There are 2 important aspects to focus on when the task at hand is to build as much quality muscle as possible.
The first aspect is training and the second aspect is nutrition, the latter of which is closely linked to nutrition.
Quite simply, if you don’t focus on giving your body all the nutrients it needs to recover from the vigorous, muscle-building workouts, you will gain less muscle.
In this series of articles, we’ll tell you more about the important nutritional considerations to take into account when trying to build muscle.
For this first part of the series, we’ll talk about one of the biggest factors in muscle-building nutrition - Calories.
What Are Calories
By definition, a “calorie” is a measurement unit, used to measure the amount of energy in the foods that we consume.
Each food product has a certain caloric value, which is determined by the ratio of the 3 main macronutrients.
Those 3 macronutrients are protein, fats carbs, which have 4, 9, and 4 calories per gram, respectively.
Your caloric intake is important because there is a number of calories that your body requires daily, to sustain healthy functioning of all systems, as well as maintain body weight.
Calories in VS Calories out
The number of calories that your body needs to maintain its weight and healthy functioning is referred to as your “Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE)”.
Your TDEE depends on a number of factors:
The reason why this is important is that if you consume FEWER calories than your TDEE, you will LOSE weight.
This is called “eating in a caloric deficit” and the loss in weight happens because the body does not get enough energy from food (hence, deficit).
Oppositely, if you consume MORE calories than your TDEE, you will gain weight (this is called “eating in a caloric surplus”)
Now think about it - If you want to BUILD muscle, you can’t make something, out of nothing, right?
Even physics can tell you that you cannot create energy, you can just transform it.
And guess what, the muscle you’re trying to build actually has quite a solid energy content!
In a sense, the extra energy you give the body from food will go towards building that extra muscle on your frame.
This is the exact reason why sports science points out that building muscle is OPTIMIZED when you consume food in a caloric surplus.
This begs the question, though...
Can You Build Muscle In a Deficit?
Is it really that binary? If you eat in a deficit, you will lose fat and if you eat in a surplus, you will gain weight, and there is no in-between.
Well, as a matter of fact, it is not really that simple - You can be out of a caloric surplus and still gain muscle.
HOWEVER, those gains will simply be SUBOPTIMAL and in this case, we’re looking for something OPTIMAL.
Gaining muscle in a caloric deficit is possible for a couple of groups of people:
And so, if you are someone who is just starting out in the gym and has a lot of fat to lose, don’t worry - You can tone up the muscles during your fat loss diet!
Nevertheless, advanced trainees should focus on their long, bulking period when food is being consumed in a surplus.
Again, that surplus shouldn’t be too big, as it may lead to excess fat gains.
The recommended daily caloric surplus is about 250-300 calories.
In doing this and training progressively, you will be able to create the right muscle growth stimulus, while providing the body all it needs to recover and grow stronger.
If you are trying to build muscle but are ignoring your nutrition, you are doing something wrong!
Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of your recovery plan, as it technically provides all the important nutrients and energy value, needed to grow your muscles.
One of the essential principles of muscle-building nutrition is to eat in a caloric surplus.
In doing so, your muscle growth will be optimized, thus yielding the best results possible.
For the next part of this series, we will go over the two essential nutrients that make up a big portion of your caloric intake, namely protein, and fats.
See you in part 2!
If you look at different athletes from different training disciplines, you will notice the diversity of muscular development you can have.
For instance, most powerlifters are pretty rugged, while most gymnasts and sprinters look rather athletic.
This brings a question to mind - Are there different types of muscle growth and is more always better?
In this article, we’ll go over the two different types of muscle growth and explain which one you should focus on stimulating, depending on your goal.
The Two Types Of Muscle Growth
If you look at a muscle group, you will find that it is made out of separate muscle units, called myofibrils (muscle fibers).
These are the active, contractile components of your musculature, that make moving possible.
Around the myofibrils, there is a jelly-like fluid that contains non-contractile elements.
This is called the “sarcoplasm’ and is used for energy during muscular activity.
Now, there are two types of muscle growth we can look into:
Myofibrillar hypertrophy is the growth in the size of the separate muscle units, called myofibrils.
This type of growth is mostly sought after by strength athletes, like powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters.
The main adaptations that occur when myofibrillar hypertrophy is stimulated, are increases in relative strength and improved efficiency of the nervous system.
For this type of adaptation, bulk muscle growth is a secondary adaptation.
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, on the other hand, is the growth in the size of the jelly-like fluid around the muscle fibers, which we mentioned above.
This can be referred to as “bulk muscle growth” - something that bodybuilders and physique athletes seek.
The end results of this type of stimulation, are increases in bulk muscle growth, along with relative strength.
In this case, increases in maximum strength are a secondary adaptation.
If you’re not a competitive athlete that needs to focus on developing just a bunch of physical properties, your best bet is to mix different types of stimulation.
Nevertheless, your training approach should be specific to your goals.
For instance, if your goal is to improve your maximum and relative strength, you should primarily focus on stimulating myofibrillar hypertrophy.
This is best done by training in the powerlifting rep range of 1-5 repetitions, but then again, you can do 6-15 rep sets every now and then to stimulate other adaptations.
If however, your goal is more oriented towards sculpting a bodybuilder-like physique, you should focus on the bodybuilding rep range of 6-15 repetitions.
Ultimately, you should try to combine low reps, high reps, slow reps, fast reps, etc.
To achieve the ultimate, functional, and good-looking physique, you should incorporate all kinds of stimuli into your workouts.
ConclusionWhat we see on the outside as muscles that make us look good, is actually a complex, adaptable system (the muscular system).
The two main types of growth that can occur in the muscular system, are myofibrillar & sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
The way you set up your training parameters and workout as a whole, will determine which type of growth will occur.
If you are looking for the best overall development, however, you should carefully mix your workouts and utilize different types of stimuli.
re to edit.
In the last 2 articles of the muscle-building series, you learned that each workout can be measured by certain parameters (variables).
The ratios of these variables trigger different energy systems and components of the body and its musculature, thus creating a different end result.
In this article, we are going to go in-depth on the muscles’ active, contractile components, which we know as “muscle fibers”.
What Are Muscle Fibers?
Each muscle fiber, also called a “myofibril”, is an active, contractile component of each of your muscle groups.
These are the active components that allow for muscular contraction and there are different types of muscle fibers.
Depending on how demanding the activity is, the body chooses which muscle fibers to activate
Types Of Muscle Fibers
When we look at muscle fibers as an active component of your musculature, we can differentiate between two main muscle fiber types:
Slow-Twitch Muscle Fibers
This type of muscle fiber is the weaker type of tissue, as its power & force production levels are quite low.
Your slow-twitch muscle fibers get activated during activity that is not demanding or in other words, low in intensity.
Though generally weak, the slow-twitch muscle fibers can work for hours on end.
This is the muscle fiber type that was designed for endurance bouts, such as cross running, prolonged rope jumping or any other low-intensity activity that is fairly long in duration.
Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers
On the other hand, we have the fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are the stronger, more powerful active components of your musculature.
Your fast-twitch muscle fibers get activated during intense activity that demands the production of force/power.
This type of fiber was designed for short, power-burst movements, such as a sprint or any type of resistance/weight training.
The fast-twitch fibers are the most powerful ones and have the highest potential for hypertrophy (growth).
Furthermore, the fast-twitch muscle fibers have 2 more subtypes - Fast-twitch Type 2X & type 2B.
Type 2X fibers are able to generate the most force and power output but are generally inefficient due to reaching fatigue fairly quickly.
Type 2B fibers on the other hand are a mix of type 1 and type 2x fibers, meaning that they can endure more intense activity for longer.
To Sum It Up
Your musculature is made up of 2 different types of muscle fibers - Slow & Fast-twitch.
The slow muscle fibers get activated during low-intensity, prolonged activities.
These fibers can work at low intensity for hours on end but cannot produce enough power and force for intense activities like sprinting.
This is where fast-twitch muscle fibers come in.
When the task at hand is to engage in more intense activities, the body utilizes the power of your fast-twitch muscle fibers.
These muscle fibers are big, strong, and can produce short powerful bursts, but might fatigue too quickly, compared to slow-twitch fibers.
If you are not a competitive athlete, your best bet would be to stimulate both types of muscle fibers.
Stimulating slow-twitch fiber development is best done by engaging in low-intensity, prolonged cardio activities, such as jogging, swimming, rope jumping, etc.
Doing this type of work will primarily result in improved endurance and with it, improved cardiovascular and respiratory efficiency.
Developing your slow-twitch muscle fibers, however, won’t result in significant visual body changes.
Oppositely, stimulating fast-twitch fiber development is best done by engaging in high-intensity training activities, such as weight training, calisthenics, sprinting, etc.
Doing this type of training will primarily result in improved levels of strength, strength endurance, and power output.
Developing your fast-twitch muscle fibers is the best way to go if one of your goals is to sculpt an aesthetic body.
Ultimately, if we look beyond the ego that tells us to look better, we can come to one simple conclusion…
That is namely the fact that your body is a special, ever-so-capable biological machine of beauty.
For the general population that is not engaged in competitive sports, the best bet is to develop the body all-around.
In doing this, you will be able to experience the freedom of movement and you will also look good, perform well, be strong, flexible, and powerful.
“It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”
In the first part of the muscle-building series, you learned that the way you set up the variables in a workout, will practically change the end result.
For instance, training closer to maximum intensity will primarily result in improvements in maximum strength.
On the other hand, workouts that are moderately high in intensity will increase bulk muscle growth along with strength endurance.
In this article, we are going to have a look at how the body provides energy for activity of different parameters.
Without further ado, let’s get to it!
ATP - The Body’s Main Energy Source
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the purest source of biological energy for all living beings.
ATP is technically used in every bodily process in most living beings, as this is a pure source of energy that can be used right away.
During intense activity like weight training, however, the ATP stores get depleted fairly quickly, due to the demanding nature of the intense activity.
Once depleted, the body needs to regenerate ATP, in order to continue the muscular activity.
To do so, the body utilizes 3 main energy systems:
Now let’s have a look at each of those!
The ATP-Creatine system
This first energy system is the most powerful, but least sustainable energy system that the body uses.
As mentioned, during intense activity, ATP gets depleted in about 5-6 seconds of work.
Upon use, ATP gets broken down into ADP (adenosine diphosphate).
To recover ATP, the body uses its stores of creatine, joining a phosphate molecule from it with ADP and thus regenerating ATP for another 10 seconds of activity.
That is to say, creatine is not just a supplement - It is the body’s natural, secondary energy reserve!
Think of the ATP-Creatine system as something utilized during a 60-100 meter sprint.
The Anaerobic Glycogen system
Once you are past the 15-second mark of your exercise, intensity naturally drops due to the low amounts of ATP & creatine.
The body then needs to again, regenerate ATP to ensure energy for sustained muscular activity.
To do so, the body starts tapping into its muscle glycogen.
Muscle glycogen is basically the stored form of blood sugar, which is derived from the consumption of carbohydrates.
Through a process called “Anaerobic glycolysis”, the body restores ATP for another 90 seconds, without the need to use oxygen (this is what anaerobic means).
Think of the Anaerobic glycogen system as something utilized during a 200-400 meter sprint.
The Aerobic System
Now, the more you continue your activity after the 2-minute mark, the more intensity naturally drops and the more oxygen starts helping you to regenerate energy.
The aerobic system uses muscle and liver glycogen, as well as fatty acids, to release energy and regenerate ATP, at the presence of oxygen.
This energy system is used to sustain low-intensity, prolonged activities.
As such, the aerobic energy system can be used for hours on end, unlike the first two (i.e you can run at a low pace for hours on end, but you can only sprint 200-400 meters at a time).
Think of the aerobic energy system as something utilized during a 5000-meter cross run.
Why This Is Important…
If you are trying to build muscle, you MUST know the best fuel you can provide your body with…
And now, before we even got through the basic physiology of muscle building, there are two things you can take and use for your nutrition and supplementation:
Ultimately, we can say that the ratios of the parameters in a workout, will determine which energy systems & active components get triggered and thus, determine the end result.
Those active components we refer to are namely your muscle fibers.
In the next article of this series, we will give you more insight into the types of muscle fibers, which your body activates, depending on how the training parameters are set.
See you there!
I have been weight training, running and cycling for 37 years and I have gained a vast amount of experience in fitness both as a Soldier in The British Army and in the past 21 years having been involved in the fitness industry.