Many people are stuck wondering why they are not gaining muscle, when they destroy their bodies in the gym and think their training is perfect. How can they not be growing after hitting the weights so hard?
“I’m going to start working out to put on some muscle”, “If I work out I’m going to put on size”, “If I work my butt off in the gym I’m going to make gains, “Wow, he’s big. He must spend all day at the gym”
These are the quotes I often here all around me, mostly from those just starting out the weight lifting experience. I can’t blame them, that’s what they’ve been led to believe by the media all around them (perhaps movies, most directly). You build muscle by hitting the weights, that’s just how it is. To give an example that I saw quite recently, two guys who were built martial artists were imprisoned and made to work without having the required amount of time to train for their underground fights. In order to continue training and to maintain their lean and muscular physiques, they decided to make their work a training ground. They worked twice as hard, did push ups and sit ups on breaks, etc. (pretty much all the good stuff). However, they were fed nothing more than porridge and bread, maybe twice a day. Furthermore, they were almost never shown eating this food, just training. They never lacked energy for their 12 hour workouts, and were always ready for more to “keep in shape”. These are the images constantly fed to the public…so you can’t really blame people for believing that hard work in the gym builds muscle and that’s all that matters. To be fair, it is without a doubt a necessary component, but where truth strays from the myth is that it is just that…a component, and not the sole key to success.
Due to this myth, many people walk into the gym and work hard, day in and day out. However, results are minimal, if even noticeable at all, and they get frustrated after a while knowing that their work ethic in the gym is not producing results (they are not gaining muscle). The reason for this is simple, their diet is not up to par. Without a proper diet, you will not get very far. This is the part that’s always skipped in the movies, because it doesn’t resonate as easily with the crowd and shows that building muscle is too complicated, and the media doesn’t want us thinking that now does it? We want to believe that going in the gym and working out hard will bring results and pack on size, that’s the dream they’re trying to sell!
Getting back on track, in order for you to put on size, you must be eating above your caloric maintenance per day, most people do not do this, even though the hard work is there with the iron. Matter of fact, if you never put on weight when you were sitting on your couch being lazy, if you hit the gym and burn all those calories, you’re going to actually lose weight eating the same as you were prior to working out. How will that help with gaining muscle? It won’t, unless you start upping the food intake to give your body what it needs to grow bigger. It’s all about the balance between how many calories you take in through food, and how many calories you burn through daily activity (including gym). This concept is discussed in our Calculating Your Maintenance Calories article.
If you’re not gaining muscle, but you think you’re giving it your best in the gym, your diet is most likely slipping through the cracks and your body has nothing to use in order to grow. Consider this analogy:
If you are trying to build a house, you can sit on the construction site doing work 14 hours a day, every single day, but if you lack the material necessary to build the whole house, what’s all that work going to accomplish? Substitute that work for hitting the gym, and the material for the food you need to eat, and look where you end up. For you to get the results you want, both need to be in check, fail in one and you’ll quickly go off track.
We don’t want that to happen, so start on the right path today. Make not gaining muscle a thing of the past. Calculate your maintenance calorie count, and get on the journey towards achieving the physique you want. Without enough food, muscle growth is impossible. Don’t waste your work ethic in the gym following the media fairy tales, they’re not real. Working out is just the initial step towards putting on size, sufficient food is necessary to give your body the materials it needs to repair itself after a tough gym session. Don’t forget that, and results will come (you will start gaining muscle). Good Luck!
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