You train - hard. You're in the gym for 2 hours at a time more days than not blasting away on every muscle you can find an exercise for. The thought of your problem being not enough volume is laughable.
You're also on top of your protein intake. You slam a shake in the morning, before your workout, and after your workout. On top of that, breakfast is 4 eggs with peanut butter toast, lunch is chicken breast, rice, and broccoli, and supper (or dinner for all you people who think you're better than the rest of us) consists of 8-10 ounces of beef with some more veggies thrown in. Protein isn't the problem either.
The problem is, the scale still isn't moving. That lean, skinny body of yours just seems to refuse to put on any muscle. No matter how much time you spend in the gym and force feed yourself into misery, you just can't seem to build that physique you're striving for. If putting in the work and meticulously maintaining your macro intake isn't the problem, what is?
Here's the secret, because I've been there. In college, I couldn't seem to put on muscle to save my life. Sure I was a little bit heavier than my hefty 150 pound frame was when I graduated high school (up to about 160 pounds) but that's where I seemed to hit a wall. I couldn't get any higher than that. I trained almost every day, I was eating plenty of protein, I was adding in protein shakes on top of that, and I was for damn sure getting plenty of calories partying on the weekends.
After I figured out what I'm about to tell you, I put on about 20-25 pounds of muscle and now hang out at a reasonably lean 185 pounds.
The thing is, you can compare building muscle to a fire triangle. You know, the thing you learned about in grade school science classes. Fire needs three things to burn: heat, fuel, and oxygen. Without ALL THREE of those things, hay no fuego. Similarly, muscle building is really a triangle of its own and it consists of stimulus (a.k.a. training), fuel, and sleep.
If you're going to build muscle effectively, you need all three of those things in proper proportions. I say proper proportions because it's POSSIBLE to gain muscle, albeit MUCH more slowly, if one of those areas is a little bit low - but you still need all three.
If you're not getting enough sleep, volume has to go down and your nutrition has to be that much better. If you're not taking in the right amount and proper proportion of macros (protein, carbs, and fats) then your training volume probably has to be lower and/or you'll need more sleep to compensate. And we all know that lazy kid who eats and sleeps all the time and trains with the intensity of an injured sloth but still manages to pack on muscle like crazy.
Long story short: if you're struggling to build muscle, take a look at your triangle. Are you training hard enough? Are you training TOO hard and you're not able to recover with your current nutrition and sleep resources? Are you taking in adequate amounts of protein (about 1 gram per pound of body weight) from protein sources with a good amino acid profile (a.k.a. plenty of leucine) and getting enough good complex carbs in? Are you sleeping at LEAST 7.5 hours each night?
Your body's first and foremost function is very simple: keeping you alive. If you're going to do more than that, you need to first make sure your basic survival needs are not only met, but exceeded. You'll need MORE sleep than you would just to survive, MORE protein, carbs, and fats than just to survive, and definitely MORE stimulus than you'd get just surviving.
Strengthen your triangle where it's weakest so you can stop struggling and start building the body you want and unleash your potential.
Thanks for reading! Odds are you know someone (or many people) that this could help so give it a share! Also be sure to check out the FREE tools and resources we have available at www.strongfriendstools.com including the StrongFriends App, the StrongFriends 12-Week RPE Workout Tracking Spreadsheet, and much more!
Follow us on social media for posts on strength training, mindset, diet, and exercise technique!