What You Should Know About Building Muscle Mass and Tone



You’ve probably heard that you should be incorporating strength training into your exercise routine. Still, hitting the weights may feel much more intimidating than taking a walk or jog around your neighborhood.

While results may not always be fast, creating a solid strength training routine should show you noticeable muscle gains in a few weeks to several month.

How do muscles grow ?

Skeletal muscle is the most adaptable tissue in your body. When you do extreme exercise, like weightlifting, your muscle fibers undergo trauma, or what’s called muscle injury. When your muscles are injured this way, satellite cells on the outside of the muscle fibers become activated. They attempt to repair the damage by joining together and, as a result, increasing the muscle fiber.

Certain hormones actually help your muscles grow, too. They control the satellite cells and are responsible for things like:

  • sending the cells to your muscles after exercise
  • forming new blood capillaries
  • repairing muscle cells
  • managing muscle mass

For example, resistance moves help your body release growth hormone from your pituitary gland. How much is released depends on the intensity of the exercise you’ve done. Growth hormone triggers your metabolism and helps turn amino acids into protein to bulk up your muscles.

How to build muscle

muscle gains

Spending your whole day in the gym isn’t necessary to build muscle. Weight training for 20 to 30 minutes, 2 to 3 times a week is enough to see results. You should try to target all your major muscle groups at least twice throughout your weekly workouts.

While you may not see results right away, even a single strength training session can help promote muscle growth. Exercise stimulates what’s called protein synthesis in the 2 to 4 hours after you finish your workout. Your levels may stay elevated for up to a whole day.

How exactly can you tell if your muscles are growing? You may be able to see more muscle definition. If not, you’ll certainly be able to lift heavier weights with more ease over time.

Strength training activities include:

  • body weight exercises, like pushups, squats, and lunges
  • resistance band movements
  • workouts with free weights, or even objects like soup cans
  • workouts with stationary weight machines, like a leg curl machine

    Why rest is important

    It’s important to give your body plenty of rest as you begin a strength training program. Without taking days off, you may injure yourself and have to take time off from exercise, slowing your progress.

    Experts recommend that you don’t do strength training on the same muscle group two days in a row. Here are some tips to help your muscles recover and prevent soreness.

    Cardio and muscles

    Aerobic exercise, otherwise known as cardio, raises your heart and breathing rates. It strengthens your cardiovascular system.

    You may have heard that too much cardio is bad for building muscle. Current researchTrusted Source shows that this isn’t necessarily the case.

    Aerobic exercise can actually help with muscle growth, muscle function, and your overall exercise capacity. These effects are particularly noted in older and previously sedentary individuals.

    The sweet spot with cardio to promote muscle growth has everything to do with the intensity, duration, and frequency. ScientistsTrusted Source recommend exercising at an intensity of 70 to 80 percent heart rate reserve (HRR) with sessions that are 30 to 45 minutes in length, 4 to 5 days each week. You can find your HRR by subtracting your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate.

    Bottom line: Working out with both cardio and resistance training exercises will keep your body and heart healthy and strong.

    m line: Working out with both cardio and resistance training exercises will keep your body and heart healthy and strong.

    Diet and muscles

    The foods you eat may help you build more muscle, too. Your protein intake, in particular, plays an important role in fueling your muscles. How much protein should you eat? The current guideline is around 0.8 gram (g) per kilogram (kg) of your body weight each day if you’re over 19 years old.

    For example, a 150-pound woman would need to take in around 54 grams of protein a day. (68 kg x 0.8 g = 54.5 g.) A 180-pound man, on the other hand, would need to take in around 66 grams of protein a day. (82 kg x 0.8 g = 65.6 g.)

    Stuck on what to eat? Look for protein-rich foods that are also rich in the amino acid leucine. You can find leucine in animal products like:

    • beef
    • lamb
    • pork
    • poultry
    • fish
    • eggs
    • milk
    • milk products, like cheese

    Non-animal sources of protein include foods like:

    • soybeans
    • beans
    • nuts
    • seeds


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