If your goal is to increase muscle mass (a little or a lot), intense workouts are a must. But there are 2 other vital ingredients to building muscle mass: nutrition (diet) and recovery. You'll need to pay enough attention to all 3 areas or you may find yourself struggling with little or no progress.

Simply put, for serious gains, eat well (with enough high quality protein), train smart, and get plenty of rest. A good diet will provide you with the fuel to make more muscle tissue, your workout will stimulate muscle growth and your recovery time is when muscle fibres repair and grow back stronger.

Achieving muscle gains is a slow and steady process - there's no such thing as fast muscle gains!  At most, half to 1kg per month is a realistic goal but keep in mind that every body is different and genetics play a part in easy vs. hard gains.

 

Here’s some more information on the key elements and how to make them work for your body:

 

Nutrition.

It's worth investing in your nutrition as this is the most important of the 3 key areas.  First, you’ll need to ensure you are supplying your body with enough protein. Protein is not just important for growing muscles, your body needs protein just to stay alive.  If protein is in short supply, your body will put muscle gain at the bottom of the priority list. Your protein needs increase during training and eating enough high quality protein is the only way to promote muscle growth.

Carbohydrates play a crucial role, too. Especially of you’re after serious gains. Even with the right amount of protein, if you’re not supplying your body with enough carbohydrates to provide the source of energy it needs, not much will happen. Choose mainly complex low glycaemic carbohydrates from natural, wholefood sources. Simple carbohydrates (higher GI carbs like white bread) also have their place; keep them for post workout.

Fatty acids, especially omega-3 and omega-6 are vital for tissue structure, boosting oxygen use, improving insulin use and helping reduce body fat. 

 

Muscle gain dietary guidelines: To add 5 kilos of muscle in 6 months:

Calories: Increase by 20%
Carbs: 7g per kg body weight per day
Protein: 2g per kg body weight per day
Fat: 1g per kg body weight per day

 

Eat small, frequent meals and include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. A handful of nuts, e.g. almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and walnuts, each day will provide your body with essential fats and vitamins and minerals to support muscle building. If your goal is to gain mass as well as muscle, make sure your calorie intake is at a surplus for the energy you use.

Working out your protein requirements on a daily basis can feel like a bit of a chore. That’s where protein powder comes in handy. Supplementing your diet with a quality protein powder is an excellent way of feeding the machine. Protein powder is convenient and easily absorbed. It takes the stress out of calculating the volume of food you need for your protein requirements.

Horleys Elite ICE WPI is the best to support muscle gains. Ideal post workout, it's 90% pure protein from ultra high quality cation-exchange whey isolate, delivering extremely fast absorption of protein to your muscles to help you rebuild and gain after your hard work.

To increase muscle mass, a protein powder that includes carbs and fat can also help, by enhancing the calorie density of your overall diet. Protein powders like MASS and HUGE from our Elite range and Lean Gain from our Training Series are specifically formulated as a dietary supplement to help you successfully achieve mass and muscle gains.

Sample 1-Day Eating Plan for Muscle Mass Gains.

 

Workout.

That sore feeling you get the day after a training session is due to microscopic tears that form in the fibre of your muscles. These tears accumulate and fatigue the muscle, but with proper nutrition, rest and recovery, they'll grow back bigger and stronger. An easily absorbed source of protein and carbs (like ICE WPI mixed with Replace plus any additional supplements like Creatine Xtreme) will help your recovery immediately after a workout, and a balanced whole food meal within a couple of hours will get nutrients to where they are needed.

To maximise your gains, aim for short, intense rounds of weight training. Compound exercises like squats, bench press and deadlifts allow you to work the large muscle groups (back, chest and legs) as well as the smaller associated muscles like biceps, triceps and shoulders.

Intense training means workouts should last no longer than an hour. Aim to make regular increases to your weights to keep challenging your body. Train for reps and blood volume. 8 – 12 reps per set is ideal. Be consistent – don’t skip workouts. Work each muscle group 1-2 times a week and if your goal is to gain muscle mass, avoid endurance training.

In regards to time of day, plenty of people swear by late afternoon workouts but if you can’t get to the gym in the afternoon or early evening, don’t sweat it. Research shows that the body adjusts to regular workout timings so if you workout in the morning, try and stick to the same time. Eventually your body will perform better at that time of the day than any other time.

As well as macronutrient supplements (protein powders, carbs and fats), there are other products to help you get more out of your workout. Pre-workouts and supplements such as Horleys Creatine Xtreme, enhance your workout with ingredients that boost performance and give you more power for every rep.  AminoXL provides the BCAAs for muscle growth already broken down so they are quickly absorbed where they are needed.  

More on pre-workouts.

 

Recovery.

This is when damaged muscle tissue and depleted energy levels restore themselves.

Adequate rest is crucial for gaining muscle. Excessive training without proper recovery can lead to a decline in performance.  Large muscle groups can take up to 3-5 days to fully repair themselves following intense exercise. This is why we recommend working your large muscle groups a maximum of twice a week. If you still want to put some useful work into your days off, then active recovery like stretching or low impact activities will help with injury prevention and general wellbeing.

Sleep releases growth hormones and therefore is also crucial to muscle gain. Get at least 7 hours in a row each night. Having a well planned and executed recovery diet will pay off with your next training session so make sure you are fuelled and ready to go. Restore fluids for optimum hydration and make sure you are getting enough carbs and protein. Additional supplements for hydration like Horleys Replace, and muscle recovery such as Horleys AminoXL can assist the recovery phase.

More on Recovery, and Hydration.

 

Now, go get Gaining!

The main thing to remember when training for muscle gain is to be realistic. The body has mechanisms to control fuel storage, energy consumption and protein turnover so a healthy rate of gain will be slow and steady.  Remember to focus on your diet with small, frequent, whole food meals and use a high quality protein powder when needed. Slowly increase your weights and reps at the gym, keep your workout to 1 hour max, and make sure you incorporate recovery into your workout plan. Allow yourself enough time to achieve your goals and most importantly, enjoy the journey.

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