In this article:
Resistance training to increase muscle strength is one of the best forms of exercise you can do for your body.
Adults, in particular, should engage in muscle-strengthening exercises that work every muscle group within the body. This type of training is also useful for the elderly as it prevents many musculoskeletal issues. (1)
Some of the benefits of resistance training include: (1)
- Improved bone mineral density
- Improved body composition and aesthetic
- Improved mental health
- Better blood sugar control
- Reduced risk of heart diseases
How Is Muscle Built?
During resistance training, muscles undergo a process called hypertrophy, where muscle mass increases. The primary component involved in muscle building is protein, and hypertrophy occurs when the creation of muscle mass is more than muscle breakdown. (2)
Following a diet with adequate amounts of protein is essential to ensure muscle mass is maintained at a level above its breakdown.
Top Reasons You Are Not Building Muscle Despite Working Out
The process of building muscles seems fairly simple. However, certain factors influence the rate of muscle building, and one of them may be the reason you are not building muscle as much as you should despite doing resistance training.
These factors are as follows:
1. Not eating enough protein
Protein is the basic building block of the body. Over time, resistance training creates a need for increased protein in the body, and if that increased need is met, you will be essentially building muscle. (3)
To support the muscle-building process with resistance training, it is recommended to eat from approximately 1.6 g/kg/day up to 2.2 g/kg/day. To build lean muscle and achieve fat loss, it is recommended to eat approximately 2.3–3.1 g/kg/day. (3)
Check the protein content of the foods you are consuming to ensure you are getting the right amount of protein to build muscle.
2. Eating the wrong kinds of food
It has been already established how important protein is for building muscle. However, other nutrients are also important to ensure muscle building and to avoid the generation of fat cells.
Therefore, ensure your diet is rich in protein, fiber from vegetables, and good fats from olives, nuts, and seeds.
3. Not drinking enough water
Maintaining optimal hydration levels by drinking enough water is essential not only to achieve overall health but also to build and maintain good muscle levels.
Drinking enough water can also prevent muscle cramping, allowing you to get through a good training routine effectively.
4. Not sleeping enough
A good night’s sleep is recommended for maintaining all of the body’s physiological functions. Lack of sleep can create an environment of stress in the body, which can cause loss of muscle mass.
In a small study done on 13 healthy adults, sleep deprivation was found to reduce the synthesis of muscle by 18% and increase cortisol (the hormone that is released during stress) levels by 21%.
This study showed that even one night of poor or less sleep can create a hindrance in muscle building and change body composition. (6)
5. Doing too much cardio
The primary way to increase muscle mass is through resistance training. Though aerobic exercises or cardio such as walking, running, jogging, and skipping can help with fat loss, they cannot improve muscle mass.
Studies comparing the two different forms of exercises have found resistance training to improve muscle mass more than aerobic training. (7) Therefore, the right balance between both exercises is required to increase muscle mass.
6. Not consistent in working out
For any exercise to work, long-term dedication is extremely important. Inconsistency or long breaks between exercise schedules can be the reason you are not building your muscle as you should be.
Find motivators to help build a routine. Ask your friends to accompany you, participate in online challenges, or keep an accountability journal to help you exercise regularly.
General Guidelines for Building Muscle
Here are some foods you can eat to safely and naturally build muscles.
- Pre-workout meal: Eating a meal rich in protein and carbohydrates can improve performance during the exercise session. (8) This can include a bowl of oatmeal, fruits with nuts, or a glass of smoothie with nuts and fruits.
- Post-workout meal: You can eat a heavier meal that is rich in protein and carbohydrates post-exercise. This improves muscle building and restores lost energy. (9) This can be foods such as salads (made with chicken or tofu), chicken/fish and rice, oatmeal with fruits, eggs, and whole-wheat bread.
What are the best foods I can eat to gain muscle?
Animal sources of protein such as chicken, lean meat, eggs, milk, and fish are the best sources of bioavailable protein. Vegetarian sources of good-quality protein include tofu, tempeh, soy, beans, pulses, and cheese.
Can I take protein supplements to build muscle mass?
Protein supplements can help fulfill the protein requirements of the daily diet. However, it is recommended to meet this requirement via food. Supplements need to be taken upon consultation with a doctor.
Exercising requires great dedication but yields fruitful results. From improving physical and mental health to helping you in achieving an aesthetic physique, exercises that build muscle are the ideal training method. However, some factors may come in the way of muscle building.
Eating less and the wrong kinds of foods, sleeping poorly, following an improper training program, and being inconsistent in exercising can all dampen progress and cause distress when the desired results are not seen.
Therefore, identifying factors that are causing roadblocks and working on them can be of great help.