15 Shortcuts to Build Muscle Mass

So you have decided to become a body builder?

build muscle massOr are you just trying to build muscle mass and have a good looking physique?

That's how I started years ago, I just wanted to be a little bit bigger. I wanted to be fit.

And it is by all means possible, but before you start with supplements (this is the first step for most, while it should be the last), maybe here you'll learn how to do it the right way, to obtain the results you want.

The bottom line is to follow a few "simple" rules.

Simple...to understand, but usually to no simple to apply:

  • Follow a proper lifestyle
  • Eat right
  • Work out properly
  • Rest and sleep (a lot)
  • Follow your workout routine

1: To Build Muscle Mass You'll Have to Eat More. Probably Much More

Eat more to build muscle mass

How do you call it? Bulking?

It doesn't matter. The point is that to build muscle mass and get bigger you need to increase your daily calorie intake, which will allow you to put weight on.

What and how much to eat depends on a number of factors like your metabolism and your goals.

To begin, you could start with this:

  • Women: 11-14 calories for each pound of body weight, multiplied 1.3-1.5 if you're physically active.
    • Example: If you weigh 130 lbs, you need something like 12x130 = 1,560 cal. To build muscle mass you need 1,560* 1.3 = 2,028 cal.
  • Men: 14 to 18 calories for each pound of body weight, multiplied 1.2-1.5 if you work out.
    • Example: if you weigh 165 lbs, you need 18x165 = 2,970 cal, which become 2,970x1.5 = 4,455 calories a day to build muscle mass.

Take this as a quick guide to calculate the calorie intake that you need, but remember that it may vary depending on the results and on how it feels.

2: But Don't Just Eat Whatever You Find

Junk food

You may fall into the trap of thinking that whatever you eat is fine to get bigger, but it's really not like that.

The goal is of course to increase lean muscle mass, not fat, right?

Therefore you need to eat the right kind of food and calories.

The ideal diet consists of approximately 50% carbs, 25% protein and 25% fat, which again can vary depending on your goal.

I usually suggest 40-40-20 if you regularly work out to build muscle mass.

If you're curious to find out what your daily calorie intake should be, try this MacroNutrient Calculator.

3: Eat Mostly Healthy Protein and Complex Carbohydrates

Protein and complex carbs

Proteins are essential to build muscle mass.

Proteins, in fact, are the macro nutrient that repairs and develops muscle tissue after a workout. Obviously you should avoid fried food and dishes prepared with sauces or other ingredients such as fat cheeses, etc.

As for carbohydrates, the advice is to always choose complex carbs that the body can digest more slowly, giving lasting energy and sense of satiety .

4: Eat Also Simple Carbs Before and After Workouts

Simple carbs

Simple carbs are digested and absorbed quickly and provide quick energy, which is useful before and after training.

Of course this type of energy is not provided by chips and sweets or that kind of snacks.

I am talking about simple carbs, like fruit that is also the best of all.

5: Don't Forget Proteins in Your Post Workout Meal or Snack

Post workout protein

As we already know, proteins are essential to build muscle mass, and especially after a good workout you need to start rebuilding your muscles.

One of the best ways to take post workout proteins is a protein shake, with water/milk, protein powder or amino acids (BCAA).

If you can, though, it's best to eat real food in my opinion.

Some good examples are:

  • 1 banana and a cup of milk
  • 1 apple and some almonds (fatty acids and protein)
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and a cup of milk

6: Drink Smoothies If You Can't Eat Much


To build muscle mass there are several factors to consider, like metabolism for example.

For some it's much easier to build muscle mass, while for other it's takes a lot more effort and some times people can't just keep eating, right?

I am one of those that needs to increase the calorie intake by a lot when I want to bulk.

Some times you are tired, or it's late and you don't have time to cook and neither to eat!

In these cases, a good smoothie is what I find the best solution to get the calories I need.

If you make a smoothies with the following ingredients you can easily get more than 500 calories, fast:

  • 1 banana (100 cal)
  • 1 scoop of protein powder (120 cal)
  • 1.5 cups of milk (150 cal)
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (190 cal)

7: Do Intense Workouts with Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press


If you really want to build muscle mass, there's no other way.

You need to lift weights, and they have to be heavy!

There are 3 king exercises that you can do at the gym to build muscle mass fast, and you could even get away by performing those only:

  • Squat
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench Press

As you can see they are compound exercises, and I would maybe add pull ups to that list.

Of course, except for the bench press, those are all exercises that I hate to do, because they're really hard on the body.

But effective like nothing else, because they involve all the biggest muscle groups of the body.

8: Sometimes Use Also Lighter Weights

Lighter weights


Yeah well, before you work out with heavy weights you need to start with lighter weights.

To get the body used to working out and to warm up properly and avoid injuries.

You also need to train smaller muscles that are complementary to the bigger muscles, and balance them out.

9: Avoid Too Much Cardio

light cardio to build muscle mass

For those that want to build muscle mass, a too intense cardio workout is not the best idea.

Whatever you choose, swimming, running, cycling etc. you should not exceed 2 cardio sessions per week, max 30 min each.

Now, how to understand if you're doing it right?

Let's say, if you are able to hold a conversation while running, you're doing great. If you can't because you're panting too much, then you need to slow down.

10: Rest. It's No Joke, Rest is Key


Rest is key to build muscle. I always say, when you workout you're doing half of the job, the other half is while you sleep.

It's when you rest that your muscles grow. Because that is the rebuild process.

In fact, when we work out we stress, break, tear...whatever you call it, the muscle tissues.

Then it's time to heal, to rebuild them bigger and stronger.

For that you need to feed the muscles (protein, amino acids, food in general), and give them time to heal (sleep and rest).

How much should you rest?

It totally depends on your body type, metabolism, and age.

In your 20s you can work out almost every day. In your 30s, not so much...you need more days off.

Typically people work out 2 or 3 days per week, at least that's what I do, and it's fine to me.

More than 3 workouts per week lead me to overtraining, lack of rest, and then I lose motivation.

Take this seriously, sleep at least 8 hours a day!

11: Drink Plenty of Water and Fluids


Did you know that we are made of 60-65% water?

That number is even higher for a newborn (75%), or lower for an elder (50%).

For that reason it is important to always keep hydrated, especially if we train a few times a week.

Usually it is recommended to drink 8 to 10 cup of water per day, but there is actually a formula to calculate how much we should drink.

Drinking lots is very important especially if you supplement with creatine. With a high water intake it's going to be much faster to build muscle mass.

12: Supplement!


After you have done all the previous steps, it's finally time for a real shortcut, and I mean it!

First make sure that you eat real food, drink plenty of water, work out well and rest lots.

Then, if you need more, it's time to try some good protein shakes or weight gainers.

After workout, I recommend taking creatine (read more about creatine).

Creatine has been proven to be one of the most useful supplements that help building muscle mass.

13: Find a Way to Measure Your Progress

measure your progress

I think this is very important, especially from a psychological point of you.

The great majority, in fact, gives up because they can't see any progress, so why working out, missing good times out of the gym, when all your efforts to build muscle mass fail?

Take before and after pictures, weigh yourself and check how much you grew each month.

It may sound silly, but it actually helps to give you more motivation and keep up with the good work!

14: Consult the Experts

search the web

If you can talk to a personal trainer, do it at least at the beginning of your adventure, and specifically tell them that your goal is to build muscle mass so they can write down the correct program for you.

Or google, try to ask questions to people that know, that have been there and done that type of thing.

I don't know anybody that hasn't researched a lot before starting a new workout routine.

Being on this site is a good step, hopefully the info I give you will help you too.

But the web is full of good info. And bad info as well, so learn how to filter!

15: Be Patient

keep calm and patience

It takes a lot of time to build muscle mass (the natural way, the right way).

During the first weeks you will already feel a difference. You'll be sore and tired, and that's when you know that you trained well.

You'll need to sleep and recover.

Then things will slow down, you will have to change exercises (muscle confusion), increase weights, eat more etc.

But don't lose motivation or you'll lose everything (that's when rest becomes super important).

But take your time, don't try to over train when all you need is just...more time!


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