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How to build and maintain muscle

How do I build muscle? How can I build muscle with dietary supplements like collagen protein? Everyone wants to know how to build muscle and it’s a really insightful question and one we get asked quite a lot.

When we set out to make our supplements for example, we wanted to make sure that there was the optimal amount and type of protein in the product to help as many people as possible; access a good quality source of protein; improve their post-exercise recovery and of course provide all the above at an affordable price!

There are many ways to answer the question 'how to build and maintain muscle'… sorry! Some people might automatically think it is only through weight training that you can achieve this for example and when you take a quick look across social media you would be forgiven for assuming this. In fact, not only is there a lot more involved than just weight training but weight training itself, like protein are only small pieces of a much larger and much more complex jigsaw puzzle. Really important ones for sure, but still only two pieces of the puzzle.

And why is this such a complex topic? well because the muscle building process is different for everyone. Everybody responds differently to the stimulus of training, to different exercises, workouts, to the foods we eat (and don’t eat), to the way we choose to recover afterwards.

Reality check coming up…Building and maintaining muscle mass is hard and is something a lot of people struggle with, particularly as they get older. Whether your goal is to build muscle size, muscle strength, perform better in a chosen sport or activity or simply to increase your levels of everyday physical activity, there are things you can do to build and maintain muscle mass that will help you to increase the chances you will achieve those goals.

Building lean muscle isn't something that can be achieved in one simple blog post; it takes time, a lot of patience, a positive attitude and most importantly, commitment and dedication. There's no magic wand here but there are little things you can do that, if done consistently, and consistency is the key; will make a huge difference and this blog will help you do just that.

 

What is muscle and what is it made up of?

Muscle mass is a key component of our physical health. It plays a crucial role in maintaining balance, posture, and joint stability. Muscle mass also influences the metabolism of essential nutrients and waste products, thus impacting our energy levels and general well-being too. As we age, it's important to maintain muscle mass because it can help you stay independent as you get older.

There are two different types of muscle: skeletal muscle and smooth muscle. Skeletal muscles move the body, control the limbs, and make facial expressions possible for example. Smooth muscles line blood vessels, the digestive tract, airways, and cardiac muscle keeps your heart pumping.

The proteins that form all these different muscle types and fibres are made up of long chains of amino acids and the food that we eat contains these amino acids. Different food sources contain different proteins (and other nutrients), so eating a variety of plant and or animal products will give us access to a wide range of amino acids which can be used by our bodies for different purposes - including repairing and building muscle!

We can also classify types of amino acids as Essential, Non-Essential and Branched Chain. There are 9 Essential Amino Acids, and these cannot be produced by the body and so must be sourced from foods and or supplements. 3 of these Essential Amino Acids are also Branched Chain Amino Acids but all nine Essential Amino Acids play critical functions in the human body:

 

  1. Phenylalanine. Your body turns this amino acid into the neurotransmitters tyrosine, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine and also plays a key role in the structure and function of proteins and enzymes and the production of other amino acids
  2. Valine. This is one of three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that we mentioned. Valine helps stimulate muscle growth and is involved in energy production too
  3. Threonine. This is an integral part of structural proteins, such as collagen and elastin, which are key components of our skin and connective tissue. It also plays a role in other processes such as fat metabolism and immune function
  4. Tryptophan. This amino acid is a precursor to serotonin, a key neurotransmitter that regulates your appetite, sleep, and mood
  5. Methionine. This amino acid plays a critical role in metabolism and detoxification. It’s also necessary for tissue growth and the absorption of zinc and selenium, minerals that are also important for your overall health and wellbeing
  6. Leucine. Like valine, leucine is also a BCAA that is critical for protein synthesis and muscle repair. It also contributes to the regulation of blood sugar levels, aids wound healing, and produces growth hormones too
  7. Isoleucine. The last of the three BCAAs, isoleucine is involved in muscle metabolism and is heavily concentrated in muscle tissue. It’s also important for immune function and haemoglobin production
  8. Lysine. Lysine plays major roles in protein synthesis, calcium absorption, and the production of hormones and enzymes. But it is also important for energy production, immune function, and the production of collagen and elastin
  9. Histidine. Your body uses this amino acid to produce histamine, a neurotransmitter that is vital to immune response, digestion, sexual function, and sleep-wake cycles. It’s also critical for maintaining the myelin sheath, the protective barrier that surrounds cells in the nervous system

 

Protein for muscle building

Considering all of the above, it is vitally important that you consume enough protein to support the repair and rebuilding of muscle fibres each and every day. But for a lot of athletes and sports people, they have the tendency to think that if a little is good, then a lot must be better. This invariably is not true – especially for protein.

The recommended daily intake for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. If you're less active, the recommendation drops by a bit, but if you do high-intensity exercise like weightlifting, rowing or cycling, you may need up to twice as much protein to maximise muscle growth.

To meet your target intake for the day, just divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 and that will tell you how many grams of protein per day you need. Now this is just a rough estimate but a great starting point if you are less experienced or knowledgeable for example.

Consume too much beyond your actual need and or exceed the optimal amount per serving and your body will simply pass the rest. We recommend somewhere in the region of 20 – 30g of high-quality protein per serving as this is where protein is at its most bioavailable.

 

When is the best time to take protein?

When you consume your protein throughout the day can be dependent on what your fitness goals are. For example, you may be looking to optimise your protein intake and timing to help you manage your weight, aid muscle repair, build muscle or even just maintain the muscle mass you already have.

The topic of timings has become quite controversial recently, however. Traditionally, the fitness and scientific communities have been fixed on an ‘anabolic window’ of 15 – 60 minutes immediately post exercise as the optimal time to consume your protein.

New research is starting to buck that trend, instead suggesting that this ‘anabolic window’ is actually a lot larger than we all thought!

And so, for the regular user, fitness enthusiasts and even top-level athletes really, the exercise you are doing and quite simply just consuming sufficient protein to meet that level of exercise are actually way more important than the timing of it. Who would have thought!

If you are not in a rush, a food first approach is nothing to be sniffed at for everyone, at all levels. However, we recognise that this doesn’t always work for some people so if you are in a rush, never fear; protein powder supplements like our Active Whey & Collagen are here to stay.

 

What kind of exercise will best help to build and maintain muscle mass?

We have been hearing a lot about building muscle and how protein and collagen can help. We all know now that protein and collagen is just one piece of the puzzle. The next question on our minds is: What kind of exercise will best help to build and maintain muscle mass?

Like most of our blogs, we're going to try not to focus on protein and collagen alone - this is after all your body (and its journey), so whatever you read we would encourage you to tailor it to your own needs.

If your goal is to build muscle, there are a few ways you can achieve this - through exercise and sport training.

The most effective way to increase your lean muscle mass is by using resistance training. It could be that you are lifting weights in the gym or using your own body weight in a session at home, but resistance training will help you to increase your lean muscle tissue.

However, this process isn't just dependent on the exercise itself but also depends on how our bodies respond to this activity. To increase our lean muscle mass, we need to take our body through a period of adaptation. We do this by putting stress on our muscles which makes them grow stronger and bigger in order for them to cope with the demand we are placing on them. This process is known as Hypertrophy.

To achieve hypertrophy, we need the following:

  1. Mechanical Stress/Stimulus
  2. Muscle Protein Synthesis

Your sport or training should provide you with enough muscle stimulus to provide the right cues for muscles to adapt, get bigger, get stronger. Exercise and sport come in all forms and levels of complexity - for example you can do super basic resistance training but even better, you can engage in high intensity interval training, which is proven to be one of the best ways to build strength and improve your fitness at the same time.

When we workout our muscles go through a process of tearing and then rebuilding. This process of protein turnover happens every day but is accelerated when we subject our bodies to resistance training; weight training being one example.

Protein turnover is all about the balance between breakdown and re-synthesis and in red tissues like muscle this is a consistent process. White tissue like ligaments and tendons have long been considered to undergo a protein turnover that is considerably less. New research suggests it is equal in both red and white tissue which makes the need and benefits of specific collagen supplements even more crucial for long term performance.

The process of tearing muscle fibres means that they are broken down and once this has happened, they can then rebuild themselves and they super compensate so that the result is a stronger muscle than what we started with!

In order to achieve this process, our bodies need more protein than usual in order to repair the damage done during exercise - which can come from eating food that is rich in protein or by taking a protein supplement such as whey protein or collagen protein.

 

So, there you have it, all you need to know about what muscle is, what it is made up of and how we can optimise the muscle building process. Thank you for reading and we hope you enjoyed this blog.

If you are looking for a high-quality protein powder supplement to support your training and recovery - why not try U Perform Active Whey & Collagen. A unique blend of premium whey protein concentrate and Bioactive Collagen Peptides® proven to promote muscle protein synthesis and the health and function of muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints and bones.

 

Please comment below if you have any comments or suggestions for our next – we are at our best we work together! Don’t forget to share this with someone who you know would benefit from reading this too. The U Perform family loves sharing ideas and encouraging each other.

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