1. Managing Water Intake and Levels
The fact that our bodies are composed of 70% water should be an indication of how critical it is. Drinking enough water daily hydrates the muscle cells so that they can perform properly. If you aren’t consistently staying hydrated, you are doing yourself a disservice and not allowing your physique to reach its full potential in the shortest amount of time. The standard recommendation is to drink a gallon of water per day. Less active people won’t require as much, but if you’re training regularly, you’re not one of them. Active people will often need more. If you are very active or are exposed to heat for hours every day, you could very well need two gallons of water every day to meet your needs. Hydration is also important for recovery, as the process of muscle recovery and growth requires both nutrients and water to carry out. Simply put, you need adequate water both to train at your best and recover and grow from that training.
2. Rest/Sleep and Managing Stress
Cortisol is the stress hormone and it’s a catabolic, or muscle-wasting hormone. That’s the opposite of anabolic or muscle building. Try to relax more and not let things get to you, especially things that are out of your control. Excess stress really will have a negative impact on your muscle building and physique goals. So chill out!
Proper rest is also essential. Not getting enough sleep also causes extra cortisol release. How much sleep do you need? The blanket recommendation is eight hours a night, but whatever amount lets you wake up refreshed and to function well physically and mentally all day is what you should aim for. Some people can get by fine on as little as six hours. There seems to be this attitude lately that depriving yourself of sleep is the best way to “hustle” and succeed, and some will even brag about how little sleep they get. Some people like to use the hashtag #teamnosleep and say things like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” If you don’t get enough rest, there’s no way you can be your best, and that goes for all aspects of your life. You might be OK for a while, but eventually you will break down. Don’t ever think that not sleeping enough makes you superior or a harder worker. When it comes to building muscle, inadequate sleep will hold you back and you will never build your physique to its full potential.
3. Master the Basics
Train at the same time every day if possible, so your body can get into a rhythm. The body is highly adaptive and doing this allows it to be primed to train hard and build muscle at whatever time you consistently work out. There is no “best” time of day to train except what is best for you and your schedule that may also need to address work or school. The “best” time for you could be 5:00 a.m., or 10:00 p.m.!
Next, your nutrition must support your training and gaining. Be sure to take in enough protein, carbohydrates and fats every day to meet those needs. Some people shy away from either carbs or fats in their diet, but you do need both of those macronutrients to build muscle. Keeping either out of your diet will negatively impact both your training performance and the results you experience from that training.
Timing is also key. The standard three square meals that are pushed as being ideal for average, sedentary people won’t cut it if you are serious about building muscle. You need to make sure you eat a good meal before training, after training and throughout the rest of the day as well. The best way to achieve this is to get on a schedule so that you know you eat certain meals at the same time every day, or as close as possible. You might have meals at 7:00 a.m., a shake post-workout at 11:30, and more meals at 1:00 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. That’s just an example of how you could structure your daily meals.
If you can get your body on a regular schedule of eating certain meals at the same times every day and training at the same time, things will just flow better all around. For so many dedicated trainers it’s like an assembly line for nutrients, with everything, in this case meals, put together in order to build something, in this case more muscle mass!