Reasons You’re Not Gaining Muscle

1. You don’t eat enough

If you aren’t getting a surplus of calories, you simply won’t grow. If you’re not sure how many calories/day you should be consuming, the harris-benedict formula is an equation that will help you determine just that. First we must find out your “basal metabolic rate,” which is the number of calories your body would burn if staying in bed all day:

Men BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) – (5.677 x age in years)
Women BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) – (4.330 x age in years)

After you have determined you BMR, use this table to figure out your daily recommended intake:

Little to no exercise Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.2
Light exercise (1–3 days per week) Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.375
Moderate exercise (3–5 days per week) Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.55
Heavy exercise (6–7 days per week) Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.725
Very heavy exercise (twice per day, extra heavy workouts) Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.9

Finally, now that you have a good idea of how many calories your body needs to maintain its current weight, you need to add calories in order to have the surplus required to build lean tissue. I would start with an increase of 250 calories/day; see how your body responds after a couple of weeks and then increase/decrease from there.

2. You do too much cardio

maxit_treadmill_kl-1303If you are already not eating enough calories, expending more calories via cardio will make it next to impossible for your body to gain lean muscle. The right type of cardio has its place (sprint training, slow long distance) but your first priority should be resistance training.

3. You’re not getting enough protein &/or carbs

Protein is needed for growth and to repair broken down tissue. If you aren’t getting enough, your body will turn to breaking down muscle in order to meet its daily protein needs. 1.2 -1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight should be consumed each day. It may seem like a lot at first, but it can easily be reached through the frequent consumption of lean meats, low fat dairy, eggs; egg whites, and protein powder.

Moreover, restricting your intake of carbohydrates while trying to put on muscle will leave you flat and feeling like garbage. Carbs supply the energy needed to get through intense workouts, and your brain alone needs 130g/day to function properly. 2-3g of carbs per pound of body weight is needed each day when gaining muscle. Make at least 80% of these carbs complex, and only consume simple carbs around your workouts.

Good Carb, Bad Carb

protein4. You’re inconsistent

For anything to work, consistency is vital. Almost any weight lifting plan will work if you’re consistent with it. I used to make the mistake of doing different workouts every time I hit the gym; it wasn’t until I started sticking to a plan for 4-6 weeks at a time did I really start to see gains in both lean muscle mass and strength. Find a plan, log everything, and follow through with it.

If you’re inconsistent at hitting the gym all together, well you have your answer right there.

5. You’ve been doing to same thing for too long and/or you aren’t training hard enough

Opposite from inconsistency, you’re consistent but cannot recall that last time you did something different. Our bodies are good at adapting to repetitive training stimulus, and sooner or later you will hit a plateau if you don’t switch up the exercises and/or the rep and set schemes.

On the same note, you simply might not be training hard enough. If you’re not challenged during your workouts and don’t opt for the heavy weights, you aren’t causing damage to your muscles, if you aren’t causing damage your mueat sleep train repeatscles will have no need to repair itself and heal bigger and stronger. Stop being a sissy and lift heavy things!

(For hypertrophy, 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps is generally agreed upon)

6. You don’t sleep/recover enough

Training hard and eating well plays a huge role in gaining muscle, but just as important is sleep and recovery. Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is highest when we sleep so getting the recommended 8 hours each night is a must. Also, those who don’t sleep enough tend to have higher levels of cortisol, which is catabolic hormone (breaks down muscle tissue); clearly this is a bad thing for those wanting more muscle.

7. You aren’t supplementing properly

This should be the last thing to consider, and only if you have perfected the points above. Also, relying on supplements to increase your performance is a poor idea.protein-powder

Personally, I’m all for protein powders, multivitamins, amino acids, and some pre-workouts; they have helped boost my training and aid in my recovery.

MY RECOVERY WORKOUT

I participated in my second fitness competition this past August. During the 9 weeks leading up to my competition I followed a strict diet and continued to train my ass off. While preparing for that I continued to teach 7 group training classes / week where I work.

After my competition I found myself in need of a little break – a life no so structured and pre-determined, and some time to enjoy the company of friends and family over food and drinks, without stressing about every calorie I consumed.

I am back to it now, and the parties and late nights are very apparent during my weight training sessions. From past experience I knew this would happen; so instead of getting frustrated I will smile at those nights without regret and continue forward to become even better than before.

Here is the program I am following for one week only. I feel like it’s a great way to ease back into the gym and wake those muscles up prior to heading into my next training phase.

GOALS:

-Keep it simple

-Incorporate cardio

-Gradually increase intensity and volume

-Full-body workout

Exercises:

1. Decline Leg Press

1a. Dumbbell Bent-over Rows

2. Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

2a. Dumbbell Chest Press (Flat bench)

3. Barbell Curls

3a. Triceps Push-downs (rope)

4. Knee-ups

4a. Briefcase walk

Day 1:

–          Start with 20 minutes of cardio.

Any type of cardio; my goal here is to work up a sweat to rid my body of toxins and mentally prepare to kill it this week. I usually go for the elliptical because I can put both my arms and legs into it.

–          Proceed to the weights; 2 sets of 10 reps.

Ya, my numbers are going to suffer – that’s what drinking and staying up late will do. Putting moderate-intense cardio first will also negatively impact my numbers, but for today it’s all good.

Complete the above exercises in superset fashion leaving no more than 1 minute rest between exercises. I choose a weight that will allow me to complete both sets of 10 reps with good form while leaving a couple reps “in the hole” (I could do a couple more, but not today). I’ll start with a warm-up set in most cases, especially if I am not certain of how much to lift.

Day 2:

–          10 minutes of cardio

I opt for incline walking, but any type will do. This is for both warm-up and cardio purposes.

–          Proceed to the weights; 3 sets of 10 reps.

I use the exact same exercises as day 1, again in superset fashion. This time I add a third set and try to increase my weights by 5-10lbs during my 2nd and 3rd sets of each exercise while still leaving 1-2 reps in the hole.

Day 3:

Active recovery; enjoy a long walk with my dog.

Day 4:

Same as day 2

Day 5:

–          5 minute warm-up and dynamic stretches.

Last workout before I head into my next phase.

–          Proceed to weights; 3 sets of 10 reps followed by 1 drop set to failure.

I continue to use the same exercises but add a fourth set to failure. I will perform 10 reps using the same weight as I did in set 3 and then continue to drop the weight and bang out reps until my form gets too sloppy or until I’m absolutely spent. This does not apply to the briefcase walk exercise.

Day 6: OFF

Day 7: START NEW PHASE WITH CONFIDENCE AND INTENSITY!

Side note: Everything in moderation folks! I do not recommened alcohol consumption and late nights on a regular basis; always keep your training goals in sight.

He Says, She Says

Buying a new car would be considerably easier if your choices were limited. Instead you have to choose the type of vehicle; used or new; the cost; the horsepower; 2 door or 4; to lease, finance, or buy; to upgrade the interior or keep it basic; mileage; insurance; colour; and god knows what else.

To make things easier you decide to ask around and get the opinions of others. The problem is everyone offers you different suggestions – the soccer mom opts for the minivan, the environmentalists pushes the hybrid, and the construction guy wouldn’t think of buying anything but a truck. Doesn’t help you much does it? These people have the intention of helping you but instead leave you more confused than when you started.

The same thing happens when embarking on the journey to become more fit and to eat healthy – Jessica says carbs will make you fat, Billy says you have to lift weights 5 days a week to gain muscle, and Sarah swears by intermittent fasting while doing endless bouts of cardio. Considering the hundreds of different ways to train, along with all the fad diets and opinions of others, how the hell do you know what to choose?!

Back to the car metaphor – besides wanting to help, these people have something else in common; they ended up going with what would suit their needs best and stuck with that. The same thing must be done when it comes to your health.

Seeking information from others can be helpful but often times ends up adding to the confusion. You bounce around trying techniques that may have worked for others but leaves you feeling worse than when you started. Here are some tips that have taken me years to learn and apply to my current life:

Determine your goals, ones that do not oppose each other: You can’t be a power lifter and run a marathon while expecting to be great at both. Choose your focus and stick with that. You can be good at lots of things, but great? I doubt Sid the kid can play basketball as well as he does hockey, and I can imagine he has been perfecting his hockey skills his entire life; even if he wasn’t the best at first.

Seek advice from a FEW KNOWLEDGABLE people: Most people like to talk and act like they know it all even after minor success. If you need information regarding losing weight and/or choosing the right exercises; speak with a reputable dietician and personal trainer. Considering the advice of others has its place, so long as it doesn’t leave you feeling more confused.

Too much of a good thing is still too much: It has taken me years to come to terms with this fact. Doing endless bouts of cardio or excessive weight training sessions will leave you flat and weak. More isn’t always better, and finding a healthy balance is tough. Seek advice from a trainer who can help you program your training is a good option. If you’re new to exercise, my advice is to start with 2-3 full body weight training sessions/week and 3-4 moderate intensity cardio activities for 20-30 minutes/week.

You cannot out train a bad diet:  You may have heard this saying before. Unfortunately it’s a fact and there is no way around it. Sure, you’ll see improvements in your body composition and likely even drop a couple pounds just from the addition of exercise to your life. However, it isn’t until you change your poor eating habits will you see significant changes in how you look and feel. Exercising does not give you a free pass to eat more crap.

Have a plan, stick to it, and document your progress: Walking into a weight room without a plan is pointless. You need structure, consistency, and dedication for anything to work. Changing things up too often does not allow your body and mind the time it needs to become bigger, faster, and stronger. Have a plan ready, document the weights you use, stay consistent, and strive for improvement.

My First Fitness Competition

So I’ve decided to step on stage wearing next to nothing, and flex my stuff.

This March, I will be facing my fears and stepping out of my comfort zone. I made the decision to enter my first fitness competition about 3 months ago. I had played with the idea in the past, but I have always been shy when it comes to “showing off”. However, when I was told about the Fitness Star Model Search 2014 (happening not far from where I live), I filled out, paid, and submitted my registration before I had time to think twice. Luckily my boyfriend is doing it too, so I will not be going at it alone.

I have been lifting weights for the past 9 years. In this time I have accomplished many personal goals, but have also faced my share of struggles. Finding a healthy balance of weights, cardio, and proper nutrition is not easy; heck I’m still working at it! Over the past 6 months I have put on about 7lbs of muscle and I continue to work hard to increase my strength and improve my body composition.

As for the competition, I am either going to love the experience, or absolutely hate it. I don’t think there will be a middle ground here. I started my “competition diet” this past Monday, and will continue to stay dedicated to it for the next 5 weeks. My training hasn’t changed; I have just gotten smarter with my workout plans thanks to the help of my boyfriend. I used to do tons of cardio and my weight training was always focused on endurance, which I loved at the time. However I now periodize my training and lift for strength and hypertrophy. This has resulted in gaining much more lean muscle mass, which I enjoy more than what I was doing before.

I was thinking I would use my blog as a way to track my progress, and bitch about my struggles. So here is my first post. I now have to go walk around my house in clear stripper heels to get used them so I don’t look completely unnatural when I have to perform the “t-walk” in front of a crowd of people. Huurrraayyy!

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Anonymous

(That quote kicked my butt into giving this a try)

– Haley