How To Build Muscle- The Right Way

Scott Braver
7 min readJul 12, 2021
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

This is always a controversial topic- the best way to build lean muscle mass while losing fat. It’s the age-old adage of wanting our cake and eating it too.

Well, I have come to drop some science knowledge that can help you along the way so we can build lean muscle and lose fat in a SUSTAINABLE way so we don’t get caught up in all these dietary fads that seem to be taking social media by storm.

We have to have an understanding of some key concepts to really maximize our efforts and set us up for the best possible long-term results.

Focusing on sleep, nutrition, recovery, and activity are fundamental components to help expedite this process and give you your truest potential in optimizing your health.

Sleep Made Easy

Photo by Claudia Mañas on Unsplash

Sleep is an often-overlooked key ingredient in the recipe for health and fitness. We can bust our butts all day in the gym (which isn't recommended) and then go work our highly stressful job, drive around town to take the kids to their activities, clean the house, help with homework, fall asleep at midnight only to get up at 5 am to start the process over again.

In what universe is that ever going to work?

It simply isn’t. We need recovery. Recovery is just as, if not more, important than the activity itself!

We need 7–8 hours of sleep, at a minimum, every single night. No exceptions.

When we get into deep REM, we get the biggest pulse of growth hormone. This is what helps heal, repair, and grow the muscles that we just worked out hard in the gym.

If we can’t heal, repair, and grow and we go do more strenuous activity the next day and the day after that, and so on, do you think we will get the results we want?

Nope.

Our body is an amazing machine that needs rest and recovery to grow. Women are particularly bad at this whole rest thing.

They go nonstop, manage the household, and don't take time to rest from the gym. A good reference tool is to work in a week off every 8–12 weeks to ensure we don't overtax our central nervous system and allow for proper rest so growth can occur.

Next, we need to focus on some sleep hygiene. Social media is literally ruining our lives. We constantly see pictures that force us to compare ourselves to other's unrealistic expectations. We are ashamed of our lives. We want instant gratification. We need to live vicariously through someone else instead of in the present.

Put down ALL electronics 1 hour prior to bed.

Trust me.

Your life will not end if you stop needlessly scrolling with whatever social media platform you prefer. Plus, you might actually feel better about your own life!

The blue light and red light associated with constant screen exposure leads to a decrease in melatonin. Melatonin helps initiate the sleep process and allows us to fall into a deep sleep. Without that, we cant pulse growth hormone so we can’t heal and repair.

Besides that, let’s not look at our phones when we awake either! Give it at least 30 minutes. Wake up, go pee, brush your teeth, go for a 30-minute walk and THEN look at your phone if you need to.

Those two tricks help dramatically increase melatonin production as well as decrease the need for caffeinated beverages throughout the day, which ultimately affects our sleep-wake cycle too!

Can you see how cyclical things can get?

If you can’t sleep, don't go running for Nyquil or the likes. Get up, go READ a book or magazine. We have to retrain our brains and it's okay to have a few nights of bad sleep to break the patterns!

Your body knows what to do. It has been doing it since the dawn of time. We have many external factors that like to mess with our natural rhythm and takes us out of what has worked for millions of years!

Keep the bedroom sacred. Only sex and sleep should occur in the bedroom. No work. No TVs. No Food.

Speaking of, stop having a big carb meal and then go to sleep! Insulin is a hormone that can affect our melatonin production for up to 24 hours!

Stop overcomplicating this process. Our bodies know that we need sleep and we will get the sleep if we help avoid specific triggers that mess with our hormones and natural circadian rhythms.

Eat. More. Protein.

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Keep in mind that this is a blanket statement and should be carefully reviewed based on your medical history because some people might have conditions that require close monitoring.

In general, people should eat more protein. For females, I encourage them to eat at least half their body weight in protein in grams. For example, if you weigh 150lbs, you should be consuming 75 grams of protein in a day.

For men, I encourage eating your body weight in protein per day.

Generally speaking, guys tend to be more active and have more lean muscle mass. They require a different caloric need than women do.

We need an abundance of amino acids circulating in our blood for when we activate protein synthesis.

If we eat a diet full of carbs, we can’t expect our muscles to grow because we are not giving them the proper nutrient to stimulate muscle hypertrophy (growth).

Time and time again, people bust their butt in the gym and achieve dismal results. Check the food quality and amount of protein you are eating.

Hit your body weight in protein, eat foods that don't have a nutritional label, and watch the results skyrocket.

It's common sense stuff, but everyone gets caught up in the “I want it now mentality” and that doesn't do anyone good.

Try to avoid drinking your protein due to excess artificial sweeteners and unnecessary chemicals we don't need.

Eat real food. It literally is the secret formula to building the physique you want and maintaining longevity. Not to mention an improvement in libido, mental clarity, increasing free and total testosterone, and reducing body fat.

Our FDA has instructed us to eat a diet full of whole grains, followed by moderate protein and low fats. We listened, and we are the fattest nation in the world with a true pandemic of cardiovascular disease and metabolic diseases like diabetes.

Clearly, that doesn't work. We need to focus on higher protein consumption, moderate healthy fats, and low carbs.

Carbs are important. Refined carbs are not important. Focus on foods as close to nature as possible. Potatoes, rice, fruits, and veggies.

No thrills. Just real food.

Don’t get me wrong, it's VITALLY important to have a cheat day to keep your sanity- the problem is you haven't earned your cheat day yet.

We cant expect to eat right Monday through Friday and binge on the weekends. It doesn't work. We need consistency and after 2–3 months of hitting your body weight in protein with good quality foods, you can have a cheat.

Keep in mind, your body will become so adapted that it will literally feel ill when you do, so make it worthwhile and keep in mind that feeling next time you fall off the wagon.

We need to change our lifestyle, not lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks for a beach vacation. Sustainability is key.

Learning HOW to eat the right foods is so much more important than going to the gym and eating pizza afterward.

You Stop Moving and You Die

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Activity is so vitally important to anti-aging, quality of life, and longevity.

Please, keep in mind that ANY activity is GOOD activity. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

I don’t care if you like to run, lift weights, powerlift, CrossFit, play sports, cycle, etc… just do SOMETHING!

Of course, there are specific movements to fine-tune your desired hobby, but the overall premise is to get out and perform that hobby!

Many people can get similar results by just getting out and moving. We run into issues when people sit on the couch and don’t see the light of day.

If you are wanting to go to the gym and build lean muscle mass, it comes down to a few key concepts.

Progressive overload. Time under tension. Recovery.

Progressive overload is such that we don't want to go to the gym 4 weeks in a row doing the exact same weight and expecting different results. You have to constantly push your body with either rep ranges or weights.

Time under tension is just that. Slow, steady, CONTROLLED movements that harness the mind to muscle connection so we prevent injuries from occurring and we understand what muscle groups we are trying to contract.

All the most recent science supports that we need roughly 5–20 sets of a muscle group in a week to stimulate muscular hypertrophy (growth).

So don’t go and spend 2.5 hours at the gym lifting weights and expecting good things to happen, because it won't. You will be taxing your central nervous system, cortisol will spike and the nutrients needed to help with the hypertrophy are going to go elsewhere and it circumvents any benefit you thought you were doing.

Work smarter, not harder.

I have clearly outlined the absolute musts needed to have your cake and eat it too. Sleep 7–8 hours per night, eat your body weight in protein DAILY and do whatever activity you find enjoyable.

Good things will certainly come, 100% guaranteed if you follow that path.

It’s changing the mindset and setting REALISTIC expectations for yourself.

You will have slow and steady muscle growth with body fat loss if you follow the outline.

Can you do it?

Be strong. Be brave.

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