As the summer months creep near and beach weather settles in, you may start wanting to put on muscle mass as quickly as possible. Before trying to gain 30 pounds in three months, make sure you have a realistic plan. Follow the tips below to safely build strength and increase your body weight.
Gaining 30 pounds of lean mass requires a well-rounded diet and consistent training. Get optimal amounts of protein, carbs and fats in your diet, keep your workouts varied and create an energy surplus to build mass and strength.
Building Muscle Mass Takes Time
When it comes right down to it, if it was easy to gain 30 pounds in three months, everyone would be doing it. Putting on muscle mass takes time, dedication and hard work. A lack of patience during this process can doom you to failure from the very beginning and may even put your health at risk.
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According to the American Council on Exercise, the actual rate at which someone gains lean muscle is quite slow. Depending on the person, the average individual can put on between a half a pound and 2 pounds of muscle mass per month. Keeping this rate in mind, it would take a normal individual 15 to 60 months to gain 30 pounds of muscle.
Several different factors play a role in determining how quickly you notice muscle and strength gains. Some of these elements are beyond your control. For example, a person's gender, her hormonal and genetic makeup and the age at which she started to work out all influence the rate at which they can build lean mass.
Other factors are not so set in stone. As the American Council on Exercise reports, your caloric intake and macronutrient ratios play a huge role in how successful you will be when working out. The three macronutrients in your diet are carbs, proteins and fats. Manipulating your macros can lead to faster gains.
The methods you use while exercising matter too. Keeping an appropriate training load, frequency and duration can be quite important when looking to gain muscle. Taking a closer look at the factors you can control can help you in your journey to build mass.
Watch Your Diet
Long before you lift your first pound of weight, what you place in your mouth each day influences how quickly you can put on lean muscle mass. While it is unrealistic to think you're going to put on 30 pounds in three months, a proper diet can accelerate this process.
One of the most important nutrients to incorporate into your daily eating plan is protein. This nutrient plays a key role in muscle growth and repair. When you activate a muscle group by lifting weights, tiny micro-tears occur in the targeted area. Protein helps repair those tears and build new tissue, which in turn leads to hypertrophy, or an increase in muscle size.
You cannot safely gain 30 pounds in three months. However, modifying your diet and exercise regimen may accelerate this process.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people looking to gain muscle should ensure that 10 to 35 percent of their calories come from protein. To do this, it's important to incorporate this macronutrient into most of your meals.
For example, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter can be spread on toast in the morning for an extra 8 grams of protein. A half-cup of low-fat cottage cheese is another breakfast option, one that provides 14 grams of protein.
For lunch, try making a salad with a hard-boiled egg (6 grams of protein) and 3 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken (26 grams of protein). To finish off the day, a dinner that incorporates 3 ounces of lean ground beef or grilled salmon can help complete your nutritional intake, clocking in at 22 grams and 21 grams of protein, respectively.
Don’t Ignore Carbs and Fats
Protein is just one of the many nutrients required for building muscle mass. Consuming appropriate amounts of healthy carbohydrates and fats is just as important.
Carbohydrates from natural sources like fruits and whole-grain bread or unrefined cereals help fuel your muscles as you complete your workouts. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that people who are strength training should take in about half of their calories from healthy carbs while avoiding processed and refined carbohydrates.
Furthermore, eating optimal amounts of fat is a must. The body's fat stores are broken down to provide your muscles with the energy needed to make it through a challenging workout.
For best results, make sure that 20 to 35 percent of your daily energy intake comes from heart-healthy fats, recommends the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. These are found in nuts, avocados, salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout and other whole foods. Preparing your meals in extra-virgin olive oil is another easy way to incorporate this macronutrient into your diet.
Fine Tune Your Workouts
Once you have perfected what you eat, it's time to turn your attention to your workout regimen. Fine-tuning every aspect of your routine can help speed up the rate at which you gain lean mass. The first element to adjust is how frequently you lift weights. Contrary to what you may believe, more isn't always better.
According to an April 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis published in Sports Medicine, each muscle group should be trained twice per week to maximize hypertrophy. Researchers were not able to establish any benefit to working an area more frequently.
In addition to workout frequency, the load and rep scheme you utilize is also critical. To find the proper load, it is first necessary to estimate your one-rep max (1RM). This is essentially the maximum amount of weight with which you can perform one repetition of a given exercise.
Once you have estimated this load, the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) recommends lifting weights that are 75 to 85 percent of your 1RM. For example, if you can perform one (but not two or three) biceps curls with a 45-pound weight, then you should be using a 35- to 40-pound dumbbell while doing this exercise.
The number of reps performed is also quite important. The guidelines put out by the NASM suggest completing three to five sets of six to 12 repetitions for each exercise. They also recommend performing different exercises targeting the same muscle group during each session.
While this plan won't help you gain 30 pounds in three months, using these specific workout parameters is necessary if you want to maximize your gains.
Be Smart About Supplements
It doesn't take more than a glance on the internet or through the pages of a bodybuilding magazine to see how many different muscle-building supplements are available. While these products and the accompanying pictures could make you think you can gain 30 pounds in three months, it's important to take a step back and exercise some caution. Many of these products can have negative effects on your health.
Many of the most commonly-advertised muscle building products contain creatine. According to the Mayo Clinic, this substance is a synthetic version of an amino acid that your body stores in the muscles. Taking this product may help improve an athlete's ability to perform short bursts of muscle activation, like those that are necessary when lifting weights.
However, creatine is not without its risks. The Mayo Clinic notes that people with kidney conditions or diabetes, as well as those who are at risk of developing kidney disease, should not take this supplement as it may worsen their symptoms. Additionally, taking high doses of creatine may damage the liver or heart over time.
Steer Clear of Anabolic Steroids
Anabolic steroids are popular too, especially in the bodybuilding community. These substances, which are essentially man-made versions of the hormone testosterone, are frequently taken by bodybuilders looking to put on mass and get stronger. Unfortunately, they carry serious side effects.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, incorrect use of anabolic steroids can lead to significant mental health issues. These include paranoia, jealousy, significant irritability or aggression (also known as "roid rage"), mania, delusions and impaired judgment. Furthermore, long-term steroid use may cause physical issues like kidney failure, liver damage, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and an increased risk of strokes, heart attacks or blood clots.
Lastly, there are several gender-specific steroid side effects. In men, these include shrinking testicles, decreased sperm count, baldness, the development of breasts and an increased risk of prostate cancer. On the flip side, women taking this supplement may experience increased body hair growth, male pattern baldness, changes in their menstrual cycle and a deepened voice.
Is Whey Protein Safe?
Another supplement you should use with caution is whey protein. Many gym-goers looking to increase the amount of protein they consume mix this powdered supplement with water to make a pre- or post-workout shake. While the Mayo Clinic states that whey protein is generally safe when using it as directed, it is not completely harmless.
Consuming large doses of whey protein may cause gastrointestinal discomfort. The product can also interact with certain prescription medications. Albendazole (a parasite-killing drug), Alendronate (used to treat osteoporosis) and certain antibiotics are just a few examples. Also, remember that protein shakes are not calorie-free. If you use them in excess, you may end up gaining fat, not lean mass.
With any supplement, the best course of action is to speak to your doctor or nutritionist before adding them to your diet. These professionals can provide you with guidance on the best products to take (if any), and may also caution you against using those that may negatively impact your health.
- American Council on Exercise: “How Muscle Grows”
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “4 Keys to Strength Building and Muscle Mass”
- Sports Medicine: “Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”
- National Academy of Sports Medicine: “Back to Basics: Hypertrophy”
- Mayo Clinic: “Creatine”
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: “What are Anabolic Steroids?”
- Mayo Clinic: “Whey Protein”