2. You don’t eat enough protein
If you want to look more pumped, you need to pump up the protein. The reason: protein contains amino acids, the compounds that help build and repair muscle tissue. “If you don’t consume enough amino acids it can hinder your muscle growth,” warns White.
The fix: White suggests shooting for 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight each day. That means a 200-pound man should get between 109 and 154 grams daily. And remember, it doesn’t all have to come from things like chicken, fish, red meat, and eggs. Like their animal-based counterparts, quinoa and Ezekiel bread (to name just a few) are both sources of plant-based complete proteins, meaning they contain all eight amino acids your body needs to fuel muscles but can’t produce on its own.
3. You’re a booze man
“It’s fine to enjoy a cold one every once in a while, but throwing back too many inhibits your body’s ability to help muscles recover,” says Cardiello. How? “When you drink alcohol, the body calls on antioxidants that are typically used for muscle growth to help metabolize the alcohol.”
The fix: If you want all your hard work to pay off, Cardiello suggests cutting out booze altogether. Not an option? Limit yourself to one evening of indulgence per week and follow each round with a glass of water to slow your pace and reduce the number of drinks you down throughout the evening. Better yet, cut yourself off after three drinks—beers, cocktails, or shots, it doesn’t matter; three’s the magic number. Simply knowing your drink limit ahead of time can help you stay on track with your goals.
4. You’re doing too much cardio
If you recently upped your weekly mileage or started taking a weekly spin class with your girlfriend (no judgment), that could be the reason you’re looking a little on the puny side. “While cardio is great for fat loss, if you do too much of it, it can put your body in a catabolic, or muscle-burning state,” warns White.
The fix: “If your goals are to increase size and strength, cardio workouts should not dominate your program,” says White. “HIIT workouts and easy cardio sessions can be slotted into your program, but your first priority should be fitting in three or four weight training days. If you don’t tend to get too sore between workouts, feel free to add in a cardio session here or there, but not at the expense of your recovery.”