If you consider yourself a difficult person for Muscular Gains? And you find that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t pack on any more muscle. You are probably wondering what am I doing wrong here?
Everyone’s biology and physiology is different and you may have a slightly tougher time building muscle than others, but most of what you believe about being a hard gainer is just a myth that is keeping you skinny. In reality if you have a methodical approach and follow most of the concepts in this article you will possess all the tools to be successful in gaining some muscle mass.
Not eating enough calories for muscular gains
The first and most common problem for skinny guys is not eating enough calories for muscular gains. Not consuming enough calories makes it very tough to build muscle mass. That’s because if you are in a energy deficit or even a stage of energy maintenance, there are physiological changes that don’t support muscle growth the way that a calorie surplus would.
For example, not eating enough calories increases your levels of AMPK, an enzyme that impairs muscle growth, at the same time it also reduces levels of mTOR, an enzyme that is essential for muscle growth. If your mTOR activity is low it will lead to decreased cell growth and decreased protein synthesis rates, meaning lower protein available for muscle growth. So we need to make sure we are eating enough calories to keep mTOR high and AMPK low!
The additional problem with being calorie deficient is that you will be negatively affecting hormones that benefit muscle growth like your testosterone. You will also be increasing your levels of the catabolic hormone known as cortisol.
This is once again going to make it harder to build muscle. However, consuming more and more calories doesn’t always equate to more and more muscle growth and if you eat too many calories, at some point the extra calories will be stored as fat. The truth is, an extreme calorie surplus will cause you some problems! Therefore I recommend tracking your daily calorie expenditure to ensure you are eating enough calories but not excessively.
Increase your carbs
Studies show when you compare very low carb diets to very high carb diets, the high carb groups maintain their strength better, recover faster from their workouts and they stay in more of an anabolic muscle building state. Carbs also assist with muscle growth as they help increase testosterone while reducing cortisol.
Carbs are also more favorable for muscle growth as glycogen is an excellent energy source for lifting heavy weights. Without carbs or with a low carb intake you are going to reduce the amount of glycogen that is stored in your muscles which in turn will drop your performance when at the gym. The great news is that the opposite is also true that if you enrich your diet with carbs, your muscles will have enough stored energy to be able to perform better in the gym and make faster progress with progressive overload.
Another common mistake by most skinny lifters is not following a progressive overload or in other words not consistently placing a higher and higher level of tension on muscles. Constantly doing what the body is already used to and comfortable with will send the body a signal that there’s no need to improve since the muscles have already adapted to that particular level of stress.
In reality if you want to build muscle for muscular gains, it is essential that you apply progressive overload. There are many different ways this can be done but the most simple and effective method is to gradually increase the weight that you are lifting. This makes tracking progress much easier and will also be a potent way to force muscle growth because of the close relationship between strength and muscle mass. Research shows an almost linear relationship between strength and muscle meaning the stronger you are, the more muscle mass you will possess.
However moving up in weight every single session without hitting a plateau is not always realistic but the goal should always remain the same . If you are stuck you can start doing things like cycling your rep ranges during each workout. A low rep range like three reps would allow you to use a lot heavier weight and build strength while a higher rep range above ten reps will make your body more efficient at clearing out lactic acids, helping you feel less fatigued.
By changing your reps from low to moderate to high you will find it easier to break through strength plateaus when you do get stuck making it easier to achieve muscular gains. The point is you need to make a conscious effort to consistently increase the amount of tension that’s being placed on your muscles over time.
Eating enough protein
With all the muscle breakdown that you will get from applying progressive overload you will want to make sure that you are consuming enough protein. Amino acids found in protein are the building blocks for your muscles, in fact protein is extra important as muscle growth is all about building up more amino acids in a muscle than the amount that gets broken down on a daily basis.
Whenever you maintain a positive protein turnover rate a muscle grows, however if you maintain a negative protein turnover rate you will lose muscle. Picture your muscles as a wall and amino acids as the bricks that make up that wall. The more bricks you add to the wall the bigger it becomes but if you remove bricks from the wall the smaller it becomes. To maximize muscle growth you need to consume on average 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight which is on average 28 grams of protein per pound. You should also do your best to spread your protein out throughout the day as this can help you build even more muscle .
Studies show that a balanced and adequate protein distribution may lead to an increase in protein synthesis than an imbalance or inadequate protein distribution. So if you are having four meals per day and your goal is to build muscle, you are better off having a quarter of your daily protein intake in each meal rather than having a big percentage of your protein in one meal.
Do not overdo cardio
Meta analysis research done in 2012 has shown cardiovascular exercise hurts muscle growth as it has shown that adding cardio to a resistance training plan can lower muscle growth effect size by almost 50%. It is important to note that this study was isolated to the lower body and most cardio exercises like running, cycling or stair climbing happen to fatigue the lower body. Even though upper body muscle mass isn’t as affected by cardio, you will be better off keeping it to a minimum if your main objective is to bulk up.
The primary reason for this is the influence that cardio has on mTOR and AMPK pathways. Like mentioned earlier we want to have higher mTOR levels and lower AMPK to stimulate muscle growth. Lifting weights will help you accomplish just that.
The issue however is that cardio tends to cause the exact opposite. It decreases muscle growth by increasing AMPK while diminishing mTOR. On top of this cardio decreases your calorie surplus and you may find it harder to consume even more calories than the large amount you are already required to eat. Spending a lot of time on cardio also increases your fatigue levels making it harder to perform optimally in the gym. If you are a skinny guy that struggles to gain muscle, cut out majority cardio and focus on strength training.
- Getting more sleep
Sleep is often overlooked, as optimizing your sleep can literally help you gain pounds of muscle. However, if you are not getting enough sleep, not only can it harm your health, but it will harm your body composition.
In one weight loss study they found that when people slept just 40 minutes less per day the amount of weight they lose in the form of muscle shifted from 20% to 80%. What is even more interesting is that people participating in the study were allowed to catch up on sleep over the weekend.
So if you don’t sleep during the week and you save it for the weekend due to either your job or school, you might want to reconsider that strategy. It does not have the same effect as getting enough sleep consistently throughout the week. The good news is that by getting enough sleep you will speed up recovery and take advantage of the muscle building benefits that sleeping provides.
To fall asleep faster and to get higher quality deeper sleep the first thing you want to do is to maintain a consistent sleeping schedule. You shouldn’t be going to bed one day at 11 p.m and the next day at 9 p.m. You will also want to start slowing down on the caffeine after around noon as it takes around 6 hours to get out of your system.
The other thing you can do to get to sleep faster, that a lot of people are afraid of doing, is eating carbs before bed. It is a myth that eating carbs before bed will make you fatter, as long as you are following the macros based on your body, it doesn’t matter if you eat your carbs in the morning or at night. Studies show that carbs can help boost serotonin which will help you get to sleep faster.
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Following these simple guidelines should give you an idea of where you have been going wrong and how to steer yourself back on the right course. Working out and gaining muscle mass is truly a scientific and holistic approach and should be considered as a lifestyle if you are serious about reaching your goals. Remember that your fitness journey will inspire those around you!