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A Realistic Look at Goal Setting: Muscle Gain – Part 1

Previously, I have discussed the introduction to goal setting and fat loss. The next logical step in body composition is muscle gain. Before you scan over this article because you don’t think it applies to you, I want you to think twice and give it a chance. This is directed toward my female readers, in case you didn’t get the subtlety.


Muscle gain is about a lot more than just having the big gunz. The addition of muscle in the right places can increase symmetry in the body, improve posture, improve performance, and decrease the risk of injury. There are different reasons to gain muscle beyond those of a bodybuilder. In truth, everyone is a bodybuilder, it is just the structure they desire that varies.

Logical Amount of Muscle Gain

There has been a lot of discussion about this on the internet due to various advertisement and marketing methods of body authors and supplement companies. While I don’t care to wager on these contests, there are a few things that need to be discussed.

  • How much muscle you can gain over a period of time.
  • If there is a difference between males and females.
  • How much of a role body fat plays in seeing muscle definition.
  • How much muscle is desired/needed for various looks.

When you understand the above, it leads to a better approach toward selecting a program based upon your needs.

Gains Over Time

The development of muscle is dependent on multiple factors. The primary three are:

  1. Genetic Status – The body you were born with from metabolic functions to muscle fibers.
  2. Nutritional Intake – The amount of food you eat, especially protein.
  3. External Resistance – The load forced upon your body in life and training.

I will not be mentioning the use of drugs because the majority of my articles focus on natural bodybuilding.

A) I don’t coach clients that use, so my experience with it is limited.

B) I have a base understanding of each drug and don’t feel comfortable going beyond general information.

Genetic Status

When you are born, your base of growth is already somewhat determined. Much like a car, you come with certain stock and features in your genetic code. Some are considered damaged goods with faulty mechanisms and fail basic operations. Take for example my first car, a Ford Taurus, that would shut off in the middle of a turn, leaving me in the middle of many an intersection. There is a small minority of people, sadly, with that type of stock.

There are other people like a Bugatti Veyron, considered by some to be the best car in the world with its look and exceptional performance. They are also a very small minority.

Now, think of the majority of people as a Honda Accord. Anyone who has ever seen a car pimped out to its fullest knows that a Honda Accord can become one serious vehicle in its look and performance.

Nutritional Intake

Increasing muscle is about increasing protein storage in the muscle, so nutritional intake rates pretty high on the list of priorities. Having said that, I encourage you not to subscribe to two common thoughts:

  • Protein overload
  • Protein builds muscle out of nowhere

Too often bodybuilders and carbphobes believe that the route to building mass is through an insane intake of protein, neglecting the importance of fat and carbohydrates. Women usually do the opposite and don’t want to eat protein because it will build muscle out of thin air. Both are asinine, yet the dogma continues.

Another common flaw is that excessive intake isn’t needed. While some basic newbie gains can be made regardless of intake and only with excess simulation, an excess of daily need is important to stimulate growth, actually storage and repair.

Bucket o’ Rocks

Think of the process like a bucket of water being filled with rocks.

There is the bucket of water (muscle) and an outside influence of action (resistance) and storage (protein). The action of the rocks being dropped in is the external force being placed on the body. The rocks are the protein it stores. The outcome is the rise of the water in the bucket even though no extra water has been added to the bucket itself. Since we do not physically gain more muscle, we have to manipulate the muscle we already have in our bodies and the amount of protein storage we have because of that manipulation.

So what happens if you throw a lot of rocks in the bucket and then don’t allow them to stay?

That is essentially overloading muscle without enough excess nutrition to help increase storage. You will have the same level of muscle or perhaps even less if you toss in the rocks too aggressively and pull them out allowing spill over (overtraining and under recovery). The outcome is continuing to plateau or to eat into muscle you already have due to a lack of needed nutrients. Allowing the water to settle and the protein to store is key. Therefore, nutrition and rest are essential to muscle growth.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on Monday.

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