Building muscle is a far more worthy endeavor that simply just the esthetic. A higher muscle mass by definition means that the wearer of the thinker set of muscles will possess greater strength and would have an increased ability to perform everyday tasks like lifting wood for the braai* off the back of the bakkie*(barbecue and pickup truck, for you non-South African folk), getting the spare wheel out the boot of your car or, like me, carry your not-so-small-anymore 4-year old every where you’re commanded to.
Changing your body composition(the percentage of muscle or fat relative to your overall weight) has some actual health benefits too, if you make the change to carry more muscle and less fat, not the other way around, obviously.
Higher muscle mass has been linked to a decreased risk associated with osteoporosis in that the heavier load on the bones in your body slows down progressive degeneration of bone mineral density as you get older. Also, more muscle means more strength and better balance, which means you are less likely to fall and fracture something.
A higher percentage of muscle mass relative to your overall body weight obviously means that your body-fat percentage will be less(which is good), but it also means that your weight is easier to maintain and less likely to fluctuate. This is because muscle tissue or more specifically, muscle cells are a lot more metabolically active than fat cells. Simply put, muscle cells burn more calories at rest than fat cells, a lot more and then when you start getting active the calories you burn just getting through the day are even higher.
The list of health benefits related to building more muscle goes on, but before you fall asleep with all this boring wellnessy stuff, let me try to bring home one more point. Being healthy and living a life that is full of quality-living all the way up to the inevitable end is my personal core reason for working out and living a healthy lifestyle and it should be yours too. But if you don’t work on a healthy body while you are still able to, you will never be able to get back to the time that you’ve lost. Time waits for no one. Even so, it is never too late to start working on improving your fitness and your health.
If anyone reading this now is concerned about looking like a green character from the latest comic book film and that is not what you want, don’t worry, like all worthwhile things in life, packing on muscle is also a gradual process so you won’t wake up one morning with bigger shoulders than Mr. Olympia. Think of it as shaping your body. Sculpting your back, arms, butt and legs, so that you look amazing in anything that you wear. Besides, you’re always in control, whenever you reach the point that you are in the best shape of your life, you can simply maintain your training and nutrition to maintain the shape that you are in and not take it any further.
Now let’s get down to the business of building a body that could’ve been sculpted by Michelangelo.
The basic principles of building muscle are pretty simple- provide your muscles with sufficient stimulation to grow and then provide just enough good nutrition to fuel your workouts and rebuild bigger and stronger muscles during rest and recovery. This is not license to pig-out. Overdoing it at the dinner table will leave you with too many surplus calories which will be stored as fat…not good!
Before we unpack the nutrition topic a little more, let me address the point made in the heading of this article, which is building muscle with BODYWEIGHT TRAINING.
I’ve written about this concept before in an earlier post, Resistance Is Not Futile and I encourage you to go read that(again) but to recap, the load on your muscles is the same whether you are moving a dumbbell in your hand or your pushing against the floor to move your body, you are always effectively working against gravity.
As long as you always work to failure within the right rep range and volume, you’ll achieve the stimulation you need to force your muscles to grow. Just look at the male gymnasts the next time you watch gymnastics at the Olympic Games. That is seriously impressive muscle, gained with body weight training, good nutrition and recovery.
Good nutrition is a key second part to your three-part plan to achieve awesome strength and a body that makes you the ruler of any beach you walk on.
Good nutrition, the kind that is required to build a ripped and muscular body is not mutually exclusive from a life that is full of enjoyment, friends, family and delicious meals. However your plan to achieve the body that you want should not allow any room for junk food and snacks. So if you are in the habit of snacking on stuff you buy in the sweets isle or passing through your local drive-through restaurant, your first step couldn’t be simpler…. yes you guessed it, kick those habits. Nothing can undo a hard workout like a poor choice for a snack or dinner.
Instead you should focus on eating wholesome, whole foods as much as possible, paying particular attention to the protein that you eat. Eating protein provides your body with the essential amino acids (the building blocks for muscle) to rebuild bigger and stronger muscles after a hard workout. This rebuilding process does need some extra fuel though, so you shouldn’t eat only protein, but a good mix of protein, moderate amounts of carbs and not cut out the fats either. The fats also provide essential fatty acids which, like many amino acids, can’t be produced in your body and has to be the taken in through your diet. These fatty acids help to keep every sell in your muscles in good working order and also helps to fuel your body along with the carbs you eat.
Eating protein with every meal can also help you to shed some kilo’s in the form of excess fat. Protein digests a lot slower than carbs which means that you will feel fuller for longer and you may tend to snack less during the day because of it and even consume less calories during mealtimes as well. A recent special issue of Men’s Health Magazine quoted some research which indicated that people who eat a fair amount of protein at breakfast end up eating 840 fewer calories in a day on average than people who don’t eat protein at breakfast. That is a lot fewer calories that would have been stored as fat. However, it really is better to eat protein with every meal or snack you take, because your body can only handle a limited amount at a time and you need to provide a steady stream of the stuff to your growing muscles.
Protein can be found from many sources, primarily from animal sources which are the best kind of proteins as they are complete with the full spectrum of amino acids your body needs. Animal sources of proteins are also the most densely packed with the highest amounts of protein per 100g being available from lean meat. Eggs and cheese are also very good sources of protein.
It is quite possible to get enough protein from non-animal sources too. If you are that way inclined, you should just be aware that it is harder to get the full spectrum of essential amino acids you need through the food you eat alone and you would have to find some way to supplement your diet with all the essential amino acids.
To gain lean muscle mass you would have to target a daily protein intake of 2grams per kilogram of you target weight. So if you aim to be a lean 90kg by next December your daily meals should include a list that looks something like this to get to 180g of protein for a day. The values indicated here are taken from the table above.
- 3 eggs ~19g
- 100g cottage cheese ~13g
- 50g almonds ~ 11g
- 2 chicken breast ~ 64g
- 100g lentils ~ 8g
- 1 can of tuna(170g) ~40g
- 1 scoop whey protein shake ~ 23g
That gives you a total of 178g, but I’m sure you get the idea. Use this information to determine what your protein intake goal should be.
Keep in mind that your meals should include a mix of other the ingredients too. Stuff like broccoli, green beans, leafy vegetables, brown rice, avocado, carrots, tomatoes etc. all fresh and all preferably raw or steamed should be regulars during meal time, especially for the three major meals in your day.
The third and final part of your plan is really easy, but also critical to success. This part is recovery.
Recovery is the process during which your body uses the nutrients, all the proteins, fats and carbohydrates you so carefully selected for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks to rebuild your muscles just a tiny bit bigger and stronger in reparation for the inevitable assault during your next workout. Over time the accumulated results will become noticeable and you will have become a powerful and awesome specimen of the species.
This awesome process happens naturally while you are at your most calm state of tranquility. It happens while you are sleeping through hormones that are only present in your body while you are asleep, so don’t short change yourself.
Your goal should be to sleep a minimum of 7 hours up to as much as 10 hours per night. Which sounds simple but could be quite challenging if you have family and work responsibilities too.
So try your best, make some changes like switching the TV off a little sooner every day cause, let’s face it, Blame and Moans(or whatever it’s called) ain’t gonna get you where you want to be.
The last bit of advice I have to offer is to take everything you’ve here read as guidelines only. It is very hard, even for an absolute expert to lay claim to being able to guarantee results exactly as you might expect them. So keep working at it. Keep educating yourself, keep trying different ways of going about your training, nutrition and recovery and if you stay the course you will see progress. I can at least guarantee that much.