3 Pieces of the Muscle Building Puzzle

There is a specific combination of work, fuel and rest required to build muscle. If you're missing any of the parts of the puzzle your body won't gain lean mass no matter what you do. I'm going to attempt to quickly summarize these requirements for you. Here we go!

Consistency is key when you're trying to change your body. When you start a brand new exercise program, it takes your body approximately 8 weeks to adapt to your training. Unfortunately most people don't ever see the results they want because many people drop exercise plans after only 2 months, the same amount of time it takes you to even begin to see results. Most of the "gains" you make in the first two months are just your neuro/muscular pathways growing and your brain learning to recruit more of the fibers in your muscle. In bodybuilding lingo, this neuromuscular facilitation is often referred to as "the mind/muscle" connection. Muscular and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy happens after this point and takes consistent, intense and varied activity over time. It's important to use the overload principle to progress and build mass and size. You have to constantly challenge yourself by increasing weight, reps, sets, intensity or by reducing rest time.

Other than consistent resistance training building muscle also requires proper nutrition (fueling) and rest to help facilitate the body's healing process. The act of resistance training creates microtears in the muscle fibers. The "swole" or "pumped" feeling you get after a tough session is your body sending blood to the area to clean up damage, deliver oxygen and carry away lactate and other metabolic waste. After training when at rest the body uses ingested protein to repair the damage to muscle and connective tissues. It's especially important for athletes and bodybuilders to consume enough protein for it to be readily available for the body to use. The best types of protein for these purposes come from animal sources.

You also have to rest, ideally at least 6-8 hours. This is the time when your body repairs itself! Muscles aren't built during the time you spend in the gym, they are built that night while you sleep, and the next night. Less than the ideal number of shut-eye for you will stunt any gains you may have made if you had proper rest. This is due in part to hormonal irregularities (testosterone and cortisol) caused by lack of sleep as well as the stress on your body of running when it should be in standby.

TLDR; If you're interested in building muscle you have to train consistently, for a long time. You have to do the work, get plenty of rest and eat plenty of protein. All three of these things are necessary and if any are missing you won't see the results you hope for.