Building muscle takes hard work. You need time, patience, and discipline. Athletes might make it look easy, but don’t be fooled. There’s a wrong and right way to do it.
Remember, every single habit affects how you make gains. It all adds up. To get started, focus on these science-backed lifestyle tips. Incorporate them into your wellness routine one by one. It’ll set you up for success and the body you’ve always wanted.
1. Have A Carbohydrate Plan
Carbs get a bad reputation, but they are not the enemy. You need them to survive and get lean! It starts with learning how to eat carbs correctly, not cut them out.
Glucose is your body’s first source of energy. But since it doesn’t store glucose, carbohydrate needs to be continuously replenished. If not, “hanger” (anger due to hunger) and fatigue will take over, making it hard to lift weights.1
Reach for the “good” carbs. Whole grains like wild rice and couscous are high in fiber, a carbohydrate that increases satiety. Eat them in place of refined carbohydrates like white bread and white rice. Also, don’t consume the entire day’s carbs at once. Spread them throughout the day to give your body a steady energy supply.2
2. Eat Healthy Fats
Yes, you read that right. Eating fat fights hunger and reduces food intake. But like carbohydrates, the type matters. Unsaturated fat is your friend. It’s found in nuts, fish, avocados, and oils like olive and sunflower. Compared to saturated fat, unsaturated fat does a better job at increasing satiety. It even controls the release of hormones.
To get the good fat, eat guacamole. Avoid saturated fats by skipping red meat, fried food, and sweets. It’s a smart choice for any fitness routine.3 4
3. Drink Water
The importance of hydration seems like old news, but it’s a must for getting ripped. When you don’t drink enough water, perceived exertion increases. Every workout will feel harder than it should! You’ll also do fewer repetitions, topped off with a high risk of injury. This can easily mess with your progress.
Not doing cardio? Stay hydrated anyway. Drink up before, during, and after working out, especially on humid days.567
4. Cut Back On Alcohol
Regardless of your goals, too much booze never helps. In fact, if you’re trying to get ripped, alcohol works against you. It injures the muscles and all of your major organs.8
Moreover, muscle protein stores amino acids to provide fuel for other tissues. Drinking alcohol disturbs this muscle protein. The outcome? Muscle wasting and weakness – the exact opposite of what you want.9
Be mindful of alcohol intake. Men should have no more than 2 drinks a day, while women should have no more than 1. Also, avoid binge drinking – defined as more than 5 drinks for men and 4 drinks for women in 2 hours.1011
5. Take Longer Rest Intervals
Tempted to go hard? Hold that thought. According to a 2016 study, longer breaks will work in your favor. If you have the time, try 3-minute breaks. Use this time to hydrate and catch your breath.12
In an experiment, researchers assigned resistance-trained men the same total body workouts. They took either 1 or 3-minute breaks. After 8 weeks, the men with 3-minute rest periods had a greater increase in muscle strength and thickness.
Don’t forget that muscle isn’t just about looking good. You’ll lower the risk of injury, improve balance, and burn more calories while you are resting.13
|↑1||D’Anci, Kristen E., Kara L. Watts, Robin B. Kanarek, and Holly A. Taylor. “Low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets. Effects on cognition and mood.” Appetite 52, no. 1 (2009): 96-103.|
|↑2||Fiber. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.|
|↑3||Fats and Cholesterol. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|
|↑4||Maljaars, Jeroen, Emma A. Romeyn, Edward Haddeman, Harry PF Peters, and Ad AM Masclee. “Effect of fat saturation on satiety, hormone release, and food intake.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 89, no. 4 (2009): 1019-1024.|
|↑5, ↑6||Jones, Leon C., Michelle A. Cleary, Rebecca M. Lopez, Ron E. Zuri, and Richard Lopez. “Active dehydration impairs upper and lower body anaerobic muscular power.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 22, no. 2 (2008): 455-463.|
|↑7||Sawka, Michael N., Louise M. Burke, E. Randy Eichner, Ronald J. Maughan, Scott J. Montain, and Nina S. Stachenfeld. “American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 39, no. 2 (2007): 377-390.|
|↑8||Li, Yuan, Shaogui Wang, Hong-Min Ni, Heqing Huang, and Wen-Xing Ding. “Autophagy in alcohol-induced multiorgan injury: mechanisms and potential therapeutic targets.” BioMed research international 2014 (2014).|
|↑9||Steiner, Jennifer L., and Charles H. Lang. “Dysregulation of skeletal muscle protein metabolism by alcohol.” American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism 308, no. 9 (2015): E699-E712.|
|↑10||Alcohol and Heart Health. American Heart Association.|
|↑11||Fact Sheets – Binge Drinking. Alcohol and Public Health.|
|↑12||Schoenfeld, Brad J., Zachary K. Pope, Franklin M. Benik, Garrett M. Hester, John Sellers, Josh L. Nooner, Jessica A. Schnaiter et al. “Longer interset rest periods enhance muscle strength and hypertrophy in resistance-trained men.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 30, no. 7 (2016): 1805-1812.|
|↑13||Muscle cells vs. fat cells. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|