Many young adults and teenagers want to build up and strengthen their muscles and at the same time lose excess fat. Others, on the other hand, need to gain more weight to add bulk to their muscles. While working out and exercising is usually not a problem for active teenagers and young adults, skinny individuals often have difficulty gaining muscle because their nutrition does not balance their bodies' needs to support both muscle growth and muscle activity.
Eating More for Muscle Growth
To gain muscle, it is important to get enough calories for both growth and performance. Active, growing teenagers need at least 3,000 calories each day to support growth. Here are some tips on how to consume more nutrients and calories:
- Eat breakfast daily. Your breakfast must include plenty of carbohydrates from foods like whole-grain bread, cereals, fruits, vegetables and milk. Your body needs carbs to burn for fuel while saving the proteins you eat for building muscle.
- Eat snacks, but choose nutritious foods and avoid junk foods.
- Feed your hungry muscles after work-outs. A muscle-building hormone called insulin makes your muscles absorb sugar, proteins, and other nutrients to make them bigger and stronger. Some healthy food options include turkey sandwich, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, trail mix, protein bars, and yogurt smoothies.
- Eat more meat, which means aiming for about one gram of protein per pound of your body weight. Good protein sources include chicken breast, cottage cheese, roast-beef sandwich, eggs, milk, and peanuts. The rest of your daily calories must come from carbohydrates and fats.
- Supplement your diet with milk shakes that contain carbohydrates and amino acids to boost protein synthesis. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Although you can get essential amino acids from other food sources such as turkey or meat, liquid meals are more easily absorbed by the body. Experts recommend taking these shakes about 30 to 60 minutes before workouts.
Increasing Muscle Fitness
To augment muscle growth and boost muscle strength, do resistance training exercises. Using repeated stress on a muscle against a resistance, such as weight-lifting increases muscle fitness and bulk. Resistance-training programs to promote muscle fitness include:
- Basic exercises to condition the muscles, such as push-ups, pull-ups, leg lifts, squats, and other common exercises.
- Resistance training using stretchable bands or rubber tubing.
- Weight training using dumbbells or weight-training equipment.
- Doing yard work and heavy housework regularly, such as pulling weeds, tilling the garden, scrubbing your bathtub, or washing walls.
Having big and strong muscles do not only give you a great physical appearance, but it can boost your self-confidence and improve your physical fitness. It helps improve your weight, posture, and balance, while reducing stress, body aches, and blood sugar levels. However, there are some precautions you must observe in trying to gain more muscle. These include:
- Consulting a doctor or a qualified trainer before starting a diet or exercise regimen for muscle building.
- Avoid taking hormone supplements such as steroids or testosterone.
- Avoid overtraining, which can lead to injury. Be sure to rest your muscles between work-outs.
- Avoid taking too much protein (more than 35% of your total calories), which can harm your kidneys.
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