1) You aren’t eating enough calories from the right foods.
Muscle building requires “building blocks.” The food you consume has to match your end goal in terms of the building blocks and fuel. Often times, people are not consuming enough of either to gain weight and muscle mass. And while eating enough is important, eating the right nutrients is even more essential.
A simple rule to follow when your goal is to build mass is to consume 20 calories per pound of body weight (example: 150 pounds X 20 calories = 3000 calories per day). Consuming the proper nutrients is important. Aim for healthy sources of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Don’t shy away from healthy, fiber-rich carbs (2:1 ratio for carbs to protein) when trying to gain weight. Aim for at least 30 grams of protein per meal. Try to eat the right foods often throughout the day.
2) Not enough sleep and/or recovery time.
Exercise and physical activity aren’t exactly where you build muscle, but actually where you stimulate muscle synthesis through stress and damage. Muscle is actually grown at rest and when you sleep. Then your body takes the time to repair and rebuild damaged muscle tissues. If you are making lifestyle changes aimed at building muscle mass, be sure to include proper sleep and rest into those plans. Over-exertion and resulting fatigue can lead to injury and burnout. Experts recommend 7–9 hours of quality sleep every night. Remember to respect the “rest day” and take it easy.
3) No exercise variation.
If you stick to the same routine for too long your body will begin to adapt. Be sure to keep track of your exercise and progress. As you gain strength, up the weight and resistance or switch to a modified version of an exercise. Don’t be afraid of compound exercises that include multiple muscle groups. Strengthening your core and stability will also help you to increase your capacity. If you aren’t challenging yourself with workouts you won’t be training efficiently. You might be maintaining mass, but you may not be gaining.
Hiring a certified personal training is a great option for those who need help with designing a training regimen. Learning proper form and how to make effective changes to your lifts will help you in the long-run.
4) Too much cardio.
While cardiovascular exercise is important for overall health, endurance exercises won’t typically help you make gains. Ever notice the body type difference between a long-distance runner and a sprinter? Endurance athletes are long and lean, while sprinters are typically more muscular and massive. A sprinter is more focused on explosive power than a distance runner. So, if your goals are size and strength, you may want to scale back your cardio sessions to less than three times per week. However, cardio exercises can help build functional muscle. You might try bear crawls, sprints, or boxing in lieu of a 30-minute to hour-long run.