If you’re hitting the weight room hard but you’re starting to lose muscle, it probably has something to do with what you’re doing outside the gym. There are a few things that can cause your muscles to become less defined, no matter how many sets of deadlifts and chest presses you put in. Here are six mistakes to avoid when you’re trying to bulk up.
POPPING ADVIL LIKE CRAZY
You might think taking that taking ibuprofen can decrease muscle soreness and help get you through your next workout. But taking anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen too often or in too high a dosage can interfere with muscle development and strength. Taking just 1,200 mg doses a day for a few weeks could potentially have some dramatic effects.
“Anti-inflammatory medications, like Advil, are often used to relieve delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS),” says personal trainer Marissa West. But a little bit of natural inflammation that comes from working those muscles can actually help with building protein and speeding recovery. “NSAIDs overuse can interfere with prostanoid production, which aids in the muscle building process,” she explains.
If you’re injured, too, be especially careful about how long to keep taking ibuprofen. “Unfortunately, with any exercise program, injuries can happen. Injuries such as plantar fasciitis can cause muscle loss from disuse,” says West.
NOT EATING ENOUGH FISH
If you’re low in omega-3 fatty acids, you could be losing muscle at a faster rate. “Omega 3 fatty acids can enhance insulin sensitivity in the muscle cells, and therefore improve the muscles’ ability to utilize the protein eaten,” explains Jennifer Novak,. When there’s improved insulin sensitivity, the body fights the urge to break down muscle, so you’re more likely to notice gains over time.
While you probably don't need to take supplements, make sure you're eating foods high in omega-3s, like fish, leafy greens, tofu, and walnuts.
DOING TOO MUCH CARDIO
If you’re doing too much cardio and not enough strength training, you’re going to break down all that you’ve been trying to build up. “Not performing low impact, weight-bearing exercises" regularly won’t help you tone and define muscle, and excess cardio won’t give your body time to strengthen, build, and repair those muscles, explains Dr Benjamin Domb, an orthopaedic surgeon specialising in sports medicine.
Resistance training strengthens muscles, providing extra support for your joints and building up strength to lower risk of injury. “Doing more than 60 minutes of cardio at a time could be too much,” explains Rebecca Gahan, owner and founder of Kick@55Fitness in Chicago. And “if you’re training 5 days a week, it wouldn’t hurt to forgo cardio altogether for two of those days. Or you can combine them into a HIIT workout, where you’re alternating between cardio and training,” she says.
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NOT DRINKING ENOUGH WATER
If you’re not replenishing lost electrolytes post-workout, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated, which can diminish muscle. Our bodies need water to improve and repair damaged muscle, explains Domb.
“Water energizes muscles, and dehydrated muscle cells can shrivel up and cause muscle fatigue,” unless the body has enough water to keep it balanced and healthy, he explains. Try to drink about 8-9 glasses a day, but keep in mind you may need to increase that amount if you’re sweating a ton.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health