Is one of your 2019 goals to build muscle? Perhaps leaning out and getting cut?
Well, if you’re serious about starting or continuing and keeping up with your plans, you've come to the right place! To help you become more resolute about those New Year's resolutions, make sure to avoid these common muscle-building missteps.
You’re Not Monitoring Your Food Intake (or Keeping it Healthy)
This is critical if you’re looking to gain muscle, get lean or simply maintain your current look. You can have a great workout and be spot-on with your form, but if you’re not fueling your internal engine properly and tracking what you eat, then you can’t expect the results to come in tenfold.
The best way to track the food you eat (and the amount) is to use a journal. No, you don’t need to bring your secret diary to the gym; you can simply download a dietary-tracking app to log your overall consumption. Heck, some even come with a caloric tracker with sample calorie-levels on them as well! It’s really easy to keep track of the amount of food you eat, and quite honestly, should take you less than five minutes to log your entire day into it.
For eons, the concept of consuming six meals per day has reigned supreme. Well, there’s no reason to go against it now! The usual excuse for not eating healthy is that “time is an issue”. Truth being told, it all evens out. The night before, you could meal plan for the entire next day, breakfast through post-dinner snack/shake—in the same amount of time that it’d take you to get from your job to the closest fast-food place.
The key to following a healthy bodybuilding nutrition program is planning ahead. When you cook your food, always prepare several meals. It doesn't take much longer to cook larger quantities of food then it does to cook smaller amounts for just one meal. Purposely plan to have leftovers that you can re-heat in the microwave. One, it saves time. Two, it makes it easier to have quick, nutritious meals on-hand.
You’re Not Sleeping Enough
Believe it or not, but a successful bodybuilding program requires more than spending hours at the gym. Gaining muscle mass also requires an ample amount of rest for your muscles to recover and grow. There’s not a set or defined amount of time, as that varies from person to person, but a lack of sleep will have a negative impact on your muscle growth and ability to put your best effort forth at the gym.
As you lift, you are creating minute micro-tears in your muscle fibers. A lack of sleep all but ensures that your body will be unable to repair the small lesions. Consistent lack of sleep and an increased amount of micro-tears can lead to overtraining and (shortly down the road) injuries.
Our sleep patterns are multi-layered, consisting of varying levels of REM and non-REM phases. It’s during our non-REM deep sleep phase that we get our biggest growth hormone spike. In layman’s terms, HGH (human growth hormone) is an agent that promotes muscle recovery and growth. So, in order to gain the muscle mass you may be looking for, you want to make sure that you get the biggest possible release of growth hormone, every night, right? But how exactly can one do that?
Since growth hormone is released during “deep-sleep” and the deepest sleep typically occurs around 2am, you want to make sure that you go to sleep in the early hours of the night. During the restorative deep-sleep phase, our blood pressure drops and breathing becomes deeper and slower, with our brains going into a status very similar to a computer’s sleep mode, allowing more blood to flow into our muscles.
So, in (somewhat) short, a lack of sleep and an erratic sleeping schedule can quickly decrease the amount of growth hormone our pituitary glands secrete during deep sleep. Growth hormone deficiency is associated with loss of muscle mass and a reduced exercise capacity.
- Head to bed prior to 11pm to ensure some solid non-REM sleep!
- Don’t eat anything 3+ hours prior to bed, allowing your body to fully digest everything in your stomach (casein aside).
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. After all, 73% of our brain is comprised of water!
Logging long hours and putting in maximum effort throughout your gym sessions must be a good thing, right? Wrong. It’s basically the antithesis of what you learned growing up. The truth is that overtraining is worse than undertraining.
I know what you’re thinking. “If you work longer and harder in your career, you’ll typically earn a raise or promotion. If you practice the form and release on your jump shot, you’ll become a better shooter.” While true in those situations, when it comes to weightlifting and sculpting your body, there’s a very fine line. There is a certain point where exerting yourself 100% of the time, for long durations of time, becomes counter-productive.
You’ve seen it before, but may not have realized it. He’s the guy that focuses solely on his chest, set after set, rep after rep. The next time you see him, what is he working on? You guessed it.
When it comes down to it, overtraining occurs when there is a large disparity between work and recovery. This goes lockstep with the previous notion regarding a lack of sleep. Excess stress mixed in with a lack of rest and recovery can create a litany of side effects, with a couple listed below.
- Feeling a Little Fatigued?
If you’re hitting the weights hard, heavy, and a little too long, the parasympathetic nervous system (sometimes referred to as the rest and digest system) goes into hyperdrive; leading to a dip in testosterone levels, an increase in cortisol, and a bad case of global fatigue. In turn, it becomes hard to focus, hard to rest, and nearly impossible to sleep.
- Can’t Ward off That Cold?
This becomes a domino effect, in that every action, has an equal and opposite reaction. Poor sleep habits, mental/physical stress and fatigue, they all create a surge of activity in your immune system, suppressing its abilities for long periods of time and creating mood state changes.
- Aches and Pains?
You can’t always chalk off the old adage of, “Just getting old”, to be true. This is one of the first signs that you may be overtraining. An achy shoulder, tender knee, or perhaps tightness in your elbow—these may all be indications that you need to take some time off, as it could lead to an impending injury that may sideline you for weeks or even months.
If you feel as though you’re going about your program the right way, it could be that your form may need a simple adjustment. If not, here’s a sample schedule to follow:
Day One - Chest and Triceps
Day Two - Legs and Abs
Day Three - Cardio and Shoulders
Day Four - Back and Biceps
Day Five - Chest and Abs
Day Six - Cardio and Yoga
Day Seven - Rest!
Of course the schedule can be adjusted to suit your individual needs, but as long as there is proper spacing between the days you work specific areas of your body, as well as a REST DAY, you should be good to go and conquer the world!