How to Gain Muscle Through Weight Training

Why some people want to gain instead of lose

How to gain muscle
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While many people struggle to lose weight, there are plenty of others out there who struggle to gain weight. If you want to gain muscle, you may have trouble fighting your genetic makeup but, there is something you can do about it.

Why Am I So Skinny?

While others may look at you with envy, you might feel frustrated that you can't ever seem to gain weight. So what's going on? The main culprit is your metabolism, which is higher than the average person's and which is a product of your genetic makeup. We're all limited, to some degree, by our genes, but that doesn't mean you can't change your body.

Gaining weight takes the same amount of focus and preparation as losing weight. Some important facts about gaining weight:

  • You can't necessarily gain muscle without gaining some fat as well.
  • There are no magic foods, powders, or pills that will allow you to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. Some people can do this naturally (again, the genes), but most will gain some fat along with the muscle
  • Your body is very different from a bodybuilder—trying to gain mass to look like them is not the best idea. They have different muscle fibers than you and some may even be getting a little help from illegal substances.
  • If you're a teenager, you'll have a hard time changing your body dramatically. It's changing constantly, and it will change even more as the years pass.
  • Gaining weight requires eating more and lifting more. Sounds simple, right?

If you're ready to get started, you'll need to do a little work on your diet and weight training program. Here's how to eat and exercise for muscle gain.

Calories, Calories, Calories

Gaining muscle requires that you eat more calories than you burn. For those with high metabolisms, that may seem impossible, but if you try a few of these tricks, you'll find that adding calories to your day is easier than you think:

  • Choose calorie-rich foods like granola, bagels, biscuits, avocados, olives, corn, meat, nuts, peanut butter, milk, yogurt, and cheese.
  • Add extra calories to your meals by using milk instead of water for soups, sauces, and hot cereals.
  • Sprinkle powdered milk into casseroles.
  • Add calorie-rich foods (like avocado, cheese, and dressing) to sandwiches and salads
  • Mix beans, meat, or cheese into pasta or side dishes
  • Snack on yogurt, shakes, crackers and dip
  • Keep a food diary for a week or so to get an idea of what you're eating and where you can add more calories.

The trick is to add calories without adding too much saturated fat. You can also consider downing smoothies or meal replacement shakes in between meals.

Lift, Lift, Lift

Once you get your calories under control, you need to start lifting weights. This will help you gain more muscle and help minimize the amount of fat you gain (although you should expect to gain some fat as well). Folks trying to gain muscle should:

  • Lift heavy. This means lifting enough weight that you can only complete about 6-8 repetitions of each exercise. The last few reps should be difficult—the last one should be really hard, but not impossible.
  • Have longer recovery periods between sets
  • Have more recovery days between workouts
  • Use spotters to avoid injury
  • Continue with cardio, but keep it at maintenance level—around 2-3 days of cardio a week to keep your heart in shape
  • Start with a full body program 2-3 nonconsecutive days a week, if you're a beginner. Allow your body a few weeks to get used to lifting weights before you tackle more intense routines.
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