Five Reasons You’re Not Gaining Muscle

Make sure you hit your nutrition targets to hit your PBs in the gym

Akash Vaghela Akash Vaghela · 14 Sep 2017

Nutrition Intermediate
7 Mins

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Are you training hard but struggling to put on the muscle mass? There could be something missing from your approach, and it’s not always to do with training.

Hitting your nutrition targets is just as important as hitting your personal best in the gym, and missing just one key component could impact your performance greatly.

While instant gratification is never the answer and long-term transformation requires time and consistency, there are a variety of reasons that could explain why you are not gaining as much as you would like. We have listed five key reasons that could be hindering your progression if you’ve placed as yourself on the ‘muscle builder’ side of the investment phase:

1) You Don't Eat Enough – Consistently


If you’re training hard but are struggling to put on size, you could be an under-eater.

A consistent diet that is surplus in calories is essential to building mass when muscle training as this maintains a positive energy balance. If you consistently maintain a negative energy balance, you will lose weight, so it’s important to keep consistency at all times.

Undereating is not uncommon and easy to do. The issue is, those that aim to build muscle typically have quite low appetites and so sub-consciously find it very easy to miss meals when they’re busy.

Alternatively, they maintain food intake Monday-Friday, but then under eat over the weekends. Even though this may occur for only two days, this can have an impact on your progress, which is why consistency is vital.

Dropping meals and inconsistent dieting doesn’t just leave calories on the table, but progression too.

In order to gain muscle mass, a diet that is in surplus of calories is an essential. While this seems like common knowledge, that’s not to say consuming a great amount is the answer. For an efficient and effective muscle building diet, the correct balance of calories, protein, fats, and carbs in relation to your body weight should be considered. You can read more about creating a muscle building diet in our article here.

2) You Eat Too Clean


Sometimes, those wanting to add considerable amounts of muscle tissue actually hold themselves back by over analysing.

When 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 counterproductive and makes each subsequent meal harder to get in as the day progresses.

Now this doesn’t mean that you should replace these foods with junk food. It means perhaps switching out that bowl of oats that’s packed with fibre and keeps you full for 2-3 hours, for an easier to eat/digest bowl of Rice Krispies or Coco Pops.

While this can sound ludicrous, Rice Krispies and Coco Pops are low in GI so are lacking in fibre, easier to digest and make you feel less bloated, enabling you to get lots of carbohydrates in a quick window with little to no digestive issues.

You can find out more about low GI foods in our article here.

3) You're Not Paying Attention To Foods That Don't Digest Well


Speaking of digestion, paying particular attention to your digestive health is important to sustaining a consistent surplus calorie diet.

Identify foods that aggravate your digestive system and don’t digest as well as others as this can impact your appetite and recovery ability for two reasons.

One: It’s uncomfortable and makes the next meal harder to face.

Two: It’s likely leading to some form of inflammation, which can affect recovery as well as digestion for 2-3 days after.

If you have experienced digestive issues on your current diet, try and identify exactly which food source is triggering it and eliminate it.

4) You're Afraid Of Liquid Calories


When leading a busy life and wanting to gain muscle, getting 4-6 meals in a day can be extremely difficult, especially when it comes to maintaining a consistent diet. One great way around this is liquid calories.

While protein shakes have been coined ‘lazy’ by some, when you look at the amino acid profile of whey for example, it’s digestibility is second-to-none, it’s a complete protein, and it’s rich in both EAAs and L-Leucine in particular.

Sure, sticking to a liquid calorie diet is not feasible, but alternating whole food and liquid food sources can help tremendously to maintain your food intake.

This can be done with all three macronutrients too.

For example, with proteins you 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 they are time efficient for the busy individual on-the-go as opposed to missing a meal.

For carbohydrates, during training you can use powders such as cyclic dextrins and maltodextrin etc., and with fats you can simply add a tablespoon of olive oil either on top of a meal or mixed into a shake. It’s relatively tasteless and an easy 135 calories!

5) You Miss The Forest For The Trees: Supplements


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.

The bigger picture is that supplements only make a minimal difference and should only be considered when every other protocol is in check. The essentials must be in place first before adding in extras.

This means that once you’re consistently hitting a set amount of calories, reaching a minimum level of protein and finding foods that work for you, only then should you look to introduce supplements that may give you that 2-3% edge.

When everything is in place and you can start to consider which supplements to take, we would recommend Whey Protein (or any other supplemental form with a good amino acid profile), Creatine Monohydrate, or Essential Amino Acids.

For a full breakdown of these supplements, check out this article.

As always, consistency is key to facilitate a long-term change, and this consistency goes beyond training. Paying close attention to your body, meal structure and nutrition intake is just as important to your transformation journey, especially for those on the muscle builder side of the Investment Continuum.

If you are struggling to gain muscle and find you are guilty of one of the above, you may have just found the missing piece to your puzzle. Identify the problem, address it, and you’ll soon be able to ditch that ‘hard-gainer’ label!
Akash VaghelaAkash Vaghela

Akash Vaghela has spent 10+ years transforming bodies and lives around the world, and in May 2017, founded RNT Fitness to serve this purpose. His vision is to see a world transformed, where ambitious high performers experience the power of the physical as the vehicle to unlock their real potential. He’s the author of the Amazon best-sellilng book Transform Your Body Transform Your Life, which explains his unique and proven five-phase methodology, is host of the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, has been featured in the likes of Men’s Health and BBC, whilst regularly speaking across the world on all things transformation.

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