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muscle growthMuscle Growth

In order to understand the best ways to gain muscle, we must first understand the principles that govern muscle growth (hypertrophy), as well as the factors which affect it. Hypertrophy is the increase in muscle size as overcompensation for micro-trauma due to overuse. The two principal types of hypertrophy are myofibrillar hypertrophy, and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Myofibrillar hypertrophy is an increase in the size of the contractile fibers (myofibrils). This type of hypertrophy is accompanied by an increase in muscular strength. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, on the other hand is the increase in volume of the sarcoplasm surrounding the myofibril. This type of hypertrophy is accompanied by an increased resistance to muscular fatigue. A proper muscle building protocol will involve stimulating both types of hypertrophy, while providing the proper rest and nutrients to allow the muscles to repair and overcompensate.

Perform Regular Resistance Exercise
High intensity resistance exercise provides the stimulus for the muscles to increase their size and strength. An ideal muscle building program will stimulate both myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

Get Adequate Rest and Recovery
The workout is there to provide the stimulus. However, it is during the rest and recovery period that the body actually repairs itself and adapts to become more capable of dealing with the stresses of exercise. During this time period, the body repairs the micro-trauma, and increases the size of the contractile tissue and surrounding sarcoplasm. Although this process often takes about 48 hours, this time can vary depending on many factors such as the number of sets, the muscle groups trained, or even the age and genetics of the person. Examples of factors that affect recovery time include the following:

Larger muscle groups take longer to recover.

Predominantly fast twitch muscle groups such as the pectoralis major take more time to recover than predominantly slow twitch muscle groups such as abdominals.

Intensity enhancement techniques such as stripping sets, rest pause, and negative reps demand more recovery time.

As people grow older, their bodies repair more slowly and recovery times increase.

Not only must the individual muscles get rest during this period, but the body must also have time to replenish the liver glycogen during this time period. Replenishing the liver glycogen is necessary because a low liver glycogen level is one of the triggers for the body to break down muscle protein in order to make carbohydrates for vital body functions. This means that rest days are necessary even if we alternate the muscles which we train.

Maintain Adequate Nutrition
While exercise provides the stimulus to adapt and overcompensate, nutrition provides the raw materials for repairing as well as the fuel for training. A proper nutrition program for muscle growth will supply ample energy for training, as well as a surplus of the nutrients for the body to rebuild and increase lean mass while avoiding an excess of empty calories. As a minimum, this will demand the following:

It should supply an ample amount of high quality protein to provide the essential amino acids necessary to repair tissue and to minimize catabolism.

It should supply enough carbohydrates to maintain stable blood sugar levels, as well as to replenish muscle and liver glycogen stores in order to provide energy for training and to prevent catabolism.

In the case of an extremely lean person (at minimum tolerable fat percentages), it should supply enough calories to prevent the person from entering a caloric deficit.

It should provide enough water to prevent dehydration so that the person can maintain the energy necessary to train properly.

It should provide enough essential fats, fiber, and micronutrients to maintain optimum health.

This is done by providing a continuous stream of nutrients provided by many balanced meals throughout the day. For this reason, a nutrition program for muscle growth is very similar to a fat loss nutrition program, with the difference being the larger portion sizes and caloric intake provided by the nutrition program for muscle growth. Even more so than in a fat loss program, there is absolutely no place for starvation diets and other dysfunctional eating patterns.


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