5 Reasons why you're not gaining any muscle

Sérgio Veloso


While some complaint about not being able to become slimmer, others despair because their muscles aren't growing enough in spite of their hard work at the gym. And indeed, gaining muscle the natural way is not easy and far from a quick process. Some conditioning factors simply must be coped with as they are congenital and genetic, but in the vast majority of cases, the lack of success can be explained by certain common mistakes that gym-goers have a tendency to make.

Note: Check the training plan to build muscle (bulking) developed by the bodybuilder Sandra Nogueira.

1. You're not training at the right intensity

Just going to the gym and lifting some weights won't do. It's essential to provide some structure to your training and give your muscle real reasons to grow. Growth will not occur as long as the stimulus is not sufficiently challenging. And this is where quite a few adepts get it wrong, not taking their training to the point that is needed for hypertrophy to occur. You can follow the strictest diet and take the highest quality supplements in existence, but if the mechanic stimulus is inadequate, the desired results will always remain out of reach.

Other gym-goers do exactly the opposite. Muscle growth is the result of regeneration and adaptation of the tissue to the traumas induced by training. If the tissue isn't given enough time to recover and get stronger after being stimulated, it's highly probable that it will simply adapt to not fully recovering, leading to stagnated development and little to no gains in terms of hypertrophy. What's needed is a certain balance, and that balance cannot always be found just by using common sense.

2. Your diet is not structured or strict enough

In most cases it's not enough to merely have a general notion of what to eat in order for hypertrophy to take place. Instead, what's needed is a strict and well-structured plan, and above all, consistency. Studies indicate that people tend to fail their energy and macronutrient targets if they're not given specific instructions on what to do, or in other words, a diet plan to stick to. And yes, in some cases it really is necessary to weigh the food and get a real notion of portion sizes.

Snack crema de cacahuete

3. You're cutting too many carbs

Carbohydrates may have been demonized quite a bit over the last few years, but they are still an important ally when it comes to gaining muscle mass. In terms of energy, they are the preferred basis for resistance training. At the same time, they help build a hormonal environment that is beneficial to hypertrophy and spare dietary protein, which instead of providing energy can be used for muscle protein synthesis.

Reeducação alimentar - Tipo de pão

Even though mechanisms exist that can make sure muscle protein synthesis occurs as a response to physical effort although there are few carbohydrates available in the body, that does not mean these should ideally be used. Furthermore, muscle glycogen is able to retain water, thereby expanding the muscle and increasing its volume. This does not only allow the muscle to get bigger, but also to become more efficient at generating force.

4. You don't get enough sleep or sleep quality

Sleep is crucial yet often neglected by those who work out. One bad night can be enough to cause a cortisol rise by the end of the next day, leaving you exposed to this catabolic hormone. As a consequence, testosterone and growth hormone levels tend to become lower, and myostatin levels higher. The muscle's insulin sensitivity also declines significantly.

All of this amounts to a hormonal environment that totally undermines hypertrophy, which after all will only occur if the right conditions for it are created. From a physiological perspective, it makes no sense for a muscle to grow and increase the need for resource allocation if the environment is not optimal.

5. Too much focus on supplements and too little on food

A supplement, by definition, serves to provide something extra and not to be the center of the diet. In magnitude, they have little to offer, although that does not mean they are irrelevant or less valuable. Using supplements is only meaningful if everything else is as well-controlled and optimized as possible.

Many people expect more from supplements than they are able to give, or believe that they have the ability to remedy a poor diet or an unhealthy lifestyle. Supplements can be an option when someone's development is not as expected, but nevertheless, it should be one of the last questions to be addressed and optimized. Before making a point of supplementation, be sure you get the previous 4 points right.

Sérgio Veloso


Sérgio Veloso has a degree in Cellular Biology and a postgraduate course in Clinical Nutrition, having lectured, in recent years, several training activities on Sports and Functional Nutrition. He's also a consultant for the Fitness and Sports Supplements Industry, and a speaker at several national and international conferences.


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