Been doing all you can do and you’re still not hench?
Here’s the scenario: you’ve been training long and hard for months. You’re eating a lot. You’re packing the protein. You’re taking all the right supplements. You’re lifting harder and harder. But you’re getting nowhere.
Maybe you’re making one or more of these 5 training mistakes.
1. You’re overtraining
It’s very easy to push yourself further and further if you’re not gaining the muscle you want or you’ve hit a plateau. But you might be training way too hard. If you find yourself getting injured, training six or seven days a week or skipping rest days, then you’re in the dangerous realm of overtrain.
Overtraining is bad news for two reasons. First, it will actually stop you from getting bigger! To Your muscles need around 24-48 hours to recover from weight training. Only after this recovery period will they grow a little bigger. So if you’re training the same muscle groups every couple of days you’re impinging on this growth period.
Second, it’s dangerous. Overtraining can lead to injury, stress, depression, hormonal imbalance and even death at an extreme level. It’s essential you give yourself and your bod enough of a break or you’ll never get hench and you could wind up seriously damaging your body.
2. You’re not getting enough sleep
This is linked to the overtraining argument above. You NEED to rest for your muscles to grow. But the quantity and the quality of that rest is also really important. Our muscles repair and grow more quickly while we sleep, when levels of HGH (human growth hormone) are highest.
We need good quality deep sleep (our sleep cycle moves from light to deep to dream (or REM) sleep throughout the night) for this repair to take place. Interrupted sleep, shift work, alcohol and nicotine all impact on the quality and quantity of deep sleep we get. And this will have a major effect on your muscle gain.
So how much sleep do you need? According to the NHS, most adults need somewhere between six and nine hours of sleep every night to be at their best. If you look at the sleep patterns of champion athletes, you’ll find they sleep way more than your average Joe. Know how many hours Roger Federer sleeps per night? 11-12! Usain Bolt? He sleeps 8-10 hours! If you’re burning the candle at both ends, you’ll never, ever be hench!
3. You’re too stressed out
If you’re super stressed your body will be pumped full of cortisol, the stress hormone that eats away at your muscles. When we are physically or mentally stressed, our bodies produce cortisol which releases extra energy to our muscles and brain, preparing us to deal with whatever is stressing us out.
But this energy comes from your muscle proteins. Cortisol causes your muscles to break down into amino acids which are then changed into glucose. Stress and the cortisol it produces will literally melt away your muscles.
Physical stress like excessive cardio (see below), illness and temperature extremes can raise cortisol levels. But so too can relationship problems, job stress, not getting enough sleep, being overly self-critical and overworking. Indeed, worrying about not being hench will prevent you from ever being so. So try to relax and take stressful situations in their stride.
4. You’re trying to lose fat whilst building muscle
If your concern is to be a lean, mean hench machine, you might be doing tonnes of cardio to burn fat and controlling your calorie intake, all whilst trying to build muscle. Losing fat whilst building muscle is very difficult to do as the two processes work against each other.
Whilst a little cardio in the muscle-building mix is a good thing, too much will work against you.
Long, hard bouts of cardio work causes cortisol levels to increase, undoing all your hard muscle-building work (see above).
Cutting calories will also encourage your body to break down the muscle you’ve been working so hard to build up. Pick your goal. If it’s fat loss read our free Fat Loss Guide for loads of useful tips on cutting fat and staying sane! If it’s muscle building eat plenty of protein, concentrate on lifting heavy and if you’re still struggling, consider taking a weight gainer supplement.
5. You’re not eating enough fat
Ditch any idea of a low-fat diet if you’re trying to build muscle. Fat is really, really important and should make up around 30% of your daily calorie intake. Your body needs this large amount of healthy fats to maintain the health of your brain, heart and body.
If you’re not getting enough healthy fats, your body will use protein as its main energy source. Any extra protein you consume to build up your muscles will be redirected into keeping your body running right. And you’ll be wasting time, money and energy.
Choose polyunsaturates and monounsaturates, such as oily fish, unsalted nuts, olive oil, avocados. Eat a moderate amount of saturated fat and avoid trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oils) completely. Trans-fats are commonly found in deep fried takeaways and cheap, processed foods. No good can come from you eating this trash. Avoid at all costs.
If you’re trying and failing to get hench, it’s worth reassessing the way you’ve been treating your mind and your body. We’ve looked at the effects that overtraining, lack of sleep, poor diet and stress have on your physique.
Really, we could summarise this whole article into one powerful sentence: take care of yourself better. Then you’ll run a much better chance of getting hench.