Muscle Mass Gain Fundamentals

By Jake Biggs, Nutrition Longevity

The science of muscle mass gain… So much information, misinformation, ambiguity, confusion and more! I am here to break it down for you in a simple, easy to understand, evidence based manner. Key points in no particular order!

1. Resistance training: In order for the muscle to grow, we need to give it the ‘stimulus’ to grow and this way is, resistance training. The gold standard is weight training as this directly places the direct mechanisms that contribute to muscle growth which are cell swelling, mechanical tension, mechanical trauma and metabolic stress.

2. Caloric surplus: In order to build new muscle tissue, we need a SURPLUS amount of calories to provide the raw materials for the body to accrue new muscle tissue. This means that you need to consume above your maintenance calories (calories to maintain your body mass). As a rule of thumb, this is approximately 250-500 calories additional daily calories.

3. Protein: Protein in the Greek language is ‘Proterious’ which means of first importance! Of all the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, dietary fat, dietary fibre and water), protein is king. Protein is found in every human cell. Muscles are composed of approximately 80% protein, so we must feed it. For optimising body composition, anecdotal evidence suggests consuming 2.5-3.5g/kg of lean body mass.

4. Sleep: Sleep is one of the key missing links in muscle mass accretion (gain). Without adequate sleep (7-9 hours daily), one’s ability to put on muscle is severely limited as this is primarily when your body recharges, replenishes and grows! This is due to several reasons which include human growth hormone (HGH - key hormone in building/repairing muscle tissue), approximately 80% is secreted during early sleep, so when sleep is impaired, our HGH secretion is compromised. Adequate sleep enhances protein synthesis (protein turnover), so if sleep is insufficient, one’s ability to build new muscle is further limited.

5. Micronutrient nutritional profile: We have discussed above the importance of calories for muscle mass gain but another overlooked key component is one’s micronutrient (vitamin and minerals) nutritional ingestion. The list is long (33 vitamins/minerals), but no need to feel overwhelmed as a whole foods diet will meet these requirements. All physiological processes in the human body require adequate micronutrients, so if we are not meeting our recommended daily requirements for all of these, it means that…our ability to build muscle mass is impaired. Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council sets out for all these vitamins/minerals the recommended daily intake that you require!

6. Water: Our body is approximately made up of 70% water and it is a key macronutrient for optimising body composition (muscle mass gain). If you are dehydrated, muscle protein synthesis (protein turnover) is substantially decreased and protein breakdown is substantially increased. As a rule of thumb, minimum 2L of water daily; however it is recommended for every hour of exercise to consume an additional 500ml for every hour of exercise for adequate hydration.

7. Dietary Fibre: Did you know how essential our digestion is for muscle mass gain? Many people do not! If our digestive system is not optimal, our ability to absorb our food (vitamins, minerals and calories) are severely limited. Dietary fibre is key to bowel health and ensuring regularly formed daily bowel movements. Dietary fibre is a non-digestive carbohydrate found in plant based foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains & seeds) and a rule of thumb is aiming for approximately 30g daily.

There you have it! We can delve deeper next time into the XYZ’s (advanced) of maximising muscle mass growth, but there is no point looking at this if your not getting the ABC’s (basics). Nail these 7 points and your well on your way to a new muscular self 😊