There are three key ingredients that you need as part of your recipe to successfully build muscle and increase strength.
1. Adequate Training Stimulus.
Without this training stimulus it just won’t happen and if you’re not getting results, the odds are that you – like most people – will stop exercising within the first six months of starting. You need to focus on overloading your muscles in a progressive manner, pushing your muscles to momentary failure with each set of exercise. This happens only after you develop a strong base level of strength. The same hold true if you’re looking to improve aerobic capacity on the cardio side. Try adding in a few days of high-intensity interval training into the mix, using protocols like Tabata (20 seconds of hard work, 10 seconds of recovery x 8 rounds) or a Gibala protocol, 30 seconds of high intensity work followed by four minutes of recovery repeated x 4 rounds. This can be done on a bike, rowing machine, elliptical, sprint work etc.
2. Adequate Recovery and Protein Intake.
This is where many drop the ball. It’s very difficult to get plenty of recovery between workouts while making sure your body is getting the required amount of protein to maximize protein synthesis. See how your body responds to 1 gram of protein/kilogram of body weight and slowly progress to 1 gram of protein/pound of body weight if needed. Here is what that might look like when I plug-in my own body weight:
1 gram/kilogram of body weight (228 lbs/2.2 = 104 kilograms or 104 grams of protein/day).
1 gram/pound of body weight (228 x 1 gram = 228 grams of protein/day).
To make this happens you will probably need to take in 20-30 grams of protein with each meal and snack. A good way to ensure this happens is to drink a whey protein drink especially post workout and before bed.
3. Adequate Sleep.
Another difficult area for many people. Your goal is 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. If not the body’s hormonal system can get out of whack. Hormones like cortisol (known as the stress hormone) can increase with insufficient sleep. Read the following study here and article here. Researcher and author, Charles Poliquin puts it nicely into perspective: “Lack of sleep is like the opposite of strength training.”
All three of these variables are under your control. You can manage this and you can definitely have success with it, you just need to choose to “commit to get fit.”
~ Michael Wood, CSCS, is Chief Fitness Officer at Koko FitClub, driving the development of integrated strength and cardio training and nutrition programs for Koko members nationwide. A nationally acclaimed fitness expert, Michael has conducted research as a Senior Exercise Physiologist at the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology and Sarcopenia Laboratory at the Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, and has lectured at Boston University and the University of Connecticut. He has been named Boston Magazine’s "Best of Boston" Personal Trainer, and made the Men's Journal "Dream Team" list of the nine best trainers in the U.S. Michael and his family live in North Attleboro, MA.