In a study of healthy people, researchers found some lifestyle factors in common. Healthy habits include eating a nutritious diet, maintaining normal body weight, not smoking, and reducing alcohol intake. But getting physical activity may be the most important lifestyle factor of all. Lean muscle building and cardiovascular exercise don’t just benefit your body. It can also help you feel better and even live longer.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? That’s where you’d be wrong, which is why we made this guide.
Want to know the benefits of muscle, plus, how to build muscle without getting bulky? Then you better keep reading because this one’s for you!
What is Lean Muscle?
All muscle is lean muscle. That’s because “lean” simply means lacking fat.
The only real way to differentiate between different types of muscle is to look at where it’s located. The human body has three types of muscle:
- Cardiac muscle
- Smooth muscle
- Skeletal muscle
Cardiac muscle surrounds the heart. We can’t control cardiac muscle. That means we can build it up either.
We also can’t voluntarily control smooth muscle. This type of muscle surrounds most of our organs. Of course, the exception is the heart since it’s controlled by cardiac muscle.
Skeletal muscle is what we think of when we refer to muscle in general. This is the stuff that cushions and attaches to our bones. It’s the only type of muscle that’s under our control and the only type of muscle we can build.
Lean vs Bulk
By now, you may be wondering: if all muscle is lean, what’s the deal with people trying to bulk up? Is there not bulk muscle, too?
Most people get the concepts of muscle and body mass mixed up. Any time you’re building muscle, you’re creating lean (i.e., fat-free) muscle. But if you want to “bulk up,” what you’re really talking about is body mass.
Lean vs Bulky Body Mass
Body mass refers to the overall weight of your body. That includes the weight of your bones and muscles minus your total fat mass.
A person with a lean body mass may look more compact and toned. Why? Because their overall body fat composition is lower, decreasing their overall body mass.
Bulk body mass takes up more space. That’s because the fat composition is higher, giving the appearance of bulging muscles.
Lean vs Bulky Muscle Mass
Another relevant distinction is between lean and bulky muscle mass, i.e., small and large muscles. We often say that someone with large muscles is “bulky.” Someone with smaller muscle mass might be referred to as “lean.”
Two general factors determine the mass of your muscles: genetics and the types of exercise you do.
In general, women have a hard time bulking up. This is because of genetics — women tend to have genes that produce smaller muscles compared to men. Genes also vary across men, meaning some will be prone to bulkiness while others are more likely to get lean.
If you want to build smaller muscle, focus on a balanced approach to fat-loss exercises (e.g., cardio) and resistance training. Stick to fewer sets during resistance training. Both of these tactics will help muscles look smaller.
We’ll talk more about how to design the perfect weight lifting routine for getting lean later. But first, let’s talk about why you should want to build lean muscle in the first place.
5 Reasons for Lean Muscle Building
Building muscle is good for the health of your body and mind. It can help you live longer and feel better mentally and physically. Here’s why.
1. Increase Metabolism
Muscle has a direct relationship with your basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR equals the number of calories you burn when you’re not working out. It’s the number of calories your body uses as energy to power your cells.
Muscle cells need more energy than fat cells. This is why putting on more muscle can help increase your BMR.
2. Lose Weight
When your BMR goes up, something else happens: you lose weight. That’s because the higher your BMR, the more calories you use up. And we all know that the only way to lose fat is to eat fewer calories than you burn.
Another benefit of weight loss due to muscle gains is you’ll be at a lower risk for obesity. Obesity is one of the top causes of disease among US adults. When your body is healthy, your immune system will work better, too.
It’s extremely important to start adding muscle as you get older. The natural metabolism drops the older you get. Incorporating strength training can help keep your metabolism up and your weight down.
3. Get Stronger
Lifting weights to gain muscle will help you get stronger. Not only will your muscles grow larger, but your brain will also develop muscle memory. And muscle memory is the true test of strength.
Another benefit of building muscle is that stronger muscles mean better posture. Poor posture is a leading cause of back pain and even double chins.
Muscle helps support bones, too. In fact, growing muscle mass is directly correlated with an increase in bone density. With stronger bones, you’ll have less joint pain and bone breakdown as you age.
4. Live Longer
Building muscle doesn’t just reduce your risk for obesity. It may also help decrease the risk of developing diabetes. And if you combine strength training with cardio, you’re also decimating your risk for cardiovascular disorders.
Along with smoking, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are among the most common causes of preventable death in the US. 23% of yearly deaths are due to heart disease and 5% are from a stroke. Diabetes causes nearly 3% of deaths annually.
As you can see, exercise helps with each of these conditions. That means you’re upping your chances of living longer and healthier, even as you age.
5. Feel Better
We’ve already mentioned that muscle building can improve your posture. And researchers have discovered another benefit of good posture: it may actually improve your emotional state.
At the same time, building muscle will keep you looking fit. Looking good often comes with a serious boost in self-confidence. With more confidence, you’ll feel mentally stronger and more resilient to daily stressors.
Plus, in the words of the immortal Elle Woods: exercise produces endorphins and endorphins make you happy.
How to Build Muscle
Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for. We’re about to tell you exactly how you can start building muscle today. That way, you can take advantage of all the benefits lean muscle has to offer.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about how to grow more muscle!
The only way to build muscle is to do resistance exercises. Resistance training is defined as any exercise that increasingly strains and tears the muscles. As you may realize, that means lifting weights isn’t the only way to build muscle.
Any time you’re adding resistance to your workout, you’re going to grow your muscles. So, which resistance exercises should you choose? It depends on your preferences.
Bodyweight exercises (pushups, crunches, squats, etc.), high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and even yoga can help you get leaner.
If you are a weight junky, though, here are some tips for reducing the bulk. Try to do fewer reps with heavier weights. Alternatively, do more reps with lighter weights.
You may be surprised to see this on our list. After all, many people have a misconception that cardio is bad for muscle building. In truth, cardiovascular exercise can boost the muscle gains from your resistance workout.
This is because endurance exercise increases capillary size. When this happens, blood can circulate more easily to muscles. Nutrients and oxygen can reach your muscles faster, boosting muscle growth.
The secret to building more muscle with cardio is not to overdo it. Always allow yourself adequate recovery time after resistance and endurance training sessions. That way, you can go all-out each time you hit the gym.
Cardio is particularly good for people who want to look lean. Endurance exercises burn more fat than resistance training. This will decrease your overall body mass without reducing muscle.
Tweak Your Diet
Getting lean requires fat loss. And the easiest way to lose fat is by watching what you eat. Plus, if you’re eating foods that are good for your waistline, odds are you’re benefiting your muscles, too.
Here’s what we mean: the best things to eat for fat loss are low-calorie dense and rich in essential macronutrients. And macronutrients like protein, carbs, and healthy fats also aid in muscle growth.
Diet culture may have taught you to reach for low-calorie foods when you want to lose fat. But when you’re trying to gain muscle at the same time, the last thing you want to do is under-fuel.
This is why it’s so important to understand calorie density. Calorie density is the ratio of calories per pound of food. Choosing low-calorie dense foods means you can eat more (and get more nutrients) without racking up a ton of calories.
To practice this strategy, replace processed foods with whole, highly nutritious items. For example, vegetables, fish, eggs, potatoes, and milk all have low-calorie densities and are perfectly nutritious for an active adult.
Get Plenty of Rest
Did you know that muscle recovery and growth happens while we sleep?
While we’re snoozing away, our bodies are hard at work repairing the small muscle tears resistance training creates. Our brain also produces growth hormones during the deepest stages of sleep. And these hormones are critical to muscle relaxation and recovery.
That’s not the only reason sleep is critical to muscle building. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re also more likely to overeat. Research shows that lack of sleep leads to a decline of “fullness” hormones.
We’ve talked about how looking lean often requires fat loss. If you’re overeating due to low sleep quality or quantity, you may put on weight. This will interfere with your goal body aesthetic.
If you’ve done all of these things and are still having trouble building muscle, should you give up? No! You may just need an extra boost to fuel you through your workout.
That’s where supplements come in. Compounds like creatine can help provide your muscles with more energy. That way, you can go harder during your workout.
You can also purchase protein supplements. One aspect of building muscle is having an excess of protein with which your muscles can grow and repair. Consume protein shakes after your workout to help with the repair process.
Or you could try the latest performance supplement on the market: SARMs. SARMs are non-steroidal research compounds that selectively bind to androgen hormone receptors.
SARMs have many of the same properties as steroids. The difference is that SARMs are legal and don’t cause any of the negative side effects steroids do. Click the link to learn more about these supplements and buy SARMs today!
Want More Muscle Building Advice?
Lean muscle building is critical to your health. You can live longer, feel stronger, and even lose weight just by muscle training alone. If you need a little help in the gym, try supplements like SARMs to boost your performance and gains.
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