If you watch a lion, you’ll find that they spend their time doing one of four things:
- Chasing prey
Now if we break down how the time is shared between those four activities, it will end up looking something like this:
- Chasing prey (2%)
- Eating (8%)
- Resting (25%)
- Sleeping (65%)
And that’s being generous.
Yep, the lion spends most of its time either eating or conserving energy and this allows it to be highly efficient when the time comes to go in for the kill.
And THIS is how you should be if you want to gain a lot of muscle fast.
Why Rest and Food Are Crucial for Growth
Guys who struggle to put on muscle mass are what we call ‘hard gainers’. Technically known as ‘ectomorphs’, these are people who can work out just as hard as everyone else but not see half as much muscle mass added as their gym colleagues.
What makes this worse though, is that often they don’t understand what is actually happening or how to fix it.
And as such, they try to solve the problem by training harder and spending more time in the gym. This seems logical and of course their hard work should be commended!
But actually, muscle growth does not occur in the gym during training. Rather, muscle growth occurs after we’ve worked out while we’re resting. Training is what breaks the muscle down and causes the accumulation of metabolites that trigger growth – things like growth hormone, IGF1 and ‘mTor’. When you rest following this, your body then gets to work on that growth and builds the muscle back bigger and stronger. This goes into overdrive during the ‘anabolic window’ (right after you’ve trained) and during sleep (which is when our bodies are at their most anabolic).
So if you try to increase muscle mass by training longer and harder, all you’re doing is breaking down your muscle tissue even more and then depriving yourself of the opportunity to regrow and repair. This can actually cause you to lose more muscle.
What’s more, is that training burns a lot of calories. If you’re an ectomorph, that means that in all likelihood you have a very rapid metabolism that burns through calories incredibly quickly. So if you’re working out for long periods very intensively, you’ll actually only be burning even more fat and muscle and leaving yourself with little left for growth.
How to Become a Lion
What you need to do instead then, is to train your muscles in such a way that you maximize your metabolites while minimizing the degradation of muscle fiber.
The way you do that is by training relatively slowly. Use a slow cadence and a relatively light weight and aim to increase your ‘time under tension’ as much as possible (normally this means higher rep ranges). This will then mean your muscle spends the maximum amount of time contracting, which in turn floods it with blood and causes ‘occlusion’ – trapping the blood inside the muscle. When this happens, you feel the sensation of ‘pump’ which leads to the build-up of metabolites. Because you’re not using incredibly heavy weights though, you won’t cause the same number of tears in the muscle mass.
In order to take maximum advantage of the anabolic window, you should consume protein prior and after training. You can also consume carbs mid-workout (called ‘peri-nutrition’) which will further help to prevent the breakdown of muscle.
Note that this doesn’t increase strength very efficiently. This is how you train for size.
And the rest of the time? You rest! Aim to work out no more than four days a week and spend the rest of your time eating at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight (1, 2).
Resist the urge to jump straight back in the gym and instead give your muscles all the time they need to grow. Avoid stress, sleep well and spend lots of time lying in the sun.
That is how you grow lots of muscle if you’re a hard gainer.