Winter is approaching and for many it’s the perfect time of year to focus on building muscle. By skipping bath days and other activities, you have more time for exercise. Plus, December is packed with family gatherings, business Christmas parties, and other occasions that don’t exactly create perfect circumstances for a calorie deficit. That’s why this time of year can be perfectly combined with targeted weight gain. Although this word rings "alarm bells" for many, gaining weight does not mean drastically increasing your body fat percentage. The goal should be to gain weight at a healthy rate and focus on increasing muscle mass. But how to gain weight in a healthy and controlled way? Here’s what I explain in this post.
The junk food trap
To effectively build muscle you should be in a calorie surplus. Of course, especially beginners in the early days can also build muscle in a calorie deficit, but a calorie surplus is usually required if you want to build muscle. Muscle building processes are very energy consuming for the body, which is why you should provide it with calories in an ideal way.
Logically, the more calories you have available, the less hungry you will be. Also, hormone levels are optimal, which causes the brain to send fewer hunger signals and keeps you satiated longer. If you’re less hungry, you’re more likely to reach for junk food more often and unprocessed products less often. In itself, this is not a problem, as junk food is not unhealthy per se. But when fruits, vegetables and other micronutrient-rich foods fall by the wayside, it can become a problem. The vitamins and minerals contained therein are important for many bodily functions and have an extremely positive effect on our health. Since vegetables usually can’t keep up with extremely calorie-dense foods in terms of taste, they often fall by the wayside in calorie surpluses. When dieting, you’re much more likely to reach for vegetables and fruits because your calorie intake is limited and these foods contain few calories. A small comparison: Instead of a Big Mac you could also eat 1.5kg broccoli or 1kg apples. Reduced hunger makes you more inclined to reach for micronutrient-poor foods when you’re in caloric surplus. That’s why it’s important to remember to consume enough vegetables, fruits and other unprocessed micronutrient-rich foods every day, even during the muscle-building phase.
As with so many things, quantity makes the poison. At ProBabe, we recommend that you consume about 80% of your calories through unprocessed products. You can then fill the remaining 20% with other less micronutrient-rich foods.
Continue to control your calorie intake
A healthy muscle building phase is all about building muscle in a controlled way. That’s why you should continue to keep an eye on your calorie intake. You should not simply try to gain as much weight as possible, because you cannot build up an infinite amount of muscle. After a certain point, the ratio of built muscle mass to built fat mass changes very negatively. Women in particular do not have extreme muscle growth potential due to their physiology and should not set the calorie surplus too high.
At ProBabe we calculate your calorie needs and determine the optimal level of your calorie surplus so that you don’t build up unnecessary fat during the muscle building phase. Because calorie needs can change during a muscle building phase, we regularly adjust your calorie intake. We look at your body updates and then decide weekly which calorie intake is right for you… learn more now
High protein intake
It’s important to make sure your protein intake is high during the muscle-building phase as well. Similar to vegetables, the high calorie intake tempts you to somewhat neglect protein intake. Protein is by far the most satiating of all macronutrients, which is why you usually have no problems getting to a high protein intake while dieting. Due to the reduced hunger during the muscle-building phase, protein-containing foods are no longer so much in focus. Without enough amino acids, which we consume through dietary proteins, the body does not have enough "building materials" to create new muscle mass. Thus, a large part of the calorie surplus is used for building new fat mass. A high protein intake in combination with strength training will use a large part of the excess calories to build new muscle mass. Therefore, even in the muscle building phase, make sure you are getting enough protein.
In summary, I’ll list you here again the most important factors for a healthy and efficient muscle building phase:
– At least 400g of vegetables and 300g of fruit per day
– At least 80% unprocessed food
– Continue to control calorie intake
– High protein intake
– Strengthening training