Under the correct conditions, you can expect to gain 1-2 pounds of muscle per month. This is with optimal diet, workout and supplementation conditions. Your muscles begin to rebuild and grow directly after any workout session that successfully tears the muscle fibers causing them to repair themselves during recovery. However, building sufficient muscle mass that can make a significant difference to your physique and strength can take a lot of time, persistence and effort.
So now we know it takes a while to build new, noticeable muscle mass. In this post we will look at how we can strive for this 1-2 pound a month muscle gain. build muscle as naturally, quickly and effectively as possible.
In order to build significant muscle in a realistic time frame, we are going to have to make sure that we are in a caloric surplus, meaning that we are sufficient excess calories so that the body can build new muscle.
Now, you could go the ‘dirty bulk route and just consume anything and everything in your sight! However, I am going to assume that as you gain new muscle, you are going to want to avoid gaining excess body fat. Right? Also, we want you to be healthy beings as well as fit ones. Therefore, eating the correct foods, and cutting out the bad ones is going to be important.
It is important to set our expectations correctly as well. What I want you to think about is if you actually want to build a ton of new muscle; or if actually, you just want to be more ‘ripped’?
Quite often, we are lead to believe that more muscle is better, and that in order to have our ‘dream physique’, we have to build a crazy amount of new muscle! In actual fact, it’s more likely that simply by burning off that excess fat, and toning up the muscle mass that you already have, you could achieve that beach body you desire.
I am sure you get my drift here. I personally, would much rather prioritize burning fat and staying lean, and just try to build what new muscle mass I can, within that frame f working. I would rather that, than prioritize muscle gain, but I also get fat in the process. That is simply pointless and counter intuitive.
If you are already pretty skinny and new to strength training, then you should see pretty dramatic results over the next 6 months to a year if you go about things correctly. However, if you already have some good muscle mass on your frame and you are already a gym rat, then maximizing results and taking them to higher levels could be a lot tougher and slower.
I guess I what I am saying is; it all depends on your current starting point as to what progress you will see over the next year. Even if you do everything perfectly with regards to training and diet.
So how do we maximize our muscle building efforts whilst keeping the fat off?…
As far as your diet is concerned you will need to eat above your maintenance level in terms of calories in order to build new muscle mass. You will also need to make sure you eat enough protein and vegetables as part of your diet.
In order to know how many calories to consume in a day to build muscle, you need to know what your Total Daily Energy Expenditure is first. You can calculate this by clicking on the TDEE calculator on the left.
Your total daily energy expenditure is an estimation of how much energy you burn in a day when both your basal metabolic rate, and exercise is taken into account. Go to the calculator now and work out your personal TDEE. Then we can move onto working out how many calories you need to consume in a day in order to be in an energy surplus.
I MUST emphasis that all these numbers that we are talking about here are just estimates. There is no real way of knowing exactly what your daily caloric expenditure is or what your caloric maintenance level is for example. All we can do is use these numbers as a guide, and then do our best to eat the right foods in the right quantities that will promote muscle gain with minimal fat gain as well.
So, Once you have worked out your total daily energy expenditure using the calculator, you now want to try to keep your daily caloric intake above this number. I would suggest starting at say 200 calories about maintenance to start. So if your TDEE is 2,500 calories, then aim to consume 2,700 per day. If you find that combined with an effective strength training program you are not seeing much gain, you could try upping to 2,500 per day so that you are 500 calories above maintenance.
Likewise, is you start gaining too much fat, then drop from say 2,700 per day to 2,100 caloric intake per day.
Like I say, it is really important you don’t get too hung up on the numbers. That will drive you crazy! Use the numbers as a guide. The main thing you need to focus on is, eating as clean as possible, trusting your body and instinct when it comes to how much to eat, and make sure you are eating enough protein. If you are naturally skinny and in doubt… eat more food! If you already gain weight easily and are quite chunky (fat or muscle), then you need to clean up your diet and hit the gym.
After doing your TDEE calculation and doing a little self assessment on your current physique, you will have decided if you need to up your caloric intake, or drop it a bit, whilst cleaning up your diet.
I do however, always recommend that regardless of where you need to move your caloric intake to, that you combine this with intermittent fasting. This will allow you to build and preserve muscle mass whilst turning your body into a fat burning machine which will eventually allow your muscle tone to show through.
So How Much Protein Should I consume in a Day to Build Muscle?…
Now we know very roughly how much we should be eating in terms of calories for optimal muscle gain and definition, we can look at on or two important aspects of our diet in detail.
Protein in a vital component of your diet when it comes to strength and muscle gains. It is the building block of muscle and so we need to make sure we have enough of it in your diet in order to see the desired results.
A common rule of thumb amongst nutritionists is that you should consume between 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
Again, there are no specific number that is set in stone. Opinions vary from person to person and professional to professional. It is something that once again you will need to experiment with on a personal level. I would say that most people tend to be on either end of the spectrum. Either someone will not be getting anywhere near enough protein in their diet; or, as is often the case with younger guys, they are over consuming protein thinking that drinking 5 protein shakes per day will turn them into a pro bodybuilder over night!
Again, a lot of this comes down to common sense. Do the calculation above, and be really honest about how much protein you are, or are not eating. Tweak how much you consume overtime until you find the sweet spot, and don’t get to hung up with the numbers. We all really know what a healthy balanced meal looks like. So go do that and see how it works out for you.
Check out Joe Stoppani’s nutritional rules for building muscle below. These rules are taken from his 6 week shortcut to Strength Program (link to bodybuilding.com).
In order to hit the 1-2 pound of muscle growth per month, you will most likely need to look into some form of supplementation. The 2 main supplements that are fairly important if you want to see good growth is whey protein and creatine.
Now some of you may be able to get enough protein that you require from your standard diet. If so, that’s great! However many people are very busy bees. Full-time jobs, looking after kids, and other hobbies can all mean that your nutrition starts to slip away from you. In such a case supplementing with a quality whey protein shake can be very beneficial. You can find out which Protein powder that we prefer by reading our supplements review HERE.
Another supplement that can really optimise your muscle growth is creatine. Creatine phsphate is an amino acid derivative that occurs naturally in the body. We also get it from certain foods such as red meats, and it is used like an energy reserve when the body. This comes in particularly useful when engaging in explosive exercise such as weight training as more energy will be available in the muscles.
So how does creatine improve your bodies ability to build strength and muscle?…
The body uses a form of energy called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for during workouts, and during the type of exercise, the ATP is replenished in different ways.
For lower intensity, endurance style workouts such as swimming and running, your ATP is replenished from either glycogen in your muscles or glucose and oxygen. However, for higher intensity exercise involving short bursts of energy such as sprints and weight training, your body replenishes ATP with creatine phosphate from your muscles.
Your body can very rapidly convert ATP into creatine ready to be used by your muscles. This means that taking supplementing with creatine pre-workout, you can help you work your muscles harder for longer.
Not only this, but the study below demonstrated that creating also helps to increase the amount of the hormone IGF-1 which is also responsible for increased muscle and strength growth.
Testosterone and Muscle Growth
Testosterone is vital for building new muscle mass. It interacts with neurotransmitters, which encourage tissue growth. Not only this, but testosterone also also interacts with nuclear receptors in DNA, which instigates protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is an important process which allows the body to build and maintain new muscle tissue.
The best way of increasing your testosterone levels is of course through diet and exercise. Simply by eating clean, and maybe looking into doing some moderate levels of intermittent fasting, you will be able to encourage your body to produce more testosterone. This will really help you to not only build more lean muscle mass, but also to feel more energetic and youthful in the process.
Now I don’t have time in this article to talk about how diet and fasting can boost your testosterone naturally. I, therefore, recommend that you read my in-depth article all about the benefits of intermittent fasting here.
As long as your diet and workout program are on point, then a quality testosterone supplement can also help optimise the muscle building process. Remember, there are lot of junk supplements on the market that promise unrealistic results. Natural testosterone supplements are not like steroids, which I do not recommend you use at all by the way. A topic for another day!
A quality testosterone supplement (opens in new window) consists of natural ingredients that are vital for testosterone production. These ingredients include Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamin D, D Aspartic acid, and Tongkat Ali for example. Substantial scientific research has shown that these ingredients can not only increase your total testosterone levels but also increase the amount of free testosterone in your body. This is what is really important when it comes to the production and utilization of testosterone.
Whilst it is true that many supplements are simply a product of over hyped marketing and are a complete waste of money, creatine, protein and some testosterone boosters can actually be of of some use if used correctly. Certain quality supplements may actually be worth taking in order to help you build muscle faster. Please remember that quality is important here as not all supplements are made equal.
We want to make sure that you are not simply throwing your money down the drain. You can read our in depth supplements review here (opens in a new window on this site) to find out what our top 4 supplement picks are when it comes to speeding up the muscle building process.
Workout for Rapid Muscle Growth
In order to effectively build muscle mass, and to hit that 1-2 pound muscle mass increase per month goal, you will need to workout in the correct way. These is no getting away from it; you will need to lift heavy in a progressive manner, and include the most effective exercises in your routine in order to see significant results. Some general tips worth bearing in mind when it comes to your workout program are;
- Focus mainly on resistance/weight training for maximum body composition change. – It is through the tearing and repairing of the tiny muscle fibres that allows you to gain mass. Also, the more muscle you have on your body, the higher your resting metabolic rate is and the more fat you burn, even in a rested state.
- Train to failure and gradually increase the amount of weight you lift as you get stronger. – The most effective way to put your muscles in a situation where they have to repair and grow is to train each set to failure. This means lifting until you physically can not perform another repetition.
- Make sure that the majority of your weight training routine is comprised of compound movements. – Compound movements are exercises that involve more than one joint and so they work a large muscle group. Unlike exercises that a not compound movements which only trains one small muscle. e.g. bench press (compound and works a large part of the upper body including chest and arms) vs bicep curl (works only the bicep).
- As you become more experiences focus on free weights such as dumbbells rather than machines. – Using free weights means that your body has to support the entire weight itself and so more muscular control an stamina is required. Using machines means that some of the weight is supported for you and you don’t have to work yourself to hold the posture during the exercise.
- Increase your muscles time under tension (TUT) for maximum results. – By increasing the amount of time that your muscles are supporting the weight during an exercise, you increase your muscles ability to grow during recovery. You can increase your TUT per exercise by performing negative repetitions. This is where you lift the weight with a short burst of energy over about a 1 second time frame; but then you lower the weight very slowly over about 5-10 seconds.
- Don’t be afraid of rest days. Your body needs time to recover and build muscle. – Training with weights 3-4 times per week is a good target to aim for. It is when your body is resting and recovering from resistance exercise that new muscle is built. If you wish to train more frequently, then try to do different types of exercise on other days. Exercise such as swimming is perfect for breaks away from the weights room. Swimming is perfect for stretching off your muscles and getting cardiovascular exercise into your routine without the high impact and stresses and strains that other forms of exercise puts on your body.
Exercises most effective for muscle mass gain are;
Get Your Sleep…
Sleep is very important when it comes to not only muscle building and fat loss, but general health and well being as well.
Human growth hormone (HGH) and other hormones associated with muscular repair and growth such as testosterone, are produced predominantly during your non-rapid eye movement (NREM) cycles of sleep. Not only this, but blood flow to your muscles increases at this time and your body begins to store glycogen in your muscles. This glycogen in the muscles where it is needed during intensive weight training and other physical activities for strength and power.
Some studies now suggest that a good amount of quality sleep is very important for muscle recovery and growth. Not only this, but severe sleep deprivation could also result in increased muscle loss and poor general health.
We get a lot of people asking us how long it takes to start building muscle and we hope that you have found a satisfactory answer in this article.
Essentially, if you want to gain 1-2 pounds of muscle per month, and you are are a fairly light weight and small build in terms of muscle at the moment, then you can expect to hit the 1-2 pound goal as long as you follow certain diet, supplementation and workout protocols as suggested above.
Of course, the more muscle mass you posses, and as you gain more lean muscle, the harder it becomes to gain even more. Essentially you begin to reach a plateau. At this point, it it the tiny details in your lifestyle, diet and workout program that will allow you to gain those extra hard to get pounds. Similarly to when an overweight person strives to lose body fat. In the beginning they tend to see big losses and the burn through a lot of that unwanted belly fat. However, as they get lighter, it becomes harder to lose that even more fat. It is a lot easier for a severely overweight person to lose a good amount of fat, than it is for someone who is already at a normally weight to burn reach sub 10% body fat in order to reveal a 6 pack.
Hopefully you now know where you are in your muscle building journey, and with the tips already discussed, maybe you can reach another level with your muscle building endeavours.