Recovery is an often overlooked aspect of training. My clients have often found it easier to bench press and deadlift increasingly heavy weights, than to heed my advice and recover properly. Finding time for rest and recovery might be difficult but if you’re serious about building muscle you will have to get some sleep, maintain proper nutrition and avoid overdoing the training.
Regular sleep and muscle building
The old trainer’s adage goes: muscles are not built in the gym – they are built when you sleep. When you work out, you are actually damaging muscle tissue. You get stronger, and build muscle, when your body rebuilds and repairs itself during recovery. And your body performs this sort of maintenance and construction work mainly during sleep. Research shows that the body’s restorative functions work at their peak during sleep. This includes levels of hormones such as testosterone and human growth hormone that are going to drive your muscle gains.
If you’re training several times a week, I would advise you get between 8-9 hours of sleep daily. Less than that could hinder your muscle building and your strength and size gains. The next time someone makes a face when you rise a bit late, just tell them you were busy building muscle.
Beware of Overtraining
Enthusiasm is great and strictly adhering to your workout programme is crucial, but overzealous training will do you no good. As I’ve already mentioned, your muscles need time to recover. If you’re train too frequently you are not giving your muscles a chance to properly rebuild and you will not see optimal results.
As a rule of thumb, you should wait 48 hours before working out the same muscle twice. If you can’t do without your fitness fix, use these off days to train other groups of muscles or do different types of training. If on Sunday you did a whole body strength workout, do cardio on Monday. But there’s also no harm in just taking a day off from the gym every now and again, especially if you’re new to training.
Remember: Building muscle takes patience.
As I’ve written in my article Nutrition guidelines for building muscle, the food you eat plays a major role in the repair and building of muscle. Strength training requires you consume plenty of calories and plenty of protein. The calories should come from whole carbohydrate sources (bread, pasta, rice, etc.) while the protein (found in fish, paltry, meat, supplements) are the building blocks of your new muscle. An adequate diet will ensure your body has the nutriments it needs to successfully repair your muscle and make you bigger and stronger.
Check out that link for a more in-depth look at the 3 important components of strength training nutrition.
Adjust your Lifestyle
Occasionally clients tell me that they are just too busy to accommodate rest properly. You may feel the same way. My advice to you: find the time. You are strength training because you want to get bigger and stronger and build muscle. Don’t undermine that by not resting properly and giving your body time to recover. It’s all a matter of priorities so make this a priority. When rest is a priority, you will find the time.
Try it: it’s good for you.