No Gain, No Gain

Yeah, you read that right.   The name of the game in this muscle thing is gain.  You might say, “Obviously!”  Ah, but you’d be surprised how many folks make missteps in this game, myself included.

When I first started out, I thought I knew what I was doing.  I was lifting weights, getting my cardio in, and eating healthy.  I had all my bases covered.  I was doing great things, but it turns out I wasn’t doing them right.  My main goal was to gain muscle, only I wasn’t gaining any muscle.  After doing lots of reading and trying different things, now I know why.

Clean Your Plate

No Gain, No, Gain: You must gain weight to gain muscle. You must increase the amount of weight you lift to gain muscle.In order to gain any appreciable muscle mass, you must gain weight.  Thanks to common misinformation, it’s often thought just eating healthy and lifting heavy will get you the physique you want.  Eating healthy, to many, consists of eating foods like chicken breasts, broccoli, and brown rice.  Cutting out evil fats and sugars are usually on the agenda as well.

The problem with exclusively eating this way is you’re not getting enough calories, and this does not bode well for putting on muscle.  Chicken breast and broccoli with brown rice is not a calorie-dense meal, and you’d have to eat a lot of it to meet your daily muscle-building calorie requirements.  For one thing, it is incredibly hard to choke down that kind of food all day long.  The protein and fiber content of this meal would make you feel fuller, for a longer period of time, as compared to a meal with less protein and fast-digesting carbs.  And when you’re eating to gain (bulking), you are already left feeling like you don’t want to eat anything else, so eating the healthy way 24/7 feels next to impossible.

There is an easier way to meet your calorie goals, but you’ll have to incorporate one of those evils I mentioned earlier.  Fat.  First of all, fat is more calorie-dense than its two macronutrient counterparts, carbohydrates and protein.  Fat has 9 calories per gram vs. the 4 calories per gram you will find in protein and carbs, respectively.  More cals equals more gains.  Secondly, fat is not the evil, diabolical genius it is often made out to be.  Fat is actually one of the good guys.  It’s a key player in hormone production, calcium and essential vitamins absorption, and even helps stabilize the mood.  You can easily add more fats to your healthy diet with some of these great go-to’s: peanut butter, olive oil, whole eggs, red meat, chicken legs/thighs, and ice cream.

If you feel like you’re eating enough (translation: eating everything in sight), and you are even tracking calories to ensure you’re correct, then I would look at your cardio.  Cardio can burn up those valuable calories you’ve dutifully ingested.  Why handicap yourself even further if gaining muscle is your goal?  While you shouldn’t cut cardio out completely, it might be a good idea to reduce it to 3-4 days a week, 30 minutes per session.


For some people, the idea of gaining weight can be scary.  No, I’m not talking about eating disorders here.  We are conditioned, from a very young age, to be hyper-aware of our appearance, especially where weight is concerned.  Even if you’ve never been a “dieter,” the thought of going anywhere north of your current and comfortable weight can be off-putting.  It takes a little while to wrap your head around this new idea.  But, trust me, it gets easier as you go.

You Better Work

Another common reason you’re having trouble gaining muscle is due to improper training.  You can go to the gym religiously.  You can bench, squat, and deadlift.  You can work up a sweat, feeling triumphant upon conclusion of each workout.  But are you really challenging yourself?  When you first start training, the weights used are challenging.  But after a while those same weights become easier, and you’re left feeling a little more like Hercules with every workout.  Here’s the thing, though: when you become efficient at lifting a particular amount of weight, it should then be increased.  You have to keep challenging your muscles for them to even consider wanting to grow.  This is called progressive overload.  It is another key factor in  gaining muscle.

No Gain, No, Gain: You must gain weight to gain muscle. You must increase the amount of weight you lift to gain muscle.


Progressive overload can be accomplished by increasing the amount of weight lifted and/or the amount of repetitions done for that weight.  For example:

Your current workout calls for 3 sets of 95lb squats done for 12 repetitions.

Planned Workout
Workout Results

Having performed your prescribed squats we can see, in the column to the right, you were able to squat 12 reps for the first set, 10 for the second, and 10 on the third.  In order to increase your working weight for your next training session, you must be able to complete all 3 sets for 12 reps.  Since you did not achieve all reps prescribed, you would then stick with 95lbs until you do.  So, for your next workout you would aim to beat your previous rep numbers for the second and third sets.  If you can add even one more rep, that counts as progressive overload.  In the event you did achieve all reps, you would then raise your working squat weight to 100-105lbs next workout.  ABC:  Always Be Challenging.  Gains are for Challengers only.


No Gain, No, Gain: You must gain weight to gain muscle. You must increase the amount of weight you lift to gain muscle.Just as you challenge your muscles, you must also allow them the much-needed rest they deserve.  For those of you thinking you can gain more muscle by hitting the gym every day, please step away from the barbell.  Muscles are not built in the gym.  In fact, the lifting you do is just a catalyst for muscle growth.  It is commonly recommended to rest each muscle group for 48 hours between training sessions.  This allows the muscles time to recover (repair) between bouts of hard training.  This is a vital component in the muscle-building process because when the muscles repair, they grow.

Dear Hardgainers,

You might read all this and say, “But I just can’t gain weight!”  You can.  You just have to work harder than most.  I know it already feels like eating is your second job, but you have to do more if gaining muscle is your end goal.  You’ve probably tried gaining weight with every weight gainer on the market, to no avail.  But they promised crazy muscle gains.  Nope.  Don’t throw those gainers out.  Use them in addition to all that food you eat.  As well as the foods I listed earlier, you can also fill up your daily calorie needs with liquid cals, such as: soda, milk, and protein shakes made with everything but the kitchen sink.  Keep eating and lifting.  You’ll get there.

Kindest regards,

Admin – muscleMATTERS

There’s no doubt gaining muscle is difficult, but it’s completely worth it.  Up your calories, find out how to track your calories here for added assurance, and put in that hard work.  If the numbers on the scale aren’t moving up, eat!  We’ve all heard the adage “no pain, no gain.”  In this case it’s “no gain, no gain.”

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