7 Simple Steps To Building Muscle

I receive a lot of emails and messages from guys who are looking to build muscle, asking what they need to do in order to see the results they want.

Sometimes the questions are specific, and can be answered in a few sentences or less.

A lot of the time, however, guys just need to know where to get started in general, and what to focus on.

They just need some reliable action steps they can implement to set them on the right path towards achieving their goals.

Unfortunately, with all of the noise in the fitness industry, people often get caught up in the minutia, and miss the bigger picture.

I’ve put this quick guide together to cover the most basic principles you will have to nail down in order to begin packing on muscle effectively.

Let’s get straight into it…

Step 1. Determine Your Daily Caloric Needs.

In order to maximize gains in new muscle tissue, you must provide your body with a surplus of calories. In other words, you must be consistently consuming more calories than you burn each day. This provides your body with the extra energy needed for synthesizing new muscle tissue.

The size of the caloric surplus you choose should ultimately be determined by your own specific goals and body type.

It’s best to start small and adjust from there based on how your body responds. 250-500 calories above maintenance is a good range to start with.

Also Read: How Many Calories Per Day To Build Muscle


Step 2. Get Sufficient Protein.

Protein is an absolutely critical nutrient for ensuring growth, repair, and maintenance of muscle tissue.

Failing to get enough protein will not give your muscles the building blocks and support they need to grow.

For someone with goals of building muscle, I like to see protein between 1g – 1.5g/lb of lean body mass (per day).

Struggling to get enough protein?

Read: The Best Protein Sources For Building Muscle

Once you have protein set, you can decide on how you will distribute the remaining calories to the other macros — carbohydrates and fats.

First, decide on your fat intake. Anywhere between 0.3 – 0.75g per pound of body weight (not lean body mass, as I recommend with protein), or 15-30% of total calories is a good range to start with here.

The higher you go on fats, the less carbs you will have room for, and vice versa, so keep that in mind when selecting your intake.

Any remaining calories you have left after setting protein and fat will simply be distributed to carbohydrates.

The precise ratio you have between carbs and fats isn’t as important when you’re just starting out, and there’s room for some flexibility, so don’t stress about it too much.


Step 3. Consider Food Sources & Quality.

Your basic goal once you determine your macronutrient intake should be to choose a few foods you enjoy from each category (proteins, carbs, fats) to use as staples in your diet to help meet your daily macronutrient targets.

When we talk about long-term adherence and sustainability with a diet, allowing for a bit of flexibility (as opposed to a very restricted, rigid structure) leads to better results for 99% of people.

This means that as long as at least 80% of your food intake comes from high quality nutrient-dense whole foods, the other 20% of your intake can be used to incorporate your favourite foods as they meet your calorie and macronutrient goals.

Also Read: A Beginner’s Guide to Flexible Dieting 

With that in mind, here are a few examples of some high-quality food sources you can use on a regular basis:

Protein Sources

Lean protein sources should make up the majority of your intake. There is nothing essentially wrong with protein sources that contain more fat… you’ll just have to account for the extra calories from the fat.

Some good examples include:

  • Chicken/turkey breast
  • Lean cuts of beef
  • Pork tenderloin
  • Whole eggs
  • Egg whites
  • Salmon
  • White fish
  • Plain non-fat greek yogurt
  • Whey/casein protein powder

Carb Sources

Non-processed carbs that are high in fiber should make up the majority of your intake.

Go with things like:

  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes/sweet potatoes
  • Whole grain breads
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Lentils/beans
  • Lots of veggies

Fat Sources

Proteins, depending on the source, will contain some ‘tag-along’ fats in them, so you shouldn’t need to add a ton of extra fats to your diet. Use some of the following to round out your fat intake:

  • Omega-3 fish oil
  • Nuts/nut butters
  • Avocado
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Coconut oil


What about meal frequency?

Pick an eating schedule that works best for you based on your schedule, lifestyle, and personal preference.

The most important factor at the end of the day is going to be the total amount of calories and macronutrients that you intake. So whether you choose to space that over three meals or eight meals is up to you.


Step 4. Follow a Properly Structured Resistance Training Program.

Showing up in the gym and choosing a few exercises you feel like doing will only take you so far.

It’s important to have a plan in place to make sure you are progressing from week-to-week, and month-to-month.

Your resistance training program should follow these basic core principles:

  • Centered around basic compound movements that allow you to lift with sufficient intensity
  • Focused on progressive overload (increasing the training stimulus over time)
  • Appropriate volume and frequency for your training experience

Also Read: The Best Training Splits For Building Muscle  

It’s easy to get caught up in “flashy looking” training, jumping around from program to program — but this just leads to you missing the main core principles of effective training and ends up being counter-productive.


Step 5. Recover.

I know you’re probably gung-ho. You want to fast-forward your results and do everything possible to expedite your progress. I get that…

Just keep in mind that more isn’t better. Training three hours a day, seven days per week won’t help you reach your goals faster. In fact — quite the opposite.

You need adequate rest to allow for positive adaptions to take place.

Taking care of recovery is really simple–

  • Schedule in rest days where appropriate
  • Get enough sleep each night
  • Work on reducing stress levels in your life where possible
  • Look after your body by keeping up with soft tissue quality (foam rolling, massage, etc.)

Neglect recovery, and you are just wasting your efforts in the gym and throwing away progress. Don’t forget that it’s an important part of the muscle building process.


Step 6. Track Your Progress.

It’s impossible to know how well a program is working if you’re just taking a haphazard approach and not tracking anything. You won’t be able to identify areas of your program that could use improvement.

If you want to take control of your body, its critical that you have systems in place to track and monitor progress. This way you can evaluate what’s working, what may need to be changed, and make the necessary adjustments, so you can keep progressing towards your goals.

The most important methods I use with coaching clients are:

  • Tracking food intake, making sure adequate calories and protein are being consumed
  • Weighing-in to track body weight
  • Keeping a training journal to record all workouts and monitor progression on lifts
  • Taking girth measurements to gauge changes in body composition
  • Progress pictures for a visual representation of how body composition is changing


Step 7. Be Consistent.

Building muscle is a sum of small steps repeated over time.

One of the biggest reasons people fail to build muscle, is they simply don’t stick to a program long enough to see results.

One day’s training or nutrition may not seem like a lot in the moment, but trust me – it adds up.

Be patient, and enjoy the process.

It takes time to build muscle.


What To Do Next

First off, if you want to fast track your muscle building efforts, implement these 7 simple steps immediately.

And if you have any other questions about building muscle, leave a comment below, and I’ll jump in and help out.



Leave A Comment