The Science Behind Building Muscle


Muscle growth refers to the development of mass, density, capacity, shape, and function of muscle cells. The resulting effect enables the muscle to meet function/exercise induced stress. After working out, your body automatically replaces or repairs damaged muscle fibers; it does so by fusing together muscle fibers thus forming new protein strands. The repaired cells increase in size and number leading to muscle growth. So, what works when building muscles? Based on scientific studies, there are three crucial building blocks; weightlifting, nutrition and rests and recovery. Note that so long as muscle protein production exceeds that of muscle protein breakdown, growth and development occurs. Below is an elaborate explanation of how the three contribute to significant muscle growth complete with reference to various scientific research studies.

The Mechanisms That Make Muscles Grow

#1. Muscle Tension (Weightlifting)

To experience muscle growth, you need to apply an amount of tension that exceeds what your muscles previously adapted to. So, aim to progressively lift heavier weights as you work out. The extra tension on your body changes the chemistry of your muscles, paving way for growth factors that include satellite cell activation. Intense training damages muscles and your body remodels the same to prevent further injury leading to muscle growth and developments. True to this fact a scientific study, dubbed The Best Way to Train for Growth ( established that PRE (Progressive Resistance Training) which involves increasing the load on a weekly basis is the best way to realize meaningful muscle growth.

What happens at a cellular level?

In a matter of hours after suffering muscle injury, white blood cells responsible for decreasing inflammation (called macrophages and neutrophils) infiltrate the injured muscles. Tiny, cell-signaling proteins are then released. The proteins attract white blood cells together with satellite cells, which quickly engage and infiltrate the injured muscle. These cells regulate gene expression. So when tissue damage occurs, satellite cells multiply and differentiate into fully grown cells and fuse to existing fibers. Consequently, they transform into new muscle protein fibers. It is at this point that you experience muscle growth.

In the subsequent days after satellite cells heal damaged muscles, a residual pool of ordinarily dormant cells flood the injured fibers. To perform their muscle building function the cells must join the cell cycle and follow the molecular pathways that culminate in muscle building. A trip through the cycle takes approximately 16 hours. Signaling pathways eventually influence the activation and utilization of satellite cells, enabling them to produce larger, shapelier and stronger muscles.

The Role of Hormones

Other than the type and intensity of the workout, hormones influence muscle growth. So, how fast you increase muscle depend on hormones such as Insulin Growth factor-1 and MGF ( Mecho-Growth Factor) which influence nutrient allocations in your body. Testosterone, the most widely known, is the hormone that promotes protein synthesis, prevents protein breakdown, triggers satellite cells and the release of other anabolic hormones. Strength training helps release more testosterone besides making the receptors of muscle cells a lot more sensitive to free testosterone. The hormone, in turn, increases the presence of neurotransmitters at the injured fiber spot, stimulating growth hormone responses.

#2. Nutrition

In your quest to build muscles, nothing beats a sound balanced diet. Nutrition is as important to bodybuilding as materials are important when building a house. So, to gain mass while exercising, eat enough calories for your body requires for energy, repair, and other roles. However, since knowing the exact amount that your body for these purposes can be challenging, experts recommend making a conscious effort to eat slightly more than the amount you feel you need for your muscle to grow. Enough food also creates an anabolic environment in your body so that when you train your muscles can grow as fast as possible.


In a new research entitled The Latest Science on Muscle Building, published in Men’s Fitness, a healthy active adult needs a lot more proteins than previous studies recommend (about .6 grams daily per pound of body weight as opposed to the previous value of .4 g). When working out, you require even more. Timing is also important because our bodies can’t store proteins; replenishing the same regularly allows it to play its role in building and preserving muscles. You need about 2,800 calories to build one pound of muscle, a larger fraction of which supports protein turnover mostly elevated with training. Contractile proteins and fluids in muscle fibers undergo metabolism and rebuilding after every 7 to 15 days. Training changes substantially the turnover by influencing the nature and amount of proteins that will be produced. Naturally, muscles react to the demands that your exercising puts on them.


Like proteins, adequate carbohydrate intake goes a long way in helping you get your desired muscle building results. Insufficient carbs impair strength training while consuming enough of it before training reduces glycogen depletion and as such enhances performance. A study that was published in 2014 on recommends that carbs intakes for bodybuilding particularly those in contest preparation be between 4 and 7 g per kg depending on the stage of training. So, in as much as low carb, high protein diets can appear effective in body fat loss, there is a threshold below which further reduction adversely affects performance. Supporting this finding, researchers who were studying bodybuilders on the final eleven weeks of competition preparation made the conclusion that had the contestants increased carbohydrates in their diets they could have mitigated hormonal and metabolic adaptations associated reduced LBM (lean body mass)


Water intake is another overlooked aspect of muscle building. The right water intake lies between 1 and 2 gallons per day. Such an amount is important to keep your muscles full throughout the day. The mere fact that the better portion of our body is composed of protein and water, with about 65 percent being water underlines the importance of water not only in the general body functioning but also in bodybuilding. Gaining and maintaining muscle strength is crucial for growth. Conversely, when you train while dehydrated, your muscle size and strength will decrease. To maintain your full potential, you must stay fully hydrated at all times. The following are some of the roles water play in your boy;

  • Aids digestion; gaining muscles requires sound digestion and absorption of nutrients. So, drinking adequate amount of water (especially after meals) enhance digestion and maintain a healthy and functional digestive system. Water also helps in the production of saliva, gastric juices and other requirements of proper food assimilation.
  • Reduces injury; training while dehydrated hinders your gains and performances besides increasing the danger of injuring yourself while taking part in intensive weightlifting. Lack of enough water also reduces your blood volume resulting in dizziness and fatigue.
  • Transportation and waste eradication; in addition to transporting nutrients into cells, water is responsible for removal of performance inhibiting waste from working muscles. Lactic acids, carbon dioxide and other undesirable waste collect in your body when working out and adequate ensures they do not accumulate to harmful levels.
  • Lubrication; water provides lubrication between mobile body parts. Pain issues around joints can be greatly alleviated by taking enough water. Lack of enough water, on the other hand, increases joint pain and muscle soreness.

Growth during starvation

While muscles that are appropriately overloaded can grow even during restriction ample nutrients from a well-balanced diet can significantly enhance the level of growth response. The growth results from our bodies liberating energy from fat stores and storing it in muscle tissue. The level of growth with inadequate calories intake is more pronounced for newbie trainers because, with experienced trainers, the threshold for muscle growth is a lot higher. So, advanced trainers who desire to get huge and strong muscles have no choice but to eat more.

#3. Rest and recovery

Rest allows the muscles that got injured while exercising to heal and recover. The recovery phase enables you to become stronger and hence handle the increased weight, increase the number of reps and sets for even greater results. Rest, therefore, plays a vital role muscle recovery. Physiologic improvements in bodybuilding occur during the rest and recovery periods that follow hard training. So, always consume the right foods and supplement and allow enough rest time between your workout regimes. According to a scientific study by Jonathan N. Mike, M.S., and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. muscle recovery occurs mainly after training and is characterized by the elimination of metabolic products such as hydrogen ions and lactate.

Why Resting is helpful

The study further explains that during weightlifting recovery is necessary to reestablish the intramuscular flow of blood that delivers oxygen. The oxygen, in turn, promotes restoration of intracellular acid-base balance, replacement of phosphorous stores and regaining of balance between potassium and sodium exchanges within and without muscle cells. During the rest and recovery period, there is an increase in post-exercise oxygen absorption as well as the return of blood circulation, ventilation and body temperature to desirable, pre-exercise levels.

Adequate and Regular Resting

According to Sports AST Science mechanical strain that affects muscle tissue during intense resistance training creates disruptions in the contractile elements inside muscle strands. The trauma causes muscle soreness and the typical temporary muscle impairment that follows exercise. Consequently, in the subsequent days, skeletal muscle remodeling takes place as the body restores muscle function to pre-exercise levels. The cumulative effect of repetitive intense training, characterized by regular resting, therefore, occasions an increase in muscle size and strength. So, the apparent increase in gene expression within the skeletal muscle increases protein synthesis thereby allowing muscle fibers to repair, grow and develop.

Methods of resting

  1. Structured Rest; factor in deliberate rest times or days to make your training program useful. So, make an effort to incorporate a rest week after every 8-12 weeks of heavy weightlifting to allow your muscles to recover properly. Such a time could be a whole week away from workouts or a specific time to temporarily reduce intensity, weight or volume.
  2. Sleep; getting a good quality sleep is one of the many ways you can rest and limit your cortisol levels. Experts recommend having at least 8 hours of sleep for optimal growth.
  3. Massage; this strategy, besides, reducing stress, increase blood flow to the muscles thus aiding in the recovery process. Engage the services of a good sports reflexology therapist and you will relieve tension in your body, flush out toxins and help you attain all-around relaxed state.

Consistency Is Key

For all the three mechanisms above, consistency is paramount. Adopting an intensive weight lifting regime only to abandon it after a short while, not only reverses the gains already made but also makes your body less responsive to workouts. So, it is import to stick to the program and consult experienced trainers before making any decision. Qualified and licensed trainers understand the dangers of inconsistency and will advise you on the workouts that you can maintain for a long time.

The same applies to nutrition and rest. Failing to consistently maintain a healthy lifestyle is detrimental because your body burns the already developed muscles for energy reversing your gains. As for resting, the more you advance the more your body needs enough rest. So, for continuous gains maintain a training program that incorporates adequate time to recover, get stronger and grow. Otherwise, you may end up overstraining yourself, and potentially bring your gains to a halt.


Novice seasoned trainers can do with and possibly benefit from an intensive weightlifting program that focuses on nutrition and recovery as it allows for adequate adaptation. If you, however, don’t eat and rest adequately, you should make sure you get right these two before increasing more weights and reps and sets. Make an effort to consume whole unprocessed foods with the correct amount of calories that suit your body and training goals. Also, make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Once your nutrition and rest and recovery are on point, increase your workouts progressively so as to build an appreciable amount of muscle size and strength. Make sure you are consistent in all the three because they are interdependent, and collectively influence your outcomes.

To ensure you reach your goals this year training with proper form and having the right workout plan is key => check out HFT2 program with everything from workout programs to training videos to ensure you reach your goals this year. 

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