Ask Scott: How to build muscle
Top fitness coach Scott Pearson answers your health and fitness questions.
Several readers have written in asking: how do I build more muscle?
This question isn't as simple as it sounds as there are different kinds of muscle within the body that do different and specific jobs - that's why you see big bulky sprinters and light lean marathon runners. They train in different ways and therefore develop different kinds of muscle to do what they are training for. Everybody is different and will have different proportions of muscle depending on their body type.
To become more muscular — that is, bigger and heavier! - the answer is basically a combination of good nutrition and quality training.
A diet based around a high protein intake to build and repair muscle as well as low Glycemic Index (GI) foods to provide energy for the intense training.
The glycemic index is a system of ranking of carbohydrates based on their immediate effect on blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. More information at glycemicindex.com. Click here for a link to a straight-forward glycemic table of 750 foods.
- Never skip breakfast and make sure that you eat protein as well as carbohydrates (Good carbs = toast, cereals (but not Coco Pops and sugary stuff), good protein = eggs, bacon, beans, yoghurt, etc).
- Try to eat every three hours. Have a good quality snack (fruit, nuts, etc) or protein supplement in between your main meals. This means that your body remains in a positive nitrogen balance and is always ready to build muscle. It will also mean that you have more consistent energy levels.
- Reduce the amount of carbohydrate you have later in the day. Your evening meal should be based around protein (chicken, fish, lentils, pulses, etc) and good quality vegetables. Try to have little or no carbs (potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, etc) at this meal. Your metabolism slows later in the day and any carbohydrates you eat will not be used and will be stored as fat.
My first column covered nutrition in more detail.
Resistance training is the best way to build muscle.
I recommend combining weight training with body weight training (that is, combine exercises such as Bench Press with exercises like Press Ups). See last month's column for some good information and ideas about exercises that don't use equipment (Body weight) and read next month's column to learn more about training with equipment (Weights).
Exercise sets should be between 8 and 15 reps (repetitions) but whatever you do, you need to work hard. The last two or three reps of each set should be difficult - if it's not you will not benefit from the training as much as you could.
As a rule of thumb, heavy reps (1-8) are for improving strength, 8-15 for muscle and over 15 lighter reps are for improving endurance for marathons etc.
Having said that, vary the workout; use different exercises and change the amount of sets and reps you do. Repeating the same routines not only bores the brain it bores the muscles too! Your body will get used to the routines and although you may be working hard you won't develop more muscle.
Hope that helps.
I stopped playing rugby years ago and I'm turning to fat. Any ideas?
There is a simple motto here I like to use: 'If you don't use it, you lose it!'
Basically it sounds that you are taking in a lot of calories that are not being used and as a result you are getting fatter. Have a look at my previous column on good nutritional practices. The same principles are appropriate no matter what kind of training you are doing.
The second thing you can do is to use your body more. If you can't play rugby anymore consider trying something else; you don't have to go to the gym to get fit. Try something you enjoy doing; this could be walking, playing tennis, 5 a side football. Anything that you enjoy that will increase your heart rate.
Finally don't expect the weight to just drop off. The aim is to lose weight consistently over a period of time; this will lead to you becoming a fitter, healthier person who feels better within yourself. Don't follow faddy diets or gimmicky training programmes from magazines, these will (in my opinion) lead to a deterioration in your health and well-being.
Page created on June 3rd, 2007
Page updated on January 18th, 2010