Want to know the secret to unlimited muscle growth?
The secret is: there is no secret.
Eat enough, get stronger, and do it consistently. Perhaps a bit of an oversimplification, don’t you think?
Truth is, though, the mechanisms by which we build muscle are quite simple.
There are 3 main factors that dictate muscle growth—and if you act in accordance to the 3 principles I have outlined here, you’re guaranteed to grow, despite “good” or “bad” genetics.
There are a thousand ways to skin a cat—likewise there are just as many ways to train and diet to build muscle.
So whether you’re a vegan or eat paleo, a powerlifter or a bodybuilder—if the goal is to gain size—the same laws apply to each.
Muscle Growth Factor #1: Positive Energy Balance
Think of building muscle mass as remodeling your kitchen. When you go into the gym, you’re essentially ripping out the cabinets, destroying the counters, and removing the old appliances. Without providing the necessary nutrients, however, you’re leaving the kitchen unfinished. (Read This: Easy-To-Follow Weight Gain Diet for Skinny Guys)
This remodel can be quick and painless or drawn out and stressful. If you want the former, you’ve got to ensure you have the workers, tools, and supplies available for the job. The latter, however, occurs when you’re unprepared and shorthanded. Making sure you’re consuming the right amounts of the right foods, on a daily basis, is the only way to make certain you’re able to continuously rebuild and remodel the damage caused by the demolition phase (the workout).
Fortunately, eating for muscle growth is quite simple.
First, we must be in a positive energy balance to ensure we’re providing our body the necessary nutrients for growth. This simply means that we should be consuming more calories than we’re burning.
Second, we must consume the necessary protein to achieve a positive protein balance. This ensures that we are synthesizing more protein than we’re breaking down. If the opposite occurs, we can forget about building new muscle tissue.
Third, we’ve got to make sure we’re getting in enough of the right fats. Failing to consume enough dietary fat can result in lower testosterone—making building muscle and losing fat more challenging.
Lastly, we’ve got to eat enough carbs to fuel intense training. If your performance sucks, so will your results.
Thankfully, most people who adhere to the first rule (positive energy balance) find that meeting their macronutrient requirements (adequate protein, fats, and carbs) comes as a byproduct.
Muscle Growth Factor #2: Progressive Tension Overload
Progressive tension overload refers to lifting progressively heavier and heavier weights. You see, muscles need to be given a reason to grow and eating a ton of protein, alone, just isn’t going to cut it.
Here’s how it works: When we introduce a stress, our body is forced to adapt by building new muscle in hopes to handle the given stress again in the future. If we fail to increase that stress, however, our body will find no need to repair and/or grow. It’s really that cut and dry.
This is why progressive overload is the most critical pathway by which we build muscle. As long as we can continue to add stress, over time, we’ll be forced to adapt and grow. There are a number of ways to achieve this—and I cover those in this article here—but the main idea is simple: if you want to get bigger, you’ve got to get better.
Muscle Growth Factor #3: Consistency
If you’re “eating enough” 5 days out of 7, you’re not eating enough.
That 1 or 2 days of skipping meals, missing calories, or eating intuitively, could determine whether or not you make any progress that week. Similarly, missing training days will reduce the amount of work you’ve done in a given timeframe.
For example: if your workout program requires you to train 4 days per week for 12 weeks, that’s 48 total workouts in the next 3 months. If you skip 1 day each week, you will have completed just 36 workouts—a total of 3 weeks’ worth of work; taking the workload that you could have done in 12 weeks and extending it into 15 or more. Extend that into 6 months and now the progress that you could have made in 24 weeks, takes you 36 instead; and on and on and on.
With each factor, there’s a common theme: they’re powerful together, but alone they’re useless.
If you’re eating enough, consistently, but you’re not progressing in the gym, you won’t achieve the adaptive response necessary for growth and the excess calories will be more likely to end up as fat.
If you’re progressing in the gym, consistently, but you’re not providing your body the necessary nutrients, your body won’t have the resources available to supply the demand.
And if you’re consistently undereating and/or missing gym sessions, well, you get the idea…these 3 rules work synergistically and if you don’t have them all in order, you’ll never maximize your true muscle-building potential.