When it comes to packing on size and strength, the unfortunate reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all training regimen or meal plan that is going to be ideal for everybody.
However, the good news is that experts and fitness junkies alike have been experimenting for decades with all different kinds of diets and training programs and it turns out, there are a lot of different methods that can be effective.
While there are indeed various approaches to building size and strength, there are some underlying fundamentals that youll need to have in place in order to be successful, no matter which angle you chose to take.
Advice from top practitioners
In order to get you pointed in the right direction on your muscle building journey, where ever it may lead you, weve sought out advice from some of the top practitioners in the field of strength and conditioning. Heres what they had to say.
Quite often I am asked what is the best piece of fitness advice you could give me? Does it have to do with sets, reps, exercise selection, morning or afternoon training, fasting, macro counting, and on and on and on. When after all the years of experience and learning, I have come to one conclusion: consistency. By definition, consistency means: acting or doing something in the same way over time, especially so as to be fair or accurate to a particular outcome.
Knowing that we have the power to make the ultimate changes to our bodies by simply making a decision is very commanding. It should inspire us to learn more and educate ourselves on what that simple change in our lives can be.
Then as that change becomes routine, we can slowly integrate another consistent change. Soon we will have transformed our habits to resemble something that before we thought to be ideal and something difficult to achieve.
Its all about small steps and consistency. Lay the most perfect brick every single day and understand that by the end of the year you will have a beautiful wall.
Packing on Lean Muscle Mass: Ideal timing & drink mixtures for athletes
The latest research clearly shows that what you eat and when you eat, makes a tremendous difference in the speed and quality of the results you get from your workouts as an athlete.
Research shows that one to two hours before your workout, you should eat a light meal, drink a meal replacement drink or eat a large protein bar. Immediately before workouts you should drink a pre-workout drink. Whey protein is the preferred choice since it digests fast. Along with protein, consume at least 30-40g high glycemic carbohydrates such as glucose, maltodextrin or glucose polymers. This helps spare glycogen for improved performance and results.
When you exercise your body produces a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is actually your muscles enemy since it tears muscle down and converts it into fuel. The opposite is true for insulin, which helps rebuild muscle and suppresses the release of cortisol. Drinking a carb-filled drink therefore stimulates insulin and blunts cortisol. The result? More muscle gains!
Misunderstanding how hormones work
Misunderstanding how these hormones work is why so many people hit plateaus in the gym despite their heavy workouts.
If your workout is less than one hour, just drink water. However, if training extends past an hour, during your workout you should consume the same high-glycemic, carb/protein pre-workout drink previously mentioned to help maintain glycogen (stored energy) levels for a longer workout.
After a workout, it is a critical time for proper recovery. You need to rush nutrients into your body preferably within 30 minutes of your workout. By taking a carb/protein drink immediately after your workout, you will double your amino acid uptake and increase subsequent protein synthesis by a whopping 25% when compared to waiting a few hours!
The post-workout formula should contain at least 15g of whey protein (which is fast-digesting) and about 45g of high glycemic carbohydrates. This is about a 3 to 1 ratio of carb to protein in a liquid form for fast absorption.
After about two hours your body is primed to stimulate further muscle protein synthesis and recovery. This is the time to eat a regular meal. Eat about 20-40g of protein along with low-glycemic carbs. Lean meats and steamed vegetables are a good choice. Stay away from refined carbs like breads, pastas, rice, and cereal to minimize insulin stimulation unless you are trying to gain weight.
Enter the Weight Room with a Purpose
The importance of having a plan before entering the weight room is vital to any individual looking to make progress, whether your goal is to increase strength and size or learn to move like a supple leopard. It doesnt need to be perfect to start, nor does it even need to be something you created, but having a game plan before you enter weight room or fitness center will go leaps and bounds towards seeing the gains you want and keeping you motivated in the process.
The body needs different stressors to adapt and see change. Beginners can get away with repeating the basics and still produce great results, but as you get more experienced variety becomes crucial when trying to avoid reaching a plateau and even boredom.
(Michael has a Masters of Science in Sociology and is a former sociological researcher and course instructor at Florida State University. During his tenure at FSU, Michael specialized in the sociology of sports where amongst other things, he worked on research examining football participation and injury amid youth players.)