Bulking up can be an important performance or aesthetic goal in the development of an athlete. Commonly, athletes will desire muscle mass and strength gains; with few wanting an increase in body fat. Working with an Accredited Sports Dietitian will help you find the plan that will help you achieve your goals most effectively but here are a few general tips for increasing muscle mass.
Set realistic goals
It’s important to be realistic with your desired goals and time frames to achieve your muscle mass goals. Muscle mass is influenced by an array of factors including genetics, training and nutrition. If all are optimised, gains of 0.25-0.5 kg per week may be possible initially, but this will depend on genetics and training history. Gaining weight more quickly than this can lead to a simultaneous increase in fat mass. Often athletes want to increase muscle mass and reduce body fat simultaneously, often during a competitive season. This can be difficult to achieve for most individuals as gaining muscle and losing fat have different nutritional goals.
Follow the right training program
To gain muscle mass, an appropriate and specific resistance training program needs to be followed. This program should be specific to your individual goals as well as your lifestyle and training schedule. The off-season is an ideal time to work on muscle mass gains. A strength and conditioning coach can help you develop an effective training program to achieve the right balance between resistance and other training.
Eat sufficient energy and carbohydrates
Increasing energy intake (kilojoules/calories) is essential if significant gains in muscle mass are to be achieved. For those concerned about gaining extra body fat, small increments in energy intake should be introduced until desirable results are achieved.
For some athletes increasing energy and carbohydrate intake can be a challenge as frequent and/or prolonged training sessions can limit opportunities for meals and snacks while intense training can dampen your appetite. While there is no one single best approach, some useful strategies to increase your energy intake include:
- Increasing the frequency of your meals and snacks
- Eating more energy-dense snacks and drink to increase your energy intake without having to significantly increase the volume of food you’re eating
- Eating quality carbohydrates before and after training sessions to fuel the session for optimal training intensity and prevent muscle breakdown
- Plan ahead to avoid missing meals or snacks or resorting to quick junk options from the corner store or café
Time your protein
There is more to protein than just how much of it you eat. While the total amount of protein you eat is important, the body can only use a relatively small amount of protein at any one time. This means that the timing and spread of this protein can be more important to muscle growth. Spreading your protein over the day and including appropriate recovery options after training can achieve a positive protein balance, promoting muscle growth.
Get your supplements right
With so many supplements on the market it can be hard to know which one option is the best for you. Popular muscle building supplements include protein powders, creatine, HMB, nitric oxide, colostrum and individual amino acid supplements. These may come as bars, drinks, pills, powders and gels. However, most of these products fail to live up to expectations and the scrutiny of scientific research. The support of a Sports Dietitian will not only help you identify fact from fiction in the supplement industry but also provide guidance on appropriate protocols for their use.