It can take years to construct a building, but it only takes seconds to destroy one. The same holds true for the body. It is easier to lose fat than it is to build muscle.
The rate of fat loss can climb as high as 3-5 pounds per week depending on initial levels. The most amount of muscle a natural athlete can gain is 2 pounds per month! And that's just in their first year; that snail rate decreases as time goes on.
Unfortunately, most people do not maximize the process of hypertrophy (muscle building). They'll typically commit several mistakes along the way, and those can cut gains as much as 50%. The errors can be as simple as not consuming enough calories, or performing too much high-intensity work, to as complex as meal timing. These are five of the most prevalent mistakes.
The current craze is HIIT-style cardio (high-intensity interval training), which involves 100 percent effort followed by a short rest. HIIT has earned the reputation as the best cardio to preserve muscle. However that's not entirely deserved.
In the same manner that doing too much low-intensity steady-state cardio can slow down muscle gain or even eat away at your hard-earned muscle, HIIT cardio can impede muscle gain. Without boring you with too much detail, doing HIIT too much and too often has the tendency to activate the enzyme AMPK. If that happens, too often muscle growth will be inhibited.
Eating every two hours causes muscle cells not to respond to stimulation (to grow) from amino acids. For those of us wanting to build muscle, unless you are retired swimmer Michael Phelps (the most successful Olympian ever) who required 12,000 calories daily, there is no need to eat every two hours; it decreases muscle growth.
AN EMPTY BAR
There is no way around it: In order to grow, your muscles must be placed under enough physical duress to require them to adapt in anticipation of the next training session. That means the building of new contractile muscle fibers, a process otherwise known as myofibrillar hypertrophy. Mainly, that can only be accomplished by adding weight to the bar over time. In other words, increasing the amount of weight used to train in a given rep range over time is the best way to grow. People who fear the heavy weights, and lift with empty bars are misled by gimmicks and misconceptions.
LIFT LIGHT OR GO HEAVY?
'Go heavy or go home,' is the mantra heard across gyms worldwide. But, there are two critical avenues of muscle growth: myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Myofibrillar hypertrophy is the growth of actual muscle fibers, which is mainly induced by lifting heavy—generally 70-85 percent of your one-rep max. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy—which occurs with high reps—is the increase of the content of muscle cells responsible for converting glycogen to ATP.
ATP is something you want whatever your goal. It's the body's 'energy currency' for muscle contraction, protein synthesis (construction of muscle fibers) and a host of numerous metabolic processes. Thus with a lack of the ATP build-up (that comes with sarcoplasmic hypertrophy) required to support protein synthesis, the trainee hits a plateau with muscle growth. The muscle fibers don't have enough of what they need to grow.
It is worth noting that although the phases of hypertrophy are separated for general instruction purposes, there is an overlap between both. Even during the high repetition phase— a cornerstone of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy—the trainee will still experience some myofibrillar hypertrophy. Going heavy shouldn't always be your go-to move. You need both.
People will try to lose fat while gaining muscle, so they cut consumption of carbohydrates severely. The misconception here is that without carbs, high-intensity activities cannot be properly sustained. That means you can't add weight to the bar and so you might struggle to grow.