I’ve been eating healthy and working out for about a year and a half now and it seems like I’m either not eating enough or not working out enough.
I eat as healthy as I can: 5 times a day, veggies, complex carbs, protein, portion control, all that good stuff. I workout in school and at home a lot, lifting weights, running, and doing abs. It seems like something has went wrong and off balance and I’ve gotten a little skinnier than I intended. Changing my diet a little has only made me gain fat, and working out more has had no effect. I need help!
There could be a few different variables at play.
Let’s start with diet. Complex carbs and veggies are important, but you didn’t mention lean meats or other protein sources. To build muscle, your body will need protein – and so it’s important to get protein naturally or with supplements. I always eat a protein shake or two a day to help meet my protein requirements.
Assuming you are eating enough of the right foods, let’s take a look at your workout.
There’s a difference between exercising a lot and exercising effectively. I’m all about making the most of short workouts. And in some instances, people who exercise too much actually cannibalize their results. Rest is a crucially important ingredient in building muscle mass. If you over-train and overwork your muscles, you won’t see results.
To avoid over-training, ensure that you’re working different muscle groups on different days. On one day, for example, you may work your legs. You might do chest on another. And back and shoulders on another, and so on. If you go to the gym anywhere from 2 or 3 to 6 times per week, this will give each muscle group a several days to repair and recover.
But the most-commonly overlooked component of an effective workout is intensity – and I suspect that this may be your issue. If you want to make additional muscle gains and further transform your body, you’ll need to push yourself to break through your current plateaus. If you do want to make significant muscle gains, going to the gym for 45 minutes and throwing around a few moderately heavy weights isn’t necessarily going to do it.
Instead, you need to make use of a strategy called progressive overload. Constantly push yourself to work heavier and heavier levels of resistance. If, over the course of a few months, you move from 4 sets of 8 reps of 150 pounds (your current limit) on the bench press to 4 sets of 8 reps of 170 pounds, there’s no question that your body will change as a result. It’s a matter of science; your muscles will grow – but they only grow when they’re required to do so.
Remember: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. If you diet is on point, your exercise form is solid and you’re not over-training your muscles, it’s most likely a question of workout intensity. Rather than spending endless hours at the gym, it’s really about getting more bang for each workout buck.