These may be the reasons you’re not seeing those gains you’ve been working so hard for.
You’ve put tons of work into your lifting regime, you bought all the supplements and stocked up of lean meats, vegetable and fruit. You put hours of work in the gym. You think you’re doing all the right things. You listen to all the advice the fitness “experts” tell you that you should be doing. But the results just aren’t showing. No matter how hard you work, you’re still not getting those gains. What’s the deal?
1. You’re not doing it right. There is a decent chance you have rushed into your muscle-building routine. Many routines out there don’t really follow the basic guidelines you should be following in order to really see results, especially if you’re a beginner. Its important to understand that the muscle-building process works in three ordered phases (muscle endurance/flexibility, strength-building, and power). If you skip one of these phases, you are most likely going to be improperly performing exercises, putting more strain on the wrong set of muscles, and at the end of the day, setting yourself up for injury. Start slow, build up your ability with light weight, and add from there. Do not rush into 5x5 heavy lifting if you haven’t gotten your 4x10s down-pat, you just won’t get results that way. Here is a solid muscle-building program that follows the basic principles and techniques of proper muscle-growth (see it here).
2. You’re not eating right. The truth is, muscles are made in the kitchen, not the gym. Many people complain that they are “hard-gainers,” or state they are taking in 350 grams of protein a day with no results to show for it. Well, there is much more to proper nutrition than taking in 6 servings of your favorite protein powder after a workout. Every person requires a different set of macronutrients intake, dependent on their goals, daily lifestyle, and fitness level. Most would be surprised how much more carbs they really need as opposed to protein when it comes to building muscle. Use this macro calculator to get a good estimate of how many calories you should be taking in, and what your macro distribution should look like. Follow it for a month or so, and you’ll start seeing some muscle pop through.
3. You drink too much. Sorry to say it, but you might want to slow it down a bit on the booze… Research has shown alcohol intake may cause a major setback in muscle gains and reaching your fitness goals. Apparently, alcohol reduces muscle protein synthesis, impairing overall muscle growth. Studies also show alcohol alters hormone levels and decreases our metabolism. This means our ability to reduce body fat becomes a problem, mainly because alcohol can be considered as “empty calories,” and is stored as visceral fat in the body, which can be the most difficult kind of fat to get rid of. There is good news however. Research also shows that it takes approximately nine drinks to be consumed for a 180lb man to lower testosterone hormone levels post-exercise, according to some studies. So, the real takeaway is maybe don’t drink after leg or chest day. 😉
4. Too much cardio: This circles back to the calories. Look, if you are trying to gain muscle, you cannot escape the fact that you will need to consume more calories than your body is burning. When adding cardio to your workout regime, you must be conscious of how much you do. Cardio-work is great, but when building muscle, you’re going to want to stick to shorter sessions (maybe 20 minutes or less), and try to stick to explosive, sprinting sessions rather than long and slow jogs. Regardless, you NEED to replace the calories you burn as soon as your cardio session is complete, and with GOOD calories like proteins and simple carbs.
5. You’re not resting enough. When people say “no off days,” don’t be impressed. It takes more discipline to give your body the rest it deserves than it is to just go waste your time (or even be counterproductive) at the gym. To build muscle, the body needs to break apart fibers inside the muscle, and then grow back more or different types of muscle fibers in their place. Without enough rest, the muscle doesn't have time to repair and grow. Thus, you are wasting your time, most likely reaching exhaustion and overtraining, and setting yourself up for injury if you don’t allow enough time for proper rest and recovery. Try 1 day of rest for every 3 days of lifting. And please for the love of God, get some sleep. 8 hours of good sleep is what your body wants to repair itself. Have the discipline to rest your body when it needs it, and you’ll be pleased with the results (not to mention you’ll have more energy when it is a gym day).
There you have it. These are the 5 most common mistakes when trying to gain muscle. Now you know, so do something about it. Try changing up your bad habits and see what happens.