You might be hitting the gym regularly and focusing on your eating and weight training, but the results lead you to ask yourself – “Why am I not gaining muscle?”
Don’t worry! It’s a common problem among gym-goers where you can’t gain muscle no matter what you do or how hard you try. Turns out that simply eating a lot of food or working out day and night doesn’t work. There are a few lies and myths floating around the fitness industry that will do more harm than good.
We will be debunking those myths and let you know exactly why you are unable to build muscle.
5 Common Reasons Why You Can’t Gain Muscle
There’s more to muscle building than just lifting weights and eating a lot. It’s all about progression – do your workout, come back the next week and beat your numbers. Repeat the process as you get stronger and stronger.
Here are the 5 most probable reasons why you’re having trouble gaining muscle.
1. You Are Not Tracking Your Lifts
Most people who workout don’t track what they do, and this is a big problem that will result in hampering their progress. Remember the principle of progressive overload – in order to gain muscle, you need to make them gradually work harder. Overtime, your muscles will get stronger and completing your current set won’t stimulate them enough.
In order for them to grow larger and stronger, you need to increase the overload either by increasing the resistance or the number of reps you do. Now if you don’t track your lifts, you don’t know the amount of weight or sets needed to push yourself further, and you’ll plateau.
For optimal results, you need to increase the weight on the bar just a little bit each week, and soon you’ll start seeing incremental gains. Tracking your lifts hardly takes any time and will go a long way in your fitness journey.
2. You Are NOT Eating Enough
Your TDEE, or Total Daily Energy Expenditure is a measure of how many calories your body burns each day. Those extra calories can come from excess proteins, fats and carbs. Now if you don’t intake higher calories than your TDEE, your body lacks the surplus required to build muscle and you end up not gaining muscle mass.
We’re not talking about simply eating tons of food, that’ll only make you fat. Consuming the right food is extremely important. In order to achieve your desired muscle-building goals, you need to track your macronutrients to make sure you are getting the right macro balance.
Here’s a rough estimate – proteins and carbohydrates usually amount to 4 calories per gram, while fats have been assigned a value of 9 calories per gram. In order to gain muscle, you should aim for 1g of protein and 0.4g of fat per pound of body weight. The amount of calories remaining from the maintenance calories will be the carb requirement.
3. Not Resting Enough / Poor Sleep Quality
A lot of the time people seem to neglect the importance of sleep. Getting plenty of rest is equally important as your training sessions. During your sleep, all the stimulation and nutrients you intake during the day are synthesised and result in muscle growth. The popular saying goes by stating the average person needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Sleep relaxes your muscles, enhances recovery and gets them ready for your training session the next day. Not getting enough rest can hamper glycogen replenishment resulting in you not gaining muscle mass.
Not only that, poor sleep will directly affect your emotional state meaning poor energy and also poor attitude. It may also introduce factors in your lifestyle that prevent muscle growth such as aging, stress and depression. Needless to say, adequate sleep is something you should never neglect.
4. Prioritizing Weight Over Form
If you’re someone who walks into a gym and starts training with unrealistic weights without focusing on form, you’re doing it wrong! Most novice and even some advanced lifters commit the same mistake of throwing large weights around instead of trying to achieve an aesthetic physique.
We mentioned that building muscle is all about progression. Slow down and focus on proper lifting technique. Learn how to target specific regions of muscle in your body. It’s your mind that is ultimately driving muscle growth, and training it to focus attention to the target muscle results in better quality muscle contraction and more muscle fibres being recruited. This is an essential aspect of mind-muscle connection (MMC).
Your muscles can be broadly classified into primary and secondary movers. The primary mover is responsible to do most of the work during lifting, and the secondary movers are there to support them. Not all of the primary movers are easy to work, and you need to learn how to isolate and target them. Nevertheless, in order to make serious gains, getting a strong MMC is something you have to do.
5. You’re Doing Too Much Cardio
Doing cardio is beneficial in the sense that it increases endorphins and the amount of oxygen in the blood. However, too much cardio can do more harm than good. Apart from burning the fat, it can burn your muscles which will lead to unbalanced metabolism and fat retention.
Improper attention to your energy balance can also be the reason you can’t build muscle. If you have an active lifestyle and you’re combining that with intense workout sessions and long bouts of cardio, your body is burning much more calories than the average person. The only to counteract this situation is by increasing the calorie intake so that your body actually has the intended surplus.
Once again, tracking your energy balance and progressively demanding more from your muscles is crucial. Try limiting your cardio or eating even more if you’re having trouble building muscle.
Muscle building takes time, and sometimes the results may not show up as fast as you thought. It all ultimately boils down to three steps – stimulation, replenishment and rest. Focus on putting consistent efforts in the gym, maintaining a balance of the nutrients you take and giving yourself plenty of sleep to recover and grow.
Setting up weekly goals and adhering to your workout regime will force your body to grow and the eating will come with it. Remember to always eat above your maintenance and keep pushing yourself and the results will come naturally.