Working with adolescents all day, let’s just say there are common themes I encounter.  A recurring sentiment of both the prepubescent and adult male population is the yearning to add muscle mass.  I want to address this topic from a number of angles.  It is important to understand all factors related to gaining muscle mass, also known as hypertrophy and/or protein synthesis.

It is necessary to understand that hypertrophy, like other factors you train for, has a specific training regimen in order to produce the desired effect.  Without delving too far into exercise physiology, key components of a hypertrophy program are high frequency (5+ times per week), high intensity (70-85% of 1RM), high volume (30-40 sets per day), and most importantly a short rest interval (no more than 60 seconds).   These stimuli will result in hormonal responses necessary for you to add mass.

But that’s not all.  Let’s recall the law of conservation of mass.  It states that mass can neither be created nor destroyed, only transferred.  Application of this theory to the situation at hand implies that one must supply the body with energy in order to add mass.  In other words, you must eat in excess of your caloric expenditure to give your body a chance to gain muscle.  Your diet must both account for the calories burned from your exercise and a surplus which will go towards adding mass.  A healthy portion of protein is a must.  Be sure to vary your sources of protein.  A few helpful tips are to include lean meats (turkey and chicken) and to shy away from the saturated fats (red meats).  One of the best options for healthy protein is fish, which is high in omega 3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, and trout).

The final aspect of protein synthesis is the waiting game.  This applies not only to the rest necessary but also the time before results become evident.  I must inform you of these two aspects or you will be hard pressed in your pursuit of muscle.  It is imperative to know that muscle grows during rest.  It is the time between workouts, and not the workouts themselves, that help to build muscle.  During exercise, you are actually causing muscular stress and damage. Sound nutrition and rest will help the muscle grow.  Secondly, protein synthesis is a long process.  It can take up to a month before noticeably gains in muscle mass are seen.  Don’t get down on yourself if results aren’t immediate.  Gaining muscle mass is about dedication and hard work, instant results aren’t promised.

As an exercise physiologist and certified personal trainer, I have helped to uncover some of the secrets behind hypertrophy.  It is outside of my scope of practice to give a nutritional plan, but the topics I discussed will put you on the path to gaining lean mass.  Remember to follow the exercise guidelines, supply your body with the necessary energy, and then watch for your body to show positive effects.