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What does it take to grow muscle?

In this post, PGG contributor Kilo gives a thorough explanation on what it takes to grow muscle.

Guys are obsessed in having a big frame or a slim toned physique. It is a basic show of health, strength and virility. In order to build a more desirable body, one must take into consideration some of the important factors which help in muscle growth. Here are some of the details:

Image credit: whatmbthinks | Creative Commons License

Resistance Workout
This one is obvious but the question is why? When the muscles are put under constant working stress like a heavier weight, the cells will try to adapt by growing bigger (unlike other cells which multiply instead of growing bigger). However this adaptation occurs slowly and doesn’t happen immediately after a workout.

What makes the muscle look bigger during resistance workouts is the contraction of the muscles due to stimulation and acute cell expansion from injury. Usually, a lot of people mistake this as the actual growth but this goes away after a while.

There is emphasis on resistance workout because cardio does not help in building muscle. Cardio exercises help burn fat by using oxygen but it does not put much effect on hormones of the muscle. Sprinting however is different because it uses more of the non-cardio (fast-twitch) muscles and becomes more of resistance workout. That’s why High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) exercises were made to spare muscles to be used as energy.

Food and nutrients
Food intake promotes anabolic or bodybuilding metabolism. The body requires protein to build up the cell mass and carbohydrates to spare the muscles to be used for energy. Fats and some cholesterol are also needed because of long-term energy and formation of hormones. You need some vitamins like Vitamin A, B complex, and magnesium to increase metabolic processes.

If you eat less, the body will lack macronutrients to rebuild itself. This would make the body resort to using your muscles as energy that would lead to a reduction in muscle size.

A lot of people say that their metabolism is too high that they’re not gaining fat no matter how much they eat. This can be a false belief because metabolism is involved with both catabolism (destruction) and anabolism (building). This might just be a case of a lack of nutrients. If this happens, you have to eat.

On the other hand, overfeeding yourself with protein (like whey protein shakes) doesn’t actually benefit in extra muscle growth. Extra protein is converted to glucose and urea that will be excreted by the kidneys.

This is probably one of the most important but often neglected. People need sleep to give time for the body to repair from the damage and stress of the workout and the whole day. During sleep, the body releases growth hormone that basically rebuilds most of the damaged cells like muscles after a workout.

If you lack sleep, you’re giving less time for growth and more time for the body to release Cortisol, the stress hormone, which basically converts your muscle into energy. This means your muscles will be getting smaller.

These are chemical messengers in the body, which drive the cells to grow or act a certain way. Two important hormones drive the muscles to grow, the growth hormone and testosterone. These two promote cell growth and muscle formation and are excreted mainly in rest or eating.

The body usually tightly controls these hormones. Abuse of these hormones like sports enhancement drugs would result in undesirable effects like man boobs, smaller testicles, and baldness.

However, you also might just have a hormone disease. Now if you suspect that you’re not growing as much as you expect with increased food intake and exercise, there might be an imbalance in your body. You might want to see a doctor for these diseases.

Kilo is a former sales associate and is currently pursuing a career in the medical field. He has a great interest in topics such as technology, health issues, economics and business. You can catch up with him at the PGG Forums.

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Hi, my name is Chris and I am the founder of Pinoy Guy Guide. As a guy living in Bonifacio Global City in Manila, Philippines, I have a strong interest in writing about men's fashion, lifestyle, pop culture and gear for guys.


  • Sorry if there are any weird words I used above. I tried my best to tone down the words as much as possible. 😀
    RE: High Interval Intensity Training
    I don’t want to explain much on HIIT because I’m not much of a fan for it but it seems to work well based on studies. Please feel free to search for it over at the internet and study it.

  • You failed to mention the role of genetics in bodybuilding,we have what we call genetic limitation,and this is one of the factors that one has to consider in attaining their body building goals.
    If genetics has no role then every tom dick and harry will have a Mr. Universe Body provided that they stick to their routines but this does not happen in real life

  • Hi julius,

    You’re right, i forgot about that (lol).

    Although its true that genetics plays a role in muscle composition determination at birth (there is pre-determined set of Fast twitch and slow twitch muscle) its not modifiable factor and genetics is difficult to explain. (we don’t have to go to the detail of central dogma, transcription and autosomal inheritance do we?).

    You are right, there are people who are almost impossible to become beefcakes. But even if you have the ratio of (lucky or unlucky) 90% slow twitch oxygen using muscles and 10% fast twitch glycogen using muscles, these are still subjected the same modifiable environmental factors like hormones, stress, and nutrition…

    And the muscles would still grow by the only way they can = hypertrophy (increase in size).

    you may not look like the governor of california in his old days but at least you look good.

  • Okay, you’ve got some good stuff in the previous point. To keep it simple, start with improving real-food diet… add in whey protein + glutamin (about 3 scoops a day)… notice your gains, increase carbs by 400gramps if you’re not gaining… add in essential fatty acids to have your testosterone levels kick in. Then look into adding creatine, multivitamins, vitamin C.
    Mark Martinez,
    Testing out hypergain like the energizer bunny

  • Hi Kilo,

    I’m 5’7″ and was about 51 Kilos. I tried going to the gym and I gained 5 kilos in about 2 months(no supplements). But after another year I stayed in that weight, I’m not gaining. So I stopped.

    Maybe I’m a little active that’s why it’s hard for me to gain, I play football at least once a week and running(@ least 10K) once a month.

    Need your advice or comment on this. Thanks!

  • hi i’5’7 and i’m 23 yrs old… i’m a bit skinny but not that mucg.. i want to have good body physique..can you give me some advice..
    by the way im always working during night shift i sleep during daytime…tnx alot.. any advise will be helpfull

  • guys, any advice sa mga my hernia? ok lang ba na mag-work out sila? I have a friend na my hernia kasi. I badly need your advice.. Thanks.

  • Just to add up guys.. ( It would be nice if the Mods can post this as an article here…)

    Rules you may want to follow on going to gym:

    1. Above all else, please don’t smell bad. I understand that we’re there to work out, and a normal amount of BO is to be expected, but I shouldn’t be able to smell you from 20 feet away. Shower regularly. Use deodorant. Do weights first, then cardio, then leave. Just because you’re a gym rat doesn’t mean you should smell like a drowned rat. If this doesn’t work and you’re still making people gag, then you have a medical condition. See a doctor.

    2. To the above point, change your workout clothes regularly. People notice when you wear the same shirt to the gym every day, and it makes them dislike you.

    3. Clean up after yourself. The towels and sprayers are there for a reason. Unless I’m married to you, I don’t want to be swimming in your goo.

    4. Share. If someone asks to work on a piece of weightlifting equipment, then let them. On that note, don’t hog aerobic equipment either. If you can last two hours on a treadmill, then maybe you should just be running outside.

    5. A little grunting is OK, but it shouldn’t sound like you’re the Octomom in the delivery room.

    6. Return it from where you got it. Really, when you’re in a crowded gym and you abandon one of the limited bench presses or squat racks with plates still on the bar, no one knows if someone is still using it. This is what we in the fitness business call a “dick move.” If I catch you doing this at my gym, I will personally tell every woman present that I witnessed you not wash your hands after using the bathroom.

    7. You leave, you lose. If you’re super-setting during a busy time, then expect that you may end up losing one of your alternate pieces of equipment when not using it. Don’t pout or make a fuss. Be a man: Adapt and overcome.

    8. Spot those who ask and consider asking a certified trainer about proper spotting technique if you are unsure of what to do.

    9. Be good to the equipment. Don’t drop weights or let plates slam down. It’s annoying, and you might break it. Olympic lifters get a buy on this.

    10. Don’t give unsolicited advice. Just mind your own business and let the dumbass hurt himself.

    11. Check your ego at the door. Don’t strut around like you’ve got an impacted colon, and don’t try to lift more than you can handle. If I see your neck getting crushed from doing too much on the bench press, I’m just as likely to point and laugh as help you.

    12. Don’t bring your cell phone unless you’re expecting an urgent call from someone who is very pregnant. You don’t build your biceps by lifting your phone to your ear.

    13. Don’t be too chatty. A little conversation is OK, but remember that we’re all there to exercise rather than socialize. Also, don’t initiate conversations with people wearing headphones. They don’t want to talk to you.

    14. Don’t ogle the women. They don’t like that, and you don’t want to get a reputation as Creepy Staring Guy. If you must, take a quick glance using the mirrors, then get back to work. Drooling is bad too.

    15. If you happen to be a woman reading this article, feel free to check us guys out. We do like that. As least I like it. Hey! Look at my biceps.

    16. No PDA! Seriously, get a room.

    17. Dress appropriately. Just because you’ve got it doesn’t mean you should flaunt it.

    18. By the way, wearing your baseball cap backwards is scientifically proven to lower your bench press by 10% and your IQ by at least double that.

    I like the gym. I love it. It’s my home away from home. I think the real secret to getting and staying in good shape is simply to love the exercise you engage in, and if your fellow gym patrons are courteous, then it makes loving the place a lot easier.

    This will be on the test, so study hard.

  • Thanks guys…This article is very informative and something that I will keep in mind when I go to the gym.


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