Trainers Reveal the Most Common Muscle Growth Myths

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Trainers Reveal the Most Common Muscle Growth Myths

Myth: Cardio has no place in a muscle-building program.

Fact: Cardio is essential to all fitness programs — including muscle building.

You might think that to build real muscle mass, you have to avoid the treadmill at all costs, but this could actually be slowing down your progress, says Hannah Davis, C.S.C.S., creator of Body By Hannah.

“Cardio done strategically can still allow you to build size and stay cut [aka have defined muscles],” she says. Davis recommends HIIT training as the cardio of choice for anyone looking to build muscle mass as it “will add to your total strength training volume that helps build muscle mass, but also helps you build endurance and stay lean,” she explains. 

The tricky part with cardio when it comes to bodybuilding, is when you mix too much cardio with inadequate calories, as this can cause the breakdown of muscle for energy, explains Davis. So, just don’t replace your weight lifting or resistance training sessions for HIIT alone. 

Myth: You must eat protein within 30 minutes after a workout.

Fact: It’s less about timing and more about consistency. 

“Consistent intake of protein with every meal has been shown to improve muscle protein synthesis and preserve and build muscle more so than rushing to ingest protein within a 30-minute window,” explains Paul Gallo, Ed.D., F.A.C.S.M., American College of Sports Medicine fellow, and director of exercise science and wellness at Norwalk Community College.

Specifically, science has shown that eating essential amino acids (i.e. those that are not made by the body and must be supplied through foods) every 4-6 hours, is sufficient protein intake to increase muscle growth, he explains. 

Myth: You can increase muscle mass through fitness alone.

Fact: Diet fuels muscle-building results just as much as your workouts. 

Without a proper diet focused on macronutrients — with special attention paid to protein and carbs — you’re missing half the equation to building muscle. Protein and carbohydrates are kind of like the Batman and Robin of muscle repair and growth — one is stronger because of the other.

Protein is important to encourage muscle protein synthesis, but carbohydrates provide ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a form of energy used to drive numerous systems in the body, so cells can adapt and build muscle.

In short, your diet must have good portions of macros — as well as healthy fats and micronutrients for balance — if you want to refuel and recover properly. 

Myth: You have to max out your lifts in order to increase muscle mass.

Fact: Increase your total volume, not your 1 rep max. 

Many people think that lifting the heaviest weight possible is the only way to increase muscle size, says Gallo. But “for those who are new to resistance training, low weight and high repetitions can provide enough stimulus to elicit muscle growth and strength gains,” he says.

Just be sure to up the weight as you get stronger. For more experienced athletes, aiming for muscle fatigue with “moderate weights and mid-range repetitions [8-15 reps] will result in greater muscle hypertrophy versus very heavy weights and lower repetitions [3-6 reps], he adds.

Davis notes this is a great method to avoid both acute injury or joint wear and tear over time without having to forgo your muscle growth goals. 

Myth: You need to lift weights every day to see real muscle gains.

Fact: Rest is a crucial part of any training program — muscle growth included. 

“One thing that I often see missing [in muscle growing plans] is incorporating adequate recovery periods between training the same body part,” says Chris Gagliardi, C.S.C.S., an ACE certified personal trainer, who recommends 48-72 hours of rest for those training for specific muscle mass goals.

Recovery time is important in order to avoid injury from overtraining, to allow enough time for muscles to repair and refuel before your next workout, and to ensure you’re able to perform at your best every time. 

“Be sure to incorporate at least 48 hours of rest for each muscle group,” reiterates Gallo. “You can alternate between upper and lower body each day if you are interested in doing a little resistance training each day.”

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