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10 reasons why you're not gaining muscle

I’ve met more than enough people trying really hard to gain muscle to improve their health and looks who were saddened by the failure of their hard work because of reasons to them unknown.

If you belong to this category and you want to know what’s wrong, here are top 10 mistakes you’re very probably doing.

1. You are not training hard enough or properly enough

This is the first thing I tell people who complain they can’t gain muscle. Their usual response is: “Definitely not! I’m doing my best!” And here’s usually the problem. People tend to do their best without bothering to find out what they should be really doing.

The biggest problems I notice people do in the gym:

If you want to be efficient in the gym, do the following (applies to both men and women):

  1. Look around your gym and find the most ripped guy there is. He should look like he weights around 70 or 75 kg tops.
  2. Kindly ask him to teach you the proper form of every exercise, offering money in return.
  3. Do those exercises with half the weight you were doing them before you were taught how to do them properly. Work out at least 5 days a week, 50 minutes a day.

That’s it!

2. You are not getting enough leucine

Leucine is one of the most important, key elements in building muscle. It’s an amino-acid which activates the mTOR protein, specifically mTORc1, which in turn activates the ribosomal protein S6 kinase beta-1, an enzyme responsible for muscle protein synthesis. Leucine is the only potent activator of mTOR. Other amino-acids which may also activate mTOR are isoleucine and valine, however, their potency is extremely weak.

Furthermore, approximately 5% of ingested leucine is metabolized into beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyric acid (HMB), which effectively prevents the breakdown of muscle protein and thus protects the muscle. This metabolic pathway is the only source of HMB in the body.

Last but not least, leucine also promotes glucose uptake into muscle cells.

It should be noted that the mTOR pathway is anti-regulated by diabetes and obesity, which means that people with these conditions build muscle a lot slower and a higher intake of leucine is required to help activate the mTOR properly. Various other natural compounds, such as caffeine or curcumin, have been reported to inhibit mTOR after being applied to isolated cells. It’s therefore probable that these compounds should be avoided when building muscle; however, dietary research has yet to be done.

3. You are not getting enough Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, is a secosteroid, structurally similar to testosterone. In its metabolic pathway, it creates a hormone called calcitriol.

Studies show that calcitriol generally improves health, increases lifespan, leads to stronger teeth and bones, increases immunity, prevents and treats cancer, and also helps build muscle. It has also been shown to improve muscle strength, speed and endurance in athletes.

4. You are getting your protein from inappropriate foods

I’ve seen many people get their daily protein from ridiculously inappropriate foods, such as dairy. If 50% of your daily protein comes from cheese, yogurt or milk, you are not going to be building a lot of muscle. If you can’t fill your day with two chunks of meat and 4 eggs, don’t expect serious results.

5. Your diet does not allow your body to produce enough growth hormone

The human growth hormone, called somatotropin, stimulates cell reproduction and regeneration in humans – this includes building muscle. It’s produced naturally by the body, however, its production is reduced when you’re constantly eating and, on the other hand, enhanced by fasting. This is partially caused by insulin, whose high levels cause the body to stop producing sematotropin.

Your body wants to produce the most of somatotropin during your workouts, but when your insulin is elevated (because you were eating before going to the gym), the body is unable to produce it in significant amounts.

By fasting before and during your workouts, you cause your insulin levels to be low, making it possible for your body to produce high amounts of somatotropin, which when combined with high insulin levels after working out results in rapid cell regeneration.

6. Your insulin sensitivity is low (because of your diet)

Many gym-goers like to talk about how much food and how often they eat, yet they are not building any muscle. What they fail to realize is that their constant eating is exactly the problem.

To understand this problem, it’s very important to understand the role of insulin.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the human body which, apart of its many roles and purposes, increases glucose and amino acid uptake into muscle cells. Basically, whenever a compound wants to enter a cell, insulin must be present to allow this process. There are two factors defined here:

  1. How much insulin your body produces and releases into the bloodstream. You want to have as much insulin as possible whenever you need to feed your muscle with amino acids.
  2. How sensitive your cells are to insulin. You want your cells to be highly sensitive to insulin, so that any available insulin acts properly on the amino acid uptake.

The ideal way – what you should be doing

During longer periods of fasting (at least 12 hours), your insulin levels drop. This causes your cells to become more sensitive to insulin that remains present in the bloodstream and your body does not need to produce any insulin, so it becomes ready to produce it whenever necessary.

After this 12 – 16-hour period of fasting and after working out, when you have your first meal, you eat a lot of protein, which makes your body release a lot of insulin, to which your cells are highly sensitive and thus are forced to uptake the ingested amino acids into muscle cells.

What you are doing wrong

When you eat very often (for more than 12 hours a day), your body is forced to always produce insulin. Your insulin levels are always elevated and your cells become less and less sensitive to insulin; and when you need them to work properly after working out, they can’t do it. The amino acid uptake into your muscle cells is not as effective as it should be.

7. You aren’t getting enough sodium

Sodium is an electrolyte important for an enzyme called sodium-potassium adenosine triphosphatase (Na+/K+-ATPase), which is responsible for cellular health. Na+/K+-ATPase pumps three sodium ions out of the body cells for every two potassium ions to pump in. This export of sodium from the cell provides the driving force for several secondary active transporters membrane transport proteins, which import glucose, amino acids, and other nutrients into the cell by use of the sodium gradient.

Sodium also increases blood volume, which results in even better oxygen and nutrient delivery into cells.

Today’s recommended daily intakes of sodium are insufficient for physically active people, especially for people on a low-carb diet. To be sure that you are getting enough sodium, make sure your intake is at least 90% of what Foodlogic recommends to you.

8. You are eating too many carbohydrates (hoping they will build your muscle)

It’s believed by the uneducated and superstitious that carbohydrates build muscle. They don’t. Carbohydrates are non-essential nutrients which are not used by the body to build muscle.

One may argue that carbohydrates raise insulin, which is a good thing for a bodybuilder post-workout, and this is true, however, the disadvantages that come with carbohydrates always outweigh the advantages.

Carbohydrates also decrease insulin sensitivity (see #6).

Another problem with having too many carbohydrates in your diet is that they make you full while not providing any important muscle-building nutrients. Your stomach is full of food you don’t need. You feel full and you think you’ve provided your body with good food to build muscle and you don’t eat other really important foods.

Furthermore, the amino-acid profile of carbohydrates is not suitable for building muscle and it does not trigger muscle protein synthesis, so after eating a meal full of carbohydrates, you raise your insulin and blood glucose, but without protein synthesis activated, the insulin pumps glucose into your fat cells, which only makes you fat.

9. You are forgetting to eat all the other essential nutrients

So far I’ve talked only about the most important elements for building muscle. It’s important to know, however, that the whole essential nutrient profile is required for the proper body function, which ultimately leads to gaining muscle; and no, I won’t tell you to eat vegetables; vegetables are over-rated. They’re usually healthy if prepared correctly, but they hardly give you serious amounts of important nutrients. Use Foodlogic to know exactly what nutrients you need and what foods you’re best off eating to get them.

10. You are not getting enough sleep

Never underestimate the power of sleep. When sleeping, you regenerate very quickly and efficiently. Some regeneration processes are triggered only during the sleep. Get at least 7 – 8 good hours of sleep every night if you are physically active.

Too long? Didn’t read?

If you found this article too long to read and you scrolled down to the end to find a magical technique to build muscle, or you’ve read the article and still don’t know what to do, here’s the summary of what you should be doing:

Written by
František Stanko
František Stanko
Foodlogic founder
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