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How Protein Helps You Build Muscle

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 When it comes to getting in shape and staying healthy, diet is just as important as exercise (if not more). A nutrient-rich diet will give you the energy you need to work out and get on with the rest of your day. Eating a balanced diet will help you lose weight. What you eat is also important if you’re looking to build muscle. In particular, eating protein will help you gain strength and build muscle mass.

How It Works

Simply eating more protein doesn’t mean you’ll gain muscle mass. You also need to exercise and weight train, as well as eat a nutritious and balanced diet with fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates.

Protein is made up of amino acids, which aid and cause many of the reactions and processes in your body. When you exercise and lift weights, you create tiny micro tears in your muscles. When you eat protein, your body breaks it down and uses those amino acids to repair the tears. They surround and fill the tear, and make it bigger and stronger.

How Much Protein You Need

You want to make sure you’re eating the right amount of protein. Too little, and your body could take longer to build muscle. Eat too much and you could become dehydrated increase your risk of kidney stone, and end up gaining weight from fat, not muscle. Like anything, you need to find a balance and eat the right amount for you.

An average recommendation for someone who exercises regularly is .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That means that for 150 lb. person, they should be eating about 55 grams of protein per day. Athletes and people who work out a lot should eat even more.

How much protein you specifically need to eat every day will depend on your gender, current weight, height, and how much you work out. Women tend to need less than men. Hormone levels and body composition also play a role in how much you’ll need to bulk up.

If you really want to get it right, consult with a registered dietician or nutritionist to help you figure it out.

Protein-Rich Snacks

You can get protein from shakes, bars and supplements, but eating whole foods with naturally occurring nutrients is always going to be the best thing for your body. Here are some delicious ideas for protein rich snacks.

Eggs

Eggs are great to eat any time of day, not just for breakfast. They contain all the essential amino acids your body needs to get through your diet.

Rice Cake and Peanut Butter

This is a great pre-workout snack. The rice cake will give you energy while the peanut butter will keep you full and provide protein.

Greek Yogurt and a Banana

Greek yogurt has more protein than normal yogurt thanks to the way it’s strained. Try a plain yogurt with a banana for some sweetness and potassium. Add honey if you need to cut the tartness of the yogurt more.

In addition to helping you build muscle, protein keeps you feeling full longer so you’re less likely to snack or cave in to unhealthy temptations. It also helps your body digest sugar more slowly and regulate the release of insulin over a longer period of time, giving you more lasting energy and preventing a big crash.

Steps for a Proper Warm Up   

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You know how important it is to stretch and cool down at the end of a workout, but it’s also important to do a proper warm up before you start exercising. A warm up does just that—it gets your body warm and prepped for working out. It raises your body temperature, loosens your muscles and warms up your joints to get your ready to work. Properly warming up will help you perform better and avoid injury. Here are the steps for doing a proper warm up every time.

Eat and Drink

First thing’s first, you need to make sure you’ve had food and water at least a few hours before working out. You might not have enough energy if you exercise on an empty stomach. Don’t eat anything too greasy, sugary or heavy, or you will feel sluggish and possibly cramp. A banana, a rice cake with peanut butter or a piece of fruit and some crackers will fill you up just enough. Likewise, you need to be properly hydrated if you want to have a good workout. You should also keep water on hand during your routine.

Loosen Your Joints and Muscles

You want to make sure your body is loose before you jump into a warm up. While different workouts will require that you warm up various parts of your body differently, the basics are the same. Loose joints and muscles will increase your range of motion, so you can get deeper into an exercise without hurting yourself.

There are a few different ways to get loose. You can start by using a foam roller. The roller massages your muscles to help you get the kinks and knots out of your body before you start exercising. Target spots that tend to get tight—hips, hamstrings, quads, glutes, IT band, shoulders, and lower back.

You can also do some stretching. The key here is that the stretching is dynamic, not static. Static stretching holds a muscle in one position. It’s the kind of stretching you do sitting or standing still. Touching your toes or holding your foot by your butt to stretch your quads are examples of static stretching. These are best done after a workout, and can actually make you more prone to injury if you do them before exercising. Dynamic stretching is active. It moves your muscles through a continuous range of motion. Arm circles, leg swings and trunk rotations are all dynamic. Just keep moving and you’ll be great.

Get Your Heart Pumping

You want to start elevating your heart rate before you start your workout. Slowly job, ride a bike, or even take a brisk walk. You can also do plyometrics. Jumping jacks, high knees, glute kickbacks, and grapevines will all get your heart pumping. You can also do a practice run of your planned workout. Going through the lifting motions without any weights will get you moving while prepping your body to do the real thing.

Of course, a great warm up and workout can be completely offset if you don’t cool down properly. Make sure you stretch (the static kind is fine), drink more water and eat a healthy snack or meal.

Thirty-Minute Workouts  

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Ideally, you’d get to the gym or be able to exercise for at least an hour a day, five or six days a week. Unfortunately, life often gets in the way. Work, family, friends, and other responsibilities can take up a lot of time, and suddenly working out isn’t a priority. While you may not be able to hit the gym for as long as you like each day, there’s no reason to skip exercising entirely. You can fit an effective, full-body workout into just thirty minutes. Here are some thirty-minute workouts you can do when you’re pressed for time.

Workout 1:

You can do your regularly scheduled workout but just shorten the amount of time. If you were going to go for a forty-minute run followed by 20 minutes of strength training, cut it in half. Do a twenty-minute run followed by 10 minutes of strength building exercises. See the example below for some ideas.

Cardio

Do twenty minutes of whatever cardio you had planned—running, cycling, elliptical, swimming, etc. Try to go harder or faster than you would have during a longer period of time.

Strength

You can focus on one area, like legs or core, or do a few moves to tone your whole body. Try this to get started:

20 Squats

15 Push-ups

30 Seconds of Butterfly Kicks 

Do each set 3 times through and end with a one-minute plank.

Workout 2: Lunch Break

If you don’t want to shorten your normal routine, you can still get a great workout into a half an hour. You fit a full-body workout that doesn’t require a lot of equipment in on your lunch break. Do the circuit below three times through for a total body workout in less than 30 minutes.

Jump Rope—2 Minutes

Jumping rope is a great way to raise your heart rate in a short amount of time. You can use an actual jump rope, or simply mimic the move with your hands. A weighted rope will add some difficulty and tone your arms.

Walking Lunges—10 reps per side

Step forward with your right leg, and lower your knee to a 90-degree angle. Keeping your weight in your right heel, step forward and move your left leg into a lunge. Repeat 10 times. 

Squat Jumps—1 minute

Lower down into a traditional squat, when use your legs to jump as high as you can. Land softly with your knees bent and move back into a lowered squat position, then jump back up. 

Bicep Curls—15 reps

Stand upright with core engaged, feet hip distance apart, and knees slightly bent. Hold a pair of light to medium dumbbells with your palm facing away form your and your elbows tucked into your side. Raise the weights to shoulder height and back down. 

Mountain Climbers—1 Minute

Get into a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders. Lift one foot off the floor. Bend your knee and bring it into your midsection, trying to get as close to your chest as possible. Lower back to the original position and bring the other knee forward. The fast you go, the better the workout.

Plank—1 Minute

Get back into that plank position and hold it for one minute. Keep our shoulders pulled back and your core engaged. Your back should be in a straight line.

The Principle of Progressive Overload

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You’ve heard of progressive overload right?

The principle that you must do incrementally more every session to continue making progress. A little more weight, an extra rep, extra metres, or time. To continually progress, you must be giving your body a new stimulus. Something a little more challenging that it has had before.

This principle is not just how you progress in the gym. It is the basis of successful change in any area of your life. The gym is a great metaphor for achieving things in all other areas of your life too.

People that succeed in the gym are the ones who are committed to working out for the long term. They’re not jumping on fad diets and magic abs blasting machines for 2 weeks, and then going right back to eating takeout on the sofa.

They’re turning up day in and day out; working out, eating right and living a healthy lifestyle as a matter of habit.

Coincidentally, this applies to any area of your life where you want to achieve more.

The Gym Is Your Teacher

The skills, behaviors, beliefs and habits you build in fitness will carry over to every part of your life. Learning the discipline and hard work of following your training plan and eating right will make it easier to put the work into your business or career.

Working for delayed gratification by avoiding unhealthy foods you might be craving, and going to the gym instead of staying in bed; is the same process as saving money for retirement or getting out of debt.

The process of setting goals and working towards them in your body will mirror that in other parts of your life where you would like to make changes and achieve more.

You Build More Than Just A Body Through Fitness

Fitness is more than just building a body. You’re also building your mind. The beliefs and mindset you develop with training is going to lead to more confidence and belief elsewhere.

When you prove to yourself that you can set goals, implement the program and achieve results; you start to feel more confident and in control of your outcomes. What else could you achieve?

If you believe you can achieve something, and refuse to quit, then you will ultimately achieve it. Doing this in fitness is a great place to start, because you can make big changes in a relatively short time span. In 6 months you can look and feel 100% different to how you do right now.

Using Progressive Overload in Everything

One of the reasons people commonly fail in their fitness, and in other goals, are unrealistic expectations. Both in the speed or size of the results, and in the expectations of themselves. How significantly they can change their habits and routines in one go. How much they can change right away or how much impact a change is going to have on outcomes.

Setting expectations too high, where they are impossible to meet, is a recipe for failure, getting disheartened, losing confidence, and giving up. Every time this happens it gets a little bit harder the next time you try.

You now have more negative reference points, less belief, and more fear that you cannot do this. This is what kills people’s dreams. You’re essentially conditioning yourself to expect failure. Not a good thing!

To avoid this, you must apply the principle of progressive overload. You have look at where you are right now, where you are starting from. Look at where you ultimately want to be – your goal – as the opposite ends of a continuum.

Where people go wrong, is they do not fill all the steps in along the way. They want to jump straight from A to Z, and that is realistically never going to happen. You must fill all the steps in along the way. You have to ask yourself what is the next step forwards?

The one thing that is going to take me closer to my goals?

Using Pareto’s Principle

You want to apply the Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule. Ask yourself which is the single step that is going to give me the biggest returns? What is the simplest, easiest thing I can do that will bring a big change for the least amount of effort?

The less intrusive it is, the less it takes away from your normal habits and routines; the easier it will be to follow through and stick with it. Sometimes the thing that will bring the biggest results is not the thing you should be implementing.

If it’s too advanced for you, too difficult, too far away from where you are now; it is likely to do more harm than good. Sometimes you have to move slowly to get there quicker. Being the tortoise, rather than the hare.

For progressive overload to work, you just need to do a little bit more than you have done before. It is incremental improvement. The process of Kaizen as the Japanese call it.

Trying to take giant leaps forwards and make huge changes all in one go rarely works. You might see some results initially, but after a couple of weeks it becomes unsustainable. You’ve changed too many things, too significantly. You’re always going to subconsciously pull back to your comfort zone.

If you’re using progressive overload, the changes are minimal and you do not suffer that pull back. Only when you’re doing too much does the comfort zone get the better of you.

Look at any goal as a series of steps, rather than just a final destination. Going from A to B, and then B to C is a lot less daunting, much easier to achieve and will quickly build positive momentum. The more momentum you have, the more belief you have.

With momentum and belief at your back, now you can start making bigger changes that make a bigger impact. Now you are in the position to start accelerating towards your goals, because you have built up to it slowly.

How to Ease Sore Muscles  

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If you exercise regularly, you will probably at some point experience sore muscles. This happens especially after you start a new workout routine or increase the intensity of your workouts. Soreness can be a good thing. You build strength by creating tiny micro tears in your muscles and then letting them recover and get stronger. However, it’s not a pleasant feeling. Thankfully, there are ways to ease sore muscles.

Apply Heat to Muscles

Applying heat to sore muscles will help ease the pain, as well as increase blood flow to the area so they recover faster. You can sit in a hot tub or warm bath, take a steamy shower, sit in a sauna or use a heating pad on a particularly sore area. 

Stretch

Stretching is extremely important to do after any workout, not just tough ones. The more flexible your muscles are, the less likely they are to feel stiff. Stretching can be used as a preventative measure for sore muscles, but a deep stretching session can help muscles that are already sore. Try going to a gentle yoga class on your rest day.

Move

While it seems counterintuitive, movement, whether by stretching or by doing some light exercise, can help ease sore muscles. It increases blood flow and oxygen to your muscles while making them more pliable and less stiff. You may be able to do a regular work out if you’re just a little sore, but try to ease off if the soreness is extreme. A brisk walk or gentle yoga works, too.

Knead Your Muscles

Massage muscles is another great way to increase blood flow so you can feel better faster. Foam rollers are a great option for massaging your muscles, also called self-myofascial release. You can also spring for a nice massage at a professional studio by a licensed massage therapist or even a physical therapist.

Eat Right

You probably already know that your diet has a direct impact on how you feel during a workout, but it influences how you feel afterward, too. Eat a meal with lots of protein shortly after a tough, muscle-building workout. Your muscles need protein to recover, build and get stronger. Drink plenty of water as well to keep yourself hydrated.

Rest

Sometimes you just need some time off. Muscles are built in the gym, but the periods of rest and recovery are where they really get stronger. If you’re pushing yourself every day, you don’t give those micro tears time to really heal, which will slow your progress in the long run. You can take some active rest days, but don’t feel bad about taking a few days to just chill. Your body might need it.

However, be aware of your body and learn to recognize the difference between soreness and real pain. Soreness will feel like a dull ache or a tight muscle, and you’ll generally feel it equally on both sides of your body. It typically doesn’t start until a day or two after a tough workout. Sharp pains, bruising, swelling, pain you feel immediately or pain on only one side could be the start of an injury. If you think you might be injured, take a few days to rest before working out again. But if it doesn’t get better within a few days, you may want to see a doctor.

Final Word on Easing Sore Muscles

Overall, try these tips to help ease your sore muscles and you’ll likely be back at it soon.  Working out is one of the best things you can do for your body, but it’s natural to feel some soreness.  Hopefully these tips help ease some of that pain.