Knowledge is power. I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before. This couldn’t ring more true when it comes to building a lean and muscular physique. The last thing that you want to happen is that you spend a ton of time and money in the gym and get sub par results.
The best way to succeed at anything in life is to have a solid game plan. Thanks to the internet boom there has never been more information available to you than now. The trick is figuring out the good information from the bad.
In this article I’m going to discuss some of the most important things you’ll want to know before starting on your fitness journey. This article is designed to get you thinking about all of the different areas that you’ll need to focus on if you want to get maximum results every time you hit the gym. So let’s get right into it.
Nutrition Is King
I purposely put this as number one because nutrition is the single most important factor when it comes to getting the results that you want. I cannot stress this enough. Whether you are looking to bulk up or lean out what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat it will determine how fast you’ll see results.
Nutrition is often the most misunderstood concept too. I bet 9 times out of 10 if you ask someone how to lose weight the first thing they think of is cutting calories. Most people think you have to starve yourself to lose weight and this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Nutrition can become a complex topic pretty fast but here are some general guidelines you can follow. I would highly suggest reading more about bodybuilding nutrition to learn more advanced techniques. But this should get you on the right track to success.
- Determine Your Body Type – Knowing your body type will help you determine how to divide up your macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats). Ectomorphs and mesomorphs can get away with eating more carbs where endomorphs generally can’t.
- Not all calories are created equal – Calories come from adding up your macronutrients. Protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram and fats have 9 calories per gram. Each type of macronutrient provides a different function for you body.
- Protein builds and repairs muscle.
- Carbohydrates are your primary fuel source.
- Fats are your secondary fuel source and regulate the hormones in your body.
- What this means is that you’ll need to find the right ratio or proteins, carbs, and fats that work best for your body type. A typical break down looks like 45% protein, 35% carbs, 20% fat. Where most people will vary is with the carb and fat ratio.
- Try to eat 6-7 smaller meals throughout the day. Our bodies were made by design to consume nutrients every 3 to 4 hours. Take your total calories, protein, carbs, and fat and evenly distribute them throughout the day. This is not the end all be all rule but it’s a good starting point.
- Use a nutrition calculator to determine your basal metabolic rate as well as your maintenance calories. Knowing how many calories you need to maintain your weight is key to figuring out how many calories you need to gain or lose weight.
- Calculate your macronutrients. Once you know how many calories you need you then need to break this down into the number of grams of protein, carbs, and fat for each day. A pretty common ratio is 45% protein, 35% carbs, 25% fat. This will vary from person to person and you should experiment with these numbers to see what works best for you.
- Eat at least 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight every day. If you are a male I would suggest trying to eat 1.25 – 1.5g per pound of body weight. So if you’re a 200lb male you should be eating a minimum of 200g of protein everyday.
Determine Your Body Type
We briefly touched on this under the nutrition section above but it’s important to be honest with yourself and try to figure out what your body type is. Knowing your body type will help you determine how to calculate your macros. If you’re someone who is sensitive to carbs then you’ll need to eat less of them to get lean. I know it sucks but knowing this from the beginning can save you a lot of frustration down the road.
Ectomorphs are naturally skinny and are what people refer to as hard gainers. They’re the type of people who can pretty much eat whatever they want and they just don’t seem to gain weight. They can eat a ton of carbs day after day and still remain skinny. It’s like their metabolisms are always on overdrive. If this is your body type you’ll want to eat a lot of nutrient and calorically dense foods to pack on the muscle.
Mesomorphs are people who are naturally lean and muscular. They seems to be able to build muscle easily while staying lean. They can eat a good amount of carbs day in and day out while remaining lean. Usually mesomorphs are naturally athletic and have athletic looking builds. If this is your body type then you should try to have a higher calorie diet which will aid you in building more muscle faster while staying lean.
The poor endomorph. These are people who tend to gain weight and fat fairly easily while also having a hard time to lose fat as well. Carbohydrates are your best friend and your worst enemy. While you can eat them if you overdo it you’re much more likely to store the excess as fat. You can build muscle easily but you can store fat just as easily. Endomorphs must watch their carbohydrate intake very carefully if they want to be lean. Have you ever gained 5 lbs just by looking at a slice of pizza? If you answered yes then you are most likely an endomorph. Strategies like carb cycling or even keto might be your best option if you want to get lean.
Train Heavy But With Good Form
Training heavy with good form is not just something for beginners. This is something everyone who wants to build a killer physique must do. Training heavy will help to give you thick, dense muscle. Be sure your workout routines are built on a solid foundation of compound movements like bench press, squat, deadlift, and overhead shoulder presses. These movements are essential to building a solid foundation.
It’s worth mentioning that heavy is a relative term. What heavy means is a weight that you will typically fail at 6 reps. So if you can bench 135lbs for 6 reps, then 135lbs is considered heavy for you.
So when you’re doing your compound movements be sure to use a rep range where you fail around 6-8 reps. Leave the higher reps for isolation movements like flys, leg extensions, curls, laterals, etc. This will help you build a well rounded physique.
Train A Body Part Per Day
Concentrating on one body part per day is a great way to really focus on building that one muscle. By focusing on a single body part you can cause a lot of stimulus, pump, and maximum hypertrophy for that muscle. This is a great strategy for beginners so they can build up their entire body quickly.
Cardio Will Not Cause You To Lose Your Gains
I’m not sure if people still believe this today but it was common to hear people say that they would never do cardio because it would cause them to lose all of their muscle. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
What causes you to lose muscle is calorie and protein restriction while dieting. Doing cardio is a great way for you to burn fat and strengthen your cardiovascular system.It’s also a great natural way to release stress. Unless your doing hours upon hours of cardio everyday, doing 30 minutes a day is only going to help you stay lean and in overall better shape.
Most people don’t like doing cardio so they’ll come up with any excuse they can to avoid doing it. Once you do it regularly for a few weeks it becomes natural and dare I say you might actually start to enjoy its effects. So don’t be afraid of doing cardio it will only help your physique and overall health.
Abs Are Made In The Gym But Become Visible In The Kitchen
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase: “Abs are made in the kitchen.” Your abs are a muscle just like any other muscle on your body. We all have them. We just can’t all see them.
The reason you can’t see your abs is your body fat is too high. So by eating a clean diet, and doing cardio, you’ll eventually drop enough body fat to where your abs start to poke through.
Training your abs should be done like any other body part. They can be trained more frequently than other body parts but they should be trained at least once a week. By training your abs you’ll actually make them thicker and more muscular so they will actually pop and become more visible even at higher body fat percentages. Strengthening your core will also help strengthen all of your other lifts as well. So be sure to train your abs at least once a week to make them really pop.
Supplements That Actually Work
It seems like everyday there is a new supplement that comes out promising you the world but will ultimately leave you extremely disappointed.
I would have to say that 95% of the supplements out there today are complete garbage. Most of it is just a marketing ploy to get your money. I want you to know that there is no magic pill. There is no secret other than hard work, diet and discipline to get real results. Please don’t even get me started with the testosterone boosters. The only thing on this planet that will raise your testosterone levels enough to have any real impact is real testosterone.
With that being said there are a few supplements out there that have stood the test of time and will help you recover faster, give you more energy, and help build muscle. So here are a few supplements that should be staples in everyones supplement arsenal.
Whey Protein Isolate
Having a high quality, whey protein isolate available is a great way to make sure you can hit your protein requirements for the day. It’s really hard to get all of your daily protein intake from food alone so supplementing with a whey isolate will not only help you reach your daily intake goals, but it’s also budget friendly for your wallet. Whey protein is best consumed after your workouts when your body is craving nutrients.
Casein protein is another great option for hitting your protein requirements for the day. Unlike whey protein, casein protein is a very slow digesting protein. It will deliver a steady stream of nutrients to your body for hours.So it’s best taken mid day or right before bed.
While it’s very important to count your macronutrients, it’s just as important to make sure you are getting all of your micronutrients. It’s very hard to get all of your micronutrients from food alone so taking a quality multivitamin will make sure you get all of your daily micronutrients. Some of these are extremely important in regulating your mood as well. Having deficiency in vitamin b, d, and magnesium can actually cause anxiety and depression.
Most people today are deficient in Vitamin D3. The most abundant source of Vitamin D3 is the sun and a lot of people are spending a lot more time indoors and a lot less time outdoors these days. Your body must have vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Vitamin D deficiency has now been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain, and other maladies. So it’s important to make sure your Vitamin D levels are in check to keep you feeling good.
Fish oil is probably one of the healthiest things you can take for your body. It has a ton of health benefits. Some of these include:
- Fish Oil Can Be Good for Heart Health
- Cholesterol levels: It can increase levels of HDL (the “good”) cholesterol. However, it does not appear to reduce levels of LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol.
- Triglycerides: It can lower triglycerides by about 15–30%.
- Blood pressure: Even in small doses, it helps reduce blood pressure in those with high blood pressure.
- Plaques: It may prevent the plaques that form in arteries and cause them to harden, as well as make arterial plaques more stable and safer in those who already have them.
- Fatal arrhythmias: In people who are at risk, it may reduce fatal arrhythmia events. Arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms that can cause heart attacks in certain cases.
- Fish Oil May Help Treat Certain Mental Disorders
- Your brain is made up of nearly 60% fat, and much of this fat is omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, omega-3s are essential for normal brain function.
- Fish Oil Supplementation May Help Reduce Weight and Waist Circumference
- Fish Oil May Support Eye Health and Help Protect Vision in Old Age
- Fish Oil May Reduce Inflammation and Symptoms of Inflammatory Disease
- Fish Oil May Reduce Liver Fat
- Fish Oil Supplementation Can Help Improve Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
- Fish Oil May Improve Asthma Symptoms and the Risk of Allergies
- Fish Oil May Improve Bone Health
Fiber plays a number of important roles in the body including:
- Digestive Health
- Lowers bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterols
- Helps to regulate blood sugar levels
- Helps to keep you feeling full
Most people do not come close to the daily fiber requirements. Females should try to get in at least 25g a day and men should try to get between 30g to 40g a day. If you’re not getting in enough fiber from food be sure to pick up a good fiber supplement. You’ll notice the difference pretty quick.
A good pre workout can really help get you through some tough workouts. There’s a ton to choose from but some important ingredients to look for are:
- Caffeine (energy)
- L-Arginine (nitric oxide booster)
- L-Citrulline (nitric oxide booster)
- Beta Alanine (increased endurance)
- Creatine HCL (increased strength)
- Taurine (increased focus)
Creatine has stood the test of time and has been scientifically proven to help increase strength, muscle mass, and endurance. Most people used to think you had to cycle on and off creatine but this is a supplement that you can take year round. Be sure to drink a lot of water if you decided to take it. You should try to get in a least a gallon a day.
Essential Amino Acids
Essential Amino Acids are not really new but they are getting a lot more attention these days. Branch chain amino acids used to get all of the hype for promoting recover but it seems like essential aminos are the better option. These are especially important to sip on during your workouts. It has been scientifically proven that if you drink about 30g of carbs mixed with essential amino acids during your workouts you help to reduce cortisol levels which is a hormone that can break down muscle tissue. By keeping cortisol levels in check you’re actually helping your body recover a lot quicker from your workouts.
Glucose Disposal Agents
Glucose Disposal Agents are fairly new but very promising supplements. Glucose Disposal Agents (GDA) are supplements that help your body digest carbs and direct them towards muscle glycogen storage. They enhance the power of insulin by improving insulin sensitivity in muscle cells, ensuring the carbs you do eat go towards replenishing glycogen and supporting muscle growth rather than building up your fat stores. In a sense, GDAs enhance your body’s response to exercise, thereby supporting better performance, recovery, and body composition.
Building Muscle Is Not Easy And Takes A Long Time
Like the great Ronnie Coleman used to say: “Everybody wanna be a bodybuilder, but nobody wanna lift this heavy ass weight.” Building muscle is no easy task. It takes hard work, dedication, and consistency day in, day out, inside and outside of the gym. If building muscle was easy then everyone would be walking around with their shirts off showing off their physiques. Bodybuilding is not for everyone. It takes a certain type of person to be able to put themselves through grueling workouts, consistently eat a clean diet, and deal with everything else going on in their life. This is not to say that it can’t be done. Of course it can. It’s just how bad do you want it. If you want something bad enough in this life you’ll figure out a way to make it happen.
Bodybuilding Can Get Expensive Fast
Living the bodybuilding lifestyle can get expensive pretty quick. Eating a clean, high protein diet is not cheap. One of your biggest expenses will be on food and supplements. Be prepared to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars every month on food and supplements. My personal food bill is about $250 a week and I probably send another $200-$300 a month on supplements. There are ways to reduce your costs like eating a lot of chicken, tuna, and protein shakes but that can get boring pretty fast. Fish and beef can get expensive pretty quick. You’ll need to make a budget and try to stick with it but be warned the numbers might shock you!
Steroids Are In Every Gym
I’m just being real here. Every gym that you go to there is not doubt that there will be a few people who are “juicing” or are on steroids. There maybe even some people who look natural and you’d be surprised to find out that they’re taking gear. Ever since the social media boom it has become even more prevalent. The pressure to have a ripped physique is at an all time high. If you hang around the gym long enough you’ll be able to tell who’s using and who isn’t You might even been tempted yourself to try them. If this is something you are seriously considering my best advice to you is to do your research before doing anything. Learn what these compounds do, things you can do to control and avoid side effects, and proper ways to cycle off of them. It’s also very important to research your sources. The worst thing you can do is just try something the guy at the gym said is good stuff. Don’t buy into that stuff. Do your research and make an educated decision.
Building a lean, muscular physique is probably one of the most rewarding things you can do in this life. But it is no easy task. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication and discipline to truly build an impressive physique. I hope that the information in this article helped to point you in the right direction. With the internet at your fingertips every second of the day you should have no reason not to be able to educate yourself on all the areas needed to be able to get the maximum results out of your diet and training. I wish you well on your fitness journey. So until next time stay swell and swole my friends.