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5 Myths About Building Lean Muscle Mass

by Shawn LeBrun
Personal trainer
Natural Bodybuilder


No matter what you read, you're going to find information on building lean muscle mass that's just plain wrong. Call them myths or simply call it misinformation, you need to be careful what you read.

In fact, that's one of the biggest reasons more people do not achieve their goals of building lean muscle mass: they are misinformed and misled about what it really takes.

Here are are five common musclebuilding myths and the truth behind each of them.

Myth #1: You need to perform high reps with a light weight for definition

Truth: Yes, performing more reps and sets with a lighter weight might burn off more calories if done for long periods of time; however, doing this while dieting with the hopes of adding more definition to your physique could leave you with a smaller version of your current body.

And lifting lighter weight for higher reps is not the best way to gain lean muscle mass.

Because having more muscle on your physique means burning more calories, it's more desirable to attempt to maintain as much muscle as you can while dieting.

This is not always possible if you don't provide enough stimuli for your muscles to grow by lowering your weights and performing more reps. One very effective way to go about holding onto more muscle is to continue to keep your weights as heavy as you safely can, while performing a moderate range of reps. By training to build lean muscle, even while dieting for definition, you can keep the muscle you worked so hard for and burn more calories in the process.

Don't fall for the myth that lighter weight and higher reps is better for definition. Less weight lifted will mean less muscle growth as a result. Focus on definition by watching your diet and by doing cardio.

Myth #2: Your body can only absorb 30 grams of protein each meal.

Truth: In reality, there's no conclusive evidence of the maximum amount of protein each person is able to utilize from each meal. There are many factors that determine how much protein the body is able to use at a time. These can include the health, age and weight of the athlete, recent workouts, recent meals, and a host of other physiological factors.

As a result, without any solid evidence to the contrary, there is no exact number for the amount of protein you can or can't use from each meal. What we do know, however, is that protein builds muscle and consuming 1.5 to 2 grams per pound of bodyweight each day is a good bet for meeting your protein needs.

Only protein (out of protein, carbs, or fats) helps in the process of building lean muscle mass. And it's also the least likely nutrient to be converted to body fat.

Myth #3: For building lean muscle mass, you have to spend hours and hours in the gym each day.

Truth: Training every day for hours on end can actually be quite counterproductive to your musclebuilding goals. The old saying "more is better" is actually not true in this case. The main reason for this is that under stressful conditions, such as prolonged weight training, the body can break down proteins (from muscle) and burn them as energy.

The longer the workout, the more protein that can be broken down. What is also interesting is that overtraining, may also impair the immune system, preventing it from functioning at peak efficiency. This can allow colds and viruses to occur and slow down your progress in the gym. To avoid this, it's best to limit your intense training sessions to less than an hour and to lift no more than five days each week.

Myth #4: Performing crunches will trim unwanted fat from your waist.

Truth: This myth is commonly referred to as "spot reduction." Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to lose fat from only one area of your body. Overall bodyfat must be reduced to lose fat in any particular area of the body. One way to accomplish this would be to combine reducing calories and increasing the frequency, duration, and/or intensity of your cardio workouts.

Don't go to extremes on either though, you don't want to reduce calories too much or you'll sabotage lean muscle mass growth as a result. And you don't want to do too much cardio in fear of overtraining.

Myth #5: Fat is bad fat.

Truth: While this is a myth that is slowly disappearing over time, there are still many athletes out there who believe the best nutritional strategy for building lean muscle mass and/or losing fat involves cutting out every last ounce of fat from their diets. Following this strategy, however, is a sure way to end up with less muscle mass as a result.

Fat in the form of polyunsaturated fats is a very important factor in building muscle. Polyunsaturated fats are required in your diet because they include two highly important essential fatty acids linolenic (omega-3) and linoleic (omega-6). If you are looking to cut fat from your diet, reduce the fat you eat in the form of saturated and trans fats.

Avoid deep-fried foods, cookies, donuts, margarine, and greasy fast foods. To add more healthy polyunsaturated fats to your diet, eat fish a few times each week or try adding some flaxseed oil. If you are looking to cut fat from your diet, reduce the fat you eat in the form of saturated and trans fats and add more healthy polyunsaturated fats like flax or fish oils to your diet.

While there are many more myths about building lean muscle mass being passed around in the gym, you now can be informed with the knowledge presented above to help improve your muscle gains!


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