It's important to understand that you can actually be too light. Your ideal weigh isn't 'as light as you can get' but is actually somewhere where you have a nice balance if body fat and muscle on your frame. Ideally we'd have a quite low percentage of body fat and more muscle, which is referred to as 'lean mass'. Having too little lean mass can impact how easily your body can defend against infection and disease, amongst other things.
For those of you that are looking to increase their lean mass we've got a few simple steps to follow:
- Nutrition. You are what you eat, literally, so first off it's time to ensure that you are putting the right things in your body to encourage muscle growth. You will need a nice balanced diet of carbs, fats and protein with maybe a little more protein than average. Make sure that you have 3 good meals each day that contain a good mix of meat, veg, nuts, seeds and dairy as a base. Avoid really sugary foods. Avoid processed foods. Eating more natural food will increase the nutrient density in your food, giving you more 'bang for your buck' so to speak.
- Exercise. This is really key. The type and amount of exercise you do will impact how your genes are expressed in your body. If you're currently pretty thin then it's unlikely that any sort of exercise is going to have you looking like Arnie, but you can put lean mass on if you do the right exercises. Quite simply you need to lift some weights and cut down on long distance training (if you do that). Get to a gym or buy yourself some weights. The exercises that you must focus on are squats (proper squats) and deadlifts. These can be a little tricky to get the hang of to start with but with a little guidance you'll get it. You'll want to be doing a weight where by you can complete about 8 repetitions before it becomes too hard to do another. Repeat that 3 or 4 times for each exercise, followed by a nice bite to eat. Do that 3 times a week and you'll be sorted. You could throw in a few hill sprints too if you want to!
- Sleep. Make sure you get enough decent quality sleep. Get away from technology before you go to bed. Stay away from caffeine all afternoon. Spend more time outside walking around and generally being active throughout the day. These tips will all help increase the quality of your sleep. That's important as it's when your body will repair any damage it sustains during the day and is a great time for your muscles to grow after all that training!
- Stress. Reduce stress levels. Cortisol (the stress hormone) levels being high, which happens when you're stressed, will impact how much lean mass you can put on. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, which means it causes your body to break down lean mass and fat stores in a way that's not healthy long term. Plus, if you're wanting to put weight on you don't want to do this at all! Reduce stress and you'll reduce cortisol levels, allowing your testosterone to do its job of building lean mass.
So there you go, 4 simple steps to getting a bit bigger. Doing just one won't really help that much, you need to get all 4 sorted to really see the benefits. Give it a go and see what works for you. Get in touch if you want more specific help!