Building muscle may sound simple, but unfortunately, it's not as easy as going to the gym and doing a couple of reps of squats, lunges, and bicep curls. At the gym, you also need to focus on intensity, Heather said. Yes, there are rep and set schemes you can follow (here's how many reps and sets you should be doing to build muscle), "but the most important thing to remember is that that may be the number of repetitions but it's not going to actually achieve the goal unless you are fatigued within that rep range," Heather explained.
If you're only lifting five-pound weights throughout your entire workout and it was a light intensity for you, it won't help you achieve your end result, she said. Moral of the story: don't be afraid to challenge yourself and use heavier weights. Here's a guide on how to choose your weights.
Additionally, you've got to put in work outside the gym. You're going to want to make sure you're eating enough food so that you have the energy to do your day-to-day tasks and to aid in muscle protein synthesis, the building of muscle mass. Protein can help your muscles grow, but you need to balance your protein intake with fats and carbohydrates, Nikki Jupe, MS, RD, LD, CSSD, senior sports dietitian at the University of Oregon, told POPSUGAR in a previous interview. Generally speaking, 50 percent of your daily macronutrient profile should come from carbohydrates, 25 percent should come from lean protein sources, and the final 25 percent should come from fats, Nikki explained. These numbers will vary person to person and we recommend consulting a professional such as a registered dietitian to figure out what's best for you.
Nutrition and exercise are important, but don't forget about managing your stress and getting enough sleep, as both affect how your body stores and utilizes fat! The stress hormone cortisol can lead to eating more, sleeping less, and can potentially affect your insulin resistance, Dori Arad, PhD, RDN, CDE, director of the Mount Sinai PhysioLab told POPSUGAR in a previous interview.
At the end of the day, these are general guidelines and it's always best to seek out help from professionals who can create individualized programs to help you achieve your goals.