Appreciation for strong, toned muscles is growing. No longer viewed as being just for bodybuilders, muscles are becoming well-known for benefits such as joint stability and increased calorie burning and bone strength. Unfortunately, it’s easy to lose muscle mass as you get older or when you don’t exercise enough. Once you lose muscle, it can be difficult to regain it for a variety of reasons.
Too Much Cardio
It’s a given that you’ll need to burn excess calories and fat so those muscles you’re building can really pop. Aerobic, or cardiovascular, exercise, such as running, walking, cycling or skipping, is an efficient way to burn calories. However, you can do too much of this good thing. Too much cardio burns up muscle tissue along with fat and glycogen. You need to do cardio for good cardiovascular health. However, to ensure that you’re building muscle efficiently, you have to balance your cardio workouts with strength training.
Doing cardio four days a week is sufficient. If you’re doing moderate-intensity exercises such as brisk walking, aim to do 30 minutes; for vigorous-intensity exercises such as jumping rope or running, 15 minutes will do.
Eating poorly robs your body of nutrients you need for processes such as energy and muscle growth and repair. A well-balanced diet is a must. Proteins are essential for building muscle tissue and they supply nitrogen, which is critical for proper muscle function. Carbohydrates provide the fuel you need to get the most out of your workouts. Also, if you’re not getting enough carbs, your body starts to use protein from muscles for energy.
Fats are another good source of energy and they play a role in functions such as regulating body temperature and transporting nutrients. Choose the healthiest foods in each major food group, such as lean protein, whole-grain carbohydrates and foods rich in essential fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel and flaxseeds.
If you want to get faster results from your weight-training workouts, you may decide to do them every day. Not only does this increase your risk of suffering an injury, but it actually slows the growth of muscle mass. Muscles do not grow during your strength-training sessions; they repair and grow during the rest periods between your sessions. The harder you train, the more time off you need to take.
For beginners, training three days a week is best, according to John Little, author of “Beginning Bodybuilding.” Once you become more advanced, you’ll need to cut the frequency even more to give your muscles more time to develop as you want them to, he adds.
Some health conditions can cause muscle atrophy, which can make building muscle more challenging or impossible. These conditions include arthritis, long-term corticosteroid use, spinal cord injury, Lou Gehrig’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and muscular dystrophy. However, these conditions also present other symptoms besides difficulty building muscle, such as difficulty walking, frequent falls, muscle spasm or paralysis. Consult your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any other unusual symptoms.
- “The Body Fat Solution”; Tom Venuto; 2009
- “The Lean Body Promise”; Lee Labrada; 2005
- “Beginning Bodybuilding”; John Little; 2008
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Muscle Atrophy