A lot has been discussed about testosterone’s ability to induce fat-loss, enhance muscle growth, and increase libido. That’s all good and well, but testosterone’s true impact extends far beyond just these three areas. As a man, your testosterone levels are a major driving force in your overall health, energy, and well-being. In this article, I’ll go over the importance of this hormone and how it impacts various aspects of your mind, body, and behavior.
Testosterone Improves Cognitive Function
Elderly men (over the age of 50) screened for subjective memory complaints and low testosterone levels were brought into a lab and assessed for various measures of cognitive functioning. After baseline measurements were established, participants were given varying doses of testosterone treatment. The experiment lasted 52-weeks, after which participants across the board showed significant improvements in general cognitive functioning. Similar results were found in another study, in which 8-weeks of testosterone treatment significantly improved verbal fluency in healthy men.
How testosterone impacts the brain is not exactly understood, but researchers theorize that T plays a role in preventing brain tissue decay. This might explain why men with low testosterone have an increased chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
To ensure that your mind stays sharp and healthy well into old age, it’s important that you keep your testosterone levels in check.
Testosterone Keeps Your Bones Strong
In a study of 108 elderly men (over the age of 65), participants were randomly assigned to wear either a testosterone patch or a placebo patch for 36 months. Bone mineral density measurements were recorded before and after the 36-month period. At the end of the experiment, researchers found that the lower the pretreatment testosterone level of the subject, the greater the effect that testosterone treatment had on increasing the bone mineral density of their lumbar spine.
In another study, 609 men (over the age of 60) were observed over a period of 16 years. Bone mineral density and lifestyle factors were assessed at baseline and testosterone levels were also taken into account. After analyzing the data and adjusting for factors such as age, weight, fracture history, smoking status, and calcium intake, researchers found serum testosterone to be independently associated with the risk of osteoporotic fracture.
The strength of your bones is directly correlated to the amount of testosterone running through your veins. To minimize your chances of developing osteoporosis and other bone complications, it is essential that you develop the habits to help maintain optimal levels of testosterone.
Testosterone Maintains Heart Health
Testosterone’s primary function is the strengthening of your body’s muscles, and no muscle is more important than your heart.
In an examination of 83,010 elderly men with documented low testosterone levels, researchers observed how testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) impacted the subjects’ cardiovascular health. After analyzing the data, researchers found that the normalization of the subjects’ T-levels after TRT led to a significant reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Similar results were reported in another follow-up study of 11,606 men, in which low testosterone was noted as a possible predictive marker of cardiovascular disease.
When compared to men with normal testosterone levels, men with low T tend to have significantly higher body mass index, systolic blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood sugar. All of these factors affect cardiovascular health negatively.
One of the mechanisms through which testosterone improves heart health is by stimulating red blood cell production. Hemoglobin is a compound present within red blood cells that carries oxygen. By increasing red blood cell production, testosterone allows for a more effective transport of oxygen throughout the body.
Testosterone Fuels Your Competitive Drive
In a study of 64 men, each subjects’ T-level was assessed before and after a rigged one-on-one competition. After the first round of competition, participants chose whether or not they wanted to compete again. Researchers found that fluctuations in T-levels independently predicted whether or not subjects would choose to compete again. The losers who experienced a spike in T were more likely to choose to compete again compared to the losers who experienced a drop in T.
In another study, university tennis players were assessed for their testosterone measurements across six matches during their varsity season. Researchers found that T-levels rose just before matches and that the players with the highest pre-match T reported the most positive improvement in mood. After playing the matches, T-levels in the winners were higher compared to the T-levels in the losers. The winners also experienced higher T before their next match compared to the losers who had lower T before their next match.
Competition is a fundamental aspect of our nature as men, and research confirms that testosterone factors in to affect this trait. That being said, this relationship could just as easily be affected in reverse. For example, a mindset centered on performing well could also boost T, which would then further fuel your competitive drive.
Testosterone Makes You Attractive
76 men were brought into a lab in pairs and instructed to compete for the attention of an attractive female. Researchers found that the subjects’ pre-competition testosterone levels were positively associated with their expressions of dominant behavior and with how much the woman indicated that she “clicked” with each participant. The conclusion of the study was that testosterone plays a major role in regulating the behaviors that enhance mating success.
In another study, researchers investigated the relationship between circulating testosterone and both masculinity and attractiveness of facial appearance. What they found was that, across the board, composites from high-testosterone men were judged to be more masculine and more attractive than those from low T men.
Testosterone Improves Your Mood
In a meta-analysis of 16 human trials with a total of 944 subjects, researchers observed a significant positive impact of testosterone treatment on mood. This finding is further exemplified by the results from another study, in which 6-months of testosterone treatment helped 19 out of 30 men overcome depression.
In yet another study, 3987 men were assessed for depressive symptoms, of which 203 were diagnosed with depression. When analyzing the data, researchers found that the participants with depression also had significantly lower testosterone levels than the non-depressed men. They concluded that men with testosterone levels in the lowest quintile have the highest prevalence of depression.
Irritability, anger, uncertainty, and aggression are all emotions that tie back to mood. If you’ve been experiencing these emotions more frequently as of recent, it’s likely that low testosterone is a contributing cause. Taking the steps to increase your T can definitely help overcome these emotions and allow you to feel more relaxed and at ease.
Testosterone Increases Your Appetite For Risk
In an interesting study of male financial traders, researchers found that a trader’s morning level of testosterone was predictive of his day’s profitability. The traders willing to incur the most risk also set themselves up with a higher chance of scoring big. Similar results were found in another study, in which both men and women with high testosterone consistently showed a willingness to incur greater financial risk while gambling than their lower testosterone counterparts. And if that wasn’t enough, MBA students with the highest testosterone levels were more likely to choose the riskiest careers in finance.
By definition, risk is associated with potential downside. That being said, risk is definitely something you have to indulge in in order to rise above your current circumstances. As the saying goes “high risk equals high reward”. Don’t look at risk as something good or bad but just know that, without it, growth cannot occur.
Testosterone Helps You Live Longer
794 men (aged 50-91) were followed up with over a period of 11.8-years. During the follow-up, 548 deaths occurred. When observing the data, researchers found that the men with total testosterone levels in the lowest quartile were 40% more likely to die than those with higher levels. This relationship held true even after adjusting for factors such as age, body fat, and lifestyle.
The research is very clear on this:
Low testosterone levels are independently associated with an increased mortality rate in elderly men.
Of course, it’s not only about living longer. Quality of life is equally important. And given the benefits listed above, testosterone helps in that regard as well.
Testosterone is the biological cause of masculinity. Everything that you would consider “manly” (deep voice, broad shoulders, facial hair, etc.) can be traced back to the amount of testosterone running through one’s veins. That being said, the influence of this hormone is far wider than just controlling these characteristics. The strength of your bones, the health of your heart, and the function of your brain are all aspects on which testosterone exerts a major influence.
By developing the lifestyle habits that align with the maintenance of optimal T, you will ensure that your mind and body are functioning near peak potential. By maintaining these habits over the long-term, you will sustain your youth and virility well into old age.
About the Author
Mo Saleem is an independent men’s health researcher and founder of TripleYourT.com. His mission is to empower men with the evidence-based action steps to help optimize their testosterone levels so that they can actualize their potential.
If you want to build muscle maximally, you’ve got to consume more calories than you’re expending. If you’re a fitness enthusiast then there is a likely chance that you have heard the terms “bulking””and “cutting”. Bulking is the phase where you eat in a calorie surplus (i.e. eat more calories than you burn) in order to gain muscle and the cutting phase is when you eat in a calorie deficit (i.e. eat fewer calories than you burn) in order to lean out and reduce fat so that your muscles stand out in all of their glory.
Now, the trouble many people have with eating in a calorie surplus is that you will put on fat. Unfortunately, we cannot control how our bodies use the extra energy we provide them through food. Most of the extra calories are guaranteed to go towards repairing and building muscles, but some of it will end up as fat – which is why the cutting phase is so important.
If you are in a cutting phase and eating at a suitable deficit and still not losing weight, then you should seek medical advice. Symptoms of low testosterone levels are often overlooked; however, low testosterone levels and high estrogen levels result in excess fat being held around the abdomen. This is definitely not ideal if you’re looking to get lean.
It is possible to make your own life easier by controlling your bulk to only gain a minimal amount of fat; which will make your cutting phase much easier. Many people see their bulking phase as a time to throw all diet rules out of the window. They think they can eat whatever they want, whenever they want because the goal is to gain weight. Unfortunately, human beings grow muscles at a very slow rate which makes the overload of calories completely pointless and even harmful to your final goals.
Here are 5 rules to keep in mind when you’re bulking in order to grow lean muscles with minimal fat:
1. Ditch Hours of Cardio and Opt for Sprints or HIIT Cardio
I know, I know, cardio is incredibly effective for fat loss. But if you’re afraid of gaining fat during your bulk and overdoing it with hours and hours of cardio then you’re doing your gains a disservice.
Long periods of cardio does burn fat, however, can negatively affect your training due to impaired recovery.
Do not despair, sprints and high intensity interval training (HIIT) will be your saving grace. Think of a sprinter’s body. A sprinter has minimal fat and loads of muscle. This is due to the fact that sprints and HIIT have an after burn effect which keeps on burning fat for hours after the exercise. The short period of high intensity has been proven to burn fat while retaining muscle.
2. Cycle Your Carbs and Eat Enough Protein
Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins are known as macronutrients and they make up everything we eat. Our bodies need carbohydrates for energy, fat for micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) absorption, and protein to build muscles.
Most men and women do not eat enough protein in their day to day lives. Protein is the building block of muscles and a lack of protein will result in a plateau in the gym. You need to eat protein to gain muscle, it’s that simple. The general rule is to eat around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight a day.
This does not mean that you must only focus on eating protein, because carbohydrates and fats are also incredibly important—but you must ensure you’re eating enough protein to sustain your muscle growth.
Carbohydrates are essential for energy. This is why it’s a good idea to eat more carbs on training days and fewer carbs on non-training days, or less intense arm focused days. This will ensure you have enough energy to smash your intense workouts while monitoring the number of calories you consume in a week to avoid excess fat gains.
3. Lift Heavy
Lifting heavy will ensure you’re overloading your muscles; which is the only way your muscles will grow.
Compound movements are ideal for getting the heart rate up. An increase in heart rate means you’ll be burning more calories when you exercise and, in turn, burning more fat. If you’re not working hard in the gym, then the extra calories will have no muscle damage to repair.
Compound moves are ideal for building muscle mass across many muscle groups and isolated movements focus on building strength in targeted muscle groups. Combining the two forms of exercise will ensure optimal growth with minimal fat.
4. Don’t Go Overboard with the Calorie Surplus
As previously mentioned, the body gains muscle very slowly. This means that you must slowly increase your calories and try to make sure you’re eating in just the right surplus balance to repair your muscles.
You are guaranteed to gain a lot of fat if you see a calorie surplus as a time to eat anything and everything. It should be closely monitored so that you can see muscle gain and, if you plateau, then continue to increase your calories slowly.
5. Try a Clean Bulk – A Calorie is Not a Calorie
If you’re counting calories, it’s important to remember that your body will only be able to grow if it’s given all of the right nutrients (carbs. fats, and proteins). If your body receives a lot of junk food, it’s going to be much easier to overeat since these nutrient devoid foods will have a weak appetitive response. If you pump your body with nutrients, it will use the food that you give it which will be less likely to end up as fat.
An added benefit of a clean bulk is that you will be able to eat larger quantities of food which will keep you feeling full for longer.
Follow these rules and you will be able to gain muscle mass without gaining fat.
Catherine Grant is an Editor-in-Chief of America’s best bodybuilding supplements website – TopTestosteroneBoosters.org . She is a health and fitness enthusiast. She wrote health and fitness related articles for numerous reputable sites like Huffpost, EvanCarmichael, MasterHerald, Get-a-Wingman, Lifehack etc… She is passionate about helping others reach their health goals through sharing her own personal experiences.
Are you struggling to pack on size?
Does it seem like you’ve tried everything, yet nothing you do seems to work?
If so, you’re not alone. Every day, millions of dudes across the world venture to the gym with the goal of getting huge, yet many fail.
Type “how to build muscle” into a Google search, and you’ll get more than 4 million results!
With so much information out there, it’s no wonder you’re confused.
You can build muscle a number of different ways, but there are certainly plenty of things you can do to completely kill your gains.
What are they?
Check out these five muscle-killing mistakes you may be making.
1. Trying to bulk when you’re not already lean
Unless you want to add a bunch of fat, you have no business entering a bulking phase if your body fat isn’t already around 10 or 12 percent.
You need to focus on getting lean first.
Decreasing body fat percentage increases testosterone levels and increases insulin sensitivity.
If you have a body fat percentage that’s too high (i.e. you don’t have visible abs), you won’t be able to use insulin efficiently. Many experts believe fat around the waist is a major cause of insulin resistance, a condition in which your muscle, liver and fat cells won’t be able to absorb glucose from the bloodstream (Insulin Resistance and Diabetes).
Since your body doesn’t use the anabolic hormone insulin well, you’re not going to be able to shuttle nutrients into your muscles. You’re going to pack on a lot more fat than muscle if you’re insulin resistant.
Increased fat mass is associated with lower levels of free testosterone and growth hormone too (Vermeulen et al., 1999). Your levels will go back to normal, though, if you decrease your body fat.
Do a quick check – can you see at least an outline of your abs?
If you can’t, you need to reduce your body fat by staying in a slight caloric deficit. To calculate how many calories you need, check out the formula in the next section.
If you’re lean enough to bulk, make sure you do a clean bulk.
Eat just enough to allow you to slowly gain muscle.
If you try the old-school dirty bulk and eat everything in sight, you’re going to put on more fat than muscle and look like a slob!
2. Ignoring the energy balance equation
“What supplements should I take?”
“What should I eat post-workout?”
“How much protein should I eat to build muscle?”
While all these questions have their place, they aren’t the most important things to focus on in a muscle-building program.
Hitting your calorie requirements and macronutrient goals for the day are the big-ticket items that should be the majority of your focus.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many calories you take in post-workout if you don’t meet your calorie needs for the day.
Let’s say you need 2,800 calories per day to put you in a slight caloric surplus to gain weight and build muscle. You focus all your efforts on the exact formula necessary to take advantage of the post-workout anabolic window, eating 100 grams of carbohydrate and 25 grams of protein for a perfect 500-calorie post-workout meal.
However, you focus so much on that post-workout meal that you take in only 1,000 calories the rest of the day. That means you’re 1,300 calories under your daily total. Your muscles aren’t going to grow if you’re in that big of a caloric deficit.
To gain weight, you’ve got to be in a positive energy balance, taking in more calories via food and liquids than you expend via exercise and other activity.
To lose weight, you’ve got to be in a negative energy balance, expending more calories than you consume.
If you want to put on some size, figure out your calorie requirements first. Let’s use the Mifflin equation.
For Men: Resting Metabolic Rate (in calories/day) = 10 (weight in kilograms) + 6.25 (height in centimeters) – 5 (age in years) + 5
For Women: RMR (in calories/day) = 10 (weight in kilograms) + 6.25 (height in centimeters) – 5 (age in years) – 161
Let’s say you’re a 20-year-old guy who’s 6 feet tall and weighs 160 pounds. To figure out your weight in kilograms, divide 160 by 2.2, which is approximately 72.6
Six feet in centimeters is 182.88.
Let’s plug in the numbers:
RMR = 10 (72.57) + 6.25 (182.88) – 5 (20) + 5
RMR = 725.7 + 1,143 – 100 + 5
RMR = 1,773.7
So you need 1,773.7 calories to maintain your body weight at rest. That’s assuming you’re not moving during the day. Here’s how to factor in your activity level.
Sedentary (little or no activity) = RMR x 1.2
Mild activity level (intense exercise 1-3 times per week) = RMR x 1.3
Moderate activity level (intense exercise 3-4 times per week) = RMR x 1.5
Heavy activity level (intense exercise 5-7 times per week) = RMR x 1.7
Extreme activity level (intense exercise multiple times per day) = RMR x 1.9
Let’s say you exercise four days per week. Multiply 1,773.7 by 1.5, and you get 2,660.55.
But once again, that’s just to maintain your body weight. If you want to add about one pound per week, add 500 calories to that total.
So that’s about 3,160 calories per day. If you’re a 20-year-old male who’s six feet tall and 160 pounds, you’ve got to take in 3,160 calories per day to gain one pound per week if you’re exercising four days per week.
Keep that caloric intake and activity level consistent, and you’ll no doubt put on some size. Then, working on hitting your macronutrient goals. According to Precision Nutrition, your split should be as follows:
If you’re an ectomorph (naturally thin), consume 25% of your calories from protein, 55% from carbohydrate and 20%from fat.
If you’re a mesomorph (naturally lean and muscular), take in 30% of your calories from protein, 40% from carbohydrate and 30% from fat.
If you’re an endomorph (naturally thick), consume 35% of your calories from protein, 25% from carbohydrate and 40% from fat. (Berardi and Andrews, 2015)
Like we talked about – make sure you’re not in too big of a caloric surplus and be sure before you start to bulk you’re already lean. Otherwise, you’ll put on quite a bit of fat too.
3. Changing your approach too often
In the age of the internet, you can find information on building muscle just about anywhere. Easy access to information has its perks, but has its drawbacks too.
Because there’s so much information out there, it’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly changing your routine every time you read something new.
One week you start to use intermittent fasting because some expert told you he put on muscle that way. Then, the next week you read a blog post in which the author argues you must eat breakfast every day because that’s what every bodybuilder does.
So who’s right?
Both approaches probably work – they just need to be followed out in full.
Just about every person who’s made a major body transformation has stuck to a plan for a long period of time.
By minimizing the number of variables you change, you’ll have a much better idea if what you’re doing is working.
If you start by training four days per week and taking in 3,000 calories per day with the intent of gaining weight, but then decide after a few days you need to add in some cardio and stop eating as much because your abs aren’t showing any more, you’re going to end up right back where you started.
Pick a plan, and stick with it. That’s why it’s important to choose only one focus at a time. If you’re bulking, focus both your training and nutrition on adding mass. If you’re cutting, focus both your training and nutrition on burning fat.
Research shows the best way to make gains is by creating small wins for ourselves.
According to a former professor from Stanford, the greatest way for people to improve is through making small changes in things we do often.
Instead of trying to follow some complex 3,200-calorie diet plan you’re going to follow for three days, focus on adding one nutrition habit at a time.
If you have trouble getting food in right away in the morning, have a protein shake every single morning. Toss some protein powder, oats, peanut butter, berries and spinach in a blender, and you’ll be able to add several hundred calories to your diet every day.
As we discussed before, the key to weight gain is staying is taking in more calories than you burn off, so start crushing those shakes!
Once you master this habit, add another. You’ll see much better results making small changes and sticking with them over a long period of time rather than making huge changes you can’t stick with for any amount of time.
4. Not tracking your progress
Take a look around just about any gym, and you’ll notice almost no one has any method of recording their workouts.
Well, honestly, most of these people probably don’t even have a workout plan to begin with, but that’s a topic for another day!
If you’re not tracking your results, you’re going to have no idea if what you’re doing is even working.
Progressive overload is among the most important factors in muscle growth because of general adaptation syndrome (Rosenblatt, 247).
Originally described by Austrian-born physician Hans Selye, general adaptation syndrome describes the body’s response to stress. In the alarm phase, the body reacts to a stressor by switching to “fight-or-flight” mode as it prepares to defend itself. Then, in the resistance phase, the body adapts to the stressor.
You need to challenge your muscles more each workout if you want to grow. Always aim to add weight to the bar or increase the tension you place on your muscles so they adapt and grow back bigger and stronger.
Keep a workout journal so you make sure you’re always increasing the challenge every workout.
You have literally no excuse not to track your workouts. You can buy a notebook for $1 at your local Wal-Mart. Otherwise, you can probably download a free tracking app on your phone.
If you want to pack on size, you’ve also got to take measurements consistently under the same conditions.
Weigh yourself naked every morning when you wake up, after you’ve gone to the bathroom and before you’ve had any food or liquids. Then, record your weight on a sheet of paper next to your scale. Take progress photos at the same time and day every single week.
If you measure everything under the same conditions, you’ll know it’s an accurate representation of your progress. That way, you won’t have to factor in whether you wore shoes last time or whether you just scarfed down a huge meal.
Tracking your nutrition is huge too. It may suck initially to have to record everything you eat, but you’ve got to know how many calories you’re consuming if you want your muscles to grow.
Use an app on your phone like MyFitnessPal to record your food intake. Many apps even allow you to scan a barcode on a package and the information automatically comes up.
5. Not taking the time to learn proper form
In today’s technologically advanced society, you have no excuse to not know proper form.
You can find videos and articles all over the internet giving you detailed descriptions of exercise technique.
If you fail to perform the lifts correctly, you’re receiving literally no benefits from a workout. You can have every other aspect of your program – like sets, reps, volume and intensity – planned perfectly, but if you aren’t executing the lifts well, you’re not going to see any gains.
Good technique allows you to take advantage of the three most important factors in muscle growth:
Your body doesn’t know the difference between a 20-pound dumbbell and a 50-pound dumbbell, but it does know the amount of tension it feels. If you’re trying to curl a 50-pound dumbbell, but you’re jerking your body around like a fool, you’re placing literally no tension on your biceps. Stick with a lighter weight and focus on feeling the muscle actually working.
Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a phenomenon caused by micro-tears to your muscle tissue. In response, your body releases growth factors important for muscle growth. So being sore after a workout can sometimes actually be a good thing – if you’re training intelligently. Just make sure you’re not destroying yourself every time you’re in the gym.
Believe it or not, getting a “pump” can actually be a good thing for building some size. It’s not just folklore! The buildup of metabolic by-products in your muscles can lead to the release of anabolic hormones through cell swelling. Doing some burn-out sets every once in a while – as long as you maintain tension on your muscles – can put some serious size on your body.
Understand what kind of learner you are. Do you learn best by watching, by doing or by reading about something?
Knowing this information will help you determine if you should learn technique from watching videos, having someone teach you in person or reading a book or blog post.
About The Author
Luke Briggs builds training and nutrition programs for guys who struggle to build muscle so they can be that ripped, muscular dude everyone wants to be.
You can check out Luke at:
Website: Luke Briggs Fitness
There are two ways to build muscle: the long and hard way and the longer and harder way.
Despite what your favorite fitness model may have said in his latest YouTube video, there are no secrets and there are certainly no shortcuts. There are, however, some simple steps you can take to ensure you’re on the right track and getting there as quickly as possible, all while avoiding the dead-end mistakes that sabotage most trainees.
If you’re tired of spinning your wheels and wasting time, and are ready to build more muscle, follow these 7 steps.
Step #1 – Prioritize
There is the recreational lifter who gets in the gym when he “has the time”. Then there is the serious lifter who structures his days around his training.
Here’s the truth: if you can’t set 1 hour aside, a few days per week, to work on your fitness goals, you’re not serious. And to be frank, if you’re the guy who’s trying to “find” time to train, don’t expect to look like the guy who makes time to train.
One commonality you’ll find with all successful bodybuilders is: they put the house of pain before the House of Cards – the gym before their favorite TV show.
If you’re “too tired” to train after work, train before. If you’re too lazy to get up a bit earlier, this isn’t your thing.
This is not to say you can’t live a healthy lifestyle when you’re too busy to find time to lift, just don’t expect to look like the guys who make it a priority.
Don’t get it confused. If your goal is to build a solid, magazine worthy physique, you won’t have to sabotage your relationships or quit your 9-5 job – but you will have to put fitness higher up on your priorities list than The Walking Dead.
Step #2 – Be Proactive
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” –Alan Lakein
There are 4 main training factors that attribute to muscle growth:
- Volume (sets x reps)
- Intensity (how heavy you’re lifting)
- Frequency (the amount of days you’re training per week)
- And progression
Successful bodybuilders know exactly how many sets, how many reps, and how much weight they’re using on any given exercise. Their training schedule is written in stone. And they walk into the gym, each day, with a goal in mind – be better today than I was yesterday. (Read This: How to Create Your Own Strength Program)
Think of your training program as a GPS navigating you to your goals. Without one, you’re bound to make left turns when they should have been rights, jump off on the wrong exit, and stop for directions. Sure, you might eventually make it if you’ve got a good sense of direction, but you’re guaranteed to waste time.
Bottom line: find a program that fits your needs and stick to it.
Step #3 – Be Calculated
If you’re going to build muscle, maximally, you’ve got to be in a positive energy balance: consuming more calories than you’re expending. If you want to burn fat, you do the opposite.
But eating more (or less) calories is just a prerequisite. Getting those calories from the right macronutrient breakdown to ensure you’re getting sufficient protein, essential fats, and carbohydrates is the real goal.
Guys who build muscle or lose fat, on demand, can do so because they’re calculated. They gauge and adjust their calories according to their goal – whether it be to gain mass or burn fat, they know (more or less) what they’re consuming.
I don’t care how great of a program you’re on, if you’re not eating enough, in the right macronutrient breakdown, you’re not going to build muscle. Same goes for fat loss – no matter how much cardio, if you’re not in a deficit, you’re abs will remain buried.
Sound like too much work? Let me simplify it: if the goal is the build muscle, aim to get 1g per pound of bodyweight in protein, daily. At the very least, you’ll need 0.3g per pound of bodyweight in fats. And as many carbohydrates as you need in order to perform at your peak, without going into too large of a surplus.
Step #4 – Set Realistic Goals
Half of the muscle we can expect to gain in our lifetime can be achieved in our first year of training.
This is due to our bodies being hyper-responsive to the newly introduced stimulus during the beginning stages of our lifting career.
Unfortunately, the further into our lifting career we get, the longer it takes to build muscle.
While a trainee who’s been lifting for 2-3 years can expect to gain 0.5-1 pound of muscle per month, a more experienced lifter may gain a fraction of that.
So what does this have to do with realistic goals? Everything!
If building 12 pounds of muscle in 1 month isn’t realistic, then why aim to gain 3 pounds per week?
Guys who build the best physiques in the least amount of time possible, do so because they’re realistic about what is attainable. This allows them to spend more time building (gaining muscle) and less time destroying (burning fat).
Here’s an example: During his second year of training, Joe spends 12 weeks bulking up, increases scale weight by 12 pounds, and 9 of that is body fat. He spends another 8-12 weeks dieting down to his starting body fat and, assuming he’s maintained every ounce of muscle, ends up 3 pounds heavier after about 5-6 months of grueling work.
Had Joe been realistic, he would have maintained a reasonable surplus and gained the same amount of muscle in half the time.
Step #5 – Be Present
If the simple act of showing up to the gym was enough, everyone would be jacked and shredded.
Guys who maximize their results don’t just show up and go through the motions, they’re focused on the task at hand.
A study published in The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy found that subjects were able to alter muscle activity in their rectus abdominis or obliques by simply focusing on the individual muscle when performing trunk curls.
Another study published in The Journal of Athletic Training found that subjects who were given activation cues for their glutes and hamstrings were able to increase activation in the respective muscle.
Bottom line: Don’t just show up – be present. If you want to maximize your time in the gym, train with intent. Make every single rep, during every single set, count.
Step #6 – Strive for Improvement
Make no mistake about it, if you’re not getting better, you’re not getting bigger.
The main pathway by which we elicit adaptations that result in hypertrophy is progressive overload: the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training.
This can be done a few ways:
- Increase weight without sacrificing reps
- Increase reps without sacrificing weight
- Increase Training Density
- Increase Power
- Increase Training Frequency
“Couldn’t we could just add more sets?”
This is certainly a viable option, but studies show that it’s only possible to a certain degree before we experience diminishing returns. Not only is this strategy not efficient past a certain threshold, but it’s impractical.
That said, you don’t have to bench press 400 pounds, but you should always walk into the gym with the goal to improve.
Step #7 – Be Patient
Once you understand what is truly attainable in terms of muscle growth, you’ve got two choices: quit or be patient.
Next time you see a guy in the gym with an impressive physique, ask him how long he’s been training. Although that number may vary, you’ll quickly realize one thing: it takes time.
The guys who have built a physique more impressive than 99% of people, were patient. They chipped away, day after day, month after month, year after year. It wasn’t some 90-day challenge or 7 day juice fast – it was hard work, commitment, and patience.
About The Author
Alain Gonzalez is a former skinny guy turned jacked fitness pro whose transformation story has been featured in articles on websites all over the internet. He has dedicated his life to helping naturally skinny guys like himself to overcome their genetics and take their physiques to the next level.
Certified Personal Trainer