Easy Ways to Build Muscle Outside the Gym

Easy Ways to Build Muscle Outside the Gym

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Hitting the gym seven days a week and still not getting the results you want? Perhaps it has less to do with the time you spent lifting weights or doing sets of squats and more with how you’re taking care of your body outside of your everyday routine.

In order to achieve your goal — whether it’s to get fit, lose weight or improve athletic performance — it’s important to incorporate other healthy habits in your life. This includes meal prepping, getting enough sleep, and drinking a lot of water.

After any workout, it’s important to load up on “at least 20 grams of protein to maximize the response,” says certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach Henry Halse. “If you don't consume protein the body will break down other muscle tissue to help build the muscles you just worked."

Don’t forget that it’s also important to stretch and foam roll post-exercise for speedy muscle recovery. If you have the time, and money, book a massage — research has shown that the therapy reduces inflammation and helps cells recover.

Consume enough calories

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Consume enough calories

In order to gain muscle mass, it's important to consume enough calories. “Once you go avoiding hunger you start mucking with your metabolism,” certified fitness instructor Rebecca Boedges told The Active Times, adding, “When we are very young we eat continuously all day but are slowly taught to eat three meals a day. […] If we all ate when we were actually hungry, took the time to listen to what our body was telling us about what we need to eat, and did this consistently over time, we would be far less overweight as a culture.”

Get some Zzz's

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Get some Zzz's

Sleep affects our health in more ways than we often realize. "Once you're out of the gym and done with your workout, your body goes into recovery mode, trying to repair any damage done to your body," Chris Cooper, a Precision Nutrition coach and NSCA certified fitness professional, said. "In addition, a great night's sleep keeps our hormone levels in check. There's no better recovery tool than sleep. When we get restful sleep our body repairs all the 'wear and tear' we experience throughout the day. Our tissues are able to regenerate and our brain can process and learn from our day's experience."

Portion your food

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Portion your food

To ensure that you're consuming an appropriate serving size, portion out snacks and meals. Overeating nutritious foods can become not-so-healthy when those calories begin to add up. "Even the healthiest of snacks can add more than a meal's worth of calories before you realize it," NASM-certified personal trainer Kat Whitfield tells The Active Times. Using celery and peanut butter as an example, Whitfield said, "The celery may not contain many calories, but the peanut butter sure does. One tablespoon turns to two turns to three...before you know it you've eaten 360 calories in just one snack."

Don't forget to stretch

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Don't forget to stretch

Working out is just as crucial as cooling down, which is why you should always stretch after exercising. Working out is just as crucial as cooling down, which is why you should always stretch after exercising. "While studies have shown stretching has a minimal impact on post workout muscle soreness—it can improve your flexibility to boost your workout performance," said personal trainer and exercise physiologist Kate Vidulich. Some of the best stretches include the hip flexor/quad stretch, swan stretch, and standing triceps stretch.

Load up on protein

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Load up on protein

After a workout of weightlifting or circuit training, be sure to choose your post-workout meal wisely. "After you exercise your muscles are more sensitive to amino acids and will begin the process of protein synthesis, meaning you should supply them with some amino acids via a protein-rich food or a protein shake," certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach Henry Halse told The Active Times. "Make sure you get at least 20 grams of protein to maximize the response. If you don't consume protein the body will break down other muscle tissue to help build the muscles you just worked."

Train your willpower

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Train your willpower

According to Kara Zakrzewski, a mental toughness and performance coach and CEO of Mental Toughness Inc., the "biggest thing anyone can do outside of the gym to see faster results is to train their willpower. This willpower will support them to both make it back to the gym at their next occasion and will also prevent them from reaching for that treat as a reward for their most recent workout." Repositioning your mindset will help you get back on track when your willpower begins to waiver after rigorous activity.

Get a massage

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Get a massage

If you're trying to recover from intense exercise, consider booking a post-workout massage. A study has shown that the therapy reduces inflammation and helps cells recover.

Keep your body engaged throughout the day

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Keep your body engaged throughout the day

Sitting slouched at your desk and dragging your feet as you walk can negatively impact all of the hard work you've put in at the gym. Practicing good posture is considered just as important for your body as cardio and weight-lifting. "How you sit, stand and move throughout the day has a greater impact on how your body looks and feels than your most intense class at the gym," Karen Nuccio, a movement specialist, told The Active Times. "If we simply engaged our bodies consistently throughout the day — sat at our desk with an engaged core, walked up the street and stairs and activated the muscles on our limbs, rather than drag them about, breathed in and out so that oxygen actually fed the body properly, and hydrated properly — this small effort exercised consistently would do more to raise the baseline of health and fitness more than any single class a day ever could."

Plan your meals

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Plan your meals

Healthy bodies are made in the gym and the kitchen. "Make sure your diet supports the work you are doing at the gym," Dr. Ellen Albertson, Ph.D., RDN, CD, a psychologist, nutritionist and founder or SmashYourScale.com, said. "Have a small meal or snack both before and after your workout that contains both carbs and protein. Carbs are necessary to fuel and build muscle, and protein is needed for growth and repair. Put together a meal plan and a shopping list so you'll have the energy you need to succeed.

Foam roll

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Foam roll

It's not possible to get a massage after every workout but you can always use a foam roller to help reduce muscle soreness. Best of all you can do it from the comfort of your own home — or wherever you are. Click here for more info here on how to foam roll properly.

Eat iron-rich foods

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Eat iron-rich foods

Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, which can cause weakness or tiredness since your muscles aren't getting enough oxygen. Foods that are rich in iron are spinach, legumes, red meat, quinoa, and dark chocolate.

Keep on moving

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Keep on moving

Just because you're not at the gym doesn't mean you can't get active. "It's important for everyone to get tons of low-grade physical activity every day, such as walking or stretching," explained Halse. "This will increase blood flow and help you burn more calories.” Also, your joints will heal faster if you constantly move them. Humans were meant to move most of the day, so sitting is counterproductive to all of your fitness goals, even if you want to build muscle.

Consider taking L-glutamine supplements

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Consider taking L-glutamine supplements

L-glutamine is an amino acid that your body needs to make protein, and therefore to build muscle. According to nutritionist Lee Holmes, it "creates the right internal environment for muscle recovery and helps to repair the muscle damage caused during a workout." Speak with your doctor to figure out the best dosage for you.

Relax a little

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Relax a little

We know you're going to be pushing yourself to the limit when you're working out at the gym. Beyond those walls, be sure to let yourself relax. This is important because high stress levels can have a negative impact on so many things, including your appetite control, sleep cycles and how your body stores fat. Throughout your day, take a moment to breathe, check in with yourself and get your rest when you can.

Don't overcompensate exercise with more calories

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Don't overcompensate exercise with more calories

After an intense early morning workout, it might be tempting to spend the rest of the day relaxing on the couch or treat yourself to an extra snack — but avoid overcompensating exercise with extra calories. Health and wellness expert Amy Hendel told The Active Times, "If you are sitting much of the day, even after a vigorous workout, you are probably not burning as many calories in a day's 'total efforts' as you think." Hendel added, "People often negate their positive workout effect shortly thereafter by their poor nutrition or overall physical activity choices outside of the gym."

Get that magnesium

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Get that magnesium

Magnesium is one of the four major electrolytes that helps maintain the body's fluid balance. When there's an imbalance in electrolytes, it can lead to muscle cramps/spasms. "If you do not replace the electrolytes adequately when they are needed, the electrical system cannot function properly and can trigger the muscles to spasm," Dr. Michael Hirt, founder of the nationally recognized Center for Integrative Medicine in California's San Fernando Valley, told The Daily Meal in 2014. Foods rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains.

Stock up on water

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Stock up on water

Yes, it's important to load up on water when you're sweating a ton and working hard at the gym. But regardless of where you are, it's crucial to stay hydrated (our bodies are mostly made up of water!).This will improve everything in your life – from your skincare to your sleep schedule. Carry around a water bottle with you at all times, and sip often — occasionally, we mistake thirst for hunger!

Tart cherries help with muscle inflammation

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Tart cherries help with muscle inflammation

"Tart cherries are a source of natural aspirin-like compounds which can reduce inflammation," explained Dr. Hirt, who warns you that the fruit "does not come cheap in terms of calories, so make sure you have the extra 'fruit' calories to burn or you could end up packing on unwanted body fat."

Ginger helps reduce muscle soreness

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Ginger helps reduce muscle soreness

"Ginger is an herb with lots of natural anti-inflammatory ingredients that make it a safe therapy for reducing pain due to inflammation," Dr. Hirt told The Daily Meal. Intense exercise may "cause muscles to have micro tears that have to be repaired. This process involves the release of chemicals that trigger repair cells to come fix the damage. When this fix-it process gets a bit out of hand, we call it inflammation. That is when ginger (teas, extracts, candied) can help cut back on the exuberant release of inflammatory chemicals and provide some much-needed relief."

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According to several studies , taking short periods out of your day to disconnect from social media, email and other potential distractions can be good for your overall health. Put your phone down to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and balance the hormones that affect fat storage and appetite.