We hear so much about wanting to tone up or lose weight, but for many, it’s actually the opposite.
Fitness expert and author of Finding Your Fit, Kathleen Trotter, said there are many people who have a hard time gaining weight and building muscle, and often, this can lead to unhealthy eating habits.
But from her perspective, building muscle means working out every part of your body.
“I like to emphasize, it’s a 360-degree aspect for health,” she told Global News. “A lot of us like to focus on one thing, like arms or legs, but it’s all about working out everything.”
She added that often people who are trying to build muscle will be strict with their diets or sleeping habits during the week, but as soon as the weekend hits, they binge on alcohol or eat unhealthy.
One small study on a group of men in 2016 from McMaster University found following a gruelling “boot camp” diet and exercise regime for four weeks can decrease 40 per cent of a person’s caloric intake if they work out six times a week.
WATCH: Canadian study suggests quick regime for simultaneously losing weight, gaining muscle
It sounds like a lot of work (because it is), but building muscle and trying to lose weight at the same time isn’t easy.
“Weight loss is tough because being hungry is not pleasant at all. These guys, at the end of the four weeks, all they discussed, all they talked about was food,” lead researcher Dr. Stuart Phillips of McMaster told Global News in 2016.
But sticking to a routine works, as long as you know which routine works for you, Trotter said. Below, she lists three things people should focus on if they want to build muscle.
Start strength training
You will not build any muscle unless you are lifting weights.
Trotter suggests a repetition range of eight to 12 if gaining muscle is your end goal with four to six sets each. And if you are a beginner, start with three sets.
And when you are trying to figure out how much weight to lift, it has to progressively get more difficult as you enter more reps.
“It has to be a weight that is challenging by the fifth set. The weight set should be very hard,” she explained. “It’s not good enough to do 12 reps with a weight you can do 20 reps with.”
And as you get more advanced, build on your reps, sets and weight.
You should also focus on one part of the body and mix it up during the week. You don’t need to make every session a full body workout.
“You want to make sure you get all of your big muscle groups to create lean muscle,” she added. “A lot of men will just focus on chest and not focus on the back or legs. There is so much muscle growth potential in glutes and thighs.”
Focus on arms one day, move to legs, chest, shoulders or whatever order you want.
Fix up your diet
Diet is also important, and also changes when people bulk up.
Trotter recommends eating within 45 minutes after working out, either a meal or snack depending on the time.
“It’s OK to eat carbs and protein. If you are trying to limit carbs during the day, this is when to have it.”
And since you will be strength training, you also should adjust how many calories you need to consume. There are plenty of apps and online calculators that can help with this.
“You need nutritionally-dense food and need enough calories.”
Make room for recovery
Your experience with building muscle is only positive if you allow yourself time to recover.
“It’s very important to understand that if you go to the gym and try to build bulk in your chest, you can’t do the same thing the next day.”
This means taking rest days during the week, as well as getting a good amount of sleep. Focus on quality of sleep rather than quantity.
“Stop drinking coffee six to eight hours before you sleep.”