The foundation of any successful fitness regimen is based on healthy habits. Whether your goal is to run your first marathon, set a personal best on deadlifts or commit to a daily walking routine, the key is sticking to solid habits that will put you on the path to a healthier, fitter you . However, when it comes to reaching your health and fitness goals, knowing what not to do is often just as important as knowing what to do. Building and maintaining muscle mass is no exception to this universal rule. To help you build and maintain your lean muscle mass, we’re sharing five bad fitness habits that will make you lose muscle mass so you can avoid them at all costs.
You can spend countless hours in the gym working out with Tazmanian fiendish intensity, but if you have bad fitness habits, you’re shooting yourself in the proverbial foot and unlikely to reach your fitness goals. Fortunately, by making small adjustments to your diet, exercise routine and daily behavior, you can avoid the pitfalls of bad habits and dramatically improve your ability to build muscle. Certified personal trainer Kate Meier, CPT from Gym Garage Reviews shares the rundown on which bad fitness habits to avoid like the plague. Keep reading to find out what they are, then check out the 5 best diet and exercise tips to regain muscle mass.
A surefire way to lose muscle mass is by not expending enough energy (calories). Food is fuel for your muscles, and if you don’t get enough calories, your body will run on an empty tank.
“Significantly cutting calories in combination with high-intensity cardio will lead to muscle loss over time,” says Meier. “Talk to a nutritionist or use an online calorie calculator to help determine how many calories your body needs to support daily functions and your exercise regimen.”
“Exercising consistently is an important aspect of building muscle, but overtraining can have the exact opposite effect,” warns Meier. Unless you’re an endurance athlete who runs marathons or participates in triathlons, overtraining can lead to overtraining syndrome (OTS), a condition that occurs when you don’t allow proper recovery after consistent, vigorous training sessions, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) . In addition, reduced muscle glycogen levels and muscle weakness are associated with overtraining, research shows. Common symptoms of OTS include prolonged fatigue, poor sleep quality, low energy, persistent muscle pain and mood swings, according to the HSS.
Sleep is probably the most powerful (yet most underrated) aspect of any health or fitness goal. By practicing good sleep hygiene and making quality, restorative sleep a top priority, you can maintain and grow your muscles. Research shows that not getting a good night’s sleep, or not getting enough sleep, can increase your risk of losing muscle mass.
“Your muscles repair and grow while you sleep, and sleep regulates pretty much all of your bodily functions,” says Meier. “Aim to get eight solid hours of shuteye each night. This helps prevent long-term fatigue and aids in muscle growth if you exercise consistently.”
Your body is about 20% protein; it is found in all of your cells. Therefore, getting enough protein is critical not only for good health, but also for building and maintaining muscle mass.
“Regardless of your nutritional strategy, make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet,” says Meier. “Muscle is fueled by protein, so proper recovery and muscle growth depend on it.”
While the International Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for the amount of protein you should consume is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, you should consume more if your goal is to optimize muscle growth and recover faster from workouts. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends consuming between 1.2 and 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily for best results. Be sure to strength train and get your protein from whole food sources and high-quality protein powders.
While regular cardio exercise is great for overall health, going overboard can cause muscle loss. The Exercise Guidelines for Americans recommends that healthy adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. However, consistently exceeding this threshold — coupled with not eating enough calories or doing strength training — is bad practice for anyone looking to maintain or regain muscle mass.
“Making sure your body is properly fueled prior to cardio exercise is critical because as much as it helps you burn more calories and fat, it will also burn muscle once other energy sources are depleted,” says Meier. “The bottom line is that you need to find a good balance between cardio and strength training if your goal is muscle growth.”
Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. Read more about Ad