There comes a point in training where your muscle seems to just stop growing. No matter how hard you try or think you try, you just don’t seem to get to the next level in your training, you don’t improve at all, you don’t grow.
Progress at this point can reverse for many people who get disheartened by the lack of results. Almost everyone who has the intention to pack on muscle will experience stagnation in their progress at some point.
There are a number of factors that influence your body’s ability to increase muscle mass – your diet, your sleep schedule, your training programme, even state of mind. You must assess all of these factors and alter if necessary, your lifestyle, eating habits or training methods so that you provide your body with the right building blocks needed for optimal muscle growth and development.
1. You Don’t Eat Enough Protein
Protein is essential for growth. Proteins contain amino acids, the compound needed for muscle tissue building and repair. If you want to put on mass then you are going have to assess your protein intake for quality and quantity.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that bodybuilders require 1.4 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram. Amino acids are classified into two general types: essential and non-essential amino acids. Non-essential amino acids are those that your body can produce while essential amino acids cannot be therefore must be sourced from your diet. You must also ensure that you are getting all of the essential amino acids that your body cannot synthesise – there are nine in total.
Most animal sources such as meats, eggs and milk are considered to be “complete protein sources” meaning that they contain all nine of these essential amino acids in varying quantities. Vegetables are also a goods source of protein (such as nuts and beans) but most do not usually contain all nine of the essential amino acids.
2. You’re Doing Too Much Cardio
While cardio is great for aerobic fitness – working your heart and lungs. It’s also great training method for fat loss. However, cardio can, in fact, put your body into a catabolic (muscle-burning) state. Refer any profession middle or long distance runner and they will have a lean but, low body mass.
Your solution: If your goal is to increase muscle mass and strength then you have got to focus first and foremost on weight training. This means that the majority of your time training should be centred around weights and the weight training should always be performed first so that you don’t succumb to fatigue. You need to create a training programme so that any cardio you may do doesn’t impede your weight-training or recovery.
3. You Don’t Switch It Up
You have been sticking to the same regime for far too long. That needs to change. Your muscles need to be worked at multiple angles, varying volumes, and different intensities.
If you have been noticing that your results are stalling and are beginning to plateau, then it’s time to change your exercise programme. Advanced lifters often require changing their regime every six to eight weeks to advanced in their abilities and goals. Make sure that you focus on the weak parts of your body as it will help in your overall development. Do this by starting with the weak body part first in your training session. Mix up the order of the exercises that you do for each workout – this will enable a more holistic approach to muscle building and strength development – and will be the fastest and most effective method long-term.
4. You Are Not Getting The Required Sleep
Your muscles grow and night during sleep. If you do not get adequate sleep – this means both time and quality – then your muscles will not be able to repair the muscle tissue substantially. Lack of sleep increases the body’s production of cortisol (a stress hormone), which inhibits your body’s human growth hormone production and other necessary bodily functions that aid in muscle growth. On top of this, you likely be tired and fatigued, meaning that you won’t be training at 100%, further slowing growth.
Solution: Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night and turn off all electronic devices 30 minutes before bed to reduce the stress levels.
5. You’re Overtraining
Overtraining can increase your risk of injury and hinder your progress, too. A lot of guys have this idea that the more they workout the bigger they will get – this isn’t always correct, however. Prolonged excessive exercise, especially in conjunction with inadequate rest and other stresses, can result in an impairment of athletic performance. Overtrained individuals usually exhibit a variable number of the symptoms, upper respiratory tract infection is common and may suggest impaired immune function.
An article in Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise presents a hypothesis focused on the role of cytokines in initiating and perpetuating OTS (Overtraining Syndrome). The Cytokine Hypothesis suggests that exercise-induced muscle and connective tissue microtrauma triggers the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which when sufficient rest is allowed, can aid in the healing process. The acute inflammation that results from excessive exercise with inadequate rest, however, evolves into a chronic response resulting in a systemic immune response involving the central nervous system (CNS), liver, and immune system. Systemic exposure to these anti-inflammatory molecules over an extended time period produces a state of immunosuppression, contributing to a high incidence of illness in overtrained athletes.
Take at least one day off a week from training, so that your body can recover. If your muscles are still tender from a previous workout session then this could be a sign that your muscles have yet to fully recover. If this is the case work out a different body part instead, or take a day extra rest.
6 . You’re Dehydrated
Water is needed for every single metabolic process, including protein synthesis – the more efficient you can make this process the better results you are going to get. If your training intensity is high we suggest that you take in a sufficient volume of water, daily. Aside from supporting protein synthesis, water can also act to clear out toxins and other metabolic waste products from the body. Water also helps to metabolise fat by maintaining healthy kidney function. Also, you will struggle to go 100% in your workout sessions if you are not sufficiently hydrated.
7. Your Carb Intake Is Too Low
Men run on carbohydrates. Glucogen stores are our primary energy source for our body, second is the fat stores. A weight session is a form of anaerobic exercise – whereby the body metabolizes glycogen for energy. If your body has been depleted of glycogen through a diet that is insufficient in carbohydrates, then you are going to start feeling weak and fatigued very early on in your workouts. This will affect your workout intensity and ultimately your muscle growth.
Simple sugars that lack nutrient value, such as candy and white bread should be avoided, however. Instead, stick to complex carbohydrates, that are slow digesting, such as oatmeal, brown rice and potatoes.
8. You’re Boozing Too much
You don’t have to destroy your social life, but you may need to cut back on the booze. When you drink alcohol, the body utilizes antioxidants that would otherwise be used for muscle growth to help metabolize the alcohol in your body.
If you are drinking on a weekly basis it will likely kill your hard earn gains and you will likely plateau in your training. Limit the alcohol as much as you can. A monthly trip to the pub may not be too detrimental, but if you are finding that you are making no progress in muscle growth or strength development, then it may be a good idea to cut out the alcohol for a longer period.