1. Not Tracking Your Calorie IntakeTracking calories can be a pain and a stress for people but knowing how many calories you are consuming is essential to progress. We know that gaining weight is a matter of eating more calories than you are expending. So if you have no idea how many you are eating, how will you know if you are eating to a calorie surplus or deficit? There are many calorie calculators out there, but it is important to know that these are all estimates as no calculator can work out the precise number of calories YOU require. However, calculators are useful for people with inconsistent intakes, or those completely unaware of their intakes. These figures can then be taken as a starting point, from where adjustments can be made once progress has been assessed. Calculators range from equations such as; 1. Target BW (lbs) x (9-11 + average total weekly training hrs) 2. Target BW (lbs) x (11-13 + average total weekly training hrs) 3. BW (lbs) x 14-16 (14 if you have a sedentary job and train hard 2-3x per week. 15 if you have an active job and train hard 3x per week, 16 if you have an active job and train hard 4-6x per week) If you’re not gaining weight the hard truth is you need to eat more. All the training in the world won’t do anything for you if you’re not putting enough fuel into your body or recovering sufficiently. Your diet will create the environment to build muscle and strength and you need fuel to support your hard training and even more to build muscle. So get control of your calories and record you food consumption to educate and understand your requirements. You do not need to track 24/7 for the rest of your life, but tracking for 2-3 weeks will allow you to estimate your requirements and get an eye for portion sizes. Using apps such as Myfitnesspal are great to monitor your intake every other day taking away the hard maths.
2. Insufficient ProteinCalories are made up of 3 nutrients; proteins, carbs and fats. These three nutrient sources are known as macronutrients. To pack on muscle mass you must be consuming sufficient protein within your calories. The recommended daily amounts advised by the government and some doctors is too low to provide sufficient protein for muscle growth. So look to consume 0.8-1.5g (depending on your leanness and whether you are dieting or not) of protein per pound of lean body weight (1), from sources such as meat, fish, dairy, whey, eggs etc.
3. You Fear FatWithout enough calories your muscle building workouts will not be ‘optimal.’ One of the easiest ways to increase your calorie intake is to increase your intake of higher fat foods because fat contains 9 calories per gram of fat. Fatty foods like meats, nuts, avocado, oily fish, eggs and cooking oils all will help to incorporate more fat into your diet. Furthermore, fats taste great and are needed by your body to support your hormonal system, a source of energy, an environment for fat soluble vitamins, provide essential fatty acids, and support growth and development.
4. You're Not Following A ProgrammeMore often then not, people will not be training hard enough and over complicate the whole training process when they are not getting the results they demand. Randomly choosing exercises, sets, reps and load week on week. Training is the stimulus to build muscle and strength and you therefore need to train hard with a plan! That does not mean going into the gym shooting for PRs every session or working out to be sick, but you need to create enough of a stimulus every session to progress. This will be achieved through training primarily your larger muscle groups utilising compound, multiple-joint exercises, like squats, deadlifts, press, pulls ups etc. It will also be key to focus on progressive overload, the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body. This is an important factor in building muscle and strength which can be achieved through increasing volume (vol x reps x load) a tiny bit at a time, week on week, to produce an adaptation response. Your lifestyle constraints will determine how often you get to the gym and also how experienced you are as a lifter. So find what works best for you, but remember the more experienced you become the more of a stimulus is going to be needed to create an adaption as the body becomes acclimatised to the stress you apply to it. So ensure you are tracking your training by using a spreadsheet or a simple note book, and if you feel you could do with some guidance consider getting a coach.
5. Lack Of KnowledgeThe more you look to learn and educate your self in training and nutrition the more progression you will make. This is obvious as the more you know, the more you can apply that knowledge to your training to achieve outstanding results. However, remember that not everything you hear, read or watch is always reliable. The fitness industry is full of rubbish and BS these days, with companies and individuals who are uneducated and/or looking to make money and create a cult following. These companies and individuals normally promise the world to you and fast results in exchange for money. A general rule of thumb is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do more research into it necessarily.
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References -1. Eric R Helms1*, Alan A Aragon2 and Peter J Fitschen. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2014, 11:20.