14 Sep Five Reasons You’re Not Gaining Muscle
1) You Don’t Eat Enough – Consistently
Struggling to put on size? Swear you eat enough? Label yourself a ‘hard-gainer’?
Let me tell you this, you’re not a hard-gainer, you’re an under-eater.
In the same vein as those with ‘slow metabolisms’. You cannot defy basic physiology. If you consistently maintain a negative energy balance, you will lose weight.
Same applies to gaining weight/muscle. You must maintain a positive energy balance (surplus of calories).
The issue is, these ‘hard-gainers’ typically have quite low appetites and so sub-consciously fine it very easy to miss meals when they’re busy.. Or, nail their food intakes Monday-Friday, but then under eat over the weekends.
In fact, I’ve fallen victim to this myself. For example, I was consistently getting every meal and training session nailed down.
I then went to Dubai/Abu Dhabi for 5 nights.
My meal frequency dropped from 6 meals per day down to the standard three meals per day. But, these meals were larger than normal, and sometimes a little junk food – so I’d assumed that the calories would have balanced out. Instead I came back 4-5lbs lighter.
Just that reduction in meal frequency and total calories for a few days had a huge impact on progress. So you can see if you’re consistently dropping the ball weekly over a Saturday or Sunday, you’re leaving a a lot of progress on the table.
2) You Eat Too Clean
Bear with me on this one.
Sometimes, people needing to add considerable amounts of muscle tissue actually hold themselves back by over analysing and treating their off-season diet like a pre-contest phase.
The problem with this?
When we’re dieting, we purposefully opt for foods that are satiating and keep us fuller for longer.
When we’re trying to eat in an excess, this can be counter productive and makes each subsequent meal harder to get in as the day progresses. I find this is an accumulative effect and progressively builds up as the days go on.
Now, does this mean we need to drop these foods completely and eat crap with little nutritional value instead? Of course not, but it means perhaps switching out that bowl of oats that’s packed with fibre and keeps us full for 2-3 hours, for an easier to eat/digest bowl of Rice Krispies.
3) You’re Not Paying Attention To Foods That Don’t Digest Well
I guess this is sort of similar to the above, but also worth pointing out.
Pay particular attention to foods that you know aggravate your GI system and don’t digest as well as others.
For example, I’ve worked out that the skin on sweet potatoes don’t agree with me. No idea why, but I’ve traced it back to those that give me stomach distention and bloating even in small amounts.
This leads to two things:
- It’s uncomfortable and makes my next meal harder to face
- It’s likely leading to some form of inflammation, which can effect recovery as well as digestion for 2-3 days after
If you have these symptoms currently, try and work out exactly which food source is triggering it – and eliminate it. Even if it’s known for being a ‘clean’ food.
4) You’re Afraid of Liquid Calories
Often times we’re told that you have to eat chicken and beef. And that protein shakes are for lazy people that aren’t serious. This makes zero sense when you look at the amino acid profile of whey for example. It’s digestibility is second-to-none. It’s a complete protein. It’s rich in both EAAs and L-Leucine in particular.
Something I like to implement is to alternate between whole food and liquid food sources. Since doing this, I find digestion much easier than when I used to eat 6 animal protein meals per day.
We can do this with all three macro-nutrients.
For example, with proteins we can utilise powdered supplemental forms such as whey, beef, pea or brown rice proteins. They take 30 seconds to blitz in a shaker and chug down, so time efficient in between meetings too (as opposed to missing a meal).
For carbohydrates, during training we can utilise powders such as cyclic dextrins, maltodextrin and what not. When climbing the extremes of the calorie and carbohydrate quantities, we can even just use plain ole’ fruit juice. This flies in the face of what I’d recommend for a fat loss client – so remember, things are rarely black & white. Context is everything.
With fats, we can simply add a tablespoon of olive oil either on top of a meal, or mixed into a shake. Honestly, it’s relatively tasteless and an easy 135 calories!
5) You Miss The Forest For the Trees: Supplements
I’ve purposely left this one until the end.
I’m guessing some of you opened this article expecting to find a ‘magic supplement’. This mindset, sadly, it common place due to supplement companies over-promising ad campaigns.
Most people tend to worry about what supplement combination they should take before they even consider what their maintenance calories are. Or what their protein intake should be.
They lose sight of the big picture and instead focus on the small things that in the grand scheme of things – only make a minimal difference.
Look at supplements as the tip of the pyramid or the cherry on top of the cake. The base needs to be their first. Only once that is in place, do we worry about the minutiae.
That means that once we’re consistently hitting a set amount of calories, reaching a minimum level of protein and finding foods that work for us, only then shall we look to the supplements that may give us that 2-3% edge.
And what are those supplements? As I know that’s really what you’re hoping I finish on..
Prepare to be blown away:
- Whey Protein (or any other supplemental form with a good amino acid profile)
- Creatine Monohydrate
- Essential Amino Acids
If you work your way through the above five points and identify with which ones you’re guilty of – I’m quite confident that by addressing those, you’ll soon be able to ditch that ‘hard-gainer’ label!