Posted on June 30, 2022 by Harry Edwards

Many people who go to the gym do so because they either want to lose weight, primarily in the form of body fat, and/or because they want to put more muscle onto their frame. Losing weight attracts a lot of focus because it is definitely the most popular goal among gym goers, however putting on healthy muscle mass is important, not only for improving health and performance, but also for maintaining a healthy weight as well. So lets dive in and learn some tricks of the trade when it comes to gaining muscle mass!

Benefits of gaining muscle mass

So why should you care about gaining muscle? Firstly, your body is only able to move because of the actions and reactions of muscles which act as powerful pulleys, using tendons and ligaments as levers to pull and push your bones. This generates the movement in your limbs that enables you to perform every action you do. This means you need a baseline strength capacity to allow the movement necessary to perform everyday tasks. As you get older, it is especially important to preserve your muscle mass to ensure that you can be independent for as long as possible. Additionally, all your major organs are made of muscle tissue, so it is important, particularly in the form of cardio training, that you exercise these organs to make sure they are in good health.

“But Harry…”, I hear you say, “…I can move around just fine! I’m healthy! Why should I try to gain muscle?” Well dear reader, there are a huge array of different benefits to resistance training and increasing your muscle mass. Resistance training will improve the size and strength of your ligaments and tendons, it will increase your bone strength and density, it will increase the amount of force you can generate (both by increasing the amount of muscle fibres able to generate power and by reducing neural inhibition), it will improve your insulin sensitivity and it will increase your metabolism, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. These are just a few examples of the plethora of benefits gaining muscle mass can offer.

On the specific point of metabolism, gaining muscle mass increases your metabolism because the muscle you have put on requires energy to maintain it. This means that as you gain more muscle you require more daily calories to preserve that weight. This is why powerlifters and strongmen each so much food, because maintaining that amount of mass while training as hard as they do requires a lot of fuel! So we now know why we should prioritise gaining muscle mass, but what are some pointers for going about it in the best way possible?

Nutrition and Muscle Building

Firstly, in order to gain weight your body needs to be in a calorie surplus, meaning you are consuming more calories than you burn during daily activity. This can be done quite easily by consuming calorie-dense versions of healthy foods. For example, swapping lean cuts of meat for fattier ones (chicken thighs, full fat mince, salmon, etc), eating lots of avocado and peanut butter, and basing each meal around starchy carbohydrates like potatoes and whole grain pasta. This will ensure that your weight on the scale begins moving up.

However, just because you are in an anabolic state of weight gain doesn’t necessarily mean you are gaining muscle. Equally, perhaps you want to gain muscle mass but don’t want your scale weight to drastically go up. Whether you are gaining, maintaining or losing weight, in order to gain muscle mass you need to be consuming enough protein each day to sustain your existing muscle mass and to facilitate the growth and recovery that comes after your workouts. There are different guidelines on how much protein you need, however a couple of good models are to consume at least 1.5 grams of protein per kilo of body weight each day or aim to have between 15-35% of your daily calories come from protein. Consuming this amount of protein can be made much easier by consuming high protein foods like meat, fish, whey, lentils and beans.

To optimally use the protein in your diet, you need to be consuming healthy fats to help synthesise the amino acids in the proteins you eat. Particularly good foods for this include peanut butter, avocados, dark chocolate, cheeses, and fatty fish. You should look to have a good amount of healthy carbohydrates in your diet as well. Beyond being an energy source they also provide certain nutrients that are essential for starting your body’s recovery process after a hard workout. Carbs are best eaten in the form of fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, pasta, and rice. For an example of a great high protein meal that incorporates all of these, check out this blog by Kate!

Finally, though not essential, there are certain supplements that can assist in the process of gaining muscle and working out generally. Whey protein, the main ingredient in most protein shakes, is a fantastic source of protein and is very quick to prepare, making it very convenient for people on the move who don’t have time to be making home-cooked meals every day. Creatine is another great supplement, helping boost your ability to generate explosive power while also aiding in muscle anabolism. Other supplements are available that may be of benefit to you but everyone is different. As long as you have your general diet dialled in and are working out in the right ways, you’ll be on the path to making serious gains! But what is the right kind of training to put on muscle?

Hypertrophy Training

In order to gain muscle mass, there is a specific range of exercises you need to be doing. This is called the Hypertrophy range, hypertrophy being the name for the process of gaining muscle. Hypertrophy training is characterised by a high volume of work at between 65-80% of your 1 rep max intensity with moderate to short rest times. Specifically, you should be doing between 6 and 12 reps, for 3 to 4 sets with 1 to 2 minutes of rest between each set. For some, combining this with strength training, characterised by heavier weights and slightly lower volume can have real benefits, as the stress of strength work can prepare the muscle for hypertrophy. It is also important to make sure you are doing enough exercise over the entire week. Two or three strength sessions a week are ideal as this creates a sufficient stress on the body to prompt muscular adaptation. For some more info on strength and hypertrophy training, check out this blog by Jenny. This brings us to the final and most important point of training, making sure you get enough rest. Especially if you are new to training, taking on a new diet and an intense workload can quickly lead to fatigue and overtraining. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night is essential to giving your body a chance to initiate the growth and repair that will actually cause your muscle mass to increase. Remember, it is not the workout that causes your muscles to become bigger, its the nap you have on the sofa or the sleep you have that night!


So you’re now equipped to begin your muscle building journey! You should have a good grasp of all the health benefits of gaining muscle mass, namely the increased ability to generate power, the improved health of your joints, and the boost it provides to your metabolism, which in turn enables you to maintain a healthier weight more easily. Then we have the insider tips and tricks when it comes to nutrition. Firstly, gaining any form of weight will require a calorie surplus but you need to be eating enough protein each day to make sure the weight you gain is actually muscle. This can be achieved by eating calorie dense and high protein foods. This can be supplemented by consuming healthy fats, carbs and using supplements like whey and creatine. Finally, to gain muscle you need to be training in the correct ways, specifically using hypertrophy resistance training in two to three sessions a week and getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night to ensure proper recovery. If you have all these bases covered, you’ll see significant changes in your muscle mass in no time!