How You’re Making It Harder for Yourself to Gain Muscle and Lose Fat

Bet you didn’t realize your stress could be taking a major toll on your weight loss.

You’re working hard in the gym, exercising several times a week, and eating as clean as you can. That’s great — and we certainly commend you for it — but the truth is you’re sabotaging your own results and hurting your body transformation. What if by making a few simple lifestyle, diet, and exercise tweaks, you could unlock a new level of gains you could never get before? Yeah, we thought that would get your attention.

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.

RelatedBack to Basics: Creating a Healthy Diet Plan

1. You’re Too Stressed

Too much stress elevates your cortisol levels, constantly activates your sympathetic nervous system (“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 interferes 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, mediation, and breathing exercises into your training program.

Related: 5 Reasons to Start Meditating Now 

2. You’re Not Sleeping Enough 

In 1910, the average American slept 9 hours every night; nowadays, it’s down to around 7 hours.

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. In a study of over 6000 participants in the International Journal of Obesity, Japanese researchers found that shorter sleep duration was correlated with higher BMI levels and a bigger waist.

Get at least eight hours of good sleep 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.

Related: 10 Best Ways to Get Better Sleep 

3. You’re Not Eating Enough Protein 

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.

Protein shakes, for example, help you build more muscle mass and stay lean by boosting your calorie burn after a workout. Eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight for better results.

RelatedThe Men’s Fitness Guide to Protein 

4. 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-type activities. If your goal is fat loss, over-prioritizing cardio limits your results in the gym, which is what really changes your body composition.

Instead, limit cardio workouts to two times a week. Also, blend traditional cardio with interval-type protocols to improve all your energy systems.

Related: 8 More Amazing Fat-Burning Intervals 

5. You’re Not Lifting Heavy

To build strength and 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.

Related: Your Ideal Rep Range 

6. You’re Not Drinking Enough Water

Even with all the people carrying water bottles, almost half of all Americans drink too little 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.

Related: 5 Reasons to Never Neglect Water 

7. You’re Skipping Carbs

Contrary to new 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 you, 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.

Related: Keep the Carbs 

8. 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.

Related5 Fats You Shouldn’t Fear

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