Putting on lean muscle is the perennial struggle of many a gym-goer. Obtaining the magic combination of the right amount of weight training, bodyweight exercises, protein intake and cardio exercise is a lot easier said than done. As difficult as it is to put on the muscle, it’s always baffling to see people making the same old mistakes that result in rapid muscle loss. Much like a Christmas dinner, it takes an age to reach the finished product but far less time to see it all disappear.

Here’s how to make sure that your muscle stays exactly where it’s supposed to:

1. You’re not eating enough

Don’t be afraid of extra calories. The wrong kind of calories can indeed add extra belly fat to your midsection, but of you’re eating clean and lifting weights correctly and consistently, most of what you’re eating should be converted to muscle. If you’re a naturally lean guy who’s looking to put on muscle mass, only eating 2,000 calories per day simply wont be enough. This will, in fact, probably contribute to the loss of muscle as the body will shift into starvation mode where it starts to shed muscle for energy, it’ll also result in you storing more fat for emergency energy. So keep eating, as well and as often as you can.

2. You’re doing too much cardio

There are three ways that cardio can put a halt to your muscle gains: If you’re doing it too often, or doing it for too long, or doing it on an empty stomach. Doing some sort of cardio everyday will burn too many cumulative calories to allow your body the surplus that it needs for muscle mass. Try to keep cardio sessions to mornings and make them shorter and at a higher intensity instead of long drawn out sessions that’ll burn up calories that you might not be eating enough to replace.

3. You ignore stretching 

It might not be the most enjoyable of ways to spend your time at the gym, but stretching is a great way to speed up muscle recovery and increase a muscle’s range of motion, making more room for your muscle fibres to grow. Only lifting weights and nothing else will increase your risk of injury and severely limit your ability to move athletically, which could limit your growth potential. 

4. You stick to the same routine 

Doing the same old thing week in, week out will, at best, prevent you from making new gains, and, and worst, lead to fatigue or burnout. Failing to impose any new challenges on your muscles, such as increasing weight or number of reps will cause stagnation, whereas pushing yourself harder than you’re used to will spur on muscle growth rather than stop it.

5. You ignore supplements

Not that they’re absolutely essential, but drinking a protein-and-carb mixture after your workout will start the recovery process straight away, replenishing lost glycogen and providing the nutrients that your body requires in order to repair muscle and grown more of it. So don’t skip the shake and just wait for your next meal, it’s essential for keeping consistent growth going.