Sunday, April 21, 2013

Truth About Muscle Growth

Most people think that muscles are made in the gym. Well the truth is they are not. Let me explain, in the gym when we are lifting we are actually tearing muscle down. The muscles do not start to build (repair themselves) until we are at rest. Also they need the right nutrition to start this process.
We have to remember that muscles have a memory, and our body does not like to have the muscles any bigger than they need to be. When I say that muscles have memory I mean that they figure out the strength they need to get us through our day. For example I was a cabinet builder many years ago and I lifted material all day long most of it very heavy. The first few weeks I was doing this job I was sore every night and my arms started getting bigger. After some time had passed I stopped getting bigger, why you ask. The reason why I was not getting bigger is that my muscles figured out that I had all the mass I needed to do my job. Now the reason they do not continue to grow is easy, the body has to use more energy to maintain bigger muscles. Which explains why people tell you to lose fat not lean muscle mass. So in essence the bigger the muscles the more fat we burn in a day. This is also why it is easier in most cases for males to lose weight than females. This is also why it is easier to lose muscle mass, but so hard to gain it.
Let's start with what happens when we go to the gym. Once we start lifting heavy weights the muscle group you are working gets small tears in it which is called micro trauma. What the body does now is it not only repairs the damage that the gym did, but also adds a layer of muscle fiber to try to keep this from happening again. So as the extra layers build up we see the muscles getting bigger. You have to remember that our bodies have a survival mode they adapt and over come to stay alive. This process of adding extra layers of muscle to existing layers of muscle is one of those situations that the survival mode kicks in to prevent injury.
Nutrition is a big part in the repair of the muscles. One reason is if we do not feed the body atrophy will set in. Most of us think of atrophy being caused by not moving for long periods of time. For example being bed ridden, but there is another kind atrophy and that is from malnutrition. In this instance if we starve the body and there is no food or fat for the body to consume, than the body has to consume muscle to survive. An example of this is a person that suffers from anorexia; they have little muscle lift do to lack of food to feed the muscles. The key macro nutrient to feed the muscle here is protein. How protein works is that it is broke down in our system to amino acids which is what the muscles need for repair. The essential amino acids or branch chain amino acids or BCAA's are the ones that we are interested in, there are two other forms of amino acids that have different functions in the body. The BCAA help to build and repair our muscles. So it only makes sense that if we have micro trauma to the muscles, than the more protein we consume the faster and stronger the muscle repairs. As with anything, there are limits to how much protein to take in per meal. There is not an exact number of grams of protein is too much at this time. I usually figure that if you stay between 30 and 40 grams per meal you will be fine.
The second most important part of muscle growth is rest. If you are moving around and using your muscles how can they repair themselves? The other thing to remember here is that when we are at rest (mainly during sleeping periods) this is when our hormone levels are elevated, such as growth hormone. So of course this is when we are going to have the best chance for muscle gain. It is usually when the protein has a chance to do its best work. Also the longer you sleep the faster the repair. So as you have always heard try to get at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night for the best results.
So this is why I say that muscles are not built in the gym. Yes, we need the gym to tear them down to build them back up, but they are made after the gym when we eat and sleep. As always train smarter not harder.