You’ve been pushing yourself in the gym lately—you’re working your tail off, exercising throughout the week, all while making sure you’re eating as clean as you can.
All of that’s great—and we certainly applaud you for it—but the real truth is that you’re probably sabotaging your own results and hurting your body transformation. What if, by making a few simple tweaks to your lifestyle, diet, and exercise, you could unlock a new level of gains you could never get before?
Yeah, we thought that would get your attention.
If you want to work on gaining muscle and losing weight, read on for our plan to correct the eight ways you’re hurting your muscle gain and fat loss. Don’t worry—you’ll change them in no time.
You’re too stressed
Being too stressed out can make a major difference. Too much stress elevates your cortisol levels, constantly activates your sympathetic nervous system—your “fight-or-flight” response—and raises your levels of glucocorticoids, which causes a host of health problems. But when it comes to building a great body, too much stress can also interfere with testosterone and growth hormone production, which limits muscle growth, increases fat (especially around your belly), and even weakens bones.
Every day, take a few minutes in the middle of your day to completely relax and recharge. Also, incorporate activities like yoga, stretching, meditation, and breathing exercises into your training program.
You’re not sleeping enough
Back in 1910, the average American got nine hours of sleep per night—but now it’s down to around seven hours. Blame TV, blame cell phones, blame social media—either way, you need some shuteye.
To get the most from your training, you need to maximize your recovery. Sleep deprivation hurts your muscle gains because it interferes with recovery and growth hormone production. Cutting back on sleep also wrecks your fat loss. Japanese researchers have found that shorter sleep duration is correlated with higher BMI levels and a bigger waist, according to a 6,000-person study published in the International Journal of Obesity.
Get at least eight hours of good sleep each and every night. For better sleep, stop drinking caffeine after mid-day, drink less alcohol (which hurts sleep quality), and create a pre-bed ritual to get your body and mind ready for sleep.
You’re not eating enough protein
Adding more protein is a simple way to get things going. In a study from the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that a high-protein diet improved body composition, cholesterol markers, and insulin levels more than a diet of moderate protein, even while keeping calories the same. And it makes sense: Protein is the building block of muscle and it helps you maintain muscle mass while you drop body fat.
You’re doing too much cardio
While long, slow jogs are great at developing your aerobic system, too much “traditional cardio” can actually create a negative effect. If your goal is muscle gain, for example, excessive cardio hurts recovery and reduces muscle gain because you’re focusing on endurance training.
Instead, blend traditional cardio with interval-type protocols to improve all your energy systems.
You’re not lifting heavy
To add strength and build size, you need to lift heavy and hard. Focus on multi-joint exercises like squats, deadlifts, rows, and presses to stimulate a lot of hormonal release and more gains.
The same goes if you’re trying to lose fat because your body tends to lose muscle during a calorie deficit. The best way to prevent muscle loss is to train heavy. Adding more muscle also increases your basal metabolic rate, which boosts the number of calories you burn throughout the day.
During your workout, use lower reps (4–8) and heavier weights with a lot of volume.
You’re not drinking enough water
Even with all the people carrying water bottles, almost half of all Americans don’t drink enough water. Yet when it comes to fat loss, even the smallest amount of dehydration hurts your results because your metabolism slows down to conserve water. The same goes for muscle gain: Not drinking enough water destroys your performance in the gym and limits your progress.
To keep your body functioning optimally, drink enough water to keep your urine clear or faintly yellow.
You’re skipping carbs
Contrary to trendy diets, carbs are NOT evil. Carbs provide the energy to build mass and restore your energy stores, which is absolutely vital if you’re crushing an intense workout several times a week. And even if your goal is fat loss, skipping carbs will still hurt, not help, you.
As long as you eat clean sources of carbs like potatoes, yams, whole grains, fruits, and quinoa, you’ll be fine. For muscle gain, don’t worry about eating “too many carbs”; for fat loss, however, eat carbs only on your strength-training days.
You’re not eating enough fat
If you want to lose fat, eat more fat. Australian researchers found that combining aerobic exercise with fish oil, which is a fat, dropped much more body fat than exercise alone. Also, fat is vital for muscle gain because testosterone is made from cholesterol.
Avoid trans fats and hydrogenated oils, and eat more fats from good sources like animal fats, nuts, avocados, coconut oils, olive oils, and fish.