The biggest secret to getting a tight & toned body is to build muscle! But, let’s be honest, many women are afraid to lift heavy for fear of becoming bulky. If only it were that easy.
Truth is, it is actually quite difficult for women to put on muscle. We really have to work hard to lift heavy and eat more in order to gain lean muscle mass. But we also must be willing to continue this discipline for many months to years to actually see results. Consistency & patience is key!
Having adequate muscle mass is so beneficial for your overall health! So, if building muscle is your goal, I’m going to share with you my top tips for building lean muscle mass fast!
But, before we dig into all that, it’s important to understand what happens to your muscles during your workout and also in your recovery phase.
What actually happens when you’re building muscle? During your workout, the more weight you can lift while maintaining proper form will cause growth. Time under tension means the longer you can isolate a muscle under the most tension will cause more growth. This is because during this time muscle fibers are tearing. But during your recovery phase, you rebuild muscle fibers to increase muscle mass and growth. The workout is just as important as your rest/recovery and refueling.
Sorry, but Cardio and Zumba aren’t going to do it.
These are fun exercises and can help with endorphin release and stress reduction, but in terms of gaining sufficient muscle mass, you must incorporate higher-intensity training like weight/resistance training.
Your muscles will only grow to the strength they need to perform your daily activities. This means if you’re only lifting a max of 20lbs a day, your muscles only need to become strong enough to move 20lbs and they will not continue to grow unless you increase the weight they need to move. Basically, just pick up heavy stuff and put it down safely. Repeat 4-5x a week. But there are a few key tips that I must tell you about so that you can make the most out of your muscle-building journey.
- Don’t keep changing your routine. Focus on the basic fundamental exercises like squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, and rows. Each week focus on doing the same moves with better form and heavier weight.
- Fewer reps for more muscle growth. This means by rep 4-5 you should be starting to struggle. If you’re doing 12-15 reps, you must use a lighter weight, which will still activate muscle fibers, but will lean out rather than build up.
- Progressive overload for muscle hypertrophy. Muscle hypertrophy is the act of challenging muscles to move heavier weight or resistance as muscle fibers are strained with heavier weight. Each week challenge yourself by adding just a little bit more weight while doing the same movements for a least 6-8 weeks.
- Form > Weight. Focus on proper form rather than the number of pounds. This will help prevent injury but also ensure that you’re engaging the right muscles you’re trying to isolate and use less momentum.
- Avoid overtraining. We need rest days as this is when muscles repair and rebuild. Overtraining and not allowing time for proper rest will halt your muscle growth. Excess cardio will also burn up essential nutrients needed for muscle growth, therefore it’s best on your heavier lifting days to just pass on the cardio.
Rest & Recovery
Strenuous exercise causes damage to the muscle fibers. During your rest & recovery phase is when muscles can work on repairing and rebuilding themselves.
If you’re in the early phases of your fitness journey, you may be experiencing a lot of muscle fatigue and soreness. Being too sore to continue your program can hinder your results. So, how can you get rid of muscle soreness fast?
Well for starters we can blame Lactic Acid. Lactic Acid that builds up in your body is what causes muscle soreness and fatigue. When your body converts glucose into energy for your workout, lactic acid results when oxygen levels are low. Therefore, to reduce lactic acid build-up you must learn to breathe deeply throughout your workout.
Once lactic acid builds up, we must rid it from the body quickly so that you can get back to your workout routine and be able to climb the stairs without feeling like your legs are going to give out. The best ways to reduce lactic acid build-up fast are:
- Hydrate – Drinking adequate amounts of water will help flush out the lactic from your body.
- Keep Moving -even on your rest days, you should still be moving your body. Low-intensity movement is key to your rest days. Activities like walking, yoga, and foam rolling will help eliminate lactic acid accumulation.
- Magnesium – Magnesium is often depleted from the body when we are under stress. Magnesium has lots of benefits, one being that it helps to relax muscles and reduce muscle tension. Foods high in magnesium are whole grains, green leafy veggies, beans, avocados, and more. Supplements are also a great way to get magnesium, but it’s best to discuss this with your healthcare provider to see if this is right for you.
Myth: you don’t need to do anything on your rest days. The truth is you should still be moving your body on your rest days with light walking, stretching, or low-intensity cardio.
Myth: If you’re not sore, you didn’t get in a good workout…. Overtime your training allows your body to become conditioned, meaning it can endure the muscle strain and is quicker to recover than when you first started working out. So you won’t always be sore after each workout, doesn’t mean it wasn’t effective.
The longer you’ve been working out, the harder it can be to induce continued muscle hypertrophy. This doesn’t mean that working out necessarily gets easier over time, as you’re increasing your workload, but that your body is built to endure this activity, which means less muscle damage and faster repair time.
If you’re trying to build muscle, you must provide the muscles with their own energy supply.
If you’re focused on muscle building, this isn’t the time to restrict calories, but you must eat the right type of calories. Eat lean meats, fruits, and veggies, while scaling back on sweets, treats, and processed foods in general.
Protein + Resistance Training/Weight Lifting = Muscle Growth
Protein is considered a macronutrient, or macro or short.
Timing of protein intake is essential for optional muscle growth. Right after an intense workout, you want to get in protein and carbohydrates ASAP. Ideally, within the first 30 minutes following your workout. There are other supplements that can also help promote muscle growth that we should review as well.
- Protein – the building block for muscle fibers. Adequate protein intake helps to repair the body and promote muscle growth.
Food sources: lean meats like chicken and fish, eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, nuts, nut butter, beans/lentils, and of course protein supplements.
- Carbs – Carbohydrates provide energy for the body. During a workout, the body depletes its energy reserves and must be refilled quickly to prevent excess muscle breakdown. Ideally, after an intense workout, you want to eat simple carbs that will be absorbed faster than complex carbs.
- Creatine – Can help improve muscle strength, growth, and overall performance. Creatine can cause water retention in muscles and therefore cause swelling in those areas. Look for a pure creatine supplement and talk to your healthcare provider before starting any supplements to see if it’s safe for you.
- Amino Acids – Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are what make up a protein. BCAA supplements may help build muscle, promote a faster recovery, and enhance overall athletic performance.
- Mass Gainer – If you’re struggling to reach your dietary goals for the day you may consider a mass gainer. Usually high in calories, protein, and carbs, a weight-gaining supplement promotes muscle growth. If you’re using this in conjunction with a weight training program you will likely gain more muscle mass rather than fat mass.
Having sufficient muscle mass is important for your overall health as it’s related to less risk for heart and metabolic disease, as well as promoting a healthy weight. If you want to know how much protein you need each day check out How to Count Your Macros. If you’re looking for more ideas for Post-Workout Meals you’ve got to read this!
These are some of my favorite additions to my home gym and supplements that can help significantly with muscle building.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health conditions without consulting your healthcare provider. Information used is based on experience and opinion, not 100% evidence. Always consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website. Some links in this article may contain affiliate links.