When I jumped on my brand new scales 12 months ago, I knew I wasn’t happy with my weight or build. For so many years I’d tried (and failed) to gain weight and sustain muscle growth.
I had 3 key goals for my journey: to increase my calorie intake, increase my protein intake, and (using both of these) build and maintain muscle. Here’s how I approached all 3 successfully.
Starting out, I was at the lightest I’d ever been. Weighing just over 63kg, most of my weight was distributed through my height (I’m 193cm tall). I wasn’t satisfied with how I looked, and I hadn’t been for years.
The fact I now weigh just under 80kg - a weight I’m aiming to maintain around as I further develop muscle - amazes me. And 10kg of these gains are muscle. For once, friends and family are telling me I’ve “filled out”!
So, here are the key things I've learnt on my muscle-building journey:
#1 Structure your meal times
Goal #1: increase calorie intake
Our muscles need lots of good calories to grow. I had a very bad habit of skipping meals when I first started my fitness journey. It’s so easy to choose a lie in, or to snack heavier than cook a dinner - but 3 protein-rich substantial meals was crucial to getting started.
How I did it
Rather than squeezing in meals as an afterthought, structure your routine around them. This might mean getting up 15 minutes earlier to make breakfast or taking your full lunch break.
Ensure you’ve got lunch prepared - it’s so easy for your local shop to either sell out, or not have anything high protein to offer. If you’re plant-based like me, it’s even harder going in unprepared! Try some of these high-protein lunches!
Snack healthily, and at sensible intervals. I really try to time halfway between each main meal, and at least an hour before a workout. Think snacks like bananas or dates, which pack in calories but have portion sizes which stop you feeling bloated. Try these high-protein snacks.
When shopping, plan your meals. If you know how many high protein dinners you need at home for the week, buy enough for each one. You’ll feel more motivated to cook if you’ve paid for recipe ingredients, especially fresh.
#2 Tailor your protein intake
Goal #2: increase protein intake
This was a lesson it took me ages to learn! Like eating anything that’s good for us, just because it’s a good source of protein, it doesn’t mean you’re going to enjoy it. We all have our own taste, and you have to find the protein source you love.
My goal was to eat over 120g of protein every day.
How I did it
Not only did I try just about every legume and brand of mock meat, but I tested different ways to cook protein. Turns out, roasting butter beans is a revelation!
I’m not a fan of protein in powder form, so I searched for alternative supplements. Bars, cookies, crisps, even protein-infused waters are readily available, plant-based or not. They deliver the nutrients at snack-time without the effort of eating an entire meal.
Work protein into desserts. This isn’t always obvious, but trust me! Soy-based yogurts, or even following recipes for tofu mousses or chocolate hummus offer extra protein while satisfying your sweet tooth.
#3 Follow a bespoke workout plan
Goal #3: build muscle
As important as nailing my food goals were, I would have been wasting my time without following a workout plan tailored to my goals. I’d spent years going around in circles with the same exercises targeting only a handful of my muscles.
How I did it
Working with a Personal Trainer was the biggest boost to my fitness journey. It made me accountable and gave me the expertise to truly tailor my workouts and goals.
I assessed my lifestyle too for designing workouts. Knowing I’m fairly active, to maintain steady weight gain I chose to move away from cardio and make my workout splits primarily upper body.
Though I knew I wouldn’t always like what I saw, I got into a good routine of tracking my weight 3 times a week. If your progress is falling short, it’s better to know so you can make adjustments!
With my Personal Trainer, we made sure my workouts increased in difficulty throughout the month. We also worked in different types of workout to challenge the muscle groups in new ways.
My results: one year on
My bodyweight has not only increased by almost 25%, but for the first time I can see and feel the muscles I’ve worked hard for. Being able to lift up to 30kg is something I would never have thought when I struggled with the lightest of dumbbells.
The most important part of your fitness journey is actually starting - and take it from me! It took 10 years for me to finally commit properly to mine. Progress won’t always come fast or easy, but turning up to your workout and maintaining consistency will pay off.
My next step: trainn app
Maintaining and building on my progress from the last 12 months means finding the easiest way to slot my fitness into my ever-busier lifestyle. That’s why I’ve started using the trainn app for maximum flexibility.
With this I'm sure to always have a personalised training plan that changes with me as I get stronger in the gym. And with the extra workout challenges and healthy habits, it's easy to stay on track. I can highly recommend this app to anyone who's looking to improve their fitness!
Want to start your own muscle building journey? Click the button below to sign up for a FREE 14-day trial of trainn, and see why I’m progressing with the personal trainer in your pocket.