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How to Gain Muscle - Part 2

Eating and Exercising for Muscle Mass

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Updated April 09, 2014

Calories, Calories, Calories

Gaining muscle requires that you eat more calories than you burn. For those with high metabolisms, that may seem impossible, but if you try a few of these tricks, you'll find that adding calories to your day is easier than you think:

  • Choose calorie-rich foods like granola, bagels, biscuits, avocados, olives, corn, meat, nuts, peanut butter, milk, yogurt and cheese.
  • Add extra calories to your meals by using milk instead of water for soups, sauces and hot cereals.
  • Sprinkle powdered milk into casseroles.
  • Add calorie-rich foods (like avocado, cheese and dressing) to sandwiches and salads
  • Mix beans, meat or cheese into pasta or side dishes
  • Snack on yogurt, shakes, crackers and dip
  • Keep a food diary for a week or so to get an idea of what you're eating and where you can add more calories

The trick is to add calories without adding too much saturated fat. You can also consider downing smoothies or meal replacement shakes in between meals.

Lift, Lift, Lift

Once you get your calories under control, you need to start lifting weights. This will help you gain more muscle and help minimize the amount of fat you gain (although you should expect to gain some fat as well). Folks trying to gain muscle should:

  • Lift heavy. This means lifting enough weight that you can only complete about 6-8 repetitions of each exercise. The last few reps should be difficult--the last one should be really hard, but not impossible.
  • Have longer recovery periods between sets
  • Have more recovery days between workouts
  • Use spotters to avoid injury
  • Continue with cardio, but keep it at maintenance level--around 2-3 days of cardio a week to keep your heart in shape
  • Start with a full body program 2-3 nonconsecutive days a week, if you're a beginner. Allow your body a few weeks to get used to lifting weights before you tackle more intense routines.
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