So if you have decided that you are going to hit the gym or even start a new fitness regime at home, then there are some things you need to know to get the best results from your hard work.
When we are trying to build and or define muscle, we must understand how our muscles grow and why gender will make a difference in muscle growth. For example, why many women don't gain large amounts of muscle when they workout with weights.
Our body contains different types of muscles, such as cardiac muscle (most commonly known as your heart), but for this article, we will be focusing on skeletal muscles. The 650 skeletal muscles in the human body are attached to the bones and in some areas the skin (muscles in our face). Contraction of the skeletal muscles helps limbs and other body parts move.
When someone like a weightlifter can lift a hefty weight despite not looking very muscular, it's due to their ability to activate elements of the muscle composition to ensure they contract their muscles better. It's why some weightlifters can be relatively smaller compared to bodybuilders but can lift significantly more weight. You will find that after practice, specific movements/actions become more comfortable to perform, and most of the initial strength gains will be when you first start to lift weights. Muscle growth tends to occur more steadily after this initial period of strength gain because you are more easily able to activate the muscles.
After you workout, your body repairs or replaces damaged muscle fibres through a cellular process where it fuses muscle fibres to form new muscle protein strands. These repaired strands increase in thickness and number to create muscle growth. Muscle growth occurs whenever the rate of muscle protein production is higher than the speed of muscle protein breakdown. This actual function does not happen while you are working out, but when your muscles rest afterwards.
The trick is to be able to add muscle to your muscle cells. Underlying all progression of natural muscle growth is the ability to put more stress on the muscles continually. This stress is a major component involved in the growth of a muscle and disrupts the tendency to maintain internal stability within your body. The stress and subsequent disruption in this process cause three main mechanisms that increase muscle growth.
The first being muscle tension. To produce muscle growth, you have to apply a load of stress more significant than what your body or muscles had previously got used too. The best and most effective way to do this is to lift progressively heavier weights.
The second is muscle damage. If you've ever felt sore after a workout, you have experienced specific muscle damage from working out. This particular muscle damage causes a release of certain molecules and immune system cells that in turn activate satellite cells, causing them to jump into action. Don't worry, this doesn't mean that you have to feel sore or in pain for this to happen. But instead that the damage from the workout has to be present in your muscle cells.
The third is metabolic stress, and if you've ever felt the burn of an activity, then you've also experienced the effects of metabolic stress. Metabolic stress causes cell swelling around the muscle, which helps to contribute to muscle growth without necessarily increasing the size of the muscle cells. This is from the addition of muscle glycogen, which helps to swell the muscle along with connective tissue growth. This type of growth is known as sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and is one of the ways that people can get the appearance of larger muscles without increases in strength.
Hormones are another component largely responsible for muscle growth and repair. Testosterone is the most common hormone that most people think about when they work out using weights. Although most testosterone is bound in the body and therefore not available to use, strength training can help release more testosterone. But this also makes the receptors of your muscle cells more sensitive to your free testosterone, and it can also stimulate the growth hormone responses, which can in turn help to activate tissue growth. As men have more testosterone than women, this, in turn, allows them to build bigger and stronger muscles.
Rest is a valuable tool when working your muscles as if you do not allow your body enough rest time you can reverse the very thing you are trying to achieve. Nutrition also plays a crucial part in building muscle, especially in that first couple of hours after working out. Dairy products are traditionally suggested, however when following a plant-based lifestyle this would not be possible in the normal way. Good plant based sources are: Spirulina, seeds and kernals, nutritional yeast, nuts, tofu, tempeh, oats, bean and legume to name but a few!
You could try protein shakes. Still, there are cheaper simpler alternatives such as plant-based chocolate milk, as it has very similar nutritional properties to a typical post-workout shake, mainly when made with milk. It can be tempting to skip food after your fitness training session, especially if you are in a rush. Try not to fall into this pattern so pack something before you go – a banana, wholegrain cracker with peanut butter is excellent, or why not try reduced-fat hummus and vegetable strips in pitta bread.
Muscle growth takes time and is ordinarily slow for most people. It's likely that you will not see visible growth for several weeks or months, so don't be disheartened. In addition to this, we have to remember that different people have different genetics, so two people following the same regime are likely to have different outcomes, so don't compare yourself to the next person in the gym!
For muscle breakdown and growth to occur, you must make sure your muscles to adapt by creating stress that is different than the previous session, or style that your body has already adapted to. You can achieve this by lifting heavier weights, changing the form of exercise, duration etc. Keep your routine varied for best results.