There's no denying the fact that what you do in the gym on a regular basis is going to have a very large impact on how quickly you build lean muscle mass. But, in addition to your workouts, the diet you're consuming and the overall hormonal balance in your body will have a much larger impact on what you get in terms of physical mass gains.
The effort in the gym can be top notch, but if your diet isn't up to par and you aren't doing what you can to maximize growth hormone and testosterone, two of the largest muscle-building hormones in the body, your efforts will not be fully realized.
Some people are naturally blessed with high testosterone levels and good growth hormone release, and while this will be heavily influenced by your age alone (males between the ages of eighteen to mid-thirties will be at their peak), there are also a number of things you can do to help boost the natural release in the body. By focusing on those you can increase your results.
Here are the main things to think about.
Use A Rep Range Closer To Ten
If you're stuck on doing the typical 'strength' protocol of five reps per set and using longer rest periods of around three minutes, you may want to consider moving away from this from time to time.
A study published by the International Journal of Sports Medicine reported that subjects engaging in a resistance training protocol consisting of a 10-rep, 1-minute-rest set-up showed increased levels of growth hormone and testosterone.
This may not be how you choose to train all the time since it isn't as conducive to maximizing strength gains, but alternating periods of lower rep sets with higher reps sets could be to your advantage.
Keep Your Rest Periods On The Shorter Side
Also demonstrated by the previous study is the influence of rest periods on the growth hormone and testosterone release. Many people have a tendency to let their rest periods drag on throughout the workout, even closing in on the five minute mark if they get chatting with someone they spot in the gym.
Don't let yourself do this. While you're in the gym, it's essential that you maintain your focus and keep those rest periods shorter. Rest periods are inversely related to the total number of reps you're doing per set, so that will always dictate to some degree how much of a break you need between sets. There's typically no reason to ever let your rest go beyond three minutes though.
Utilizing shorter rest periods can help to boost the metabolic rate, and the faster your metabolism is running the faster protein synthesis and muscle building will be.
Rethink Your High Protein Diet
One of the most popular thinking strategies of those who are really looking to pack on the lean mass is to really increase their protein intake. Muscles are made of protein, so it would only make sense to eat more protein to build more muscle, right?
First you need to understand that after your protein intake has been met, any further protein consumed is just going to be broken down by the body and converted to glucose for use as fuel or be stored as body fat. From that standpoint, it's much more effective to just eat carbs straight up rather than having to go through the process of protein breakdown (gluconeogenesis).
Also, carbohydrates have a great influence on circulating insulin levels and since insulin itself is one of the most anabolic hormones in the body, this will also be highly beneficial for your muscle-building efforts.
What's more is there is research out there that suggests that higher protein diets can actually decrease serum testosterone levels in the body.
Researchers out of the Center for Sports Medicine at Pennsylvania State University assessed the influence of various diets on pre-exercise testosterone levels in a group of twelve men. Each subject was instructed to record a food journal for a period of seventeen days and after the study was completed, it was seen that there was a negative correlation to protein intake and free testosterone levels before exercise while there was a positive correlation between fat intakes and testosterone levels.
This suggests that diets that are higher in dietary fat and lower in protein intake can promote higher levels of testosterone in the body and potentially enable greater muscle building.
A final point the researchers of this study made was that when looking closer at the specifics of the protein intake of the subjects, those who were deriving their protein intake from animal sources showed higher testosterone levels than those who were deriving their protein intake from plant sources.
So vegetarian-style eating may offer many health advantages, but it may not be the best for building lean muscle mass. Always keep in mind though that you must still provide more calories than the body needs for maintenance regardless of where these calories are coming from if you do want to build muscle.
Eat Dairy Products Often
Dairy products are not only going to help to promote strong bones which is important for continued ability to resistance train with heavy weights, but a new study published in the Biological Trace Elements Journal suggests that those who supplement their diet with calcium also show greater testosterone levels.
The researchers divided a group of thirty men into three different groups; one group who only performed exercise, one group who was just given 35 mg/kg of calcium supplementation, and the third group who both exercised and took the calcium supplement.
At the end of the four week study it was discovered that training naturally increased testosterone levels, which was to be expected, but it was increased higher in those who were taking the calcium.
So make sure you're not missing out. Dairy products are a great source of slow digesting casein and as we just discovered above, the additional fat found in them may not be all that bad as far as your muscle building efforts are concerned.
By making the most of your diet and workout program, you can naturally influence your hormonal release and build muscle faster. There are a number of supplements out on the market that also aim to boost testosterone levels, but first you should always attempt to do so naturally using these methods.
- Baltaci, AK, et al. (2009) Testosterone levels in athletes at rest and exhaustion: effects of calcium supplementation. Biological Trace Elements Research. 129(1-3):65-9.
- Boetes, M. et al. (1997). Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology. 82:49-54.
- Dziados, J.E. et al. (1991). Endogenous Anabolic Hormonal and Growth Factor Responses to Heavy Resistance Exercise in Males and Females. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 12:228-235.