Being strong is totally in right now. While fitness and exercise have long been touted as boons to your overall health, new trends are putting muscle definition and size in the forefront. Firm, well-developed muscles are attractive, sexy, and a sign of health and vitality, for both men and women.
What you eat can make a difference between an effective, muscle-building gym session and one that simply leaves you sore for a few days. Sure, your body needs protein and carbs to fuel workouts, but you may be giving it all the wrong things. Proper nutrition is about more than just macros, and you should understand what role it plays in getting swole.
How Your Muscles Get Bigger
Muscles don’t just magically get bigger when you hit the gym. There is a lot of science behind that growth and development. Hormone, activity levels, and diet all contribute to the process. Understanding muscle development means you need to have at least basic knowledge of the metabolic processes.
When you exercise and overload your muscles, either by excessive repetitions or lifting heavy loads, you create small tears in the muscle fibers. That’s actually good news. The tears repair during periods of rest. but your body does more than recreating what was there. It also adds tissue so your muscles can grow. The result? Larger and stronger muscles.
What Role Proper Nutrition Plays
Without the proper nutrients, your muscles wouldn’t be able to rebuild after a workout. Since that is how they get bigger and more defined, you want to encourage repair.
Proteins are crucial to building muscles and getting that swole look you’re after. Comprised of various amino acids, they supply these crucial building blocks for tissue. Fats and carbohydrates provide the fuel you need to get through tough workouts. Your body breaks them down to create sugars that are then burned during metabolic processes.
Nutrition isn’t all about what you do eat. Sometimes, what you avoid is just as important. You don’t want to undermine your hard work by ingesting harmful foods. Many seemingly healthy foods are packed with sugars, unhealthy fats, or processed ingredients. The lectins in bananas and many other fruits and vegetables can undermine gut health and slow muscle development.
How to Maximize Your Workouts
Because muscles grow when they are overloaded, you want to force them to work harder than they ordinarily would. This can be done in several ways.
One of the most popular ways to create muscle mass is by lifting increasingly heavy loads. You’ve probably seen this in the buff group hanging out in the back of your fitness center, encouraging and spotting each other. It’s not the only way, though.
Increasing the number of repetitions instead of the load can also create a challenge for muscles. This tends to produce a lean, defined, and physically fit appearance. Many women, and a growing number of men, find this to be an attractive option that allows for a clear display of physical strength without adding bulk.
Foregoing weights altogether and using gravity instead is a growing trend. There are plenty of bodyweight workouts that can help you add muscle mass while incorporating whole-body and functional movements.
Rest periods are also crucial. No matter how you choose to challenge your muscles, proper rest allows the repair process to take place. That doesn’t mean you should only exercise periodically. Active rest can be highly effective at allowing specific muscle groups to heal.
Stagger your workouts so that you do legs, arms, or core each twice per week. That allows you plenty of time to recover between lifting sessions, plus a full day off with no training. Since hormones, including growth hormone, are regulated when you sleep, you want to make sure you get plenty of that kind of rest, too.
Eating a balanced diet and getting enough of the nutrients you need will help you build muscle mass. While no diet is perfect, make an effort to choose the foods you eat carefully to ensure you maximize the positives and keep negatives to a minimum. Understanding muscle development and how your nutrition can affect your progress is the most important step to taking your fitness to the next level.