Monday, January 25, 2016

Why You Aren't Getting Stronger or Building Muscle_Part 1

(Part 1)

“I work out several days a week and take supplements but I can’t seem to gain any muscle or get stronger. I’m 49 years old. Is it too late for me?


“I am 66 years old and I can still gain both muscle and strength. Some of my biggest lifts were at 50 years old.”

This was part of a conversation recently on a group forum but, actually, you could substitute almost any age into this conversation. This forum member was making reference to the fact that testosterone typically declines as we age but that is probably not the problem. (Have the simple blood test to check if you want to eliminate that possibility if have other signs of low T) Our metabolism also slows as we age but only at about 0.5% per decade. (You can’t blame it that any more!)

There is a whole list of reasons you may not gaining strength or muscle mass but lower testosterone and slowing metabolism would both appear somewhere near the bottom of that list.

There are so many reasons, in fact, that a single article covering them all would run way too long. So, over the next week or so I’ll run a series of articles covering them.

Most people are surprised to find that over half of the reasons have nothing to do with their workout.

Let’s start with the most common reason today.

You’re not getting enough calories

Not getting enough calories is the problem about 90% of the time. Especially for people who are trying to lose fat by gaining lean muscle mass. They, somewhat logically, think that if they are trying to lose weight they need to eat fewer calories. That’s true if your goal is to be “skinny-fat”.

“Skinny-fat” people appear thin from a distance or fully clothed but they have lost muscle and still retain a high percentage of fat. Usually the most dangerous kind of fat, the kind that surrounds their organs. Becoming “skinny-fat” also damages and slows your metabolism, making it easier to gain back more fat and gain it back  faster.

 You can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time but you cannot do it by eating less.

How many calories should you be getting? It’s fairly easy to estimate.

Your body needs calories to survive. Breathing, digesting food, heartbeat, maintaining you body heat, even thinking and walking to the fridge requires calories. Those calories make up your Basil Metabolic Rate. (BMR) If you take in more calories than your BMR you gain weight. If you take in less you lose weight.

BMR can be estimated using you age, weight, height, activity level, etc. Just use the easy calculator at
To gain about one pound per week you need to add at least 500 calories per day to your BMR.(1 pound=3500 calories)

Most people underestimate their BMR by a substantial amount. And most people overestimate their activity level.

You’re eating the wrong foods

Sorry, but “a calorie is a calorie” isn’t entirely correct. It’s true that any excess calories from any source may be converted to fat by your body. But some are converted to fat more easily than others and your body doesn’t use all nutrients in the same way or at the same time or same rate.

Hundreds of thousands of books have been written about nutrition. Some are excellent sources of information and most are pure hokum. But what you need to know at this point are the basics.

For muscle growth probably the best ratio is to consume 30% of your calories from protein, 50% from carbs and 20% from fat.This applies to both men and women.

Let’s assume your daily goal is 3000 calories per day
Protein-3000x 30%=900 / 4 (calories of protein in 1 gram)=225 grams of protein per day (about 1 gram per pound of body weight or more)
Carbs-3000x50%=1500/4(calories in a gram of carbs)=375 grams of carbohydrates
Fats-3000x20%=600/9 (There are 9 calories in a gram of fat-more than 2x the number in protein and carbohydrates) =67 grams of fats

Read "Eating for Your fitness Goals

Probably the best database I’ve found for tracking you nutrition is “”. It’s free, easy and usually accurate. Don’t make tracking your nutrition a lifetime job. Just do for a few weeks and you’ll get a pretty good idea how this works.  You’ll be very surprised at what you find on food labels so make a habit of looking.
 "Healthy Foods that Arn't healthy"

Both carbs and fat are vital to your body. 

You’re not drinking enough water 

About 80% of people do not drink enough water.

There is old adage of drinking “8x8”-Eight ounces of water eight times a day. That’s an old adage simply because it’s easy to remember. Not because it’s correct.

 For most very active people you probably need at least two times that amount
About one ounce of water for every pound of body weight is a good target to shoot for. That’s about three gallons for a 200 pound man. Most people should be somewhere in between.

Some things to remember:
·        If you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated
·        Coffee and Tea don’t count. They are diuretics making you require even more water. Decaf is not so bad.
·        If your urine is anything other than clear you are dehydrated (or have an infection)
·        When you first wake up drink at least 12 ounces of water immediately
·        The easiest way to stay hydrated is to carry a water bottle everywhere you go and sip on it throughout the day.

There's more:
In Part 2 we’ll take a look at other nutrition mistakes and recovery problems.

Give me your questions or comments below or email me at

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