The journey to improving fitness is focused so often on weight loss, but acquiring and maintaining lean muscle mass may be even more important.
There are more than 600 muscles in the human body, and keeping them lean and strong is integral to achieving the best balance, metabolism, joint health and cardiovascular health you can get. Here are 5 ways that you can start building lean muscle today.
Eat Lean Protein
You can’t build and repair lean muscle mass without dietary protein, which your body synthesizes to fix damaged muscle fibers and develop new ones.
Getting about 10 to 15 percent of your total calories from lean proteins is a must if you want to maintain the muscle you have, but exceeding that percentage is likely to help you build more lean mass and boost your metabolism. Healthy choices include lean poultry, fish, yogurt and other low-fat dairy, tofu, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Prioritise Whole Foods
What you do during your workouts definitely has an impact on how your body looks, but when it comes to losing excess fat and showing off the muscles underneath, nutrition plays an even bigger role.
No matter how many squats, lunges, crunches and push-ups you do, you won’t see the results if your diet is filled with refined foods, pre-made meals and processed products. To look great and feel great, eat mainly whole, natural and unprocessed or minimally processed foods from all main groups – fruits, veggies, whole grains and proteins.
Work Major Muscle Groups
Large muscle group exercises burn more calories and create a more profound anabolic response in your body than small movements, so they’re more effective at building muscle over time.
Your large muscle groups include your chest, arms and shoulders, legs, core and back. To work your chest, try the bench press or standing chest press. For arms, do bicep curls, triceps extensions or shoulder presses. Weighted squats, lunges and step-ups work well for building leg muscles, and weighted crunches are also effective for core work. To build and strengthen back muscles, try back extensions or lat pull-downs.
Weightlifting and strength machines have profound benefits for muscle building, but so does bodyweight training, and it doesn’t require any special equipment. As an added bonus, most bodyweight exercises work multiple muscle groups, which means you’ll build muscle more efficiently if you practice them often.
Try classics like push-ups and pull-ups and squats and lunges as well as dips, planks, sit-ups, back bows and bridges.
Carving with Cardio
Do cardio exercises build muscle? Well, yes and no.
Aerobic activity like jogging reduces body fat mass and total body mass more effectively than strength training alone, and since you tend to take fewer breaks with cardio than you do with strength training, you’ll likely burn more calories with cardio as well.
If you’re already at a healthy weight and don’t have much excess fat, strength training will be more helpful for building muscle mass, but including cardio in your routine is useful if you’re overweight.
Building and retaining lean muscle is a gradual process, but it’s accessible for almost everyone, even if you’ve never practiced strength training. Work at your level, utilizing a trainer if possible, and make a plan that will keep you challenged, engaged and regularly active.
Which muscle-building strategies have you tried to get better results?