Resistance training performance is the most critical aspect to muscle growth and nutrition supports this as much as possible. Don’t get confused with this order of importance.
Hypertrophy (muscle gain) training.
- It’s all about training the muscles you want to grow and focusing on progressive overload, training the muscles frequently enough and close enough to failure. Over time, adding reps and/or sets and/or weight to your program as your muscles adapt to training. Your program will also need to be individualised to your level of training experience, as more advanced lifters will likely need more training volume to continue to build muscle.
Rates of muscle gain.
- The rate in which you could expect to gain muscle is largely dependent on your level of experience with resistance training, and genetics. Gains are usually faster in beginners compared to those who’ve been weight training for years.
- Beginner 1-2% body weight gain per month
- Experienced 0.5-1% body weight gain per month
- You might actually fit somewhere in the middle as well, these are just estimates to give some level of expectation.
- So at 75kg, one could expect to gain between 375 grams and 1.1 kg per month depending on their weight training experience.
- If you are gaining weight much faster than this, it’s likely that a lot of the weight will be fat mass, not muscle.
- So don’t expect early gains to continue for a long time. Your ability to build muscle will slow over time. The amount you can gain before this happens is likely to be very individual.
- If you have previously gained muscle from a resistance training program, but have lost some of that muscle due to de-training (taking a massive break) you will likely re-gain muscle to the point where you stopped training reasonably quickly, similar to a beginner lifter.
- Rates of muscle growth are also highly individualised. A 12 week muscle gain study showed huge differences in muscle gain rates in participants, despite them completing the same program.
Interference – cardio training.
- Participating in other forms of training, such as cardio or HIIT could interfere with your strength and muscle gains. It doesn’t mean you can combine different types of training and still build some muscle, it can just slow down the rate of muscle gain. If your ‘other’ training also means that when it comes time for your hypertrophy session you are sore, fatigued or have depleted your glycogen (stored carbohydrates) you are unlikely to train as well as if you prioritised the hypertrophy training alone. Remembering that resistance training is above nutrition in terms of importance for muscle gain, this is a significant consideration.
- If you are going to do other training, alongside your hypertrophy training, you want to make sure the volume and impact is low enough so that you feel your best during each hypertrophy session, with adequate rest, energy and without soreness from cardio, Crossfit or other sports.
- Re-comp basically refers to reducing body fat while increasing muscle mass. It is absolutely possible, just likely to be slower than going through some dedicated cycles of focussing on increasing muscle, then reducing the body fat gains that come along with it.
- However, if your goal is to re-comp, it might be a legitimate thing for you to consume a slight Calorie deficit whilst maintaining resistance training. In a study of elderly men who participated in a resistance training program with protein supplementation, one group consumed a very slight deficit and over 16 weeks lost about 2.4 kg of fat mass whilst increasing about 1.7 kg of muscle. Over 4 months, for beginner lifters, this amount of muscle gain is not fast, however if your goal is re-comp, it’s great to know that it is possible.
Nutrition and macros.
- When aiming for re-comp or maximising muscle gain, less protein is needed compared to protecting against muscle loss during a diet (that’s a whole other topic for another day). Something in the range of about 1.6-2.2 grams / KG of body weight / day is a good aim.
- Fats and carbs then come down to a bit of personal preference, however aiming for about 30-35% of Calories from fats and the remainder all going to carbs is a pretty good guideline. Favouring fats too heavily will reduce the amount of Caloric budget available for carbohydrates which can negatively impact strength training performance.
- Remembering that training is actually the number one priority for muscle growth, it makes sense to ensure that carbs are as high as possible within that personal preference. We break carbs down to glucose and glucose is the body’s preferred fuel source for intense resistance training.
- Once total daily protein is taken care of, the next consideration is to split that protein intake across about 3-6 meals during the day. More than this is totally fine, less than this is probably not ideal for maximising muscle growth.
- Those protein intakes would ideally each contain 20-40 grams of protein and be spaced about 3-4 hours apart.
- If choosing plant based protein sources, the portion may have to be a little higher, around 1.5x more.
- For hypertrophy training, the timing of carbohydrates is unlikely to be a huge consideration apart from, once again, personal preference. Unless training the same muscle group more than once within 24 hours, stored carbohydrates in the muscle (glycogen) should be sufficient again no matter the timing of carbohydrate consumption each day.
- However, looking at optimisation and best case, it makes sense to have carbohydrates before training just to ensure all glycogen levels are “topped up”.
- Again, with training being the most important factor, consider if you feel and train better with carbohydrates in the meal before training.