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In order to achieve muscle growth (hypertrophy), bodybuilders focus on the following areas:
Resistance weight training
Resistance weight training causes microtears to the muscles being trained; this is generally known as microtrauma. These microtears in the muscle contribute to the soreness felt after exercise, called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. It is the repair to these microtrauma that result in muscle growth (anabolism). Normally, this soreness becomes most apparent a day or two after a workout.
The growth and repair however cannot occur without the necessary building blocks. These are supplied by high quality nutrition. Bodybuilders require a very specialised diet. Generally speaking bodybuilders require anything between 500-1000 calories (2000 to 4000 kilojoules) above their maintenance level of food energy whilst attempting to increase lean body mass. A sub-maintenance level of food energy is combined with cardiovascular exercise to lose body fat in preparation for a contest. The ratios of food energy from carbohydrates, proteins and fats vary depending on the goals of the bodybuilder.
Bodybuilders split their food intake for the day into 5-7 meals of roughly equal nutrional content and attempt to eat at regular intervals. This interval is normally between 2-3 hours. The reason for this is to allow greater absorption of nutrients, and to increase basal metabolic rate. This process is also valuable for those wishing merely to lose fat.
Before exercise, carbohydrates provide the energy to sustain the workout. After the workout session, the muscles, as described above, require tissue-building protein. Intake of carbohydrates after the workout raises the insulin level. Increased insulin levels in turn lift growth-hormone levels and stimulates the production of protein, which is needed for new muscle growth and repair. In addition, protein takes up to 24 hours to move through the digestive system and will be utilized within the next two days for repair. Carbohydrates move through the system within 3 hours.
It is recommended that bodybuilders receive 1 to 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight to help the body recover and build. These protein sources should be of a high biological value such as steak, chicken, fish, soy, milk or whey, and egg whites. Chicken, whey, and egg whites are often preferred due to their relatively low fat content. Some bodybuilders prefer to get their daily protein requirement from foods first and then from supplementary protein powders.
Vitamins & Minerals
Adequate intake of vitamins and minerals is necessary; Bodybuilders almost universally take a multi vitamin each day. Essential fatty acids (including omega-3s), which the body can not synthesize, are also consumed. As with all supplements, it is preferable to get the vitamin and mineral requirement from whole foods, but not always convenient.
Supplements can help muscle gain, although some are unproven and many are ineffective. Creatine however, is one which has been proven to help bodybuilders. Although creatine only helps if used in conjunction with a solid nutritional base and weight training program, this is true for all supplements. Whey is the most common protein supplement and you can read about it here.
Some bodybuilders may use drugs to gain an advantage over results due to natural hypertrophy, especially in professional competitions. Although many of these substances are illegal in many countries, in professional bodybuilding the use of anabolic steroids and precursor substances such as prohormones are essential to competing in world-class competitions. Most steroids allows the human body to be in a more anabolic state. Significant negative side-effects accompany steroid abuse, such as liver damage as well as negative feedback leading to a decline in the body's own testosterone production, which can cause testicular atrophy and possible infertility.
The third component to extraordinary muscle building is rest. Without quality rest and sleep the body does not have an opportunity to recover and build. About eight hours of sleep a night is essential for the bodybuilder to be refreshed and ready for the next session. Additionally, many athletes find a daytime nap further increases their body's ability to direct resources toward repairing and building; sleep is good.