Still not showing signs of real muscle definition? It could have something to do with these shred-stopping setbacks.
Zack Zeigler for Muscle & Fitness 1 / 9
Iron Out the Kinks
If you’ve upped your diet and training regimens these past few months but still aren’t satisfied with the results you’re seeing (or not seeing), now’s the time to iron out the kinks. But sometimes it's difficult to know exactly where those kinks are in your routine.
Besides doing the obvious—like changing your workouts consistently, adopting better sleep habits, staying hydrated, and keeping cheat meals to an absolute minimum—these eight missteps can also hinder your goal to get as shredded as possible.
Cadio isn’t necessary for weight loss. To lose weight, you simply have to burn more calories than you consume. So if you’ve tightened the screws on your diet and you’re still killing it on the treadmill, you could actually be burning muscle instead of fat.
This is when keeping a food and training log can be a crucial component that removes guesswork about what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to be tweaked. By tracking your intake and your burn, you can find what works for you—and stick with it.
Sugar should make up five percent of a person’s daily calorie consumption, according to the World Health Organization. In the U.S., however, the national average is about 18 percent. You’re probably stricter with your sugar intake than the masses—go ahead and pat yourself on the back—but your gains (or losses) can still be hindered by eating too many foods with hidden sugar.
For example, salad and chicken are great food choices, until you drown the ruffage in high-calorie salad dressing or bathe your bird in sugary sauce. “Those hidden sources of sugar add up quickly, stalling fat loss,” says nutritionist J.J. Virgin, author of The Virgin Diet Cookbook. “Even if they don’t taste sweet, the food still might contain fructose and other sugars.”
Try dipping the tines of your fork into the dressing instead of dumping it onto your salad. With chicken, replace molasses or sugar-laden sauces (like BBQ sauce) with vinegar-based hot sauce.
Testosterone is known as the “male hormone,” and it's essentially what makes a dude a dude. It enables guys to grow hair on their chests, faces, and, uh, down there. It’s also responsible for libido. A few things associated with "low T" include fatigue, depleted energy levels, reduced strength and muscle mass, and an increase in abdominal fat. Basically, a whole lot of awful for someone looking to get ripped.
“I have a vast number of patients with thyroid disorders, or men with low testosterone, who need to have their medical issues addressed before they can achieve their goals with respect to their ideal body,” explains Damon Raskin, M.D. “Once these hormone deficiencies are corrected, changes can happen fast.”
If you’re interested in having your testosterone levels checked, DIY kits can be purchased online for about $35.
Whether or not stretching is beneficial when it comes to reducing muscle soreness is a hotly debated subject, but a post-workout stretch can improve flexibility and range of motion (ROM). Why is that important? Because being more flexible and increasing your ROM can help your muscles, joints, and connective tissue stay healthy, enhance athletic performance, and reduce risk of injury—so you can level up your workouts and achieve greater results.
Obviously, filling up on fruits and veggies is better for you than feasting on Skittles and Funyons. But no food is “free.” Portions must be in concert with the amount of calories your body requires to yield a desired result, like losing weight or packing on muscle. So if you're trying to pack on muscle, then make sure you're consuming enough protein from healthy, lean sources.
That said, whether it’s junk food or health food, if consuming it edges you to the point where you’re taking in more calories than you’re burning, those excess calories will be stored as fat.
Chronic stress can cause an increase in appetite, weight gain, loss of muscle mass, and (perhaps worst of all) a diminished sex drive.
“If changes to your exercise routine aren’t having a positive affect on your weight, take a look at your emotional health,” says weight-management coach Linda Spangle, R.N., M.A., author of Life is Hard, Food is Easy. “Plan to get a massage or do some relaxation exercises to help calm your body as well as your mind.”
One in 10 Americans is on antidepressant medications, and some mood meds like Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft have been linked to weight gain. “I have a number of patients who are on medications, including anti-depressants, who need to change their medications before they can reach their desired body type,” Raskin says.
A crash diet can make you appear slimmer in the short term, but don’t be fooled—you’re not actually losing fat, nor are you doing your body any favors. Fasting or detoxing to induce rapid weight loss can lead to nutrient deficiencies, slow your metabolism, negatively impact your heart health, and even trigger weight gain.