Adding mass is not as simple as training and bulking up. There is much more to it. Some say that adding mass is 30% training and 70% nutrition. It could honestly even be higher than that in favor of nutrition. What you eat, and when you eat, becomes absolutely crucial when you are trying to add lean muscle mass. Here are a few golden rules that I like to live by when trying to add mass.
Eat Properly and Eat Often
This one often gets overlooked when trying to add mass, but it is the most important thing that you can do. When you exercise, you create soft tissue damage to your muscles, tendons and ligaments. In order to repair this damage, you need to replenish the glycogen stores (your energy supply) that your body needs to do its job. The 3 most important parts are carbohydrates, protein and fats. You need to force yourself to eat every 2-3 hours to give your system a consistent supply of nutrients throughout the entire day. A lack of these supplies makes your body start to store energy in fear that it will not have enough later. At that time, your body will start eating muscle tissue to feed itself properly.
This one goes without saying. You will need to train if you want to see results. Performing compound movements which work several muscle groups will aid in making your workouts more efficient. If you are performing isolation exercises, do them last once your muscles are already partially fatigued from the compound exercises.
You want to also keep your workouts to 30 sets or fewer in order to prevent excessive fatigue and overtraining your muscles, which will prevent muscle growth.
Muscles grow during recovery time, not while you exercise. Without proper recovery, your muscles will not be fully recovered for the next workout. A lot of people live by the rule of not training more than 2 days in a row. I normally do 3 on, 1 off, 2 on, 1 off. If you are feeding your body properly, it will recover properly. Even with this recovery, your body still needs rest.
Another great method of proper rest is to actually step away from your workouts every 4-6 weeks. I also use this break as a way to change my workouts as well. Different exercises or routines can promote muscle growth by hitting muscle groups from different angles and methods.
Fuel Yourself Properly
Research has proven that eating immediately after exercise will boost your insulin levels and increase muscle protein synthesis for faster recovery. Waiting more than 45 minutes can be disastrous to muscle recovery. The sooner you supply nutrients the better. Most experts suggest eating again 1 hour afterwards as well. Muscle will peak in development 24 hours after your exercise session so eat well the next day too.
But, that is not all. You want to fuel your body pre-workout as well. Make sure that you have the proper nutrients in your body to get you through your workout. Your pre-workout meal (or beverage) should contain protein and good, long-lasting carbs.