Are you annoyed that no matter how hard you try, you still can't seem to command those biceps to grow? Check your daily habits to be sure you aren't sabotaging your progress.
Research has shown the ideal amount of protein needed to trigger muscle protein synthesis is between 30–40g per meal. If you're eating 6 meals a day, a sample daily meal plan could look like the following:
7 am Breakfast – 6 egg whites, 1 whole egg and 1 cup oatmeal
10 am Mid-morning meal – 225g turkey and 225g white rice
1 pm Lunch – 225g grilled chicken and 170g steamed broccoli
4 pm Mid-afternoon – 1 protein shake
7 pm Dinner – 225g grilled chicken and 225g white rice
10 pm Snack – 1⁄2 cup fat-free cottage cheese
Often people will try to lose fat while gaining muscle at the same time. They cut consumption of carbohydrates severely and as a result start to see a dip in performance. Without carbohydrates, you're going to struggle to add weight to the bar week after week. Even if you are trying to lose fat, don't ditch carbohydrates completely. Time them around your workout. Opt for slow digesting carbs like oatmeal or brown rice a couple of hours before your workout to help keep your energy levels up so that you can crush it in the gym.
HIIT-style cardio, which involves a period of max effort followed by a short period of rest, has earned the reputation for being the best cardio workout to preserve muscle. But in the same way that doing too much low-intensity steady-state cardio can slow down muscle gain or even eat away at your hard-earned muscle, HIIT cardio can impede muscle gain too. Without boring you with unnecessary detail, doing too much HIIT has the tendency to activate the molecule AMPK. If that happens too often, muscle growth will be inhibited. Stick to a couple of sessions a week.
“Go heavy or go home” is the mantra heard across gyms worldwide. While you should absolutely go heavy, it's important to note there are two avenues of muscle growth: myofibrillar hypertrophy and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Myofibrillar hypertrophy is the growth of actual muscle fibers, which is mainly induced by lifting heavy (generally 70–85% of your one-rep max). Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy occurs with high reps and is the increase of the content of muscle cells responsible for converting glycogen to ATP (usable energy), which helps with protein synthesis. A lack of ATP can actually cause plateaus in muscle growth. It is worth noting that there is an overlap between both forms of hypertrophy. In other words, even during the high-repetition phase of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, the trainee will still experience some myofibrillar hypertrophy. So, going heavy doesn't always have to be your go-to move.
There is no way around it: in order to grow, your muscles must be placed under enough physical duress to require them to adapt in anticipation of the next training session. That can only be accomplished by adding weight to the bar over time so increasing the amount of weight used to train in a given rep range over time is the best way to grow. If you've been coasting through your workouts with ease, it's time to reevaluate.
If you use a weight belt for nearly every set of squats, deadlifts, and even rows, now is the time to stop. Yes, you can belt up for your heaviest sets of lower-body movements, but ditch the thing for lighter sets and upper-back exercises. Your abs will look better as a result, and your core will be far healthier and stronger. It’ll also force your smaller muscles to become more active, thrashing out more calories.
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