Want to know the secret behind building larger and stronger muscles? They don’t magically grow larger while you’re at the gym.
Instead, the muscle-building process happens while you’re relaxing at home or while you’re snoozing comfortably through the night.
It’s crucial to understand how your body builds and repairs itself in and out of the gym! Therefore, continue reading if you want to learn more about the process of muscle building and the muscle micro tears that come with it!
What Are Micro Tears and How Do They Help Muscle Growth?
You build larger muscles through a process called hypertrophy, which is comprised of three main parts. First, perform the work utilising resistance training. Lifting heavy objects creates tears in your muscles, which leads to the next step — muscle breakdown.
Your muscles are not like rubber bands, meaning they don’t stretch and snap back like elastic. Instead, your muscles rip when you perform new movements and patterns your body doesn’t recognise. Don’t be alarmed! These tears are normal. And you won’t snap in half or have to check yourself into the hospital.
The third and final step is muscle restoration, which is the most exciting part! Your body is smart and knows JUST how to fix those tears. Not only does the body repair’ itself, but it also makes the muscles you trained bigger and stronger in response to the trauma.
Your muscles are so intelligent, they want to ensure you’re ready for the next workout. This can take a few days.
Why Do My Muscles Get Sore After a Workout?
Feeling so sore after leg day that it hurts to walk?
It’s part of the process!
If your body is experiencing something out of the norm, it’s going to react accordingly. Exercising creates microscopic tears in the muscle. They aren’t invisible nor painless! This stiffness is also referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness. It can begin one to two days after you’ve completed your workout. You may also feel weaker when affected by DOMS. Simply walking up a flight of stairs may feel tortuous. The micro-rips previously described are to blame. Think of this as your body recalibrating.
What’s the Difference Between a Micro Tear and a Muscle Injury?
While muscle tears are a crucial part of the muscle-building process, note the difference between a normal tear and a severe muscle injury.
Tears don’t require you to take time off at the gym In fact, it’s best to push through the muscle soreness and hit the gym anyway. Moving your body can help the sensation feel less intense. It can also improve your body’s circulation, which can also ease the pain.
However, breaks are NECESSARY if you’re injured, as your body will need more time to heal. You may even need to see a specialist or receive medical attention if the injury is critical.
Here’s how you can spot the difference.
A severe muscle injury will:
- Last longer than a few days, unlike soreness
- It will feel sharper than standard soreness
- You may experience redness and swelling
You may become injured if you lift more weight than you can handle. Poor form is also another way to harm the body. Furthermore, ensure you’re training your core to avoid harmful lower back injuries.
How Long Does It Take for Muscles to Grow?
Progress will vary on a person-to-person basis. A past athlete may pack on muscle faster, as their body possesses unique muscle memory.
An important thing to note? Never compare your progress to someone else’s, as everyone is on their own unique journey!
You may also find certain muscle groups respond better to your training than others — your back muscles may look great, but your glutes may be slow to get the memo. Your training frequency can also affect how long it will take to make progress.
Realistically, expect to see results around the three-month mark. But results will appear more drastic and noticeable at six months.
WARNING – Muscles Won’t Grow Without Adequate Nutrition
Let’s talk about macronutrients and why each one serves its own purpose for your workouts and results.
Protein is an excellent macronutrient and is known as the muscle-building nutrient. It contains essential amino acids and helps the body create new cells — quite miraculous, isn’t it?
This reasoning is why we see strongmen in film and TV guzzling a dozen raw eggs or massive bodybuilders chugging their whey protein after wrapping up their workouts. It’s the building block of life!
Consuming protein is most important after your workout.
You know those tears we mentioned earlier?
Protein can help repair them at a faster rate. Consider it the paste that patches those muscle microtears up. It can help decrease muscle soreness as well, allowing you to work the same muscle group again ASAP.
However, there is a slight misconception about protein intake and overall nutrition in fitness. Your muscles will not grow with protein alone — therefore, pair protein and carbohydrates for the best results. Protein is what repairs those minuscule tears but think of carbs as the vessel.
Carbohydrates contain essential sugars that power your energy reserves! Many believe carbs are the enemy, but a decent intake of carbohydrate is necessary to create a stronger body. Consuming healthy sources of carbs also helps prevent muscle loss, which can happen when your glycogen reserves are low. Healthy examples of carbs for muscle-building can include rice, sweet potatoes, oats, and bananas.
Mental clarity is another prominent aspect of weight training. You need to be fully engaged, mind AND body, to make that famous mind to muscle connection.
Going through the motions is not enough! To achieve this mind to muscle connection, fats should also be an essential part of your diet as they help your brain, memory, and focus. You don’t need to consume a large excess to see good results! 30 to 70 grams is typical for an average adult. Ensure you’re eating healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, and avocados. Fats also help you absorb vitamins and nutrients in your food better, improving your energy drastically.
What you eat is essential. But the amount of your food you eat is another important factor at play when building muscle mass.
To generate the energy and power necessary to change your body, you will need to eat at a slight surplus. This means eating a few hundred calories more than your body utilises in a day.
Energy can’t be created out of thin air. There’s no way you can meet your goals without proper nutrition, so ensure there’s enough food in your tank, or you’ll be running on fumes in and out of the gym. You can calculate your macros and calorie needs using a TDEE calculator, such as this one.
These macronutrients should be used in tandem to heal muscle tears and help grow your muscles. So here are some meals to help you gain some inspiration!
Beans contain the vital protein perfect for rebuilding those sore muscles. Rice is also a healthy way to get your carbs in! Add some avocado slices and veggies, and you have a complete meal that will help you build strength and size.
You can take the fundamentals of the last meal and translate them into another exciting dish. Use a protein of choice — tofu if you’re plant-based, and top this over steamed rice. Add nuts or seeds as well. You can also add leafy greens like spinach to add iron and fibre.
PB and Banana Smoothie
Upgrade a bland and straightforward protein shake with a banana and a dollop of peanut butter! Drink this smoothie after a workout. The additional ingredients boost the number of calories in the recipe, which can help you gain weight, and thus muscle mass!
To create these muscle tears and prevent injuries, you need to find the sweet spot when it comes to training volume and frequency — overtraining can cause sprains.
On a separate note, not lifting heavy enough, won’t challenge your body and create these mini tears.
Be diligent about what you put in your body when trying to gain mass — eat plenty of healthy food, but also hydrate your body. Drink enough water, as it can help your body repair itself to create the gains you seek.
You don’t get stronger at the gym! Working out kickstarts the cycle, but the real magic happens during the restoration stage, therefore, don’t overlook rest days. Supplement with stretching and foam rolling to soothe your muscles and implement active rest days throughout the week.
Building larger muscles is no easy task, but don’t get discouraged! When creating your dream body, your mindset is the most significant hurdle.
Zone in on your goal, and the results will come. However, your fitness milestones won’t present themselves without those tiny but mighty muscle tears. Muscle tears may sound intimidating, but they are normal and kickstart the entire muscle-building process.
Embrace the muscle soreness that comes with these tears, but also take adequate rest.
When you pair loyal training with proper nutrition, time, and patience, there’s no reason why you can’t meet every single fitness goal on your radar!