What is the quickest way to gain muscle mass?

What is the quickest way to gain muscle mass?

We can see slim and sweaty individuals every day in the gym fighting their battle for muscle mass and even though some of them succeed, not all of them are winning this fight.

The growth of muscle mass is a result of a chain of biochemical processes and physiological reactions that are closely connected to our genetic dispositions, nutrition, and type and intensity of our workout. This article is mainly for those who are naturally slim and face problems gaining muscle mass.

Could I be this ectomorph type?

The somatotype theory was originally introduced by the psychologist William Sheldon in the 20th century when he was trying to connect a specific body type with certain personality traits. Since then, the theory has been spread to fitness industry helping to categorize the trainees in three groups based on their body type.

Somatotypes define three types of personalities. The first is ectomorph – slim individual who struggle to gain muscles mass; mesomorph – individuals with naturally muscular body structure; and endomorph – individuals with tendencies to gain fat. This categorization was once thought practical when selecting appropriate type of training and diet plans for individual people.

Nevertheless, nowadays with advanced individualization, modern scientific researches found only little proof that people can be so easily and unequivocally categorized. At the same time, we do not have enough valid information that these body types are connected to specific metabolic speeds, or reactions to certain diets or training plans. There is also no consensus that these somatotypes are genetically predetermined.

Based on current practice, people seem to be a mix of different body types and our bodies can significantly transform depending on the nutrition, training, and the overall lifestyle.

Nobody tells you not to categorize yourself as an ectomorph, but the truth is that you should not use this classification as an excuse preventing you from reaching your goals.

Trust yourself. You might be capable of more than you believe.

It all starts with what is on your plate

To grow muscles effectively, it is vital to consume enough calories that exceed your BMR (basal metabolic rate). If you try to gain muscle mass, it is recommended to consume 500 kcal more than your BMR is. These calories should come from a quality source and contain enough proteins that are the building stones of our bodies and that contribute to growth and maintenance of muscle mass.

If you have a headache figuring out how much you should eat, take a look back in time and conscientiously try to calculate everything you ate or drank using on-line calorie tables. If your daily intake varies, it is better to track your diet for a week or two. Divide the final number by the number of tracked days and compare the resulting calorie intake (in kcal or kJ) with your body weight. Easily put, if your weight is slowly increasing and you are not noticing any extra belly fat, you are very likely on the right track. If your weight is stagnating or even decreasing with workouts, you should eat more.

Macro-nutrients for macro-guys

Generally said, each individual seeking to build muscles should aim to each more proteins since these are key for muscle mass and regeneration.

Standard recommended daily intake is between 1,6 g to 2,2 g per one kg of body weight, meaning a 70-kg individual should consume 112 g to 154 g protein per day. P When consuming proteins, it is important to regard also the so-called “leucine threshold” – the amount of leucine necessary for muscle synthesis initiation. For majority of people, this means approximately 2 – 3 g leucine per meal. If you do not avoid animal protein, this should not be a problem for you.

This is more difficult for vegans who must track the amount of essential amino acids in their diet and correctly combine various protein sources.

As far as carbohydrates go, they are the main energy source for our body and they contribute to normal muscle functions after highly intense or long-lasting physical performances leading to muscle fatigue and exhaustion of glycogen in skeletal muscles. Recommended daily intake of carbohydrates varies with regard to type of physical activity but the general recommendation for those who want to build muscles ranks between 5 to 8 g per one kg of body weight. For some of us, it might be really difficult to consume such amounts, and this is the ideal moment when to add some carbohydrate-protein supplements that can very easily help you with gaining muscles.

Intake of fats should not be overlooked since fats are important for multiple metabolic and hormonal functions and are of course another source of necessary calories. Approximately 20-35% of total calorie intake should be made by fats.

Do not forget that even though you are trying to gain weight, it is not ideal to replace quality meal with fried fries. It might be true that they give you enough calories but the contribution to your health or muscle gain is questionable.

If we try to build muscles or burn fat, we should always consider a balanced diet including sufficient amount of all three macro nutrients and other important substances such as minerals and vitamins from fruits and vegetables.

We talk muscle hypertrophy

Hypertrophy, enlargement of muscle cells, is a key process when building muscle. Some of you might have also heard of hyperplasia – increase of the number of muscle fibres – however recent studies do not agree whether this process happens in adult individuals at all or not.

What we do know is that there are two main mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy – sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy means an increase in the volume of sarcoplasm that is a liquid inside of the muscle cells that contains cell factories – mitochondria, and also the fuel – glycogen. The highest stimulation should be reached approximately between the 10 and 20 reps.

Myofibrillar hypertrophy is connected to an increase of myofibrils – muscle fibres – that produce the muscle contractions. Here the maximum stimulation is between 1 and 8 reps.

You may know someone, who is rather little and who can surprisingly lift much heavier weights compared to his body structure than another significantly bigger body builder. One of the reasons why he might have stayed “smaller” could be, of course apart from other factors, that during his workout routine he stimulated solely the protein in his muscle fibres and not the sarcoplasmic part.

If we want to maximize the muscle development, we should consider both hypertrophies and include them in our trainings with both higher and lower number of reps.

Progressive overload as a key to success

Our bodies are designed in such a way to adjust to the stress that it faces. For this reason, progressive overload is key to building muscle.

In practice this means that we must regularly and gradually increase the weight or the number of reps per training, which stimulates the muscles to grow.

You do not need to give too much thought if it is more efficient to do 6 reps or 8 reps.

It is much more important to focus on the whole training as a scheme that should not only be a routine for you. If it is easy for you to do 10 reps with 70 kg on bench-press and every workout will be the same for you, you will probably not improve too much. But if your workout is a challenge for you and you make yourself overcome some limits, you can be quite sure that you will reach the deserved treat – hypertrophy of muscle fibres.

As important as your diet is, your training should be a challenge for you, a fight with your own limits, and at the same time a certain form of meditation that makes sweaty not only your forehead.

“You will start being good at the same moment when you will start to enjoy all of it.”

Written by: Jakub Prchal

5.10.2023

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