Heyyyy...I hope you all are having a wonderful week! Back to work after the Thanksgiving 'break' is not always the smoothest transition, especially for those who took some time off of exercise to spend time with loved ones. The easiest way to get back into your routine? JUST DO IT! Simple as that. Its so easy to put it off and think "tomorrow I'll get back" but why the wait? Just do it, guys!
Ok, so I know I talk all of the time on here about ways to increase strength, and work that hard earned muscle. What I want to focus on today are some sneaky ways that you could actually be hindering your hard work in the gym causing you to lose muscle. For those that are frustrated that you aren't seeing those results...well pay attention to some of these tips, chances are you are falling victim to one of these common mistakes!
Not Eating Enough
This is a tricky one because many people are 'scared to eat' thinking they will put on weight. The truth is that it is IMPOSSIBLE for your muscles to grow and change if you aren't taking in enough calories. A restricted diet is great for losing muscle tissue, sure! But what happens is your body will go into starvation mode, holding onto fat and letting go of muscle. The body basically is going into shock mode, and keeps the fat on your body as close to the organs as possible for protection You need to be eating an adequate amount of PROTEIN. The the less protein you eat, the less of a chance you give your muscles to recover after a workout. A sufficient daily protein intake is the single most important dietary requirement for maintaining muscle.
Here is a whole post on protein, carbohydrate and fat information!
Not eating properly around your workouts
I talked all about post workout nutrition in a previous post found here with some awesome ideas for you to take home!
There are two main types of carbohydrates:
Simple: (think white bread, honey, maple syrup, dried fruit, white rice, white potato, quick oats, rice cakes) These are quickly converted into energy for use in the body and are great post workout
Complex: (Think sweet potato, whole grain bagel, toast, english muffin, brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats) These take longer to digest but will provide you with long lasting energy. Complex carbs are your primary fuel source pre workout
After any higher intensity workout the body is entered into a catabolic state. It is here that your muscle glycogen is depleted and the increase in cortisol levels start to break down the muscle tissue. To get out of that catabolic state, it is important to consume an easily digestible post workout meal packed with mainly protein and carbohydrates to replenish muscle glycogen in addition to aid in muscle repair.
The amino acids from the protein and the carbohydrates from the post workout meal provide an insulin spike from the pancreas, which shuttles nutrients into the muscle cells. Now, in regards to fat. Healthy fats such as olive oils, all natural nut butters, coconut oil, sesame oil (the list goes on) are excellent to have in your diet! The benefits of healthy fats are endless and they are a nutrient needed by the body for energy, healthy skin, vitamin absoption and everyday bodily functions.
While most of your other daily meals should contain a source of healthy fats, the fat content after a hard workout should be kept very minimal because fat slows the absorption of the carbs and protein into your body.
Now, this doesn't mean that you can never have fats post workout. You should have what works for you. These 'guidelines' apply generally to those who have a very intense workout. If you enjoy having peanut butter in a slice of whole wheat toast after your workout, by all means keep eating that! I am not here to tell you what to eat and what not to eat. I am simply stating some information that is out there and because I recieved an email asking about fats post workout, specifically. ALWAYS remember, what works for YOU may not work for the person next to you; we are all unique and react differently.
You Do TOO MUCH CARDIO!
Ah the word cardio brings to mind so many different thoughts, doesnt it? To most it is a confusing word. How much, how often, steady state or HIIT? Although cardio bring about a different connotation to different individuals, the bottom line is that too much cardio will hinder muscle growth. For me cardio is a tool. I use it when I feel like it, if I feel like I want a good sweat session, but honestly? I am not at all a cardio queen and really have seen greater changes in my physique and strength when I cut back on it.
I LOVE HIIT training when it comes to getting my heart pumping. I keep my sessions super intense and super efficient.
Performing cardio too often, too long or even on an empty stomach can be a HUGE factor in why you are not gaining muscle, and in some cases even gaining weight. Generally, daily cardio sessions simply burn too many calories to allow you teh surplus you need for muscle mass, and same can be said for sessions that are greater than 45 minutes.
Obviously if your goals are for performance or endurance events, this is a whole other story, but if you are looking to see real physique changes in your body, too much cardio will get in the way of this.
Again, personal preferance does come into play here and this is just what I think and what I do. Generally… I rarely recommend JUST cardio or do much of it myself. My cardio of choice is always HIIT on the treadmill performing interval sprints or incline walking as well as the revolving stair machine. I try to perform HIIT 2x a week and 1 day of some incline walking. That is a total of 3 days of cardio no longer than 30 minutes. Ever.
You have been doing the same routine...forever.
I have talked about before how important it is to have a routine if you want to see true changes and stay motivated. I also have mentioned (in the 15 things I have learned post) before that as a trainer, we NEED to have set plans for my clients so I can see them progress and get stronger. A trainer should not be creating a brand new workout for you every single session. This is not only pointless but it also shows that your trainer doesn't really care to see you progress. How can you get better, stronger, leaner, reach your goals if there is no real goal at hand? With that said, doing the exact same workout week after week, month after month, may not only hinder your goals at hand of achieving a leaner physique but may possibly lead to burn out. I have a whole post here about ways to change it up in the gym- and most are simpler than you think. Our bodies adapt quickly to the demands we place on them and failing to bring about new challenges to your muscles (increasing weight, changing reps/sets/workout schemes) will only cause your body to stay at that plateau.
-Do your research and seek out new workouts/exercises and different elements to change up your workout.
You Don't Let your Body Recovery Properly
"Naomi, I workout 7 days a week, is that bad" In one word...yes. And moreover, you must really not have a life to want to work out 7 days a week! Ah overtraining, I have experienced it before and let me tell you it is no fun. Not only is it mentally draining causing extreme fatigue and tiredness but I LOST strength. Physique changes actually happen outside of the gym, believe it or not. Overtraining is SO common with those who just love to workout and scared of getting fat if they don't. It is however extremely dangerous and could be detrimental to the immune and adrenal systems. SEVERE decrease in strength will occur because you are just not letting your muscles recovery properly! Signs and symptoms right here!
Taking rest days are an INTEGRAL part of any exercise program. It is during this rest period that your muscles actually grow, change and recover so you can have killer workouts going forward. The day I started performing less volume but focusing on quality, compound workouts and proper program set up, is the day that I was able to perform 2 full, unassisted chin ups (I mean not that day, but you catch my drift)
There are a couple of ways you may not be getting adequate rest for your body.
- First, you could be training too many days without taking any days off. Even if you don't 'feel' that you need a break, your body does need one COMPLETE day of rest to recover; and its not just to help with muscle growth but also to give a break to your tendons, joints, and organs.
- Second, you are not letting muscle groups properly rest between training sessions. If one muscle group is sore from a workout you did the day before, its simple...don't train. You won't look like a tough guy when you realize your strength gains severely decrease-trust me.
You Don't Train Your Whole Body
Focus on compound movements, rather than isolation. Check out some of my favorite new exercises that are big, compound moves. I am talking squats, dead lifts, chin ups, bench, and of course some plyos thrown in the mix. I cannot tell you how much stronger I feel throughout my entire body. When I do a set of push ups now, I feel my back being activated more than ever before and I can also notice a huge difference in my back; it is more defined and this is simply from toning down the volume of my training and completing more compound, 'back to basics' movements in the gym. train your body in the way it was supposed to move. Splitting up your body parts "chest/back" "shoulders" "legs/abs" will prevent your muscles from learning how to properly move and work together bu in bigger movements that require real strength and coordination such as dead lifts, squats, bench, pull ups.
You Neglect Your Warm up/Corrective Work
Foam roll. If you don't do it. Do it. You’ll squat stronger, lift heavier and all around move better, if you use a foam roller before your workout. They break up scar tissue and and adhesions which are the knots inside of your muscles. Foam rolling will not only allow for more efficient muscle contractions and instant strength but it will also improve the tissue quality of your muscles which will help to increase flexibility when preforming big lifts. I rarely go a day without foam rolling and I have seen dramatic strength changes (not just due to foam rolling, but I know it is a big factor)
Corrective work is also something that is neglected by most but really is the utmost important factor if you are looking to gain strength and improve muscle definition. Like I mentioned before, You wouldn't build a house without a solid foundation so why force the body to perform something that is shouldn't? Corrective work helps you to MOVE better which is what you need to perform bigger movements more efficiently and correctly. If you do not know how to properly fire your glutes, then you have no business performing a squat; its just a waste of time.
You Aren't Getting Enough Sleep
While you sleep, this is the time that HGH (Human Growth Hormone) is released. Your body needs adequate rest so that your damanged muscle cells can repair and thus get stronger. You should aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep at night.
- Don't drink caffeine within 2 hours of bedtime
- Try not to exercise and get riled up 2 hours before bedtime
- Have a set 'routine' before bed to get you in the habit of a great night's sleep
- Try to wake up and go to sleep the same time each day and night
- If you are having trouble, try reading in bed or listening to soothing music
- Eat quality foods, preferably 6 small meals throughout the day.
- If you have hit a plateau, try changing up your routine!
- Sleep 7-8 hours each night
- simple carbs and protein post workout
- Carbs, protein, fat 1 hour pre-workout
- Warm up properly using the foam roller and corrective work OR exercises that mimic the movements you will be performing (doing heavy squats? Perform bodyweight squats to warm up)
- Train using BIG COMPOUND lifts rather than isolation
- Stay motivated!
- Make sure you are not overtraining. Take at LEAST 1 COMPLETE rest day a week
- Quit the steady state cardio and try HIIT which aids in fat loss, is fun and efficient
What has or has not worked for you when it comes to seeing physique changes in your body?
Any favorite pre or post workout meals?