Training 6 days a week, sweating, grunting, but yet you are just not gaining that lean muscle mass you so desperately desire? We’ve all been there.
Our initial response to not achieving our aesthetic goals is to train longer, harder, and faster – but this could prove to be counter-intuitive and will actually set you way back (no, think even further) from your goals.
The body is an insanely impressive piece of machinery and, like many other machines, there are multiple different aspects which all have to function in unison in order to ensure it runs smoothly. Fitness does not begin and end in the gym – it extends into every aspect of our lives.
Did You Know?
Did you know that most of the calories burned in one day take place outside of the gym?
That’s right, most of our energy is used to perform basic bodily functions. This is the resting energy expenditure or, as it’s more commonly known, the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Your BMR burns up to 70% of your total calories expended in a day. This is the energy used to keep your heart beating and lungs breathing, before you even move.
The next calorie-burners, which burn up to 20% of your calories in a day, are non-exercise activity thermogenesis and the thermic effect of food. In layman’s terms, this is the energy used to move around and complete daily tasks and the energy which is used to breakdown and digest food.
70% + 20% = 90%
This leaves a measly 10% of our daily calories-out being used during exercise. Now, I’m not telling you all of this to encourage you to ditch the gym. Exercise is vital for maintaining good health and the more muscle you have, the more your body burns while at rest. Yes, you can burn fat while you sit on your couch – not to mention the other wonderful health benefits of exercise.
I am telling you this to make you aware of the fact that fat loss and muscle gain do not ONLY happen in the gym. It is most likely that this misunderstanding is the reason you’re reading this article in the first place. You need to focus on every aspect of your health in order to progress in the gym.
If you’re working out harder than ever before and you’re not building muscle, take a look at these 7 reasons you’re not gaining muscle and adjust your lifestyle accordingly.
1. You’re Not Eating Enough!
This is not the first point by accident, it is first because it is often the primary reason people are not gaining muscle like they should be.
No, eating more food will not make you fat when you are following a weight-training program. You will definitely gain some fat but the majority of the weight gain will be pure, lean muscle.
Let’s go back to the calories we burn in a day (BMR + non-activity thermogenesis + thermic effect of food + exercise = the total number of calories expended in a day). If you eat just the right number of calories to complete the daily activities then you will maintain your weight. There is no way you can gain weight or lose weight when you are consuming the same number of calories as the total number of calories expended in a day – it’s that simple.
If you want to grow your muscles, then you have to eat MORE calories than you burn in a day. This means that you will consume more energy than you burn which will give the body enough energy to grow your muscles – this cannot happen when you’re eating at a maintenance level.
Eating more calories than you burn will create a calorie surplus that your muscles will be grateful for.
Let’s go back to the machine analogy. Imagine your body is a car and it’s low on gas. If you drive your car slowly then you are more likely to reach your destination. If you drive it too quickly, however, then you’re likely to run out of gas long before you reach your destination.
What’s the solution? Ensure that your car has enough gas to get you to your destination on time and in style. In the same vein, give your body more than it needs and it will take you where you want to go, and even further. Do not underestimate the importance of fuelling your body.
2. You’re Not Focusing on Your Macros:
Macros is the short term for macronutrients. Macronutrients are the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you consume through food.
The body needs carbohydrates for energy, fats for the absorption of micronutrients, and proteins for the amino-acids, which are the building blocks of muscles.
There are so many people, both men and women, who do not eat enough protein. If you think you are eating enough to be in a decent calorie surplus and you’re still not making gains in the gym, check your macros.
Each macronutrient plays a vital role in the body and that’s why it is so important to consume a variety each and every day. If you’re hitting your calorie goals but only achieving it with carbohydrates, then you aren’t consuming enough protein and your muscles cannot grow.
You get out what you put in. This rule applies to your body and you have to be mindful of what you’re putting in. A car cannot drive on apple juice, and it would be stupid to pump a car with apple juice and then wonder why it won’t start, wouldn’t it? Well, the same goes for your body.
Protein shakes are a great way to get in extra protein if you cannot reach your protein requirements in a day.
Remember: both calories and macros differ from individual to individual and you need to take the time to find your personal daily requirements.
3. Your Testosterone Levels Are Low:
This goes for both men and women. Women struggle to gain the same lean muscle and size as men because their testosterone levels are naturally lower than men’s testosterone levels.
Out of balance hormones could be the reason you’re not gaining muscle like you should be. If you’re eating enough (and enough of the right stuff) and yet you have a low libido, you’re exhausted, you’re holding onto more body fat than usual, and you’re not gaining muscle like you should be, then your testosterone levels are likely to blame.
There are various ways to naturally increase your testosterone levels which could rectify this problem and have you growing in no time.
4. You’re Not Increasing Your Weights
So, you’re lifting heavy, but you have been lifting the same heavy weights for a few weeks?
The body will not change if it is not challenged. You need to keep increasing your weights each week in the gym. The body adapts to new stress very quickly and weights which you struggled to lift a month ago are likely far easier to lift now.
Many people get stuck in their comfort-zone weight, which may be considered a heavy weight, but it’s not heavy enough for you anymore.
Push yourself and you will see results. This could even mean that you don’t reach the maximum number of reps and that’s fine because it gives you something to work towards. Realistic strength goals are of vital importance for lean muscle gain as it will keep you focused in the gym and ensure that you keep pushing yourself.
The general rule of thumb to follow is: if you can hit your maximum number of reps in your rep range and complete two additional reps, then you need to increase the weight.
5. You’re Not Taking A Chill Pill
Remember what I said about most of your calories being burned outside of the gym? Well, your muscles only grow outside of the gym too.
The time spent in the gym is used to tear microscopic tears in the muscle tissue. This tends to make the muscle swell up and you may appear to be growing while you work out – but that’s just an epic pump.
The muscles need to be relaxed in order to repair themselves. If you go to the gym and push hard without taking any rest days then you’re constantly tearing the muscles and giving them no time to repair. If you broke your finger, would you keep moving it? No! So why do that to your muscles?
Our bodies need rest days in order to recover. So take a chill pill, relax, and rest assured knowing that the time spent away from the gym is the time allocated to growing your muscles. (Read This: How to DeLoad for Maximum Recovery)
6. You’re Doing Too Much Cardio
Cardiovascular activities burn calories big time! This means that all of the extra calories you’re eating in surplus are being eaten up by cardio instead of your muscles.
To add to this, the body reaches for energy stores from fat and muscles when it undergoes a lot of cardio. This means that not only are your extra calories going to cardio, but your body will also breakdown your muscles in order to sustain the cardiovascular activity. And this is the exact opposite of what you are looking for if you’re reading this article.
If you do a lot of cardio and want to build muscle, decreasing your cardio activities to one (two maximum) days per week and try to keep it to HIIT cardio sessions which are more likely to target fat than muscle.
Cardio is incredibly beneficial to heart health and should be incorporated into a balanced workout regimen, but it is detrimental to muscle growth so it should be kept to a minimum.
7. Your Workout Schedule is a Mess
Finally, if your workout schedule is all over the show then your muscle gains will be all over the show too.
Sleep schedules, eating schedules, and workout schedules are the key to a healthy mind and body. Our bodies function at their best when they are in a set routine. Many people go to the gym without a set routine and, even worse, they don’t track their workouts or the weights they are using each week.
Inconsistency is detrimental to all health and fitness goals – and that includes muscle gain. It is always good to mix things up in terms of exercises and weights used while exercising, but you must stick to a training schedule or a guide in order to reach your goals.
It can be disheartening to look in the mirror day after day, week after week, and not see the changes that you’re working so hard to achieve. Each and every fitness enthusiast has hit plateaus and become discouraged in the gym.
The main point to take away from this article is to ensure that your life outside of the gym is fuelling you for the time spent in the gym and that you let your body rest. If you run it for too long, it will eventually run out of steam and all of your progress will become undone.
Take it slow and adjust your lifestyle with the incorporation of these 7 tips and I can guarantee that you will begin to make the gains you so desperately desire in no time. Your muscles (and your body) will thank you.
Catherine Grant is an Editor-in-Chief of America’s best bodybuilding supplements website - TopTestosteroneBoosters.org . She is a health and fitness enthusiast. She wrote health and fitness related articles for numerous reputable sites like Huffpost, EvanCarmichael, MasterHerald, Get-a-Wingman, Lifehack etc... She is passionate about helping others reach their health goals through sharing her own personal experiences.