Anyone whom has trained hard and consistently for some time will understand the frustration I speak of here.
You make solid progress for quite some time. Most training options work fine. You eventually stagnate, redesign your program, and this coaxes a little more progress.
Eventually after this repeats a few times, despite your hard work and dedication along with some meaningful tweaks, you remain at a standstill. The weight and reps remain the same in each exercise. You see no changes in your physique. This can continue for years.
Trainees often lie to themselves to compensate for their failure to improve. They change their programs so dramatically and often as to make development impossible to measure. They may disguise this avoidance as an effort to include variety. They then use this new standard to measure their results, disregarding that they have no solid basis to evaluate real changes.
This is an easy trap. I have fallen into its clutches in the past. It happens to the best of us.
Eating to gain muscle provides a solution.
The body attempts to optimize what it already possesses. This explains why resistance training progress early on comes mainly from the nervous system. The body grows efficient with its current muscle.
Eventually though, the only way to improve strength requires more muscle. If you find your progress lacking, engage in eating to gain muscle.
Many people train hard enough. The stimulus is already there, though sometimes they need to reduce unnecessary exercises and sets. We are adaptable organisms. Heavy exercise disrupts homeostasis and demands a response to the stress. If you work hard and challenge your body’s ability to produce muscular tension in basic exercises, then you will grow. If this does not occur, something is wrong.
In many cases, the trainee simply needs to eat more food. This will spur growth almost regardless of the food source, as long as some easy minimums are reached. Just add calories somehow to your usual diet. The old-timers knew that hard training with too little food substance led nowhere. This is an essential requirement, though it need not feel complicated. You just need more raw materials to fuel your efforts.
The trainees of the past didn’t have access to the steroids that change all the rules toward making things much easier, yet they developed lean, impressive bodies that would strike envy in anyone today. A Gallon Of Milk A Day (GOMAD) along with plenty of heavy squats often ranked as the program of choice. This sort of eating to gain muscle added slabs of lean mass to everyone.
Many sumo wrestlers, despite being overfat, possess amounts of muscle that would rival any bodybuilder. This comes mostly from eating so much food along with some intense training.
More calories rank more importantly than more protein. Some trainees do lack protein though, and in this case, at least half a gram per lean pound of bodyweight provides a good standard.
Convenience will make things easier. Drinking milk served as an easy solution that provided protein. Nut butters, oils, pasta, juice, powders, and other very dense but more healthful sources work best. This great density may not represent a lasting lifestyle choice, but will be necessary if aiming to add muscle beyond the typical rate.
When you eat more protein, you ingest more calories. This spares protein for muscle building. It promotes anabolism that adds tissue. Most bodybuilders eat too much protein, ignoring that carbohydrates generate the best form of energy.
Fat helps absorb vitamins and plays other vital roles including hormone production though. Without enough calories, the body will use its own muscle and fat to provide energy for daily requirements.
It is very difficult to add muscle and lose fat at the same time. This can occur for short periods of time, but does not act as a real solution.
You instead should adopt a wave-like pattern. Have periods in gaining, whereas you eat more but not excessively. 300-500 calories above a typical day provides a starting point. You then stop if becoming overfat, and reduce your calories gradually and continue to train hard.
You will likely be able to maintain, only lose a slight amount of muscle, or even add a bit. With each of these cycles, you add more muscle. Combine this with hard training, and you realize that the secret to building muscle means simply eating more.
Perhaps unusually, many trainees actually stand a greater chance to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time while eating slightly more as opposed to eating slightly less. This likely occurs due to the metabolism required to keep muscle and the anabolic environment that more calories promote.
Eating way too many calories will add fat, so eat more but monitor your changes in the mirror. You cannot force feed muscle, but you can very quickly add fat. This served an evolutionary role as a source of calories during famine. Massive amounts of muscle had less utility unless a clear reason existed. Hard training gives the body that reason.
The building of muscle also requires time components independent of the food eaten. This explains the importance of hard but patient training.
Pay attention to your muscle definition and assess yourself honestly. Almost everyone lacking some abdominal definition will need to lose fat.
In summary, eat more calories when progress peaks. If this does not allow progress, you may need to reconsider your training methods.
Eating to gain muscle is simple enough. Train hard with progress in mind, and then eat more calories to gradually add weight.