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    Here's Everything You Need To Know To Actually Put On Muscle

    Whey protein and biceps curls not required.

    Alice Mongkongllite / BuzzFeed

    So you want to get swole.

    Or maybe just a bit more muscly.

    Before you start pounding protein shakes, you should know a few things about how to do it right to get the results you're looking for.

    BuzzFeed Life consulted two experts for this story: Douglas S. Kalman, Ph.D., R.D., director of nutrition research at QPS-MRA, sports nutritionist for Florida International University, and co-founder of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, and strength and conditioning expert Tony Gentilcore, CSCS, co-founder Cressey Sports Performance. Gentilcore and Kalman agree that putting on size is a matter of finessing your lifestyle — eating enough of the right stuff, working out properly, making sure you're fueled for workouts, recovering from exercise, sleeping well, and most importantly, adhering to your training plan. We get into how to do all of it below.

    Here's what they say you should keep in mind.

    1. First things first: You're going to have to eat more food. Maybe a lot more.

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    No matter what you call it — bulking up, getting swole, putting on size, gaining muscle mass — getting bigger than you currently are means taking in more calories so you can gain weight.

    Kalman explains that how much more you need to eat will vary depending on a bunch of things, like your goals, your metabolism, and your current size. But to get a general sense of how many calories you should eat in order to gain weight, Kalman recommends starting with these equations:

    • For women: 12 to 15 calories per pound of bodyweight times 1.3 to 1.5 if you're active*

    • For men: 15 to 20 calories per pound of bodyweight times 1.2 to 1.5 if you're active*

    These are general guidelines to follow — you can try them for a couple of weeks and tweak accordingly depending on how you feel and what results you're getting. You can also use the calculators here to figure out how many calories you need based on your resting metabolic rate and tweak to fit your goals.

    *Active in this case means that you exercise about four times per week, which, if you follow the guidelines in this article, should be about right.

    2. But you don't want to eat just anything.

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    Even though it seems like eating anything and everything might be the most efficient way to gain mass, Kalman explains that you don't want to gain just any weight. You want to gain mostly muscle (not only is having too much fat unhealthy, it's a tissue that doesn't do anything for your goal of muscle growth or workout recovery, says Kalman). In order to do this, you need to be sure you're eating the right kinds of calories at the proper times.

    Kalman recommends a diet that's about 50% carbs, 25% fat, and 25% protein, but you might need to adjust based on how you feel (throughout the day and during workouts) and the results you're getting (both in terms of performance and aesthetics).

    To play around with macronutrient ratios — how many carbs, fat, and protein you're eating each day — just use an online macronutrient calculator.

    3. Prioritize clean protein and complex carbs.

    4. But have simple carbs before and after workouts.

    5. And make sure your post-exercise snack includes protein.

    6. And if you're having trouble getting all those calories in, consider shakes and smoothies.

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    Depending on your size and goals, gaining mass might just mean having an extra half-sandwich, piece of fruit, and serving of nuts each day. But for other people it might mean an extra several hundred calories. Gentilcore says that increases that big can make you feel pretty full — sometimes to the point of discomfort — until your body adapts. He says that one way around this is drinking your calories instead of trying to eat them all.

    A delicious, easy way to consume, say, about 500 calories of protein, carbs, and fat is this smoothie:

    • 1 banana (about 100 calories)

    • One scoop chocolate protein powder (about 120 calories)

    • 1½ cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (about 45 calories)

    • 2 tablespoon almond butter (about 190 calories)

    • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (about 20 calories)

    • A handful of kale (about 15 calories)

    7. Work up to heavy deadlifts, squats, and presses.

    8. And also lift some lighter weights!

    9. Moderate-intensity cardio is where it's at.

    10. Take rest days very seriously.

    11. Get enough sleep.

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    Getting a solid night of sleep is non-negotiable when it comes to getting results and feeling good during your workouts. Being sleep-deprived wreaks havoc on your body — from your metabolism and appetite to your cognitive function, all of which can make it tough to get the most out of your workouts. Kalman says that athletes who sleep less than five hours of sleep per night, when compared with athletes who get at least eight hours, have worse immune systems and experience poorer athletic performance.

    12. Make sure you're hydrating properly.

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    Your body performs most efficiently when it's well hydrated, and that's especially important when you're working out hard several times per week, both for performance during your workouts as well as recovering afterward. Kalman says that being even just a bit dehydrated also has a negative effect on your mood and thought processes, which can mean not being as mentally sharp during workouts, which could lead to making errors while lifting, which could lead to injury. Being well-hydrated also means less stress on your joints during exercise thanks to the extra cushioning of fluid around your joints. Finally, being properly hydrated, Kalman says, makes you more sensitive to hunger cues.

    13. Once you have everything else figured out, you can consider supplements.

    14. Find a good way to measure progress.

    15. Consider consulting an expert or two.

    Sally Tamarkin / BuzzFeed

    Because so many variables come into play when it comes to health, fitness, and body composition, it sometimes takes some trial and error to figure out what works. A registered dietitian and/or an expert in strength and conditioning will be able to help with meal plan design, fitness programming, and the other factors that come into play when you want to change your body composition. Consider working with an expert if you want to tweak your lifestyle with more precision relative to your personal needs.

    16. Make sure your expectations about results are realistic.

    Good luck, and happy gaining!

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