For some, gaining muscle mass can be a lifelong challenge. It can seem like no matter how much you eat or work out, you can’t put on the weight.
The good news is that unless you have a serious medical condition, you can put on muscle, you’re probably just not going about it optimally.
We asked over ten professional trainers for their input and here are the three most common reasons people have a hard time gaining muscle.
1. You’re Not Eating Enough Protein and Carbs
Protein, carbohydrates and muscle growth are all intertwined. Plain and simple, if you don’t eat enough protein and carbohydrates, your muscles will not grow.
In order to calculate how much carbs and protein to eat each day, calculate your ideal intake using a nutrition system like flexible dieting (IIFYM).
For protein, a good rule of thumb is 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily when trying to grow muscle or burn fat and maintain muscle mass.
The ideal daily carbohydrate intake will vary dependent upon your current size and goals.
As a personal trainer, the most common line you hear from clients who can’t gain muscle is, “but I eat so much, seriously, I just have a really fast metabolism”. So, you have them track their carb and protein intake for a week.
Most of the time, the “hard gainer” should be consuming at least an additional 30g of protein and 50g of carbohydrates according to their recommended daily intake.
Lastly, keep in mind that WHEN you eat is almost as important as HOW MUCH you eat. Studies show that eating both carbohydrates and protein pre-workout has a greater effect on muscle growth than eating them post workout does.
2. Your Workouts Lack Consistency
Another reason you may not be growing muscle is you’re not consistent enough with your training. For a relatively untrained person, simply resistance training two times a week may be enough stress on the body to stimulate muscle growth.
However, the key here is consistency. Your body will adapt to the stresses you repeatedly put on it. Going into the gym with no plan and changing your workouts everytime will get you nowhere. Simultaneously, following a workout program for a week and then jumping ship for the next latest workout trend will get you nowhere as well.
Therefore, in order to see true gains in muscle size and strength, you need to train your muscles regularly using the progressive overload principle.
Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress that you expose your body to. This means slight increases in the weights you lift every week, which forces your body to grow.
Find one workout program and stick to it by scheduling out your workouts the week before. If something comes up and you miss a day’s workout simply go the next day and pick up where you left off.
Give whichever program you choose at least 6 weeks before you change things up.
3. You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is the other centerpiece in the recovery process. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation not only negatively affects protein synthesis (muscle growth), but it also negatively impacts your athletic performance and metabolism.
This means if you’re not getting enough sleep regularly, your efforts in the gym and with your nutrition may be in vain.
Our recommendation is to make room for at least 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Your body and mind will thank you!