You are here

The Science of Muscle Building

Class lifing weights

Hours in the gym, diet after diet and loads of sweat later you look in the mirror and you’re disappointed because muscles you are trying so hard to get just aren’t coming in. You can’t stand getting on another machine or picking up another dumbbell if you don’t start seeing the results that you want. Sound familiar? Whether you’re a female or a male you can’t deny the fact that we all want strong, toned muscles, but actually getting them is another story. Today we are going to cover the science behind building muscle so that you can learn the steps to building up your own muscle and start seeing results.

According the department of science at the University of Southern California, there are two well-known types of muscle hypertrophy or growth: sarcomere hypertrophy and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Sarcomere hypertrophy allows growth of the muscle and leads to an increase in muscle density, while sarcoplasmic hypertrophy leads to an increase in ATP production, which results in higher energy production and endurance in the muscle. It is important to focus on both types of hypertrophy throughout your strength-building phase of your program. Today we will look more specifically at sarcomere hypertrophy as it leads more to muscle development. Sarcomere hypertrophy can best be achieved by lifting heavy weights with a low number of repetitions.

During weight lifting the muscle fibers are broken down and the plasma membranes of the muscle cells are ruptured. The rupturing of these membranes causes muscles cells near the site of damage to release growth factors in order to repair the broken down cells, which is essentially how muscle is built.

Weight training is step one in promoting muscle protein synthesis, but most people are unclear on what types of movements they should do to actually encourage this synthesis. When you are trying to build muscle, basic compound movements that work several muscle groups at once are important movements to structure your workout plan around.

Compound movements, such as squats, bench press and dead lifts, force a large area of muscle groups to work together, meaning more stress is put on the body per repetition, which leads to a larger volume of muscle cell breakdown, which eventually results in greater gains. When making your strength workout plan it should be comprised of 40-50 percent compound movements and then the rest can be isolation exercises that focus on specific parts of the body.

As we mentioned above resistance training is the first step forward in developing muscle; however, muscle hypertrophy or growth occurs only when muscle protein synthesis is greater than muscle protein breakdown. Weight training can promote muscle synthesis, only if you aren’t overtraining, which will cause breakdown. Also, in the absence of proper food intake the balance of protein synthesis to breakdown remains negative and the amount of muscle protein breakdown exceeds the synthesis that takes place. So what can you do to make the balance positive? FOOD! After you workout your body is in muscle protein building mode for about 24-48 hours so any food that is consumed during this time will have a direct impact on muscle growth.

The two things that you want to fuel your bodies with immediately after your workout are amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein and an adequate amount of carbohydrates to restore your glycogen levels that were depleted during your workout. These nutrients could come in the form of a protein shake, a small meal consisting of a lean protein and vegetables, peanut butter on a banana with some nuts or any other combination of protein and carbs. The Journal of Sports Science says that the amount of protein needed to stimulate muscle recovery after a workout is around 5-10 grams of amino acids or 20-40 kcal of protein. Overall, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that strength-training athletes should intake anywhere from 1.4-1.7 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This amount will vary depending on the individual and the amount of training that they are doing but regardless it is important to incorporate a proper diet into your muscle building plans so you can refuel what has been depleted.

Because glucose is the preferred energy source for most exercise, prior to working out you should consume a meal high in easily digestible carbohydrates.

You want your body to have enough energy stores to get you through a tough workout with better endurance and less fatigue. You will also want to incorporate some form of a slow-digesting protein, such as meat or casein, into your pre-workout routine. This slow-digesting protein will deliver the essential amino acids that your body needs all throughout and after your workout to enhance muscle protein synthesis. Your pre-and post-workout meals are key in getting optimal results in the gym along with enhanced growth and recovery.

So there you have it. The basic science behind building those muscles that you ever so desire. Now grab a dumbbell in one hand and a chicken leg in the other and you’ll be well on your way to reaching those goals.