Summertime is just around the corner, which means we’re in the season of tank tops, shorts, and swimsuits. If you feel a little hesitant to show off your beach body, then it might be time to learn a few important steps about how to gain lean muscles. Adding muscle to your frame will increase your metabolism, help you to keep off those extra pounds, and tighten your body, so you can show off flat abs, taunt arms, and shapely legs. (Don’t worry ladies, gaining lean muscle won’t make you look bulky. Women don’t have enough testosterone to build the huge muscles of professional male bodybuilders.)
So, how exactly do you go from pudge to rocking that swimsuit? The steps are simple in theory, but they’ll take a lot of hard work and commitment on your part. We know you can do it, so here’s our five-step guide on how to gain lean muscles.
Step 1: Eat a Lean Muscle Diet
You can build all the muscles in the world, but your fellow beachgoers will never see them if they’re hidden behind a layer of fat. The most important step in building muscle is to eat the right diet.
This isn’t rocket science. In fact, we suspect you already know exactly what we’re going to say. Cut out as much processed foods as possible and focus on consuming a balance of complex carbs (think sweet potatoes, brown rice, and quinoa), lean protein (chicken, eggs, lean red meat), and healthy fats (olive oil, nuts, and avocado). Add in lots of leafy green vegetables and stay away from sugary fruit drinks or the empty calories of colas.
The folks over at The Fit Father Project suggest a diet breakdown of:
- 40% carbs
- 35% protein
- 25% fat
Calculate your total daily energy expenditure and use that number to determine the right amount of calories you can eat each day. Experiment with what works best for you and your body.Not sure how to design the right meal for yourself? Take a look at this helpful infographic on the essential foods you should stock in your kitchen. You may also want to work with a nutritionist to receive a personalized dietary plan.
Step 2: Eat Enough Protein
A big part of the lean muscle diet involves protein. As you increase your resistance training (more on that next!), you also need to up the amount of protein you consume. Proteins are made from amino acids, which are the building block of your body. When you put your muscles through a tough workout, a high-protein diet will ensure that they can repair themselves effectively.
How much protein do you need in your diet? The Dietary Reference Intakes from the National Institutes of Health suggests that the average person eat 0.36 grams of protein per pound, but most fitness industry specialists believe this is far too little protein for active exercisers.
There’s a lot of debate about the ideal amount of protein a person should consume in order to gain lean muscle. Suggestions range from 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight all the way up to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. The results may depend on your fitness routine, age, gender, and genetics. We suggest you experiment and determine what amount of protein works best for your body.
Step 3: Add Resistance Training to Your Fitness Routine
Now that your diet is on point, it’s time to actually build those muscles, (known as hypertrophy). The absolute best way to do that is to perform resistance training. A study published in the journal JAMDA found that all participants in a strength-training program showed improved lean muscle mass.
What is resistance training? It can involve just about anything that puts your muscles under load, including push-ups, using dumbbells, or moving through a circuit of resistance machines at your gym.
The beauty of resistance training is that you don’t have to do that much of it to see great results. If you are new to resistance training, try to do a full body workout three times a week. That means hitting all of your main muscle groups, from your shoulders to your chest, quads, calves, and everything in between.
What is the best resistance routine to build lean muscles? Many fitness purists swear by free weight training. Free weights offer a lot of benefits. They force you to engage your core, activate ancillary muscles, and help improve your balance and coordination. On the other hand, resistance machines allow you to isolate specific muscle groups and they’re also easier to use. Many newer exercisers find resistance machines less intimidating and prefer to start there. (Here’s a helpful article on four great reasons to use machines in your gym routine.)
Here at EōS Fitness, we don’t pick sides. We encourage you to choose the resistance tools that work best for you. No matter whether you choose machines or free weights, the key is to continually challenge your muscles. Focus on performing fewer sets with smaller rep schemes and using heavier weights.
When you work with heavy weights, your muscles experience “micro-tears.” This sounds bad, but it’s actually a good thing. When you rest your muscles will repair themselves and become bigger and better. For this reason, you also need to consistently increase your weight loads over time. Make sure every lifting session is a challenge.
If you aren’t sure how to start a resistance routine, consider investing in a personal trainer who can develop a personalized routine for you and make sure you use good form through all your movements.
Step 4: Give Yourself Plenty of Time to Rest and Relax
Here’s some good news—in order to get your dream body, you’ve got to invest time in resting and relaxing. Building lean muscle is all about taxing your body and musculoskeletal system and then allowing your body to heal. This resting phase is crucial, because this is when all that protein you’ve consumed will get to work, repairing your muscles and making them stronger than before.
Too many exercisers make the mistake of thinking they have to perform intense resistance training every single day of the week. This is an invitation for burnout and injuries. Instead, on your off days, consider enjoying a light cardio workout, like a swim in the pool, a yoga class, or a bike ride down a beautiful trail. Or just take the day off!
Also, make sure to get plenty of sleep. Try for seven or eight hours a night so that your body has plenty of time to repair itself. Adequate sleep has also been shown to protect your physical and mental health in lots of different ways, but if you need one more excuse to power down your phone and hit your pillow early, do it for your fitness goals!
Step 5: Stay Consistent and Be Patient
Now that you know how to gain lean muscles, it’s time to put these steps into practice. Just make sure you create a plan that you can stick to for the long haul. Eating well and sticking to your resistance training for a single week won’t make that much difference in the mirror. To see real results, you’ve got to embrace these steps as a lifelong change. Results come with time and consistent application, so set your expectations now and get ready to put in work for the duration.
If you can stick with these good habits, little by little your body will change. You’ll discover that a weight that felt heavy to lift three weeks ago isn’t so difficult today. You may also notice that your clothes fit differently and things don’t jiggle like they used to.
Keep in mind that the changes you see will depend on a lot of different factors, like your age, gender, previous fitness level, and your genes. However, these steps will work for everyone as long as you keep them up. You will build lean muscles. You’ll look better than ever in that swimsuit and you’ll feel great too.
We know you can do it! If you great information on staying fit, including delicious recipes and guidance from certified fitness trainers, take a look at the EōS Fitness blog. We also invite you to check out one of our positive and supportive gyms. Find the nearest EōS Fitness to you and try us out for free with a seven-day pass.