How Long Should You Wait To Lift Weights After Eating A Short Study of Muscle Growth

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A Short Study of Muscle Growth

Muscle hypertrophy is the scientific term for muscle growth and this is the ultimate goal of any bodybuilder. There are thousands of theories on the net that tell you to do X number of reps for growth, or do so many sets of so many reps, or eat this or eat that. With so many theories out there we thought we’d take a step back and look at muscle hypertrophy from a scientific and logical point of view.

Calorie Problems:

For thousands of years humans have had to hunt for their own meals, and once they got one, they didn’t know how long it would be before the next meal was available. Because of this, our bodies will naturally go into survival mode once a meal is digested. This is why muscle won’t grow naturally if it isn’t needed. One pound of muscle burns 6.5 calories per hour compared to fat, which burns 1.2 calories per pound per hour [1]. Muscle burns more caloric energy than fat, and since we constantly go into survival mode due to our genetic instincts, we have to give our bodies a good reason to produce muscle for this to happen. Bodybuilders do it in two ways.

How to get muscles to grow:

Myth #1: The first way bodybuilders get their muscles to grow is by eating multiple small meals throughout the day. This is often advised to bodybuilders, and this one actually has good reasoning behind it. If your body is constantly bringing in small meals, it doesn’t have a chance to switch into survival mode. If your body isn’t in survival mode, it can continue to produce muscle. This is done by…

2: Lift progressively heavier weights that are just outside your comfort zone. Again, your body won’t produce new muscle if it’s lifting weights it’s already capable of lifting. Adding new muscle will burn more calories, which you will naturally avoid.

From “The Mystery of Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy”:

“Through exercise, muscle work done against progressively challenging overload leads to an increase in muscle mass and cross-sectional area, referred to as hypertrophy.” [2]

More muscle means the body will burn more calories and since this is not desirable from an evolutionary perspective, your body will resist gaining muscle mass unless you give it a good reason to grow. If you lift weights just outside your natural reach, you’re sending signals to your body that more muscle is needed.

Conclusions:

Our conclusion is that the human body is hardwired to resist building muscle. To ignore this answer, two factors are needed. First, you need to eat often enough so your body doesn’t go into survival mode, and second, you need to lift weights just outside your comfort zone to give your body a reason to build muscle. In other words, since muscle burns much more caloric energy than fat, your body needs to be convinced that more muscle is needed (done by lifting progressively heavier weights) and it needs to be fed often enough to ward off its survival instinct (done by eating several small meals throughout the day).

Sources:

1: Live Strong, 2012. LiveStrong.com, August 2012.

2: The mystery of skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Richard Joshua Hernandez, BS and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. University of New Mexico.

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