if you don’t replace that water, all the strength training in the world won’t help you increase your muscle mass. Drinking plenty of water not only prevents dehydration but also hunger, since an empty stomach can make you think you’re hungry.

8. Eat Whole Foods 90% of The Time

To really get the results you want and to boost your muscle mass significantly, 90% of your food intake should consist of whole foods. Try and avoid processed foods as much as possible.

  • Whole foods. These are unprocessed and unrefined (or little refined) foods that come as close as possible to their natural state. Examples of these are fresh meat, fish, poultry, eggs, vegetables, pulses, fruits, rice, oats, quinoa etc.
  • Processed foods usually contain added sugars, trans-fats, nitrates, corn syrup, sodium and more chemicals. Examples include bagels, fruit bars, cereals, pizza, cookies, sausages, frozen meals, supplements

Of course, it’s not just about getting your diet right when it comes to building muscle mass. You need to get your workouts right, too. Spending enough time in the gym, doing the right exercises is absolutely vital if you want to achieve the gains you’re looking for.

Which Muscles Respond Quickest?

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There are certain muscles that respond faster to weight training than others — ones that seemingly shape up after one round on the Nautilus circuit. If you want quick, visible proof of your workout, know which body parts to focus on first.

Muscles are classified as «fast-twitch» or «slow-twitch.» Slow-twitch muscles are found in large or stabilizing muscle groups such as the abdomen or back. These muscle fibers can typically contract for long periods of time and are difficult to fatigue, which makes them slow to respond in terms of definition.

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Muscle fatigue signifies overload, which is necessary for muscle growth. When a muscle fatigues, the central nervous system initiates mechanisms to increase fiber recruitment within the muscle and eventually cause the muscle to hypertrophy (that is, get bigger), to allow more force production. This neuromuscular adaptation takes place very rapidly and explains why the first few weeks of strength training result in large increases in strength without any noticeable change in size.

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Your slow-twitch stomach muscles, for instance, contract all day long as they stabilize the body. So you could say that you work them out for 16-plus hours a day, and they are therefore in great shape. The downside is that they are difficult to overload during training; therefore hypertrophy (the visible gain of muscle definition) comes slowly. Typically, it takes two to three months of regular sit-ups to see any visible change in stomach muscle definition.

The back, on the other hand, has a greater variation in fiber type. The upper back and shoulders respond faster to regular weight training than the stabilizing muscles of the lower back. After four to six weeks of targeted exercises like military presses, side dumbbell raises, seated rows, and even lat pulldowns, you will start to see muscle tone in the shoulder area. As for the gluteus maximus, which has about equal amounts of slow- and fast-twitch fibers, results come quickly because you can use larger weights to overload these muscles faster.

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Fast-twitch muscles, found in the arms and legs, contract quickly and usually respond better to strength training because they’re easier to overload and fatigue. They also tend to develop in size at a much faster rate.

Of course, just one session in the weight room won’t do the trick. If you’ve seen bodybuilders doing bicep curls before a competition, they’re not trying to get a quick fix of muscle definition; this exercise increases blood flow to the muscle, which will definitely cause it look bigger, but more substantial results take at least a few weeks.

It is this difference between slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscles that explains why it is so difficult to get perfectly cut abs and relatively easy to develop bulging biceps and calves.

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7 stages of muscle growth

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Use these tips to understand how to maximise your performance

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Benefits of muscle growth

Ok, let’s get slightly technical now. We’ve broken down many subjects over the past few months and one area we want to explore further is muscle growth. When we’re talking about muscle growth we’re really focussing on any activity that strengthens your muscles as a result of a form of resistance. If you want muscle tone, if you want to increase muscle size, if you want to increase a particular lift these are all a result of muscle growth.

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In saying that it should be noted that you cannot change the number of muscle fibres you have, but you can create adaptations to the muscle fibres you do have and recruit more of the fibres you do have. Think of it like an 8 person rowing crew, initially the cox only tells two oarsmen to row and propel the boat forward, over time two more oarsmen are recruited and start rowing causing the boat to go faster. Eventually more and more of the crew start rowing and the boat moves faster. This is the same response you can find in your muscles but over a longer period of time.

The body responds to resistance or weight training through muscle growth. Effectively the brain or the cox thinks “that was hard, I need more help so it’s easier next time”. The brain or the cox then recruits more fibres/rowers to perform better. Weight training is popular because of these adaptations and with results often noticeable.

7 stages of muscle growth

The science behind adding muscle mass is surprisingly simple and can be broken down into 7 stages. Read on for an insight into what goes on inside your body when you weight train.

1. Warm-up

Increasing the heart rate pumps blood to your muscles, allowing them to extend fully as they warm. Also supplying the muscle fibres with oxygen so they are ready to workout.

2. Muscle loading

During repetitions the muscles go through time being loaded and time being stretched under load. As a result, the heart pumps more blood into the protective sheaths that surround the muscle fibres. Therefore providing oxygen and nutrients to these fibres.

3. Activating your nervous system

When we want to lift weights, the central nervous system (CNS) relays this fact to nerves that are within the protective sheath around those muscle fibres. This then tells the muscle fibre to contract, resulting in lifting the weight. When doing the exercise correctly the muscles activate in a partial sequence and your CNS adapts to this. Then as the efficiency of your nervous system improves you can lift more weight or do more reps.

4. Chemical reactions

Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is the energy source immediately used for muscle contractions. The body’s cells break it down to release energy. The stores of creatine, phosphate and glycogen in the cells are also converted into ATP. The by-product of this process is lactic acid.

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5. The burn

When the glycogen stores in the cells have been depleted, the lactic acid has built up, this is when the muscles cannot work efficiently and you need to rest.

6. Successful failure

As we reach failure during our last set, the muscle fibres become completely fatigued. Microscopic tears ‘microtears’ occur in the myofilaments (the smallest muscle fibre bundles in your muscles).

7. Repair and growth

The post-workout repair process when our muscles start to grow. The body repairs the microtears by adding amino acids (actin and myosin) to the myofilament, which causes them to grow in size. However, it is important to know the body cannot grow additional muscle cells, so the muscle growth is limited by the number of muscle cells you have. So to get the best results from your weight training, train to suit your body type, read our article on training to your body type for more information.

The above process means you should progressively increase the weights you lift as your muscles quickly adapt to the stress that they are exposed too.

It is also not strange to experience DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) when weight training. However, think about leaving at least 48hrs between sessions that target the same muscle group. Why? Because if you train the same muscles again before the muscles have been able to repair and rebuild, you will not be as strong and run the risk of injury.

If you’ve been reading this and you’d like to learn more, our Personal Trainers are on hand in Ravelin Sports Centre to offer help and advice. You can book in for a free 15-minute consultation via the UOP Sport Mobile App and discuss your needs. The seven stages outlined above are not only relevant for heavy lifters, bodybuilders and athletes, understanding the process helps us to get stronger and ensure our training stays effective.

Take a busy gym, someone is using the weights you want and you only have some lighter weights available. Extending the muscle loading phase allows you to get similar benefits to using a heavy weight with a quicker loading phase. We’re here to help — so come and chat to our team if you need any support.

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