Searching the secrets to enhance muscle growth? Check out this article and get the gist of the why’s and how’s.
When it comes to building muscle, the duration it takes to achieve significant results cannot be determined strictly. It all depends on factors such as the training regimen, nutritional adherence, rest, and other variables.
A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology in 2018 examined the role of skeletal muscle damage and muscle protein synthesis in muscle growth. Based on this study, significant muscle hypertrophy can be observed after around 18 workout sessions, but muscle growth can be seen after about 10 sessions.
In the early stage of resistance training (four or less sessions), muscle damage-induced swelling is responsible for the increase in muscle size. However, after 10 workout sessions, a modest magnitude of muscle hypertrophy ensues, and after approximately 18 workouts, true muscle hypertrophy is observed.
On the other hand, a 2017 research published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that significant increases in lean mass could be achieved after only seven workout sessions conducted over four weeks. Thirteen untrained men participated in the study and performed dumbbell curls and shoulder presses twice per week for four weeks. Subjects also consumed 500 milliliters of whole milk during training, and the weight was increased as they progressed from session to session.
Muscle Atrophy Timeframe
When it comes to losing muscle, we all dread the thought of undoing the hard work we put into building it. However, muscle atrophy can occur due to a lack of muscle use, insufficient nutrient intake, or both.
The rate of atrophy varies depending on our physical condition. If we are in good shape, it will take longer to experience muscle loss, and the rate will be slower. Nonetheless, signs of atrophy can be noticed after one week of little to no activity.
A study published in the Acta Physiologica journal in 2014 found that even short periods of muscle disuse can cause substantial loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength. The study involved 24 participants who underwent either five or 14 days of one-legged knee immobilization using a full leg cast. After only five days, leg lean mass had decreased. It is important to note that this study specifically refers to complete muscle inactivity.
Therefore, while missing a gym session may not lead to immediate muscle atrophy, prolonged periods of little to no activity, combined with insufficient nutrient intake, can lead to muscle loss.
How does muscle growth occur?
If we try to bulk up, it’s important to understand how muscle growth occurs in general.
When resistance training is performed, the muscles experience small tears by moving them through a range of motions under load. These tears are then repaired and built upon, using amino acids (protein) as building blocks.
In other words, muscle growth relies on muscular effort, which is typically achieved through resistance or weight training, as well as adequate protein intake.
If we look to grow a specific muscle or group of muscles, also known as hypertrophy, we need to perform exercises that target them.
The best approach is to remove the guesswork from our exercise program. We may think an exercise is focused on a specific muscle or group of muscles, but do we know it for sure?
Taking the time to research, observe and correct our forms during the exercising can make a big difference. We may think our leg press routine targets our glutes, but the positioning of our feet may target another muscle group altogether. If our feet are too low on the surface of the leg press, we’re actually working primarily on our quads. Sliding our feet up will help readjust our focus on the intended muscle.
To grow muscles effectively, they must be put under the appropriate amount of load. In other words, if the weight we lift or the number of repetitions we complete, does not challenge our muscles with the necessary stimulus, they won’t grow efficiently.
When exercising for hypertrophy, we generally aim to increase weight and decrease the number of repetitions. Fitness professionals measure the weight used to exercise, also known as the load, as a percentage of our one-rep max. For muscle growth, we want to train using 75% of our one-rep max. This resistance should allow us to complete 8 – 10 reps at a time. If we cannot complete at least eight, or if the weight feels too light, we should adjust accordingly.
Training at higher and lower loads can stimulate muscle growth, but it is generally accepted that the 75% of one-rep max load and an 8 – 12 rep range is optimal for hypertrophy. An American College of Sports Medicine review recommends using loads corresponding to 1 – 12 repetition maximum (RM) in a periodised fashion with emphasis on the 6 – 12 RM zone using one to two minute rest periods between sets at a moderate velocity. Higher volume, multiple-set programs are also recommended for maximizing hypertrophy.
Nutrition plays a crucial role in muscle growth and recovery. Protein source, protein quantity, carbohydrate intake, supplements, and timing are all critical factors to consider.
A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health explains that muscle hypertrophy occurs when muscle protein synthesis surpasses muscle protein breakdown, resulting in a positive net protein balance in cumulative periods.
- The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that people who exercise regularly consume more protein than the recommended daily intake to increase muscle mass in combination with physical activity. They recommend a range of 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body weight per day, or 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight.
- However, a 2017 study published in The Journal of Nutrition suggests that this figure could be higher. The study, which examined the protein needs of young male bodybuilders, found that the estimated average requirement of protein was 1.7g per kilogram of body weight, and the upper limit was 2.2g per kilo of body weight.
- Depending on the activity level the body can absorb between 20 – 30g of protein at one sitting while the rest, if any, may get converted into energy, fat or goes right out putting extra pressure on the renal system.
- Depending on the type of food we eat, the body needs 2 – 3 hours between two meals to be able to properly metabolize protein and not to put it to other use. Hence the reason body builders or anyone building muscles, optimally eats 5 – 6 times a day.
This basically means that if we set a requirement of 60g protein each day, and eat three meals a day, each meal must have 20g of protein separated by at least 2 – 3 hours.
- Suppose, we aim to gain 3kg of muscle in a year.
- Building 1kg of muscle requires about 5,940 calories (or 2,700 calories for 1lb).
- As a result, we’d need to eat an extra 49 calories per day to build 3kg (6.6lbs) of muscle in a year.
- Assuming a maintenance calorie intake of 2000 per day, the following percentage increases can be applied to determine a suitable calorie goal:
- Beginner: 10% increase (actual calorie goal of 2200)
- Intermediate: 5% increase (actual calorie goal of 2100)
- Advanced: 2.5% increase (actual calorie goal of 2050)
Protein digestion and synthesis, are calorically demanding processes which means, it may require a few more calories than the 49, mentioned above. However, it won’t be significantly more than that.
- Muscles growth occurs due to the healing process after a resistance training causing small tears in the muscle tissue.
- Targeting specific muscle groups with proper form and weight yields the mos effective results.
- Proper nutrition and the right amount of protein is essential for muscle growth.