Lots of guys get in touch with us with a common problem: They go to the gym religiously; they treat their workout routines like a second job; they say they're focused, determined, and working toward the results they want. But when they look in the mirror, they're not really seeing any muscle definition. No six-pack abs, no 'dominance' physique. Despite their hard work, they look...soft.
What gives? Here are six underlying diet and workout problems that could be contributing to a lack of gains.
1. Your macros aren't planned out
It’s not enough to know roughly how many calories you’re taking in daily. If you’ve been bulking and you're feeling a little soft, the definition won’t come without a cut. You need to strategically plan your macros—meaning protein, fat, and carbohydrates—to ensure you're burning more calories than you eat. Abs start in the kitchen, and a sustainable, balanced diet will go a long way toward making those muscles pop.
2. Your effort doesn't match your goals
Have you been lifting the same amount of weight for weeks? Months? It’s time to switch it up.
If you've become accustomed to your workout, then your muscle gains will likely start to peter out. Give yourself some credit: As the saying goes, "it’s not getting easier—you’re getting better." But that also means it’s time to challenge yourself. Up your weight, change your rep ranges, or switch up your workout routine to include new exercises that will shock your muscles into new growth.
3. Your cardio isn't balanced
While it would be silly for a strongman to attempt a marathon training routine, even titanic weightlifters understand the importance of revving up their heart rates. It’s all about finding a balance. Not all cardio needs to be wind sprints, but keeping your calorie burn high with either steady-state cardio or high-intensity metabolic conditioning will go a long way toward increasing your metabolism—and thereby keeping your body in a net caloric deficit.
4. Your workouts aren't consistent
A couple solid weight lifting sessions in a week don’t hurt, but it will not be enough on the road to serious gains and definition. Be honest with yourself on your consistency at the gym. How often are you going? Do you go into the gym with a plan of what muscle groups you’re working? Are you tracking your progress? How much time are you actually training? If you’re slacking your way around the weight room just for the sake of being there, you’re only wasting your own time and money. Get in, get going, and get out.
5. You're not drinking enough water
If there's any fitness rule guys often miss, it's this one: The muscle gains you’ve made may be hiding underneath a layer of bloat because you're simply not drinking enough water. On average, a gallon a day is a good benchmark for those using a pre-workout supplement. Aim for that and see how you feel and analyze how you look. You may not see the physical difference in the first few days. Stick with it. Added benefits include overall clarity, decreased headaches, and less fatigue.
Note: It's important to hydrate evenly throughout the day. Your body can only process so much water at once, so don't think you can just chug half a gallon late in the day and make up for it.
6. You're sleep deprived
Ever pull an all-nighter or get less than your ideal hours in a night? You’re sure to wake up puffy. Your body has not had the proper amount of time to rest and restore. Make a concerted effort to get ample sleep and you’ll be sure to see a difference in your body overall. Remember, your body burns the most fat while you’re sleeping.