7 Rules for Building Muscle


I’m sure you want to reach the holy grail of building muscle and losing fat, we all do. Luckily if you’re a relatively newbie in terms of lifting heavy things that is more than achievable, if you follow the right procedure.

Muscle building requires a lot more care than losing weight. For the most part weight loss just involves eating fewer calories than you burn. Gaining muscle is a little bit trickier.

We should all want to improve our levels of muscle. Who’d say no to bulging biceps and bulky glutes? It adds definition to our frames.

Yet people don’t take the right steps to do so, or they just don’t know how. Here are seven rules you can follow to ensure you give yourself the best opportunity to build muscle;

Strength Train


Yes this seems a little obvious right? But the amount of people that still don’t take part in some form of weight training shocks me.

Yes we’re seeing a culture shift in recent years but it hasn’t extended far enough. There are still people going out and purchasing wonder cores, slender tones and the next useless contraption that hits the market.

Start strength training ASAP. You won’t regret it. Sign up for the gym, get an induction, ask help from a PT, ask that girl who squats every day for advice. Do what you can to improve your knowledge on weights.

Ideally get to the gym 3-5 times in a week to train. Split your routines however you like. Push/pull, upper/lower, chest/back/legs/shoulders. Find a routine that works for you and stick to it.

Eat a High Protein Diet

This is crucial.

How many times have we heard that protein is the building blocks of our muscle? It might be a cliché but it’s true all the same.

When we do strength training, or any exercise as a matter of fact, we damage our muscles. In a good way. Well it’s protein that comes in and repairs said muscle. Simples.

If you want to lose weight, but NOT too much muscle, then protein is important. Protein has a ‘sparing effect’ on muscle. So to reach that holy grail of losing fat and building muscle you must be eating lots of protein.

However, that’s not the only thing that protein is useful for. For those of us looking to shed that little bit of tummy fat it has its place.

To lose weight we must burn more calories than we consume. This inevitably leads to hunger. To help mitigate some of that hunger you can eat protein containing foods. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient. That’s a fancy way of saying it keeps us fuller for longer.

So start eating meat, fish, eggs and dairy if you want to build muscle.


Destress For Muscle Building

There are good and bad forms of stress in the body. The stress you put yourself under after a heavy day of squatting; that’s good.

The stress of a work project that leads you to stay up all night and drives you demented; that’s bad.

High levels of stress are likely to decrease your levels of testosterone; a hormone that is vital for building muscle. Not only this, but cortisol can increase due to stress which has an opposite effect to testosterone. Don’t worry ladies having small amounts of testosterone is a good thing!

So how can we prevent this stress? Well there are a number of ways. Obviously if you’re looking to build muscle you’re already exercising so you’ve got that one covered.

I would suggest going for walks, doing meditation, taking up a new hobby and cutting out unnecessary stressful situations or people in your life.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is our best recovery strategy, full stop. Forget supplements, macro splits, ice baths and cryotherapy, if you’re not getting enough sleep then don’t bother.

Our muscles are constantly repairing when we sleep. Growth hormone is released during our slumber time which helps build muscle.

Research seems to suggest that eating a protein source before bed time can help with this process.

Who said no food after 6pm?

Eat Enough Calories

Okay if you’re looking to gain weight this is easy right? Just eat more than you burn. Obviously going overboard and consuming 5000 calories is over doing it but in general the margin for error isn’t too big.

The problem occurs when we are trying to build muscle, yet lose a moderate amount of weight. There can be a fine line between eating too much and not enough.

To lose weight we need to be in a caloric deficit, end of. Unfortunately this doesn’t lend itself well to building lean mass. The key is to eat less calories than we burn, yet enough that we still have the energy to build muscle.

Research suggests that for these positive changes to occur we should only be in a moderate caloric deficit; 15-20% below maintenance. For example, if you require 2000 calories to maintain your weight, you should be eating 300-400 calories below that.

Eat a High Quality, Nutrient Dense Diet

This is where many people mess up. Yes it MIGHT be possible to build muscle whist eating junk food, but it makes it all the more difficult.

For us to feel energetic, repair correctly and to be generally healthy we need lots of vitamins and minerals. For example, calcium in an important mineral for muscle contraction.

Not only these but eating low quality protein sources such as processed chicken and beef can hinder our progress.

The advice is simple. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and good quality protein sources. Aside from that consider taking a multivitamin to fill in any gaps.

Show Up

So here’s the thing; none of the previous six steps are any use unless you follow through with them and be consistent. Do the simple things well and do them EVERY, SINGLE DAY!

Don’t skip workouts, don’t binge eat foods, sleep well etc. A week here and there of proper nutrition and training isn’t good enough. Muscle building is difficult. If it wasn’t everyone would do it.

It’s all the harder when you want to lose fat at the same time as you have to be extra vigilant with your food choices.

Get into the habit of taking action and not having to rely on motivation. Become a person of action.

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If you’re interested in taking part in a program with me why not send me an email to jamesmcdowellhealth@gmail.com

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