How Muscles Are Made

How Muscles Are Made

Hello Everyone,

Today we'll go in some more detail about something everyone is interested in, building muscle. We won't talk about specifically what to eat and how to train but we'll talk about the physiological processes that come into play behind the scenes allowing us to put on muscle. From amino acids to the muscle fascia, it's in here.

So to build muscle you need two things: supply and demand. Now without this turning into a high school economics lesson, what we mean is the body needs the nutrients and time to repair damage, that's the supply side. Then the body needs damage to fix, that's the demand side. 

Supply- On the supply side is food and sleep. Food can include protein and carb supplements as well as food you cook, vegetables, whatever. As long as you're putting good, healthy, clean food into your body in proper amounts, you're good. Protein is an important part of this process as muscle mass is literally made from the building blocks of protein, amino acids. We eat food, our body breaks protein down into amino acids, and then if we create the proper demand, those amino acids get combined and deposited as fresh muscle mass. There are a few intricacies here that people neglect, however. If you're calorically deficient, your body will use that protein for energy to keep you alive. Life is first, then gains are second. Keeping your brain and muscles functioning is more important (creating more demand) than increasing the size of your muscles. So that's where fats and carbs come in. We need proper amounts of fats and carbs to keep our metabolic processes running smoothly as well as keep our muscle energy (glycogen) levels elevated. This allows the body to not only avoid eating our muscle mass for energy but allows extra protein to be deposited at damaged muscle sites to increase muscle fiber size. Once our fat and carb supply needs are met, we need to consume lean, complete forms of protein. This can be achieved by combining protein types to make sure that we consume a variety of clean protein. This ensures a steady flow of all essential and non-essential amino acids. Combining your normal diet with a protein supplement and an aminos (whether essential or branched-chain) supplement will help with this. Sleep is also on the supply side of the hypertrophy equation. Our bodies need dedicated time to actually break down nutrients and deposit their metabolites where they go. This dedicated time is the time while you're asleep. The more you sleep, the more time your body has to repair itself. There is a point of diminishing returns, where the amount of energy it takes your body to remain asleep vs the calories you're missing out on while you're asleep no longer are worth it. This is different for each person but if you're getting eight hours, you're probably good.

Demand- The demand side consists of working out. There's also a hormonal side to both supply and demand but we'll focus on that in a future post. Working out and creating micro tears in the muscle is what the demand side is all about. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, or the "pump", is the initial response the body has to working out. The muscle reacts to trauma from resistance training by filling with blood and increasing in size. This is good because if we continue to lift, we create small amounts of damage that the body can heal, making the muscles bigger and stronger. The second benefit the pump allows is for the muscle fascia to stretch out. The muscle fascia is the sheath that contains the muscle. Imagine it like the sheath that surrounds a sausage. Without the fascia, the muscle wouldn't have anything to contract against, and no strength would be generated during muscle contraction. The reason it's important to maximize the pump is because the muscle fascia also resists fresh muscle mass being built beneath it. If we stretch our muscle fascia to its fullest extent during our workouts, it will create muscle memory. Then when our body deposits amino acids and repairs muscle, it will be easier to increase size to our previous pump size. 

All in all, we need to eat properly to create plenty of healthy supply, and we need to lift hard and consistently, to be able to create the demand our bodies need to grow our muscles. 

-BLP Bodybuilding

1 comment

  • nergis

    This is the best semi anatomical and physiological explanation of building muscle I have read. Great job.

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