So you're determined to make this year "The year" that you're finally going to dedicate yourself 110% to building significant muscle mass by unconditionally sticking to your gym and diet plan?
If so: you can be sure that by the end of the year (or well before then) you are going to have a body that's so distinctly different to what you see in the mirror today that you'll hardly recognize yourself. But that will be a good thing!
Knowing the crucial principals and actions required to build muscle mass - and implementing them - is the only thing standing between the body you have now and the body you know you want.
There are three core aspects to building muscle:
Training is probably the first area you think about when you have a goal to put on muscle. And for a good reason: slacking off at the gym or not having a workout plan is not going to do your results any favors.
But before you make a plan, make sure you understand the basic mechanics of how and why muscles grow, so you can use that knowledge to formulate a killer workout program that will deliver maximum results without wasting time.
Then there's all-important nutrition: your fuel.
Rubbish in, rubbish out is the old saying, and it couldn't be more accurate for someone wanting to both cut down on body fat and gain incredible muscle.
Taking the time to plan and research what you're eating, when and how often is going to ensure you're not consuming calories you don't need, and that you're giving your muscles the fuel needed to grow fast.
Finally, being aware of the quantity and quality of food you're eating eliminates the risk of losing muscle by not feeding your body what it needs to remain in an anabolic state.
Not to be forgotten, of course, is the world of bodybuilding supplements.
If you choose to take just one, or if you're planning on using hardcore stacks being able to wade through the marketing claims amongst the thousands of products out there will save you time and money.
Most importantly it will ensure that you're not reducing the positive effects of your training and nutrition by using poor quality or ineffective muscle building supplements.
Training / Workouts
You only get out what you put in: and when it comes to your training, this is the golden rule.
Want to gain muscle? Then be prepared to work for it.
Growing your muscle is all about activating the process of muscle hypertrophy.
What is Hypertrophy?
Hypertrophy is complex, yet simple to understand at a basic level: it means the growth or enlargement of tissue. In your case, you want to force your muscles to undergo hypertrophy on a regular basis.
Hypertrophy or muscle growth happens when your muscle tissue is damaged after being pushed to fatigue during intense resistance training.
This damage to the muscle fibers, essentially tiny tears, tells the muscles that they need to repair and adapt to this new load being put on them: and this is when your muscle grows every so slightly every time you workout (provided you're providing the right fuel with your nutrition, and allow your muscles ample recovery time).
Sounds simple enough, right?
It is: in theory. But the extent of your results will depend on several factors with your training: how often you work out, how well you target the specific muscle groups you want to grow, and how successful you are at helping your muscles recover post-workout.
It's too easy to make the mistake of over-working the muscles in your haste to get big, fast. However this is a recipe for failure, and while every person is different, the most common recommendation is to work out each muscle group no more than three times per week.
Then there's the issue of how heavy you should be lifting.
You might be surprised to learn that, despite what you see in the gym, science says that muscle hypertrophy can occur with both light or heavy weights: as long as you're pushing your muscles to fatigue, lean muscle tissue growth can and will happen.
Gain Muscle Without Lifting Weights
Perhaps you don't have access to a gym, or you want to do some workouts when you're away from home. Studies have shown that it is possible to gain muscle without weights, by using your body weight.
You're unlikely to achieve the same results as you can with real weights, having body weight exercises as another option can be considered another weapon in your muscle growth knowledge arsenal.
Your training regime is going make or break your success with building muscle mass: but once you know the core principals of how and why muscles grow, you're already a step ahead of other guys who hit the gym without a plan and without knowing what's going on in their body.
Nutrition / Foods
You can have the perfect workout and training regime, but if you're not getting the right nutrition to fuel your muscle growth, then you're wasting your time.
What you eat each day is going to determine the results you can achieve from your workouts: it's that simple.
The protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you give your body through food is something that should not just be decided on a whim but carefully planned regarding what to eat and how much to eat every day.
Good basic knowledge of the fundamental aspects of nutrition for muscle growth will pay off in your results.
Thinking about your nutrition for building muscle can be daunting though. Where do you start?
Protein is what you most likely think about first - and with good reason.
Without protein, there would be no muscle gains. So protein needs to be an essential component of every meal - however, eating protein to excess has no benefit to your results, and can even lead to health problems.
There are of course hundreds of food options available to you that contain protein. Unless you have your chef, you're likely to want to select a few best choices and make them staple parts of your meal planning.
Being aware of high-quality protein-rich foods that you can include in your meals will take care of a large chunk of this planning as you soon come up with meal ideas that contain portions of proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
Some of the best protein-rich options include oily fish like salmon and tuna, lean white meats including chicken and turkey, eggs, and plant-based foods like nuts and seeds.
While it is possible to consume all the protein you need with a plant-based diet, it requires combining multiple vegetarian protein sources, so you are taking a complete protein that contains all of the essential amino acids.
Unlike meat sources which are a total protein, most plant-based protein sources are lacking in or more of these essential amino acids.
Carbohydrates are also critical for your muscle growth.
But keep away from simple carbs like processed foods and white grains - instead, your dietary carbohydrate component should consist of complex carbohydrates which are found in whole grains and vegetables.
Once you've got a solid nutritional and training plan, it's time to think about supplements.
They aren't called supplements for no reason, yet it's all too easy to make the mistake of thinking you can rely on one or more supplements as dietary replacements.
Supplements are designed to build upon your nutrition and training and using them in that way is what will yield the best results.
If you've spent any more than minute researching supplements, you'd quickly see just how many there are to choose from.
Different types of supplements with various benefits and goals means that you need to look carefully at your purposes, and how a supplement can contribute.
Protein supplements are a staple option for most guys wanting to bulk up.
These give you a big hit of pure, high-quality protein that your body can quickly start using for muscle recovery and growth. They're made to be absorbed rapidly and are often taken after a workout.
Other types of supplements that you might consider if you're deadly serious about getting massive results are:
Steroid alternatives are powerful products that will only benefit you if you're doing regular intensive training and want maximum muscle growth.
Many of these are designed as natural and legal alternatives to potent anabolic steroids, but you'll need to choose the right brands and products to avoid disappointment; because not all supplements are created equally.
If you're low on testosterone, this is going to negatively impact not only on your health as a man but your attempts at muscle growth.
Low testosterone can also lead you to gain and store more fat, making it harder to get a cut physique.
Testosterone supplements are designed both for guys who know they have low T levels and want to reverse it (remember: your testosterone naturally starts to decline from age 30 onwards), and for those who want to experience the benefit of increasing testosterone production beyond their current level to help achieve more hardcore muscle gains.
Growth Hormone Supplements
Indeed one of the most potent categories of supplements is that of HGH or human growth hormone.
HGH supplements are designed to mimic the effects of potentially dangerous (and generally illegal) synthetic HGH.
Advances in research when it comes to natural ingredients has led to you now have a glut of options in the world of natural muscle building supplements.
This gives you plenty of choices, but also means you have to sift through the dirt to find the gems.
So make sure you check out my comprehensive guide to muscle building supplements which will potentially save you considerable time in researching which of these products are the cream of the crop - I've chosen the top supplements in each of the three main categories.
These are supplements that have the scientific backing of the effectiveness of their ingredients and a positive reputation amongst guys like you who are seeing results.
Training, nutrition, supplements: the golden triangle for building muscle mass.
Focusing on each of these areas individually is vitally important.
The real power of strength training and muscle gain is in successfully working with all three synonymously - getting the right balance between the food you eat and the supplements you take, for your body type and goals, means that nothing goes to waste during your workouts and during the all-important recovery phase, when your muscle tissue physically grows.
After reading my comprehensive guides, you'll have the confidence that you know exactly what you need to do to achieve the muscle gains you want - and to see your results happening as fast as possible.