January: the time of year when one in every three people aim to better their nutrition and fitness in some way.
According to a study done in 2002, approximately 75% of people will stick to their goals for at least a week; by six months, however, less than half are still on target.
I’d be willing to wager the majority of people, those that fall off the wagon by six months at least, fail because they don’t set good goals: their goals don’t involve coming up with a strategy or game-plan of any sort.
With a lofty resolution, you’re never going to get where you want to go unless you sit down and come up with some actionable steps – goals that ensure you’re going in the right direction.
This article is for people who have made it their New Year’s resolution to gain lean muscle.
I’m going to help you make some dynamite goals – both exercise and nutritional – that will help you make those lean muscle gains you’ve always wanted a reality in 2018. These are simple, actionable, attainable steps that will keep you out of the 46% that don’t realize their New Year’s resolution by six months into the new year.
Goal 1: Weight train 4-5 times per week.
To gain lean muscle mass, increase your lifting frequency to four or five times a week. Yes, the sessions will need to be shorter (you need to give your body adequate time for recovery), but the increased training stimulus is essential.
Goal 2: Add four weeks of muscle endurance and muscle strength training into your routine
The general rule of thumb for hypertrophy (aka increase muscle size) workouts is eight to twelve reps per exercise.
While this is true, your body craves, and will positively respond to, variety. So, mix in 4 weeks of muscle endurance (twenty to thirty rep sets per exercise) and 4 weeks of muscle strength (four to six rep sets per exercise).
Goal 3: Concentrate on compound movements
Compound movements are those that involve two or more joints – squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, pullups… you get the idea. These should make up the bulk of your workout.
Goal 4: Isolation
While compound movements are making up the bulk of your workout, isolated movements make up the remainder.
The ying to the yang of compound movements, isolation movements involve one joint – bicep curls, calf raises, etc.
Goal 5: Shoot for adequate recovery
Of course, the time you spend in the gym is responsible stimulating a training effect, but it’s your time away from the gym when repair and growth happens.
Maximize this phase of your daily training cycle by ensuring you get the proper nutrition, you’re getting enough sleep, and you’re reducing outside stress as much as possible; these factors play more of a role in gaining lean muscle than most people give them credit for.
Goal 6: Give your program a chance
Mixing up your training every so often is important – as I mentioned in Goal 2 – but, it’s also important to stick with a program long enough to see some changes.
Allow your body enough time to improve its strength and efficiency to similar movement patterns (at least four weeks) before changing to a different type of training.
Proper training goals are fifty percent of the battle when it comes to gaining lean muscle; the other fifty percent is nutrition.
A lot of times when people think of eating to gain lean muscle mass they think of eating fat-free. In actuality, though, a balanced diet (full of protein, carbohydrates, and fat) is what you need to create lean muscle.
Here are five nutritional goals to keep in mind in the new year.
Goal 1: Eat enough carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are a critical component of your diet when you’re looking to gain lean muscle, and it’s because carbohydrates are protein sparing.
How much is enough depends on your metabolism and the intensity of your training: too much and you’ll gain fat, not enough and you won’t have enough of a calorie surplus to gain any lean mass. The National Strength and Conditioning Association – a worldwide leader in strength and conditioning research – recommends approximately 1 gram of carbohydrate for every 1 kilogram of body weight.
Goal 2: Eat your carbohydrates at the right time
To maximize the protein sparing and anabolic effects of carbohydrates, they should primarily be consumed at three points in the day: when you wake up (because you haven’t eaten for an extended period of time and your cortisol levels are high), about an hour to an hour and a half before you workout, and after you workout (this causes insulin levels to spike, pulling amino acids out of the blood and getting them to the muscle tissue where they’re needed).
Goal 3: Make the glycemic index your best friend
The glycemic index is a number associated with carbohydrates in a particular type of food; it indicates the effects the carbohydrates are going to have on your blood glucose levels.
Foods with a low number on the glycemic index are generally of the fibrous sort – whole wheat bread, oatmeal, etc. Carbohydrates high on the index are your “fast sugars” – soda, fruit juices, fruit, fat free yogurt, etc.
In the morning and pre-workout you want foods that are low on the glycemic index – choices that aren’t going to cause spikes in your blood sugar levels; post- workout, on the other hand, go for high glycemic index foods.
Post-workout insulin spikes from “fast sugars” draw amino acids out of the blood and deliver them to muscle tissue: something you definitely want.
Goal 4: Eat enough fats
A diet with an adequate amount of fat in it has many benefits for your general health; moreover, a study in the Journal of Applied Physiologyhas shown a diet high in fat can benefit your training by elevating serum levels of testosterone – an anabolic hormone that promotes muscle building. Fat can also ensure cortisol – a stress-associated hormone that breaks down muscle – doesn’t completely evaporate your testosterone.
To make sure you have enough in your diet buy some peanut butter, eat your chicken breasts or turkey with oil and vinegar for flavor, and supplement with Omega 3 or eat fish at least twice a week.
Fat intake for someone training heavily should range between 20-35% of your total daily calories, and the majority should be poly- and mono-unsaturated (these two types are never solid at room temperature).
There are ten goals (6 exercise and 4 nutritional) that you should incorporate into you New Year’s resolution if you want to increase your lean muscle mass and make some real gains in 2018. These are simple, every day, actionable items backed by solid research.
Let me know what you think and whether these dietary and exercise tips work for you in the comments and be sure to follow Healthy Wheys on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. That way you’ll get instant updates about new content on the site.