To have a fit body, you should not just focus on maintaining the right body weight. Building muscle is also very important.
On top of the aesthetic appeal, there are many benefits of building up your muscles.
First of all, it helps strengthen connective tissues, which in turn increases bone density and reduces the risk for injury and developing osteoporosis later in life.
Also, muscle increases your metabolic rate that helps burn calories. Plus, by building muscles, you can improve your blood sugar levels, sleep and mental health.
To build muscles, lifting heavy weights help a lot. But many people spend hours in the gym trying to build muscles, yet their efforts do not produce positive results.
There can be several reasons why you are not building muscle. Knowing the reasons can help you rectify them and make all your hard work pay off.
Here are some reasons why you are not building muscle even though you work out.
1. Doing Mostly Cardio Exercise
Doing cardiovascular exercises on a regular basis is important. It helps get your heart rate up and aids in burning fat.
But if your workouts focus mostly on cardiovascular exercises, it could be the reason why you are not building muscles. Cardio exercises tend to put your body in a deficit, which is not great for building muscle mass.
Overdoing cardio exercises like running, spin classes or swimming means you end up burning hard-earned muscle tissue along with fat.
If you want to build muscle, health experts say you should focus on weight-training exercises most days of the week and engage in cardio workouts only 2 or 3 days a week.
No matter what, you must not forget the key elements of fitness training – aerobic exercise, strength training, core exercises, balance training and stretching. Add variety to your workout sessions and soon you will get the results you desire.
2. Not Lifting Enough Weight
During your weight-lifting workouts, if you are lifting the incorrect total weight – whether it is too little or too much – can impede your goal of building muscle. For this reason, it is important to determine the correct amount of weight to lift for each exercise in your routine.
For a beginner, 5-pound dumbbells are great. But with time, you need to bump up the weight, irrespective of whether you are using exercise machines or free weights.
To build muscle, you must break down muscle tissue using weight. The weight should be enough to cause micro-tears, which when repaired help build muscles.
To decide how much weight you should lift, bear in mind that it should be heavy enough to challenge your body beyond its normal capacity.
The goal is to lift weights that are heavy enough that you reach muscle failure after each set. Simply put, muscle failure is your muscle struggling to complete the last 1 or 2 repetitions in a set. So, lift a weight that you can handle for 6 out of 8 reps, with the final 2 reps being extremely challenging.
Also, keep in mind that it is not just about lifting, it is also about lifting safely and correctly. If you’re not performing exercises properly, you will not get the results you desire. Most gyms have personal trainers on staff who can help ensure that you are lifting the right amount of weight and performing the exercise in the correct way.
3. Not Eating Enough Protein
Even if you are doing your workouts properly, not eating the recommended amount of protein can make it difficult for you to build muscles.
Protein is the fuel for your muscles. In fact, muscle weakness or pain is a sign that your diet lacks the recommended amount of protein.
Your body breaks down protein-rich tissues for your muscles to use them.
Also, protein helps your body absorb other vital nutrients, such as iron and calcium, which are important for overall muscle health.
A 2015 study published in Sports Medicine suggests that protein supplementation may enhance muscle mass and performance when the training stimulus is adequate and dietary intake is consistent with recommendations for physically active individuals.
Some good sources of protein are dairy, beef, whey protein, poultry, seeds, fish and eggs. If needed, consult your doctor about taking a supplement. A good and easy way to increase your protein intake is to add 2 tablespoons of whey protein powder to your smoothie.
4. Avoiding Calories
When trying to build muscles, you can’t just rely on protein. You need to start eating more calories too to support muscle growth. Your body needs calories and macronutrients to recover and grow muscle.
The calorie requirement for a muscle-building diet varies depending on gender and current body weight. Experts say that a muscle-building diet needs approximately 23.6 to 27.3 calories per pound of body weight for men and about 20 calories per pound for women.
For instance, a man weighing 160 pounds and trying to gain muscle mass must consume approximately 3,776 to 4,368 calories daily.
Be sure that you eat calories from nutrient-dense foods or foods high in nutritional value. Some healthy choices include olive oil, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, avocados, dry milk powder, grated cheese, honey and dried fruits.
Do not eat the high amount of calories required for muscle building if you are not working out. In that case, it would only add body weight, not muscle.
5. Poor Sleep
For proper muscle growth, an adequate amount of sleep and rest is important.
When you do your workouts, muscles build up a large number of microscopic tears on the cellular level. When you sleep, these tears get repaired, which is important for strengthening and growing larger muscle tissue.
In fact, during sleep, the body enters a higher anabolic state, which helps repair and rejuvenate all of the tissue in your body, including muscle tissue. Plus, during sleep, protein metabolism takes place at a much faster rate.
A 2011 study published in Medical Hypotheses found that sleep deprivation reduces the activity of protein synthesis pathways and increases the activity of degradation pathways, favoring the loss of muscle mass and thus hindering muscle recovery after damage induced by exercise, injuries and certain conditions associated with muscle atrophy.
So, instead of spending more hours in the gym, go home early and go to sleep. You should try to get 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night.
6. Excessive Stress
Too much stress in your life can wreak havoc on your workout efforts as well as your overall health.
Exercise itself is a form of stress on your body, but when you are mentally stressed, it can affect your body’s ability to respond to physical stress that occurs when you exercise.
In fact, excess stress in life can slow down exercise recovery.
Also, an increase in cortisol or stress hormones is also associated with a decrease in protein synthesis. Proper protein synthesis is important for muscle tissues to repair themselves after a workout.
To keep your stress level under control, try meditation. Also, eat fresh whole foods, drink plenty of water and get 8 to 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.
7. Irregular Exercise Routine and Poor Plan
Last but not least, if you are inconsistent with your exercise routine and not following a good plan, you will not be able to build muscles the way you want to.
For a workout session to produce results, a good plan is important. Looking at the Internet and reading magazine articles is not enough. Your body, your genes, your diet, your fitness level and your seriousness all needs to be taken into account before making a plan.
This is why you should always consult an expert to help create a plan that suits you. A plan that is balanced provides you with big movements that stimulate growth all over your body.
For putting on some muscle, the most efficient way to do it is with 3 intense resistance-training sessions and 2 lighter intensity workouts per week. At the same time, your diet and how much time you are giving your muscles to recover are also important factors.
On top of that, maintaining consistency is important to create the optimal environment for your body to grow muscle. Be motivated and stick to the plan.