Most of us understand the importance of maintaining a healthy weight, but when it comes to building muscle, many are under the mistaken impression that looks and strength, rather than health, is the driving force.
The truth is that if losing excess weight is the first and essential step towards a healthy body, building muscle is the next important part of that journey to good health.
If you are a beginner, you must first understand the basics of muscle building.
Why Build Muscle?
Our body gauges the importance of particular muscles by observing how often we put them to use. Muscles are subject to wear and tear and muscle tissue requires continuous maintenance.
This can happen if our job or lifestyle requires us to sit in a chair all day.
It is easy to understand this if you compare your hands. If you are right-handed, the muscles of your right hand are usually stronger and more developed than those of your left hand and vice-versa.
People in their eighties don’t have the same amount of muscles that they had in their twenties. So it is important to understand that if we want to retard aging and remain strong and healthy, we have to take care of our muscles.
When we lose muscle mass, our body stores more fat.
The body composition changes, our posture and figure deteriorates and our health suffers. If this has already started to happen in your case, there is no need to despair because the process is reversible.
The next important thing to understand is that building muscle takes time, patience and hard work.
You can start by understanding the basics.
Muscle Building Basics For Beginners:
Hormone levels control the way our body deals with muscles.
There are five key hormones:
- growth hormone,
- and estrogen,
…which play an important role in muscle development or breakdown.
Adequate testosterone, growth hormone and insulin levels promote muscle growth and development. While the first two build muscles, insulin helps in bringing nutrients and amino acids into the muscles, which stimulates muscle building.
Less is better when it comes to cortisol, as it promotes muscle break down. Estrogen has a negative impact on testosterone levels and this indirectly retards muscle growth.
A higher estrogen level is the reason the average woman is less muscular than the average man.
The levels of these hormones are controlled by what you do and what you eat. Hence, if you want to develop muscles, it is essential to eat right and do the right things. Both diet and exercise are equally important.
Diet Basics For Muscle Building:
Extra energy and nutrients are required to build muscles. This means an increase in calorie intake and eating the right groups of food, including fat.
If the talk of higher calorie intake and fat has set off alarm bells, don’t panic. When you do the right things, these calories and fat will not be stored in your body. Instead, they will be used for building your muscles.
The increase should be about 25% extra calories than your regular body requirement.
Proteins are essential for growth and muscle development.
Body building needs fat. As long as you are eating the right kind of fat, there will be no undesirable effects.
It is important to drink plenty of water. The thumb-rule: 60% of your body weight (in pounds) is the amount (in ounces) of water that you must drink daily.
5: Eating At The Right Time:
Eat at fixed intervals and split those large meals into two smaller ones. Instead of three large meals, you should eat about six smaller meals. Try to eat each meal at a fixed time.
You need the right quantities of all the essential nutrients. It is best to supplement your diet by taking appropriate supplements to avoid any deficiency.
Exercise Basics To Building Muscles
1: Need And Scope:
Exercise makes your body use its muscles and triggers the hormones that are essential for muscle development.
The body will then respond by breaking down weak muscles and replacing them with bigger and stronger muscles. Whole body exercises, which give adequate exercise to each muscle group, will give you the maximum benefit.
2: Warming Up:
Irrespective of the type, duration or intensity of the exercise that you are planning to do, it is important to warm up.
Exercising without warming up can result in injuries. Warming up also gets you in the right frame of mind for the session.
Long exercise sessions are good for building endurance, but for muscle building, it is best to keep the sessions short, but vigorous.
4: Cardio Exercises:
Cardio exercises, which raise your heart rate, are good for your health. However, they consume a lot of energy, which is derived by using up glycogen and burning fat.
This leaves less energy for muscle building. Thus, it is important to balance cardio with muscle building exercises. Limit cardio to about 20 to 30-minute sessions, thrice a week. If you want to do more cardio exercises or play games, etc., you have to compensate for the calorie losses by eating more.
Other Aspects To Building Muscle:
You must get adequate sleep. The body repairs itself while you sleep and this is essential for the muscle building process. At least seven hours of sleep is recommended.
You can improve your sleep by cutting out caffeine and alcohol from your diet.
2: Reduce stress:
Stress triggers the production of cortisol.
Excess cortisol is bad for health, but when you are building muscles, you want to keep cortisol levels to the bare minimum because cortisol makes your body break down muscle and store fat.
Muscle building involves a lot of discipline and work. This cannot be achieved unless you stay motivated throughout.
Type Of exercises To Focus On:
While whole body exercises are important, some groups of muscles need special attention. Make sure that your exercise program gives adequate attention to your pectoral muscles (pecs), biceps, triceps, quads, hamstrings and abdominal muscles.
Bench-press is a good exercise for the pecs. This will also help your triceps. Arm exercises, such as dips and dumbbell arm curls, are the best for the biceps and triceps.
For muscles of your legs, the best exercise are squats, which will help build the quads and the hamstrings. Crunches are best for the abdominal muscles.
Muscle building makes you healthier, stronger and retards the effects of aging. Building muscle requires equal attention to diet, exercise and rest.
Each aspect creates the right conditions and hormone combinations, which make your body burn fat and build muscles. It is not a quick process and does take time. Motivation, determination, discipline and hard work are all equally important.