An effective training stimulus intervenes on two fronts, applying:
- High muscle tensions that recruit all muscle motor units ;
- High contractile tissue stress (high energy demand, hypoxia , lactic acid production , oxidative stress , protein catabolism , etc.).
These conditions, perceived by the body first at a peripheral level and then at a central level, determine an endocrine and biochemical response , which pushes the tissue to restore the condition prior to training and to adapt it to the stimulus immediately.
On the other hand, this can only happen in the presence of energy and ergo substrates : carbohydrates , proteinogenic amino acids and other amino-like factors, some fatty acids, vitamins and minerals . In a word, nutrients .
When Does Muscle Grow?
The muscle grows at any time of the day, although with greater emphasis in the moments of peak anabolic hormones .
The endocrine and biochemical response is mainly due to: insulin , testosterone , GH , IGF-1 and MGF .
We will not dwell on the explanation of the various mechanisms, in order not to burden the reading, and we limit ourselves to specifying that:
- GH or somatotropin or ” growth hormone ” is a hormone that is poorly dependent on modifiable variables; high in development, decreases with age, and acts in close collaboration with IGF-1. It is secreted in slightly higher quantities following training and, normally, more during sleep ;
- IGF -1 or somatomedin insulin-growth factor, in particular its muscle isoform MGF, is a factor strongly influenced by training – even if less sensitive to circadian rhythms and age than GH ;
- testosterone is the male sex hormone, which however increases following strength training ;
- insulin is a hormone that increases after intake of energy macronutrients .
Training properly increases the production of testosterone , GH and IGF-1.
By eating adequately, however, it is possible to exploit the compartmental and anabolic action of insulin – reducing its effect on adipose tissue .
How Much Does Muscle Grow In A Month?
Training , diet and supplementation being equal , muscle growth is influenced by numerous variables :
- gender (males grow more than females)
- age (subjects of developmental age grow more than adults, who grow more than the elderly )
- current muscle level (people with more muscle mass grow more than those with less mass);
- length of training (those who have already gained more muscle mass have a lower margin for improvement than a neophyte);
- metabolic and genetic tendency (in a word, “luck”);
- lifestyle (sleep, stress, etc.).
It is therefore impossible to generalize.
Let’s say that, in the initial conditioning phase , it is not uncommon to see a gain of 100-400 g per month. At the end of the first three months, increases of 2-3 kg of muscle mass can also be appreciated .
It is different for advanced subjects who, only after a high-calorie and high-glycidic diet , are able to observe consistent weight gains; of these, however, a more or less conspicuous part is always attributable to the adipose mass.
The fatter you are in the starting phase, the fatter you will be in the bulking phase. Hypertrophy diets should be started with a maximum body fat of 10-12%.
The protocol can be considered inadequate if the increase in body fat exceeds 1 % of the weight per week – but this is a very “generous” limit.
In theory, therefore, it would be logical to deduce that the slower the growth, the better the quality of the income. This would be true if, on the other hand, by greatly increasing calories and carbohydrates, the body did not progressively experience a worsening of glucose management .
Diets for hypertrophy, in natural subjects, should not be continued beyond 8 weeks.
How To Understand If The Muscle Is Growing?
To understand if the muscle is growing it is necessary to observe the fluctuations in weight and circumference.
In particularly muscular subjects, the use of the BIA has an excessive margin of error.
Instead, it is more logical to evaluate the increase in general mass (kg more) and the thickening of the main fat folds . In men, these are usually in the abdomen and iliac crest; in women however, they are more often located at the level of the thighs and buttocks .
Which Workout To Follow?
The topic is very vast and complex; we will therefore try to summarize the main concepts.
Hypertrophy can be differentiated into myofibrillar ( contractile fibers ) and cytoplasmic (everything else, therefore water, organelles, phosphagen , glycogen , etc.).
- The former increases in response to the maximal strength stimulus – the stronger you get, the “bigger” you get.
- The second increases in response to repeated force stimuli but at sufficiently high intensities – the more resistant you become to the repeated expression of force, the “larger” you become.
The difference is, on balance, the relationship between intensity versus max (%1RM ) and number of repetitions ( REP ) / muscle tension time ( TUT ) – although these last two training parameters are not synonymous.
- To train myofibrillar hypertrophy it is essential to “tendency” train from 85% of 1RM upwards (but even intensities of 70-75% can be useful). No more than 6 reps and low TUTs (often < 20”) will result.
- To train cytoplasmic hypertrophy it is necessary to train in order to deplete muscle phosphagen, part of the glycogen and produce high levels of lactic acid. This will result in reps up to about 12 and much higher TUTs (even 45”).
The two workouts can be alternated , emphasizing the one that offers the greatest results, or “mixed”. Let’s say that the useful range of REP is between 1 and 12, while the TUT from 7” and 45”.
Training density ( recovery amount ) is more important at other times of the year, for example when you want to increase insulin sensitivity by emphasizing the “metabolic” aspect of the workout.
In training for muscle growth, on the other hand, especially when maintaining high levels of intensity, the best recovery is the one that allows us to do as many REPs and TUTs as possible in each series (SET) .
We always remember that the tonnage or volume of training must be suitable , therefore sufficient.
When working on maximal strength, there is a tendency to reduce volume a lot for obvious reasons, with the risk that it becomes insufficient. In this regard, we recommend that you provide a sufficient ” buffer “.
Conversely, when working on higher REP or TUT, the risk is to tire excessively at the metabolic level and limit oneself in overloads . This way, however, the stronger motor units will not be engaged as they should be. Even so, better more recovery and increase the weights .
Regardless of the training principle (buffer, failure, monofrequency, multifrequency, etc.), a training number of SETs corresponds to approximately 12 per week (from 9 to 15 or 18, but it is very subjective).
The exercises to be preferred in stimulating myofibrillar hypertrophy are heavy multi-joint exercises , while cytoplasmic hypertrophy (and muscle quality) can be sought with single-joint “isolation” exercises.
How To Manage Power?
In fact, it is carbohydrates that promote anabolism, while proteins – assuming a mainly anti-catabolic role – can be kept at medium weights (eg 1.6-1.8 g/kg) . To avoid getting excessively dirty, fats should be introduced in contained but possibly reasonable percentages (e.g. 15% of the total calories on a normocaloric diet).
A simple system that anyone can put into practice is the following.
- Establish the normocaloric energy requirement , i.e. the amount of calories that does not make you gain or lose weight ;
- Allocate calories as suggested above;
- Set a caloric increase in steps of 7-10 days, with foods rich in carbohydrates, to the extent of about 25 g of CHO (about 100 kcal ), for at least 8 weeks .
Increase or decrease energy intake based on individual response.
Integration: Is It Important?
The nutritional supplement depends a lot on the composition of the diet.
However, since some supplements such as creatine monohydrate and beta- alanine can offer a direct benefit on muscle mass gain, they can be considered potentially useful.
Moreover, they can determine ergogenic or recovery effects and therefore enhance the results obtainable with training.
Protein powders (and amino acids, of any type) can be very useful as an anti-catabolic agent , but only when taken after training. Conversely, for growth they can only be useful in the case of an unbalanced diet.
The same goes for maltodextrins , which do not support muscle metabolism acutely, but can help ensure sufficient glycemic levels during sessions.
However, it should be specified that the scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of most nutritional supplements is weak or null; each product should be evaluated independently and objectively – without forgetting the importance of individual response.