For muscles to grow several conditions need to be met.
As many people know, It’s imperative to consume adequate protein to build muscle. But, let’s not neglect the importance of carbs and fats.
Besides diet, if you want to increase muscle mass, it’s important to lift heavy enough weights and challenge yourself with reps.
As with any other fitness goal, building muscle requires consistency and a plan that meets your needs.
Are you putting in the work but not seeing the results you would expect? Perhaps you’re making some common mistakes that may be ruining your muscle gains.
Continue reading this article to understand the most common mistakes that ruin your muscle gains.
Mistake 1: Not Lifting Hard Enough
If you’ve been working out for a while and aren’t seeing the gains you want, it may be that you’re not lifting hard enough.
Building muscle is not easy, and if you aren’t putting in enough effort, your results will suffer. Think about how you feel after lifting weights. Are you exhausted? Is it a struggle to finish your last few reps?
If not, you may not be pushing yourself hard enough.
The importance of maximum effort at the gym
You can push yourself to exhaustion either through more reps, or higher weight. Both options can result in muscle growth. Studies (4) show significant increases in muscle mass from both high-load (high weight with low reps) and low-load (low weight with high reps) routines.
However, the best results come from lifting heavier weights. The same study mentioned above showed a much larger increase for subjects with high-load routines. Higher weights, for 8-12 reps per set, produced 2-3 times the improvement in gains from back squats and bench press, compared to lower weights performed over sets of 25-35 reps.
This shows that heavier weights do a better job of achieving muscular hypertrophy, which is the process that results in muscle gains.
How do I know how heavy I should lift?
The definition of heavy lifting will differ from person to person, depending on your size, lifting experience, and more. Ideally, you want to be lifting to exhaustion. Don’t look at how much other people are lifting, just pay attention to how you feel during and after your lift.
If you finish your routine, and you still feel comfortable and full of energy, you probably didn’t lift hard enough. On your next lift, try lifting to “failure”, meaning after your last lift, you can’t perform and more reps.
You can achieve this with more reps, or higher weights per rep. The latter is better if your goal is to build muscle mass. For a good idea of how much to lift, pick up a weight that is challenging over 10-15 reps. If you can consistently do 20+ reps, try upping your weight.
Signs of overtraining to look out for
It is, however, important to not push yourself too hard. Undertraining will hamper your results, but overtraining can also slow you down.
Here are some signs of overtraining to look for:
- Persistent muscle pain or fatigue
- Feeling irritable for no clear reason
- A noticeable and steady decline in gym performance
If you notice your energy levels lacking during the day (when you’re not training), or if you’re struggling to complete reps at the same weight you used to, these could be signs you’re training or lifting too hard.
When you overtrain, you don’t let your body repair itself, which is one of the main aspects of muscle growth. You also risk injury, and there’s no better way to lose muscle gains than when you’re stuck at home and can’t train.
So, keep in mind the dangers of going too hard and too fast.
With time and consistent practice, you'll learn your body's signals to help differentiate between lifting hard enough (which is good) and when you're crossing the line into overtraining territory.
Mistake 2: Not consuming enough protein
If you want to increase muscle mass, it’s important to ensure you are eating enough protein.
Increasing protein intake leads to improved strength and increased muscle mass when paired with a resistance exercise regimen (1).
Some athletes may be under-consuming protein, which can majorly affect gains. Inadequate dietary protein impairs protein synthesis and can even lead to muscle protein breakdown (1).
So, how much protein do you need?
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American College of Sports Medicine, it is recommended that athletes consume 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, depending on training.
Science shows that it’s beneficial to space protein intake out throughout the day. Because our bodies can only utilize about 25-30g of protein at a time, it’s important to have protein at different meals to have optimal absorption and utilization.
The easiest way to increase your daily protein intake is to drink a smoothie with our grass-fed whey protein that delivers 2 grams of protein with each serving.
Mistake 3: Not paying attention to macronutrients
Perhaps you’re ultra-focused on increasing muscle mass that you are sneaking in more and more protein every chance you get.
However, if you are failing to also nourish your body with adequate carbohydrates and fats, you might be doing yourself a disservice.
Current evidence suggests that athletes should aim to consume 20-35% of their calories from fats. Daily, this comes out to about 0.5-1.5 grams of fats per kilogram of body weight (2).
Choose healthy sources of fats – meaning those rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocado, and fatty fish.
The remaining calories should come from carbohydrates – the body’s primary source of energy especially to support the energy demands from resistance training (2).
In fact, consuming carbohydrates together with protein after resistance exercise can better promote muscle growth – to a greater extent than if protein was consumed alone (3).
Mistake 4: Engaging in muscle-harming lifestyle habits
Of course, we need to ensure adequate protein, fats, and carbohydrates, as well as push ourselves during our workouts. However, it’s also helpful to evaluate your lifestyle habits that may be impeding your progress in the gym.
For one, poor sleep has a direct impact on our muscle growth. Good quality sleep gives the body time to repair damaged muscle tissue from working out, which is key for muscle growth.
Plus, if you are getting ample sleep – 8 hours or more each night – you will have more energy for your workouts and be better equipped to plan a healthy diet.
Smoking can also majorly affect your muscle growth. Smoking leads to a systemic inflammatory response that interferes with the formation of protein, leading to loss of muscle mass.
Excess alcohol is another thing that can weaken the muscles. Alcohol can directly affect muscle fibers and contributes to protein breakdown.
While moderate alcohol intake can be combined with a healthy diet, it’s important to limit your intake especially if you are working towards your muscle gain goals.
If your goal is to increase muscle mass, it’s important to follow a healthy diet, consume adequate protein, and engage in regular physical activity – especially resistance exercise.
You should now understand some common mistakes that may be ruining your muscle gains.
To avoid these mistakes and best support your muscle gain goals, ensure you are eating adequate carbs, fats, and protein, lift heavy enough weights, get good sleep, avoid smoking, and limit your alcohol intake.