With access to gyms limited, those of us focused on gaining muscle mass can feel like we’re wasting away. So you don’t lose all your hard work, we’ve rounded up ten effective hacks to maintain muscle mass.
Hack 1: Blood flow restriction bands
Forbes named blood flow restriction training the next fitness trend. it is spreading fast around the globe with no sign of slowing down. Nick Kirk, told Forbes that demand is due to the fact that ”it allows us to achieve similar changes in strength and muscle growth without having to use higher loads.”
Emerging research is highlighting the benefits of BFR training. A recent study announced that low intensity training and walking with these restriction bands stimulates muscle growth and increases strength gains.
Essentially, BFR prevents the muscles to use oxygen as fuel which deactivates slow-twitch muscle fibers and fast twitch which promotes the body to release high amounts of growth hormone therefore increasing muscle circumference significantly.
If you not yet convinced, Jared Fleming, an elite Olympic lifter tore his ACL and used BFR training as part of his rehab strategy, three months after his reconstruction surgery, the musculature on his surgical leg was larger than his healthy leg.
As mentioned before it is a fairly new training method that its still under careful and extensive analysis, so be careful, mindful and gradually introduce this type of training to your routine.
Hack 2: Increase volume
Brad Schoenfeld, through the careful inspection of 15 performance and muscle building studies came to the conclusion that higher volume leads to higher levels of muscle mass.
Volume is paramount as a means to achieve muscle growth. Upper body hypertrophy seems to increase at 30 sets per muscle group and 45 for lower body growth on a weekly basis.
These numbers, however, are highly dependent on the subjects familiarity with weight training- beginner, intermediate or advanced.
Further more, its important to remember that the body is an highly adaptable machine and putting it through long periods of volume training might in turn be counterproductive.
Hack 3: Heat is your friend
Sauna use goes way back! Often seen as a means to achieve major relaxation they are now increasingly used as a strategy to boost fitness and performance. According to Dr Rhonda Patrick exposing the body to high temperatures for short periods of time amplifies our athletic performance.
This concept of using heat as a way of increasing endurance and releasing human growth hormone has a rapidly growing fan base that includes the world's top athletes from Tiger Woods to Lance Armstrong.
The American Journal of Medicine reported that two twenty minute sauna sessions at around eighty degrees celsius doubled the amount of growth hormone released by the body. If used in combination with exercise it will even more dramatically elevate growth hormone which makes building and maintaining muscle mass a lot easier.
Even after a 10 day period of immobilization, heat treatment seems to prevent muscular atrophy and maintain muscle tissue.
It is also a major key player at supporting physiological functions such as detoxification, heart health, cognitive function,hormonal health, fertility and pregnancy.
Hack 4: Fast tempo music will keep fatigue at bay
It's no secret that music can create a mood, relax our racing minds, motivate us to workout or prepare us for sleep.
Trainers and gyms have from early on realized its power to stimulate different types of physical activity.
A recent study, demonstrated that music is an plays a stimulating part in people engaging in exercise. This study showed that several different tempo music tailored specifically to workouts improves performance while also decreasing perceived exertion, participants were able to lift heavier and last longer.
Ten healthy college men were able to achieve maximal power output when listening to a playlist in the range of 137-160 bpms in comparison to the no music tests.
Either as a tool to increase motivation on a distraction for fatigue music is incredibly powerful to make sure you going harder in your workouts.
Hack 5: Make sure you catching enough Z’s
Muscle growth clearly requires more than just exercise and diet. Another powerful strategy to increase muscle mass is sleep.
Eight hours per night can help your muscles recover from the hours you spend exercising them. When we put our bodies through a strenuous workout, the body requires adequate rest in order to recover and allow hypertrophy to take place.
A sleep deprivation study in 2011 divided its participants into two groups. Group 1 was submitted to 5.5 hours of sleep while group 2 was able to enjoy 8.5 hours of rest, while all individuals were given the same diet. Group 1 showed 60% less muscle mass in comparison to group 2 which actually saw an increase of 40% in muscle tissue.
Testosterone, a key hormone when it comes to muscle mass, drops dramatically when participants were subjected to five hours of sleep as opposed to eight.
If you looking to maintain or improve your muscle tissue definitely make sure you catching enough Z’s.
Hack 6: Is your testosterone working for you or against you?
Testosterone can be to blame if it no matter what you do you can't seem to shed body fat and increase muscle mass. Routine blood tests should be done periodically and they can be a great insight into what is going on inside your body and why it is behaving the way it is.
First and foremost, low testosterone is an increasing problem due to all the estrogen we are constantly exposed to, from the food we eat to the shampoo we use. It doesn't happen without a warning so keep an eye out for disruptive sleep, low libido, mood swings and depression or low motivation.
Increasing testosterone allows your muscle tissue to synthesise more of the protein you are intaking, more specifically around 30% opmtimization.
It is always been associated with muscle bulk and strength power. Studies have shown that it is responsible for greater lean muscle tissue and therefore less fat mass. Not only will your muscles circumference increase but your bone density improve too, and from a longevity point of view that is a win win.
Curiously, a study done on females transitioning into males concluded that by supplementing with testosterone allowed their bones to become stronger and subsequently reduce the risk of fractures.
Eating for a higher T can also be one of the strategies you want to introduce along with a doctor's recommendation. Foods like eggs, oysters, beef, shellfish or pumpkin seeds, avocado and chia seeds all high in nutrients that work as precursors to testosterone.
If you combine optimal levels of testosterone with strength training, the muscle gains are limitless. Here's an incredibly informative podcast by one of the most famous biohackers.
Hack 7: Fish oil is more powerful than you thought
If you are really into the weightlifting world you might be familiar with the late Charles Poliquin, a world renowned strength coach. Charles was a huge advocate of supplementing with a good quality fish oil in order to preserve lean mass and optimize his muscle power.
Research shows that fish oil supplementation increases protein synthesis by 30 percent which in turn has a huge muscle building effect. It is also often used by an older population as a way of treating sarcopenia, where muscle mass decreases significantly as a by product of ageing.
A few grams of fish oil a day not only will help you maintain and build muscle but also increase your strength power which for me and weightlifters seems like a win win.
Hack 8: Colostrum !? What even is that?
If a couple years ago you asked me what colostrum is I would probably say something related to sheep or goats milk but with the fast rising popularity we now know how it's actually much more than that. All mammals produce it, including us, humans well more specifically us women. It’s produced right after giving birth and it’s commonly known as “first milk”. This is the first thing we consume in our lifetimes hence an incredibly nutrient dense and concentrated food essential for a newborn.
Mammals colostrum is incredibly rich in vitamins, minerals, growth hormones, carbs, fats and proteins- a complete meal. It also contains digestive enzymes which aid the newborn process the first meal he has ever had, which in turn when used as an adult will supply our digestion with the right enzymes to digest, process and optimize the nutrients we just ingested.
When it comes to its potential on maintaining and building muscle mass it is all due to the growth factors (hormones that stimulate growth) and antibodies (proteins that our immune systems use to keep it in top shape) that it contains.
As one can assume from the info above it is therefore an incredibly powerful strategy to keep disease at bay, improve immunity, amplify performance and promote growth.
It has, however, been popularised due to its athletic performance benefits.
A study from 2004, proved that colostrum supplementation increases strength and muscle size in trained and untrained limbs which makes it very appealing to people looking to grow bigger musculatures. Despite its muscle building properties it has also been proven to greatly improve aerobic or cardiovascular capacity.
In order to increase muscle mass, colostrums muscle healing properties are put to use by the body's tissues making it a player when it comes to recovery.
Commonly used in eastern medicine as a health tonic or a crucial part of a warrior diet it comes as no surprise its growing presence in the western world.
Source: Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014 Sep;39(9):1070-82
Hack 9: Get on the creatine train
It is a natural compound that raises the body’s energy production, which leads to increased performance during workouts thus boosting muscle growth.
Eight subjects uptaking creatine proved that when supplementing and training lean muscle growth was a 2-fold higher than training alone.
If you want to be able to deadlift more, increase your bench press or reach a new pb then creatine is here for you, in fact a study from a strength and conditioning journal concluded that supplementing with it will make you lift 14 percent more than with supplementation, independently of the weight.
If you feel like you want to learn more about this muscle building compound- its benefits, dosage and side effects then read through this article of ours.. (Add articles link)
Hack 10: Vitamin D is free and we love a good deal
Is vitamin D nature’s steroid? It might be. Many scientists, coaches and athletes have looked into the power of vitamin D as an immune system booster, endurance amplifier, promoter of muscle size and strength and mood enhancer.
Its potential in muscle morphology or adaptability has been supported many times, but its ability to improve muscle function, increase force and power, elevate testosterone and potentiate performance make it an athletes best friend.
A 2015 research paper proved vitamin D’s effectiveness on increasing muscle strength thus preventing the development of injuries in women.
Adding to this, vitamin D dosage is incredibly personal and in order to find what works best for you routine nutritional blood assessments are advised.