Muscle Hypertrophy: The Complete Guide to Gaining Muscle
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If you are looking to gain muscle, this article is a must-read! We’ll tell you the main mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth) and how to use them in your training and eating routine.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, trying to “gain weight,” “tone up,” or build muscle, there are always questions: what’s the best way to train in the gym? High reps? Low reps? Too many repetitions? How much rest time between sets?

As for the diet, the doubts are even greater: what to eat before and after training? How many calories do I need to eat to gain muscle? What are the best foods? But calm down; let’s talk about all this in the complete muscle hypertrophy guide. 

How does muscle hypertrophy happen?

Good health habits, proper nutrition, generous genetics, and effective exercises are necessary to gain muscle sustainably. Below we list the things that cannot be missing from your routine to achieve hypertrophy:

  1. Strength training for muscle hypertrophy

The determining factor for muscle hypertrophy is resistance training with weights. But don’t fool yourself into thinking you need to go to the gym and pull weights to gain muscle. Gaining muscle requires energy from our body – and our body is a very smart machine.

So he will only spend energy if he feels he needs it. That is, if the stimulus you give your muscle during training is enough for your body to think, “Okay, we need to increase in size to withstand this stimulus.”

All of your workouts need to be challenging. You need to get out of your comfort zone at time resistance training. Try to do one more repetition; if you allow yourself to feel a little pain, increase the loads and always try to evolve.

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But attention: before starting a new exercise routine, consult your doctor and seek advice from a personal trainer. They will be able to determine if weight training is safe for you and what type of training is best for your goal.

  1. Proper diet for muscle hypertrophy

The second factor that will influence your muscle growth is food. To gain muscle mass, you need to consume enough calories. But eating for hypertrophy is not just about calories. Think with me:

You already understand that you must train well to grow your muscles, right? But to train well and recover enough to keep training, you must eat well. So, in addition to giving your body energy to produce more muscle, food helps you train harder and better. It’s very difficult for you to train well if you’re undereating or eating unhealthy foods.

And here, don’t just pay attention to proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. A good diet for hypertrophy needs micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to ensure your muscles recover between one training session and another.

Still, the big fear of those who want to get stronger is gaining fat along with the muscles. And the tip here is simple: it’s not because you’re eating more that you can eat anything. Always focus on healthy eating!

Later, we’ll give you specific diet tips to use calories effectively to gain lean mass.

  1. Sleep and rest

A tired body doesn’t train well and can’t build muscle! Therefore, sleeping 7 to 9 hours a night is crucial, especially if you want to change your body composition (gain muscle and lose fat).

Through sleep, your body repairs the muscles that were “injured” during the training session and leaves them ready to face a new session. This muscle recovery occurs mainly through protein synthesis and human growth hormone (GH) release.

What is the best workout for muscle hypertrophy?

There are many suggested training protocols, and they all work with different variables:

  • Weight of the load being lifted, pushed, or pulled;
  • Number of repetitions done in each series;
  • Number of sets done per exercise and size of the interval between sets;
  • Cadence (how long the eccentric and concentric phase of the movement lasts) and range of motion.

However, the best hypertrophy training will always depend on your body, ability, and goal. There is no rule about how many reps, how many sets, or which exercises to do. The physical education professional will evaluate all this when setting up your training.

Weight lifting

In powerlifting, you can perform high reps with a lighter weight or lift a heavier weight with fewer reps. The way you lift will determine the way your muscles grow and change.

For example, you can build muscle tone with a lighter weight, requiring more repetitions to improve muscle fiber efficiency.

On the other hand, using heavy weight is an effective way to encourage muscle fiber growth and definition, as well as help to increase your strength. It’s also a more efficient way to work out if you need more time.

Hypertrophy occurs due to several variables – mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress. This results in increased levels of testosterone and growth hormone, which play a huge role in muscle repair and growth.

tension

Mechanical tension is created by using a heavy load and performing exercises through a full range of motion for some time.

The time the muscle spends under tension provided by the external load (barbell, dumbbells, etc.) creates mechanical tension. The more time spent under load, the more mechanical stress is provided.

Thus, lifting heavy weights in a controlled manner through a full range of motion is necessary to promote muscle growth. That is, there is no point in arriving at the gym, picking up the heaviest weights, and throwing them around. It would help if you used the weight to your advantage to maintain tension throughout the movement and provide the necessary stimulus for your muscle to work.

Muscle Damage

Muscle damage is an essential component of the muscle-building process. Muscle damage is sustained during resistance training, largely from eccentric and concentric contractions.

Both contractions cause muscle damage, but eccentric contractions do more damage to the muscle than concentric contractions.

This initiation of muscle damage triggers mTor pathways which then activate protein synthesis to begin rebuilding the damaged muscle.

Metabolic

Along with lifting heavy weights to create mechanical tension, it is also well-researched that lifting moderate to light weights with higher repetitions, often associated with weight training, also promotes muscle growth.

If you do any resistance training, chances are you’ve already felt that “burn” in your muscle as you hit higher reps, followed by short rest periods. This sensation is a result of metabolic stress.

Metabolic stress on muscles has an anabolic effect that leads to molecular signaling and an increased hormonal response in the body – mechanisms that favor mass muscle gain.

What is the best diet for muscle hypertrophy?

When your goal is to build muscle, protein and carbs are key. That’s why a muscle-building diet often includes foods rich in these macronutrients.

But building muscle isn’t just about eating more protein and carbs or consuming only high-quality protein sources. There are other factors to consider as well. For example:

Quality of calories and nutrients

There are two types of calories: clean or healthy calories, which provide micronutrients, and dirty or unhealthy calories, which provide minimal nutrients.

Healthier foods provide better-quality proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. At the same time, unhealthy foods are usually incomplete proteins, simple sugars, and unhealthy trans fat. These less healthy foods will provide you with lots of calories but few micronutrients.

In contrast, empty calories, such as from junk food, do not provide your body and muscles with the necessary nutrients to help promote muscle growth. This leads to reduced fat burning and energy generation.

You can expect to gain more fat and less muscle mass if you lack nutrients. If you choose to go on a hypercaloric diet (to gain muscle mass) and not eat healthy foods in the necessary amounts, your weight will likely increase anyway. However, the weight gained will not be from muscle mass but fat!

Proteins, carbohydrates, and fats: how much to eat of each?

Protein, carbohydrates, and fats are essential for a healthy diet! A breakdown of macronutrients and calories for muscle gain usually has more carbs, adequate protein, and fat in moderation. It is common to find 50-60% carbohydrates and 1.8-2.2g/kg protein.

However, it is important to understand that you need to be in a caloric surplus for this account to work. That is, eating more calories than your body burns.

To burn fat and build muscle simultaneously, it’s important to understand how the human body handles calories. For a better understanding, check out this post below:

Proteins

A protein-rich diet is essential for muscle growth. Focus on lean sources like animal-based protein powders, lean beef, chicken, and fish.

Likewise, cottage cheese, egg whites, and Greek yogurt are also highly recommended to help increase your protein intake.

If you engage in strenuous exercise, adding a powdered protein shake 30 minutes after your workout can help muscle fibers recover and repair. Vegetable protein powder can also be beneficial for those on a plant-based diet!

fats

Fat has a bad reputation, but there are many types of fat. Some types of fat can harm your health. On the other hand, other fats can make you healthier, like unsaturated fats.

Harvard University explains that unsaturated fat helps properly function the brain and nervous system. Thus, eating healthy fat also helps to strengthen immunity and improve heart rate and blood flow. In addition, fats are responsible for hormone production and cholesterol control.

All these factors can affect your workout, making fat important to a healthy muscle-building diet.

carbohydrates

Carbohydrates also play a role in muscle growth. After all, your body needs enough energy to sustain a workout that results in muscle gain.

This energy comes from your glycogen stores – and carbohydrates are the body’s main glycogen source.

The best carbohydrates are those eaten when they are closest to their natural form. That includes:

  • Fruits (apples, bananas, pears);
  • Vegetables (leaf greens, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage);
  • Grains (barley, oats, quinoa).

Carbs to avoid — or at least limit — include the more processed versions like baked goods, chips, and crackers. These items contain higher amounts of salt and sugar and, at the same time, have their nutritional value reduced during the manufacturing process.

healthy microbiota

The intestine is responsible for absorbing macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals, preventing inappropriate substances from entering the circulation, and balancing the functioning of the immune system and some neurotransmitters, such as serotonin.

Have you ever thought this could harm your slimming, hypertrophy, and income training process?

In this way, to balance the intestine, it is necessary to have a healthy eating habit with a good amount of fiber and nutrients, avoid foods with excess additives and pesticides, perform physical activity, and drink water in the right measure.

After an evaluation, if necessary, supplementation of Probiotics and Prebiotics, bacteria, and “food for bacteria” may be necessary. These will help recolonize the intestine and normalize permeability.

Is it worth using supplements for muscle hypertrophy?

The use of supplements for hypertrophy is not mandatory. After all, as the name already says, they serve to supplement food, that is, to provide something that food is not able to provide.

However, some supplements can be great allies in gaining muscle mass. For example, by helping you to eat the amount of protein needed in the day, to eat more calories, or even to have more energy to exert strength and willingness to train.

But only buy some nutritional supplements the supplement store salesperson tells you! Many supplements sold today need to be more helpful and will cost you money. Check some of the best hypertrophy supplements out there:

  1. Whey Protein

One of the supplements most used by bodybuilders, Whey Protein, is nothing more than protein powder. It is a whey protein sold in powder form for quick preparations. You can have it in shakes, creams, cakes, yogurts, and protein ice cream.

As you already know, Pro Protein is super important for gaining muscle mass. In that case, Whey Protein is a great ally to reach your daily protein goal without having to eat chicken and eggs all the time! A serving of whey (35g) has an average of 23g of protein, equivalent to 120g of chicken breast or 4 whole-boiled eggs.

Additionally, whey protein contains high levels of the amino acid leucine, which plays a key role in initiating muscle protein synthesis.

  1. Creatine

Creatine is a molecule produced naturally in your body and stored in your skeletal muscles and heart. However, we also obtain creatine through food, with fish, meat, eggs, seafood, milk, and derivatives.

Creatine supplement serves to saturate our muscle stores and provide maximum energy, power, and explosive strength. Creatine only acts in movements that require strength, power, and explosion. For example: lifting a heavier weight, jumping, running fast for short distances, etc.

Creatine itself does not increase muscle mass. Instead, it gives you more strength to train, lift more weight, and thus stimulate your muscle to grow. That is, it directly affects your training performance.

This performance boost can help athletes reach peak speed and energy, especially during short, high-intensity activities like weight lifting or sprinting.

Also, creatine is the most studied supplement with the most scientific evidence. So, if you’re training hard and thinking about taking a supplement, invest in creatine! And remember: creatine needs to be taken every day, regardless of whether or not you train. A sufficient dose is 3g per day. After all, its effects accumulate over the long term.

  1. Hypercaloric

Hypercaloric supplements help you get more calories, proteins, and carbohydrates practically and quickly. They are typically used by individuals struggling to gain muscle or who need to eat many calories during the day.

Some research in physically inactive adults has shown that increasing calories a lot can increase lean mass, such as muscle, as long as you eat enough protein. However, research in weight-trained adults has indicated that consuming a weight-gaining supplement may not be effective in increasing lean body mass.

In short, calorie boosters are only recommended if you are struggling to eat enough food and find it easier to drink a shake to gain weight than to eat more real food.

  1. Caffeine

Caffeine is a chemical compound found in some plants and used to make stimulant drinks. In sports, caffeine is widely used to have more energy to train. And it can be a great ally in training sessions.

The supplement can be found in capsules, in pre-workout preparations, in energy drinks, and, of course, in coffee. Yes! You don’t have to spend money on imported caffeine capsules and pre-workouts. The good old cup of coffee is enough to:

  • Stimulate your heart and increase your heartbeat;
  • Dilate your peripheral blood vessels;
  • Excite your central nervous system, making you more excited, electric, and motivated;

Make you more resistant to pain and fatigue from training.

But beware: the caffeine supplement is not for everyone! Excessive intake of caffeine can be very harmful to health. The side effects are anxiety, insomnia, headaches, irritability, and tachycardia.

What to eat before and after training?

In short, you’ll want to eat a high- carbohydrate meal about three to four hours before exercising. During exercise, the energy used to exert force comes from muscle glycogen. And carbohydrates provide the body with glycogen to replenish our stores, which take 3 to 4 hours to fill.

So remember that pre-workout is not just the meal right before the training session, but everything you ate throughout the day and used to fill up your glycogen stores. However, in the meal just before, it is important to:

Choose food sources of fast and slow absorption carbohydrates: banana + oats + honey, tapioca + peanut butter + strawberries, whole grain bread + egg + papaya;

Do not abuse food sources of fat (avocados, peanut butter, chestnuts) to avoid gastric discomfort during training. That is that you feel your stomach heavy;

Do not overindulge in fiber and protein, as these foods take longer to break down and digest in the stomach (which can make your stomach feel heavier).

As for the post-workout, bet on food sources of protein: a shake of milk + Whey Protein + banana, a sandwich with eggs + low-fat cheese, yogurt with fruit, or even a plate of food (if your post-workout -workout whether dinner or lunch).

How long does it take to gain muscle mass?

Most beginners can expect noticeable muscle growth within eight weeks of starting a new strength-training routine, and more experienced lifters within three to four weeks.

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