Fitness enthusiasts, both young and old, have aspirations to build muscle, not only to look good, but also to improve cardiometabolic health and longevity (as muscle mass is a key indicator of healthy aging). Despite setting these goals, many individuals struggle to attain them.
Here are 13 tips to help you lift more weight, recover faster, and build more muscle!
#1 Consume Enough Protein
Protein is made of amino acids -- the “building blocks” your body uses to repair damaged tissue, synthesize hormones, and build new muscle. Consuming adequate protein every day is essential to building muscle. The general rule of thumb is to consume one gram of protein per pound of body weight. So, for example, if you weigh 150 pounds, consume 150 grams of protein.
For high-quality protein sources that include all of the essential amino acids, such as beef, poultry, fatty fish, eggs, or Greek Yogurt. To help meet your daily protein requirements, you can also use protein powder, such as 1UP Whey or 1UP Vegan protein.
In addition to consuming enough dietary protein, it may also be helpful to supplement essential amino acids (EAAs) and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), both of which are included in our men’s and women’s EAA/BCAA supplements.
#2 Eat More Frequently
In order for your body to build muscle, you need to consume more energy than you burn on a daily basis (i.e. a calorie surplus). As simple as this seems on paper, the truth of the matter is that many individuals (including a fair percentage of guys) struggle with low-appetite, making it difficult to consume enough total calories to support muscle recovery and growth.
To help get in enough calories, it can be helpful to consume multiple smaller meals throughout the day instead of a few big meals. In addition to your three main meals, try adding an additional snack or two throughout the day. An ideal snack time option is a 1UP protein bar or 1UP brookie that contains protein + collagen.
#3 Measure, Don’t Guess
Humans are notoriously incorrect when estimating how many calories they consume. With that in mind, if you’re really serious about building muscle, don’t leave it to guessing -- track it. A food scale is quick and easy to use as well as extremely affordable. It may seem strange or time-consuming the first few times you use a food scale, but the more you use it, the more you’ll come to realize how beneficial it is. Plus, using a scale to measure out your supplements, ensures you get the correct amount of actives and don’t consume too much or too little, which also helps save money!
After measuring your food, make sure to log it in the 1UP Fitness App, so that you know how many macros and calories you’re consuming throughout the day so that you can stay on track with your goals.
#4 Prep Properly
How your food is prepared is just as important as how much of it is consumed. In other words, deep-frying is far less healthy than other methods of preparation (grilled, broiled, steamed, etc.). If you’re looking to maximize muscle growth, body recomposition, or general health, cook/choose foods prepared in a healthy manner.
#5 Try Liquid Meals
As discussed above, many individuals struggle with poor appetite which may result in not consuming enough calories to support muscle recovery and growth. Consuming liquid meals and protein shakes may help to increase daily calorie intake due to the fact that liquid calories are less filling than whole food meals.
Additionally, prepping and cooking whole food-containing meals also requires more time and effort than liquid meals, which essentially consist of throwing everything in a blender and flipping a switch. This makes liquid meals (such as smoothies, protein shakes, etc.) and ideal option for individuals that are short on time.
#6 Prioritize Peri-Workout Nutrition
The average fitness enthusiast (e.g. the individual that merely shows up to the gym a few times each week to knock-out a few light cardio sessions on the treadmill) doesn’t need to be concerned with peri-workout nutrition.
However, if you are an individual of singular focus…which, in the context of this article, means you want to maximize muscle growth (“hypertrophy”), then it can be helpful to focus not only on the amount of food and protein consumed each day, but also when those particular nutrients are consumed.
If your primary goal is muscle building, then consider optimizing your intra-workout supplementation as well as your post workout shake, incorporating the likes of 1UP Tri-Carb and/or 1UP protein powder. Utilizing an intra or post-workout shake helps shuttle the key nutrients your body commands to halt muscle breakdown and support hypertrophy.
#7 Choose Creatine
In addition to consuming enough total calories and protein each day, there are a number of supplements that complement and support muscle growth. No other single dietary supplement has the history of use nor scientific research as creatine monohydrate.
Quite simply, creatine monohydrate is the KING of sports nutrition. It’s been studied hundreds of times and has been shown to enhance athletic performance, cognitive function, energy production (ATP) , strength, and muscle growth.
Natural sources of creatine include red meat and dietary supplements, such as 1UP Pure Rebuild. When it comes to supplementing with creatine, the important thing is to take it consistently (i.e. daily) as opposed to worrying about the most “optimal” time to take it. We’ve included it in our post-workout recovery supplement Pure Rebuild along with essential amino acids as the two work together to repair damaged muscles and support recovery and growth.
#8 Boost Nitric Oxide & Blood Flow
Nitric oxide is a powerful signaling molecule in the body that affects many biological processes -- the most notable of which, from a workout perspective, is vasodilation (widening of blood vessels). As a result of increased vasodilation, more blood can be delivered to working muscles supplying them with additional muscle building nutrients -- glucose, amino acids, water, and oxygen.
The body can produce nitric oxide via two different pathways:
- Nitrate→Nitrite→Nitric Oxide
- Citrulline→Arginine→Nitric Oxide
Nitrates can be obtained from vegetables, such as chard, arugula, and beetroot juice. Citrulline and arginine are amino acids found in a number of foods, and they’re also commonly included in pre workouts. 1UP Pre Men and Women contain a full research-backed dose of 6,000mg L-Citrulline in every full serving. Both products also contain 1,500mg of premium Nitrosigine -- a next-gen form of arginine that offers superior bioavailability to regular l-arginine that not only offers acute benefits but long-lasting ones (up to 6 hours!).
#9 Sleep 7-9 Hours Each Night
Sleep is absolutely essential to optimal performance, recovery, and growth. Not getting enough sleep is a major stressor to the body that blunts production of important muscle-building hormones (e.g. growth hormone, testosterone, etc.), stunts recovery, and reduces energy levels, motivation, and focus the following day (which can negatively affect your workout…if you even show up to train at all!).
Make a commitment to get quality sleep each and every night. If you’re presently struggling to get adequate sleep, consider a few of the following suggestions:
- Stop caffeine intake by 3 PM
- Eliminate blue light exposure (laptops, smartphones, tablets, tv, etc) two hours before bed
- Institute a bedtime ritual to cue your body that it’s time to “power down” for the evening
- Avoid acute stressors before bed -- text messages, emails, social media, etc.
- Take a warm bath/shower
- Have a cup of chamomile tea
#10 Keep Stress Levels in Check
Cortisol is the hormone released by the body whenever it perceives or encounters a threat. In short bursts, such as during a tough workout, cortisol can be very helpful as it helps mobilize glucose and fatty acids to be used to generate ATP (the cellular currency of energy production). It also increases alertness and dials in focus -- both of which help training intensity.
However, when cortisol levels are chronically elevated, things start to go a little whacky in the body, including:
- Decreased muscle protein synthesis
- Increased muscle protein breakdown
- Disrupted energy metabolism
- Impaired sleep
- Poor mood and motivation
- Disrupted insulin signaling and nutrient partitioning
- Increased fat storage
- Reduced muscle recovery
While it may not be possible to entirely remove stress from your life, there are measures you can take to improve how you handle and rebound from a stressful encounter, such as meditation, yoga, breathwork (breathing drills), and listening to calming music. For particularly stressful encounters, it may also be helpful to consider supplements, such as 1UP Relax which contains a precise blend of natural relaxers and adaptogens, including KSM-66 Ashwagandha.
#11 Don’t Skip Meals
When it comes to building muscle, most individuals get the training component right (most of the time). It’s the eating part that is difficult for the majority of individuals looking to build muscle, especially guys and girls that have been skinny their whole lives.
However, if you’re really serious about making gains in size and strength, you must give the same priority to eating as you do to training and sleep. Don’t rely on hunger to tell you when to eat. Doing so can result in missing meals, which means you won’t hit your calorie and macronutrient goals for the day. Just like you schedule your workouts, meetings, and other deliverables for the week, so too should you schedule your meals. If need be, use reminder apps on your phone or computer to stay on track.
#12 Supplement with Essential Amino Acids (EAA/BCAA)
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a special subclass of essential amino acids (EAAs) that are responsible for stimulating mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) -- the biological pathway that fuels muscle protein synthesis (anabolism). Consuming enough high-quality protein sources provides enough EAAs and BCAAs to reduce muscle soreness (DOMS) and support optimal muscle recovery and growth.
However, we all have those days when time and/or the desire to eat is limited. Yet, you know that it’s still imperative to consume enough nutrients to support your goals. Supplementing with essential amino acids can help you to meet your muscle’s needs for the day. 1UP Nutrition offers two specially-formulated amino acid supplements in His BCAA/EAA and Her BCAA/EAA. In addition to supplying the essential building blocks your muscles need to grow, we’ve also included other standout features (the “unsung heroes” of muscle building) such as collagen to support the body’s most vital structures -- joints, ligaments, and connective tissue.
Amino acid supplements can be consumed pre, intra, or post-workout as well as any other time of day to support and nourish your muscles.
#13 Optimize Hormone Balance
Hormones are chemical messengers impacting practically every aspect of daily living from mood to metabolism to muscle building. Everything we do impacts our hormone levels from the foods we eat to the people we interact with to the amount of sleep we get.
In addition to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, certain supplements can also promote a healthy hormone profile enhancing muscle recovery and growth, mood, metabolism, and cognitive function. We’ve combed through the literature, hand-picked the most beneficial natural ingredients to support healthy muscle-building, and included them in Protest Max.
- Hiol AN, von Hurst PR, Conlon CA, Mugridge O, Beck KL (2021) Body composition associations with muscle strength in older adults living in Auckland, New Zealand. PLOS ONE 16(5): e0250439. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0250439
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