What comes to mind when you think of muscle? We tend to associate muscle with athletes who are driven by physique and strength. In reality, muscle matters whether you are driven by fitness, aesthetics or overall health. Muscle is important to everyday, healthy adults – both men and women. Muscle is what helps us to stand, walk and move through everyday life. The difference among individuals is how we use muscle and our overall health/wellness goals. Regardless, it is important to build and maintain muscle all throughout life. However, it is not an easy process. Building muscle takes time and dedication. Of course, regular resistance exercise is key to building muscle. However, there are many factors that can influence your body’s ability to support muscle building beyond physical activity, including nutrition and muscle recovery after exercise. Here are six simple rules to follow to when you are trying to build muscle.
#1 - Give your muscles adequate time to recover.
Physical activity provides stress to the body and muscle fibers may become damaged in the process. While this may sound daunting, exercise-induced micro-tears in muscle are the body’s normal response to intense exercise and are an important stimulus for muscle recovery and growth. In turn, muscles need adequate time to recover. Muscle recovery is a 24/7 hour process that can take up to several days. The amount of time needed for muscles to recover really depends on your body, the type of physical activity, duration and intensity. To prevent overtraining, balance out your schedule and devote time to letting your muscles heal.
#2 - Consume adequate calories to help fuel your muscles.
Your body needs energy in the form of calories to fuel bodily processes and support physical activity. Generally, the more energy you expend, the more calories your body will need to perform. Don’t shy away from calories – instead embrace it. Consume adequate amounts of nutrient-dense calories to help meet energy demands and fuel muscle recovery and growth. Overall, aim to consume a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods, supplementing, if needed in order to achieve your fitness goals.
#3 - Consume high-quality protein throughout the day as needed.
Protein helps to support muscle repair, recovery and rebuilding following intense physical activity. Include a variety of protein-rich snacks and balanced meals. For instance, an easy way to add protein to your diet would be to incorporate a protein source during your first meal of the day. If adhering to a plant-based diet, be sure to consume a combination of protein sources to make a complete protein, for example rice and beans. You may also use protein supplementation as needed after exercise and throughout the day.
#4 - Consume carbohydrates to help fuel your muscles.
Carbohydrates are an important fuel source. The general guidelines for healthy adults recommends 45-65% of your caloric intake come from carbohydrate sources. Carbohydrates are needed to help fuel muscles during physical activity and replenish energy stores following activity. Fueling your workout with carbohydrates provides an energy source for your body. If carbohydrates intake is inadequate, then the body may turn to other fuel sources, such as protein, for energy.
#5 - Hydrate!
Water is the most abundant substance in the body. Almost every physiological process in the body requires water. Your body needs water to help distribute nutrients, remove waste products, aid in digestion, and regulate body temperature. Muscles also need water to function properly, especially during physical activity. Find ways to consume enough water throughout your day. Try carrying a reusable water bottle with you and monitoring your intake.
#6 – Secure 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night*
Many critical restorative functions occur in the body while you sleep. Sleep is vital for the body and mind to recover and perform. Develop good sleep habits to help support length and quality of sleep.
*According to sleepfoundation.org - recommendation for healthy adults