Chris Hemsworth’s trainer answers your muscle-building questions
How long does it take to build muscle? Am I eating enough protein? When you’re lifting heavy to gain serious muscle mass, guesswork just won’t cut it.
With Centr Power, you don’t have to transform your body on your own. Chris Hemsworth and I took inspiration from Chris’s Thor training routine to create the definitive 10-week muscle-building program to help you achieve maximum growth. As a Centr member, you can also get access to expert advice, training tutorials, nutrition guides and the best trainers in the business. Not a member yet? Start your free trial today.
To get your gains on the right track, I’m answering some of your most common muscle-building questions around training, nutrition and getting results.
Want to build muscle like these guys? Use your free trial to start Centr Power, the 10-week program inspired by Chris’s Thor training.
The most common muscle-building questions – answered
By getting your head around the facts and the numbers, you can kick off your muscle-building journey with confidence.
How do you build muscle?
To build muscle, you need to perform at your best in the gym AND the kitchen. On the nutrition side, you will require a calorie surplus (eating more calories than you burn for energy), adequate protein for optimal muscle protein synthesis, and well-timed nutrition for maximum performance and growth. The physical process of building muscle begins with your training, during which your muscles undergo microscopic damage. When you rest, your body repairs by fusing damaged muscle fibers back together, leading to stronger and thicker fibers – or bigger and stronger muscles.
Because your body adapts to exercise quickly, you will need to increase the intensity of your training to continue gaining muscle mass, e.g. increasing reps and lifting heavier. This is known as progressive overload. Everyone’s journey to maximize muscle mass will be different, but our handy guide to gains will help you perform at your best.
How long does it take to build muscle?
If you have your training, diet and recovery locked down, the average man can gain 1-2lbs (0.5-1kg) of lean muscle mass per month, and a woman up to 1lb (0.5 kg) per month. The rate at which you see muscle gains will also depend on your lifting experience. If you’re already doing strength training, it will take longer to notice additional gains. If you’re a newcomer, you may notice a significant increase in strength and definition in your first weeks and months as your body rapidly adapts to a new style of training – this is what we call ‘newbie gains’. But no matter your experience, if you continue to progress your training you will get results.
Centr member Mark saw impressive 10-week gains with Centr Power.
Can I build muscle and lose fat at the same time?
This process is sometimes called ‘recomping’, short for body recomposition. While it is possible, it is tougher than straight-up bulking or shedding weight. If you do wish to attempt this, you will need to optimize your protein intake and lift heavy while following a well-designed training program. The Centr Power program is designed to help you nail your individual nutrition needs, increase muscle mass and burn fat more efficiently.
Does building muscle burn fat?
The more muscle you have, the more fat you will burn, even when you’re not working out. This is because muscle is metabolically active – in other words, it boosts your metabolism, which is how your body burns off energy. Strength training (AKA muscle-building) is also very effective when it comes to burning fat. Recent studies have shown that strength training prompts your muscles to send a message to fat cells that it’s time to break down, and then improves the body’s ability to expel fat once it enters the bloodstream. So while muscle doesn’t directly burn fat, training to build muscle will help you burn more in the long run.
Looking for inspiration? Check out these Centr members who reduced visible body fat and gained muscle while eating in a calorie surplus and strength training with Centr Power.
How do women build muscle?
While genetics can make it more challenging for women to gain significant muscle mass, the process overall remains the same. If you’re a woman looking to build muscle, we suggest you get your training and nutrition on point, and stay focused on getting the best possible results for you.
Should I lose weight before building muscle?
There is no right answer to this question. Your decision will depend on your goals and your timelines. Some people prefer to focus on losing weight (body fat) first, then switch to building muscle after achieving their weight loss goals. If you have a significant amount of body fat to lose, it may be better for your health to prioritize weight loss – if this is the case, we recommend consulting with a doctor to decide the best approach for your personal circumstances.
The most common nutrition questions when building muscle
Good nutrition is just as important as consistent training when it comes to getting results.
Does protein help build muscle?
It sure does. Protein is made up of amino acids which are essential for the functioning of your entire body – including the repair and growth of muscle cells. If you do not eat enough protein, you may end up compensating with excess carbohydrates and fat, which can lead to weight gain in the form of body fat, rather than muscle.
Want a taste of how good high-protein eating can be? Try one of Centr’s most popular muscle-building meals – Barbecued Chicken with Grilled Broccoli & Lemon Salad – for free.
How much protein do I need to build muscle?
Daily protein needs for adults depend on individual factors, including body size and activity (or training) levels. An inactive adult requires 1g per kilogram of body weight per day (a kilogram is 2.2 pounds), while a person with the goal of building muscle will require 2g or more per kilogram of body weight per day, although muscle can be gained with less than this. So for instance, an 80kg (176lb) male would need between 80g and 160g of protein per day, depending on his activity levels. It’s important that you space protein throughout the day, and that you monitor your results and adapt as required.
What supplements should I take to build muscle?
At Centr, we take a “real food first” approach to building muscle. That means getting your nutrition right should be your first priority. When you have optimized your training and nutrition, there are some supplements that may give you a boost, but they are by no means essential to achieving muscle growth. On top of this, not everyone will see the same (or any) benefits. The one supplement that we do suggest making a part of your muscle-building meal plan is a good-quality protein powder. Because getting the amounts of protein needed to build muscle can make it feel like you are constantly eating, protein powder is a convenient option.
What should I eat after a workout to build muscle?
Good recovery nutrition plays a critical role in triggering the process of muscle protein synthesis. Ideally, you should have a post-workout snack or meal containing at least 20g (up to 40g) of protein within 1-2 hours of working out. This could be a high-protein shake or homemade protein bar when you’re leaving the gym, or a meal with chicken, fish, tofu or another protein source if you’re working out before lunch or dinner. Take a look at our tips on what to eat to gain weight and muscle mass. But remember, it’s not just that 1-2 hour after working out that nutrition is important – your protein intake over the days that follow and total calorie intake is key to building muscle.
Check out our collection of bars you can pack in your gym bag to meet your energy and protein needs post-training.
Can you build muscle in a calorie deficit?
No – a calorie surplus is crucial to building muscle. However, by losing weight your existing muscle mass can become more visible. For instance, you could have the world’s strongest abs, but if there’s a layer of fat covering them up, no one will be able to see your six-pack.
Can you build muscle on keto?
I don’t recommend trying it. A keto diet involves eating a large proportion of high-fat foods, only moderate protein, and severe carbohydrate restriction. Besides protein being key to muscle growth, you’ll also need plenty of carbohydrates to have the energy to do the training that building serious muscle demands. Looking at the bigger picture, it can be difficult to stick with a restrictive or inflexible diet in the long run. If you’re not enjoying it or it’s impacting your lifestyle, it’s likely going to fail.
Exercising to build muscle
What exercises, equipment and training styles will max your muscle? I’ve got the answers.
Does running build muscle?
Running won’t bulk you up, but despite the long-standing myth that cardio kills muscle gains, it won’t necessarily hurt your muscle-building progress. In fact, using a more cardio-intensive style of training on active rest days as part of a muscle-building program can help you to maintain mobility and flexibility – Centr Power uses functional training on rest days, the same workout style Chris swears by to keep moving freely when he’s maximizing size.
Bobby Holland Hanton helps Centr members keep their functional fitness while building muscle with his plyometric workouts in Centr Power.
How much and what kind of running you do while strength training should depend on your goals. For instance, explosive sprint drills will build fast-twitch muscle fibers and give a pump to your glutes, quads and hamstrings. On the other hand, long-distance running can actually break down muscle protein and prevent growth.
How do I build muscle at home without equipment?
First up, just because you don’t have a home gym, doesn’t mean you don’t have equipment. A sack of potatoes, a family-sized bottle of laundry liquid, a backpack filled with books – they can all sub in for weights if you want to push for more at home. The trick to building muscle at home without equipment is making your bodyweight workouts hard enough to induce muscle growth. You can do this by increasing your reps, adding a hold to exercises (e.g. squatting down then holding the squat for a 10 count before rising up) to increase the challenge, adding supersets to your training (two exercises back-to-back with no rest in between), or performing exercise variations to hit muscles from different angles and lift the intensity.
Do push-ups build muscle?
Push-ups are a classic for a reason. If you’re in a calorie surplus and advancing your training with progressive overload, push-ups can certainly help pump up your chest, shoulders and core. While push-ups should be a staple of your muscle-building training at home, make sure you’re progressing with more challenging variations as you grow stronger. Try our wide-grip and diamond push-ups to take it to the next level.
Do resistance bands build muscle?
They can, and the clue is in the name. Just like a barbell, a resistance band offers resistance for your muscles to push against. The bonus of training with bands is that they place constant tension on your muscles through the full range of motion – from top to bottom on every move. This triggers even more muscle activation and creates the micro-tears you need to repair and build muscle. Plus, by altering the length of your band (or using different bands) you can vary the resistance you’re working against. Let’s get you started with some of my favorite resistance band exercises to build your chest.
Does HIIT build muscle?
HIIT is often considered as straight cardio training, but because HIIT workouts engage and challenge big muscle groups, you’ll also be building muscle endurance and strength. Add weights to your HIIT – which technically makes it a HIRT (high-intensity resistance training) workout – and you’ll benefit even more.
HIIT HIRT • STRENGTH • MUSCLE-BUILDING
Chris Hemsworth may wield the hammer, but it’s his personal trainer Luke Zocchi who cracks the whip. A certified personal trainer, Luke is renowned for his fast and efficient training methods, using weights and bodyweight to get maximum results in minimum time. He’ll also show you how to fuel your training with quick, easy and healthy recipes.
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