Building muscle

You want to build muscle, but you’re not sure how that works.  This post will discuss the principles behind resistance training.

There is a direct correlation between active muscle tissue and metabolic rate – the more muscle, the higher the metabolic rate. When muscles are stressed beyond their normal use, such as through lifting weights, they respond to that stress.  The resistance creates microtears in the muscle tissue.  The resulting cell damage starts the muscle repair processes, which leads to larger and stronger muscles.

One of the best ways to strength train to maximize the muscle response is to concentrate on the eccentric, or lowering, portion of any move.  Eccentric moves are more muscularly damaging and require more effort to repair than concentric movements (lifting portion of the move).

The commonly recommended movement speed is six seconds per repetition, with the concentric movement performed in one to three seconds, and the eccentric movement performed in two to four seconds.  A recovery period of 72 to 96 hours is recommended.

Muscle protein synthesis and breakdown are in constant flux.  Muscle protein synthesis increases 40-150% after a resistance training session. In a fasting state, muscle protein breakdown exceeds muscle protein synthesis after strength training.  To shift to more muscle protein synthesis in order to favor muscle hypertrophy, additional nutritional factors come into play.

Protein source – There is evidence that whey and soy protein trigger an increase in muscle protein synthesis. Consumption of the proteins casein and milk help to decrease muscle protein breakdown.

Protein quantity – Studies indicate that approximately 20 grams of intact protein or 8-10 grams of essential amino acids consumed after strength training seems to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

Timing of intake – The increase in muscle protein synthesis resulting from a resistance training workout lasts approximately 24-48 hours. This suggests that consuming a high-quality protein at any time in this window will enhance muscle growth.

Carbohydrate intake – Carbohydrate intake stimulates the release of insulin. Insulin enhances the uptake of amino acids into muscle tissue and stimulates muscle protein synthesis. Carbohydrate intake after exercise should be accompanied with protein.