How To Build Muscle Naturally

When it comes to the question of “how do I build muscle naturally?”, you’re going to have to tick off every box. By this, I mean you’ll have to get your sleep, stress management, food quantity,food quality, hydration, supplementation and nutrient timing on point. By leaving out any of the necessities stated above, you’ll only hinder any long-term growth and overall health.

Find out exactly how many calories you require. This is obviously step number one, because if you don’t follow some sort of nutrition regime, you either won’t build muscle naturally or you’ll just keep gaining fat. Now, if you’re well over 10-12% body fat, we’d advocate a calorie deficit for the first three months or so, as getting leaner will make adding lean tissue a lot easier. By getting lean first, you’ll optimise your hormone output, which in turn will allow the calories you’re eating to be utilised properly.

Now onto a few extra tips that might help you to build muscle naturally.

#1 What & When To Eat

A lot of supplements are a complete waste of money. You don’t need the majority of them. We do, however, advocate the essentials – such as Vitamin D3, Vitamin K2, Omega 3 (3-5g), Magnesium, Zinc, Electrolytes, Sea Kelp (Iodine), Powdered Based Proteins (Whey Isolate, Beef Isolate, Collagen), Creatine Monohydrate, Beta Alanine and a Multivitamin. Food isn’t what it once was in terms of nutrient density. Soil quality has dropped significantly making the quality of what we eat not optimal, making supplementation nearly essential.

#2 Eat Nutrient Dense Food

The second thing you need to do is to eat nutrient dense food. I see men constantly necking supplements thinking it’ll allow them to put on muscle fast – supplements are about 1% of the formula. You need to eat proper food! I am talking about organ meats (such as liver), shellfish (oysters are phenomenally nutrient dense) and single ingredient whole foods. Necking pizzas every second night won’t help you to put on muscle. You may think you can get away with it because you train hard, but if you want to add lean mass, you need to eat quality food.

Find out how many calories you require every day (either from hiring a coach or use an online calculator for a rough estimate) and eat AS PER THESE MACROS consistently. Training is all well and good, but isn’t worth much without the correct amount of fat, carbohydrates and protein. At Optimum Performance Personal Training Stillorgan, we place a lot of emphasis on great food – heading to the gym is only half the battle.

#3 Sleep & Hydration

Sleep and hydration – two major components of building muscle naturally that are extensively overlooked. If you are trying to put on muscle naturally, sleeping is probably the most important factor. If you’re not recovering, you’re not going to grow! We advocate sleeping in a pitch-black room to get into a deep sleep, while supplementing with around 400mg of magnesium before bed. Magnesium will aid you in falling asleep quickly. If you are on your phone or laptop in the hours leading up to bed (as we all are), download an app called Twilight (Android & Windows users), or F.lux (Apple Users). Research in recent years has suggested that exposure to the blue light emitted from phone/laptop screens before bed may distort your natural circadian rythym and cause an inability to fall asleep, such that you can lose at least an hour of sleep every night. By using these apps in the hours before bed, you will find that you will fall asleep earlier and better, as your natural melatonin production will be uninterrupted. Recovery is absolutely essential in order to build muscle naturally, so do not underestimate its importance.

Hydration, on the other hand is probably even more neglected. Most people head straight to the gym dumping pre-workout supplements into their body without even considering hydration. Hydration is required for overall health and helps detox the body. The healthier you are, the easier you’ll build muscle naturally. It’s quite simple. You also wouldn’t walk onto a pitch dehydrated  – you shouldn’t do the same walking into the gym. You should drink at least half a litre an hour before training to avoid dehydration and to ensure your body is getting enough fluids. Don’t underestimate the importance of proper hydration.

#4 The Basics of Lifting

If you are new to the gym, you should NOT jump straight into complicated movements and exercises you’ve never tried before. The basics must be done first. To build muscle naturally, a first time trainer needs to focus on multi-joint compound barbell exercises for some months.

The basic exercises are: Barbell Squat, Barbell Bench Press, Standing Barbell Overhead Press, Deadlift, Bent Over Rows, Barbell Curls, Pull-ups and Dips.

The first 1-2 months in the gym should be used to learn and perfect proper technique of the basic exercises before even attempting to move on to anything more complicated. The good news is that you can build a great physique just by utilising these basic movements and a beginner will be capable of building muscle naturally quite easily with a structured nutritional plan.

That being said, please try not to get your training programs from the internet. They are generic and may not suit your body type, abilities and goals. Your best bet is to get your own coach to tailor training AND nutrition to you as an individual. You would be surprised how customised a plan really needs to be in order to see quality results. And the best thing is, you only need to have your own coach for a matter of months before you are educated enough to do it alone.

#5 Habits & Consistency

If you want to build muscle naturally, you absolutely need to make training and eating as habitual as taking a shower or brushing your teeth. Most people have no idea the level of dedication and consistency required in order to grow. You cannot and will not see any changes if you join a gym 3 weeks before your holiday. I cannot stress this enough – fat loss and muscle gain are slow processes that require a habitual mindset. You will make mistakes, that’s a given for everybody, but it is better to conduct almost-perfect training/eating habits 80% of the time, than to be perfect only 50% of the time. You should view your training and nutrition in weekly blocks – not daily – so that you should only be happy with your progress if you have been consistent for the last 7 days, and the next 7 days, and the 7 days after that. Eating and training perfectly today does not give you a pass to ease off it tomorrow. If you fail two days of the week, that means 35% of potential progress is lost. Consistency is king.

#6 Realistic Time Frames

If it’s your first year of training, you’re relatively lean, and your nutrition/nutrient timing/sleep/supplements/hydration are on point, you can put anywhere up to 20-25lbs of lean tissue on your frame. The bad news is that the longer you’ve been training, the slower the results. So if you’ve been training unassisted for over 4-5 years, you should expect 2-3lbs of lean mass each year. These statistics are for the people who have been looking after every other factor listed above. So you can see that if you are relatively new to the gym (<2 years) you can build muscle naturally and add quite a lot to your physique – IF you are consistent with everything else.

If you just focus on being 1% better each time you train, eat and sleep, and you will reap the benefits in the long run.