How to gain muscle: tips, diet and workout design (2023)

When it comes to physical improvements, building muscle is often a top priority.

The added muscle mass will increase the definition of your muscles, improve your lean body mass, and add volume and size to your body in all the right places.

Muscle growth takes time, persistence and a long-term commitment to the process.

While gaining massive amounts of muscle can seem daunting, with proper training programs and proper consumption of certain foods, serious muscle building is possible for most people.

This article details everything you need to know when it comes to building muscle, including how to exercise, what to eat, and recovery protocols.

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Anatomically, skeletal muscles are a series of parallel cylindrical fibers that contract to produce force. This muscle contraction allows all external human movements to occur.

Your body is in a constant process of renewing and recycling itsamino acids, or protein building blocks, in your muscles.

If your body removes more protein than it adds, you will lose muscle mass. If net protein synthesis is uniform, then no measurable change in muscle size occurs. Finally, if your body deposits more protein than it removes, your muscles will grow.

The key to building muscle is increasing the rate of protein deposition while minimizing the rate of protein breakdown.

This process of increasing muscle mass is known asMuscular hypertrophy, and is a primary goal of resistance training.

The muscle building process is driven by many factors, including hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone, as well as the availability of amino acids and other nutrients.

To build new muscle tissue, your main tools for increasing your body's rate of protein synthesis is to perform resistance training and get sufficient amounts of protein and general nutrients.

The right amount of resistance training boosts your body's hormonal response to building muscle, but requires sufficient protein and energy availability to ensure the process results in muscle gains as opposed to muscle losses (1).

As researchers and experts continue to study the science of optimizing muscle gains, performing resistance training using moderate to heavy loads, combined with relativelyhigh protein intake, remains the only tried-and-true training method to increase muscle mass (2).

(Video) The Best Way to Gain Muscle: Science Explained Simply


Building muscle requires your body to deposit more protein molecules into your muscles than it removes. Resistance training with weights and ensuring proper nutrition are the primary means of achieving this goal.

Although many types of exercise offerhealth benefits, the only way to reliably drive muscle growth is to use your muscles against moderate to heavy resistance. Furthermore, muscle growth is specific to the muscles being used.

1. Decide your target number of repetitions

The repetition continuum is a useful concept when designing training programs to build muscle.

Stimulating muscle growth requires performing weight training exercises with an amount of weight that allows you to perform only 1–20repetitions.

In general, the rep continuum states that weights you can lift for just a few reps tend to build strength, weights you can lift for 6 to 12 reps tend to build more muscle, and weights you can lift for 12 to 20 reps tend to increase. increase muscle endurance.

continuous rep-range

How many reps you can perform with a given weight determines the benefit you'll see.

  • 1–5 reps:develop more strength
  • 6–12 repetitions:develops more muscle growth
  • 12–20 reps:develop more muscle endurance

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Understand that these intervals will have some crossover, which means that the 3-rep sets with the respective weight will cause some muscle growth, the 8-rep sets will build strength, and the 20-rep sets will also build muscle.

Additionally, recent research suggests that different individuals may respond better to lower or higher rep ranges when it comes to building muscle (3).

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Simply put, depending on who you are, your muscles can grow bigger with fewer reps using heavier weights or with a lot of reps using lighter weights.

2. Choose the right amount of weight

In all cases, the weight must be heavy enough that it is impossible to perform much more than 20 repetitions.

The weight you choose to use should bring you close to failure at your specified number of repetitions.

For example, if you are doing a set of 10 repetitions, by the tenth repetition you should be unable or almost unable to perform another repetition. You should rarely have more than "two reps in the tank" at the end of a set if your goal ismuscle building.

The general implication of the rep range continuum is that you should go through different phases of training using different rep ranges to see what gives your body the most muscle growth.

3. Choose your exercises carefully

As mentioned, muscle building is specific to the muscle being worked.

For example, to build bigger biceps, you need to perform exercises that work the biceps. It can be an isolated biceps exercise, like a barbell curl, or a compound movement that uses the biceps, like a pullup.

In terms of the best type of exercise for building muscle, compound and isolation movements can be equally effective in causing muscle hypertrophy (4).

However, for the best long-term fitness results, you should include compound and isolation movements in your training.

Compound movements such as a barbell squat effectively stimulate multiple large muscle groups in a single exercise and provide morefunctional movementfor real-life activities. This leads to more efficient workouts and more practical muscle strength.

Isolation movements are an excellent way to target specific muscles, and beginners may find them initially safer and easier to learn than compound movements.

Also, isolation movements are typically easier to perform when you're tired, as you're not stabilizing your entire body. This can allow for a few extra targeted sets towards the end of a workout when you're too exhausted to do another compound exercise.

4. Structure your training to avoid overtraining

A good rule of thumb is to perform 3 sets of 3-5 compound movements, followed by 3 sets of 1-2 isolation movements per workout.

Generally, you do your heavier sets using compound movements and run higher rep ranges on your isolation moves.

Assuming you're doing three sets of work per exercise, limit your combined total of compound movement and isolation exercises to 5-7 movements per workout.

This allows you to benefit from each type of exercise while maximizing the overall muscle building potential of your training program and avoiding anysintomas de overtraining.


Gaining muscle mass is possible using all rep ranges, and some people may respond better to lower or higher reps with heavier or lighter weights, respectively. Include compound and isolation movements in your program.

your dietIt's the second half of the muscle building equation. All the weight training in the world won't produce results if you don't provide your body with the nutrients it needs to grow new muscle tissue.

Bulking versus corte

Most athletes, bodybuilders, and serious muscle-building enthusiasts follow some variation of avolume and cutcycle.

Bulkingperiods refer to training phases during which you eat more food than you burn to support muscle growth. On the other hand,cutrefers to a period of calorie restriction to reduce body fat, while eating and training enough to prevent muscle loss.

To gain muscle, you need to provide your body with adequate amounts of calories and nutrients, particularly protein. Doing so will support the creation of new muscle protein from the dietary protein you eat, which will be stimulated by the work you do in the weight room.

The main goal of eating to gain muscle during a bulking phase is to provide your body with enough nutrients to grow, but not so many calories that you put on more fat than muscle.

While some minor fat gains tend to occur during bulking periods, a sweet spot, where your body builds muscle but doesn't store large amounts of fat, tends to occur when you eat 300 to 500 excess calories.

Your body has a maximum rate of building muscle, and beyond that limit, excess calories will be stored as fat. If your goal is to have defined muscles, you want to avoid gaining too much body fat.

Calories needed to gain muscle mass

For sustainable muscle gain without excess fat, you should be eating 300-500caloriesper day above their basic needs.

Many factors affect your basic calorie needs, also known as total daily energy expenditure, or TDEE. These factors include your age, gender, current lean body mass, physical activity, occupation, and underlying medical conditions.

Your best bet is to use an online calculator to estimate your caloric expenditure based on the data you enter. Once you have that baseline expenditure, add 300 calories to establish your daily calorie goal.

Protein needed to gain muscle mass

When it comes to muscle building nutrients,proteinis the top priority. Recent research suggests that those training to gain muscle should eat about 0.72 grams of protein per pound (1.6 grams per kg) of body weight per day (5).

When it comes to choosing which foods to eat, oneregistered dietitiancan advise you specifically. However, eating a variety of protein sources is probably your best bet.

Carbohydrates and fats needed to gain muscle mass

In terms of yourcarbohydrateand fat intake, the recommendations are more varied. You need dietary fat to ensure optimal hormone function, among other things.

Recent bodybuilding research suggests consuming 0.22–0.68 grams of fat per pound (0.5–1.5 grams per kg) of body weight per day (6).

If you tend to prefer fattier foods, start at the upper end of that range and adjust from there. The remainder of your daily calories should come from various carbohydrate sources.

To calculate this, multiply your daily target protein by 4 and your daily target fat intake by 9, as protein has 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram. This will establish how many calories you will be consuming from protein and fat.

(Video) How To Make Workout Plan For Muscle Building And Fat Loss? Become Your Own Trainer!

Then subtract that number from your calculated daily energy requirement and divide by 4 (the number of calories in a gram of carbohydrate) to get the grams of carbohydrate you need to eat to meet, but not exceed, your daily calorie intake. .

In the long run, getting a consistent protein intake and making sure you don't exceed an extra 500 calories a day are keys to gaining muscle without packing on too much excess fat.


Eating for muscle gain requires sufficient protein and calorie intake to fuel growth. Avoid eating more than 300 to 500 extra calories a day to minimize body fat gains.

(Video) How To Eat To Build Muscle & Lose Fat (Lean Bulking Full Day Of Eating)

While gaining muscle is surprisingly simple compared to many other life goals, that doesn't mean it's easy — and it certainly doesn't happen quickly.

Gaining serious muscle takes many months and years of weight training and proper nutrition.muscle gain ratesvary from person to person, even following the same program.

Overall, with good nutrition and consistent training, research has found that 0.5 to 2 pounds (0.25 to 0.9 kg) of muscle growth per month is a good benchmark for maximum potential muscle growth (7).

While this may seem like a small amount, over time the results can be dramatic. With just a few years of consistent training, you can gain 20 to 40 pounds (9 to 18 kg) of muscle, which would be a dramatic change in physique for just about anyone starting a resistance training program.


Gaining muscle takes time and is limited to 0.5–2 pounds (0.25–0.9 kg) per month.

Gaining muscle requires a commitment to resistance training and following a proper diet.

Muscle-building training programs should rely primarily on compound, isolated movements with weights, but adjust specific exercises, sets, and repetitions to ensure consistent, long-term gains in both muscle size and strength.

Proper nutrition involves intake of enough protein, fat, and calories to exceed your daily energy expenditure enough to build muscle, but not so drastically as to cause excess fat gain.

Huge increases in muscle mass take months to years of consistent training, but they are possible for most individuals.

(Video) How to Gain Muscle: Tips, Diet, and Workout Design

Overall, to reach your muscle building goals, you must lift weights, eat right, and stay consistent.


How do I set up a diet to build muscle? ›

Here are eight great ideas to help you build muscle mass.
  1. Breakfast will help build Muscle Mass. ...
  2. Eat every three hours. ...
  3. Protein with Each Meal Helps Boost Muscle Mass. ...
  4. Eat fruit and vegetables with each meal. ...
  5. Eat carbs only after your workout. ...
  6. Eat healthy fats to help build Muscle mass.

What is the most important thing for gaining muscle? ›

Protein is the most important and essential component of nutrition and the foundation of muscle gain,” he says. If you're wondering how much protein you need to build muscle, Dr. Graham recommends 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

What are the 4 foods to eat to build muscle? ›

  • Lean meat. Animal products are usually a great source of protein, especially lean meats like chicken and turkey [2]. ...
  • Eggs. ...
  • Dairy products.
  • Fish. ...
  • Whole grains. ...
  • Beans and lentils. ...
  • Whey protein.

What are 3 things your muscles need to grow? ›

11 Nutrients for Muscle Building
  • Water. You already know how important it is to drink enough H2O for replenishing fluids before, during and after a workout. ...
  • Protein. ...
  • Calcium. ...
  • Magnesium. ...
  • Glutamine. ...
  • Vitamin D. ...
  • Potassium. ...
  • Carbohydrates.
May 10, 2022

What are the 3 most important muscles? ›

The three main types of muscle include:
  • Skeletal muscle – the specialised tissue that is attached to bones and allows movement. ...
  • Smooth muscle – located in various internal structures including the digestive tract, uterus and blood vessels such as arteries. ...
  • Cardiac muscle – the muscle specific to the heart.

What are the 5 important muscles? ›

What Are the 5 Most Important Muscles Groups?
  • Shoulder and back muscles. Slouching over our screens and sitting too much makes it crucial to work your shoulder and back muscles. ...
  • Chest and arm muscles. ...
  • Abdominal muscles. ...
  • Leg muscles. ...
  • Calves muscles.

What is the best workout style to build muscle? ›

The best way to build muscle is to perform compound exercises which recruit multiple muscle groups. According to Zack George, personal trainer, gym owner, and the UK's fittest man, there are five main movements to focus on. These are deadlifts, squats, pull-ups, bench press, and shoulder press.

What are the 7 steps to creating a workout plan? ›

Starting Your Fitness Plan
  1. Step 1: Ease into it. ...
  2. Step 2: You don't have to do it all at once. ...
  3. Step 3: Start with something low impact. ...
  4. Step 4: Manage your expectations. ...
  5. Step 5: Schedule physical activity into your daily plan. ...
  6. Step 6: Track your progress. ...
  7. Step 7: Set a reasonable goal.
Nov 11, 2017

What food grows muscle fastest? ›

12 Foods That Help You Build Lean Muscle Fast
  • Beef. While red meat should be eaten in moderation, animal foods have complete proteins with all essential amino acids. ...
  • Salmon & Tuna. ...
  • Eggs. ...
  • Greek Yogurt & Cheese. ...
  • Shrimp. ...
  • Leafy Greens. ...
  • Avocados. ...
  • Nuts & Peanut Butter.
Jan 14, 2019

Are bananas good for muscle growth? ›

Bananas are a healthy addition to any diet, even one focused on building muscle. In addition to providing energy for the body, the nutrients in bananas have the effect of increasing muscle mass.

How quick can you actually build muscle? ›

True beginners might see muscle growth within six weeks of starting a resistance training program, and advanced lifters may see results within six to eight weeks of switching up their usual strength training regimen.

Do you need to lift heavy to build muscle? ›

Depending on your goals, muscle growth does not depend on the amount of weight you lift. It is a myth that one must lift more weight to bulk up. If you're regular and patient with lighter weights, you can achieve similar results.

How do you bulk up if you are skinny? ›

Let's go over 10 QUICK TIPS that you need to know if you want to learn the fastest way to gain muscle.
  1. Eat nuts on the reg. ...
  2. Eat dried fruit (and fresh). ...
  3. Eat oats cold. ...
  4. Eat plenty of lean meat and fatty fish. ...
  5. Drink your calories. ...
  6. Eat six times per day. ...
  7. Avoid low-density food. ...
  8. Smear on the almond butter.
Oct 7, 2015

Can you build muscle with only diet? ›

You won`t grow any muscle tissue unless you are eating in a caloric surplus. Drink as many protein shakes as you want, eat as much chicken breast you can, but if you are not eating enough calories, then don`t expect any muscle gain.


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