So you have put the time in, you sweated the sweat, and maybe a fear tears welled up as a result- but you are just not seeing the results in the gym. It can be very frustrating, but there is no reason to whine about it, you just need to determine the cause of stunted muscle growth. The good news is, most of the time if you are not seeing the results, it is likely because of something you are doing. It is not very common that someone has a medical condition that is causing their muscle growth to slow. Getting into the gym may be the first step to building muscle, but you have to follow through to really see the results.
Watch this video for some basic tips…
What you do before a workout and after is actually just as important as what you do during your workout- if you take some extra considerations, you can elevate yourself to the next level. But if you make the wrong choices, you could actually make your workout pointless. Read about the following saboteurs and learn how to eliminate them below.
Plenty of lifters believe that doing isolation exercises like chest flies and leg extensions is the only way to make their muscles grow. But basic moves such as bench presses and squats force several muscle groups to work together, imposing more stress on your body for bigger gains.
“Your body reacts to all that stress by having the anterior pituitary gland issue more growth hormone to compensate for the extra effort,” says Allen Hedrick, C.S.C.S., head strength-and-conditioning coach at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Of course you need variation, but don’t abandon basic moves in favor of intermediate isolation exercises.
Fix it: Write down the exercises in your routine to see what percentage of them are compound moves. “If it’s not in the range of at least 40 to 50 percent, then you’re doing too many isolation exercises,” says Bell.
Sometimes even we are guilty of getting ahead of ourselves, especially once we feel like the big dog in the gym. Keep it fresh and change it up, but don’t completely abandon your starter routine once you have mastered it.
Playing sports too often can sidetrack your muscle-growth goals. Muscles typically need 48 hours of rest to adapt to the stresses placed on them during exercise. “Engaging in extra activity also makes your body more likely to use any excess calories it has for fuel, and not for rebuilding itself,” says Bell.
Fix it: “Pull your cardiovascular activity back to the bare minimum—20 minutes, three times a week—to see what effect it has on your body,” Bell says. If cardio is indeed stealing your muscle, you should begin to notice strength improvements—being able to lift more weight or complete more repetitions—within 2 to 3 weeks. If your primary goal is to increase muscle size and strength, and not necessarily to build your overall health, try pulling back further. Can’t miss a game? During your workout, ease up on the muscles you use most in your extra activity so they have more time to recover.
Let your body recover! Don’t over do it, your muscles need time to relax in order to heal, and healed muscles = bigger muscles!
Smoking and Drinking
You know smoking is stupid. You know you’re gambling with cancer, stroke, and other health issues. But did you know you’re also sabotaging your strength training?
“Smoking places carbon monoxide in your system, which prevents your muscles from getting as much oxygen to use for energy,” says Scott Swartzwelder, Ph.D., a clinical professor of medical psychology at Duke University. “The less oxygen your muscles have to draw from, the less efficient they are at contracting, which can limit their capacity for work.”
As for alcohol, it can cover your abs with a layer of lard and interfere with hormones that help build them. “Drinking alcohol on a regular basis can also keep your testosterone levels lower than usual and decrease muscle mass,” says Swartzwelder.
Fix it: Quit smoking, and don’t worry about becoming a cold-turkey butterball. “Getting in at least 30 minutes of exercise three or four times a week not only helps control body weight, but can also produce positive psychological effects that might diminish the need to smoke,” says Swartzwelder. Drinking moderately (two drinks or less per day) won’t harm testosterone levels and can actually improve your cardiovascular health, he says.
Smoking and drinking are just bad for your health in general- both physically and mentally. Kick the habit now and you’ll be stronger and healthier.
You need to eat after your workout. Right after a session, your body is hustling to convert glucose into glycogen so your muscles can repair themselves and grow. “If you don’t eat after exercise, your body breaks down muscle into amino acids to convert into glucose,” says John Ivy, Ph.D., chairman of kinesiology at the University of Texas.
Fix it: After you work out, eat a high-carbohydrate meal—and don’t forget the protein. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that a four-to-one carbohydrate-to-protein ratio can provide 128 percent greater muscle-glycogen storage than a high-carbohydrate drink alone. (They used Endurox R Recovery Drink in the study.) For even greater results, have a sports drink before and during exercise.
There is no need to go hungry if you are eating right. If you get enough food from all of the food groups, you won’t be starving yourself. Cutting out certain foods is wise, but don’t cut too far back on calories if you want to put on muscle. Feed your muscles!
If you don’t get enough deep sleep, your muscles can’t recover. Moreover, says Catherine Jackson, Ph.D., chairwoman of the department of kinesiology at California State University at Fresno, when you work out on insufficient sleep, you exercise at a lower intensity than you realize—but you feel as if it’s high. So your muscles are less likely to receive enough stress to grow.
Fix it: Go to bed and wake up at set times every day, even on weekends, to keep your sleep cycles regular. Avoid caffeine—and perhaps exercise—for 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. Elevating your heart rate before bed can interfere with sleep, Jackson says.
If you don’t get enough sleep, more than just your muscles are going to suffer. Sleep for your wellness physically and mentally as well.
Sugary drinks like soda can fool your body with a blood-sugar spike, making you prone to skip “other, nutrient-dense foods you could be eating,” says Bell. If your sugar habit limits your intake of muscle-building amino acids, it will sap the fuel you need for your workouts, says New York City-based celebrity trainer Steve Lischin, M.S., C.P.T.
Fix it: Water and low-sugar sports drinks are your best bets. But sugar hides elsewhere. “Watch out for dried fruits, certain nutrition bars, and even ketchup,” Lischin says.
Avoiding sugar can be tricky so read the labels of everything you eat. If you aren’t sure, just assume it has sugar and avoid it.
For the active man, eating about a gram of protein for every 2.2 pounds of body weight helps build muscle—if the protein is processed correctly. “A high-protein meal has a slight diuretic effect,” says Lischin. When the body uses protein for energy, it has to remove the nitrogen component of the molecule to turn it into glucose. “This requires plenty of water,” he says.
Fix it: Drink eight to 10 glasses of water a day and divide your protein among five or six small meals throughout the day. “Eating an average of 25 to 30 grams each meal is ideal,” says Lischin. “Not only will you put less stress on your kidneys, but you’ll also utilize more of the protein you’re ingesting by giving your body only as much as it can use each time.”
Water is perhaps the most important thing we put in our bodies, so make sure you are drinking enough of it!
Are you going to follow these tips?