Building muscle isn’t just about crushing that #LiftLife. Toning and gaining muscle mass also involves your diet and day-to-day lifestyle. But don’t worry. We’ve got your back (and your back muscles) covered.

How to gain muscle

Here are the top 11 tips for how to gain muscle at any fitness level.

  1. Aim for muscle fatigue with each workout.
  2. Eat plenty of calories to keep up with your calories burned.
  3. Get enough protein (especially 1 to 2 hours before exercising).
  4. Don’t forget to get plenty of carbs in your diet.
  5. Prioritize your sleep.
  6. Add a creatine supplement, if it’s right for you.
  7. Use a fitness app for tracking your workouts.
  8. Stay hydrated.
  9. Mix in plenty of isolation exercises to your routine.
  10. Give yourself plenty of recovery time.
  11. Get into a good schedule for your workouts.
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We know it can be hard keeping it so hardcore. But muscle fatigue can lead to better gains. Shoot for 3 to 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps at a high intensity to maximize muscle growth.

Why it works

Doing a high intensity workout can promote lactic acid production. This plays a major role in muscle growth.

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You burn energy when you work out. So, it’s important to bump up your calorie intake when you’re pushing it in the gym.

Food = fuel

Your body needs calories, fam. A prolonged, intense calorie deficit can lead to muscle mass loss and lower energy levels.

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Protein helps you build and maintain muscle tissue. It’s a good idea to eat a protein-packed snack or meal about 1 to 2 hours before and after you train. About 10 to 20 grams should do the trick.

Top protein picks

Try to opt for foods that are high in protein but low in unhealthy fats (like saturated and trans fat.)

Some smart choices include:

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Protein gets all the street cred, but carbs also help your bod build muscle. One 2010 research review suggested that eating carbs after a workout is the most important way to get build your glycogen stores back up. (Your glycogen stores are like an energy storage system for your bod.)

Choose complex carbs

A simple slice of white bread isn’t your best bet. Stick to complex carbs that will fuel you for longer.

Strong choices include:

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A research review found that sleep is vital for athletic performance and recovery. A crucial muscle-building hormone is released during deep sleep. It also gives your muscles a chance to relax.

How much sleep do I need?

Adults need about 7 hours of sleep a night, according to the CDC. But you may crave more shut-eye if your body’s busy making mega muscles.

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Some folks swear by supplementing with creatine. It’s a natural substance that’s found in your muscle cells. A research review showed that taking about 5 grams per day can help you train longer and harder.

How creatine works

Creatine is an amino acid compound that allows your muscles to store more energy to use in powerful bursts. That extra performance boost means you can maximize your #Gains.

FYI: Creatine pulls water into your cells to help them, so make sure to stay super hydrated while you’re taking it.

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A fitness app can help you keep track of your diet and exercise routines. They’ll also give you pointers on how to enhance your results.

Pro tip: Look out for apps that can connect you to 1-to-1 training sessions. They’re fab if you’re new to fitness.

The 5 best fitness apps

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Stay hella hydrated before, after, and during your workouts. A 2003 research review showed that dehydration can slow down protein production. It can also speed up protein breakdown and increase your risk of injury.

How much should I drink?

There’s no set amount of water alone that you should get on the daily. But try to drink about 16 to 20 fluid ounces 4 hours before your workout, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

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Isolation exercises are a great way to build one muscle group at a time. An isolation routine can also correct muscle weakness and increase your balance.

What about compound exercises?

Compound exercises work multiple muscles at once. This can help you get a full-body workout in less time. Just keep in mind that they might not be as effective as isolation exercises for building muscle mass.

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You should always give your bod time to bounce back after every workout. The exact recovery time depends on how long and intensely you worked out for.

Active recovery

According to the American Council on Exercise active recovery might be more effective than passive recovery. Some good examples are gentle yoga, walking, or swimming.

PSA: Don’t push it to the limit. Give your body a break so you don’t get hurt.

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Getting started can be the hardest part of any lifestyle change. By creating muscle-building habits (like the ones above) you can set yourself up for success.

Don’t give up

You won’t have a Hercules-style transformation overnight. Results take time. Also, don’t obsess over what the scale says. You could be losing fat and gaining muscle mass.

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There’s no magic muscle formula that can get you instant gains. But if you set realistic goals and stick to them, the results will come.

Remember, your diet is a key component in gaining muscle mass. Try to focus on lean proteins and complex carbs to optimize your results.

Def check out a fitness app or make an appointment with a personal trainer if you’re new to #FitFam. This can help you learn the basics.

Want to learn more about muscles? Here’s more Grade-A Greatist content to help you HIIT your goals: