6 Common Habits That’s Stopping You from Building Lean Muscle Mass

6 Freakishly Common Habits That Halt Lean Muscle Gain
Written by Isaac

When you hit the gym frequently and as a routine, when you do all the things your personal trainer tells you to do, and when you eat the way you know you’re supposed to eat, you expect to see results. Sometimes, though, you can be doing all sorts of the right things but still not progressing.

6 Bad Habits stopping your muscle growth

While there are numerous genetic and environmental factors at play, here are a few habits you may need to break to get over the hill and into lean muscle gaining territory.

1. You Smoke

Cigarette in ashtray

Smoking diminishes muscle gains.

Sorry, guys, but it’s not sexy or good for you. Smoking puts carbon monoxide in your body which prevents your muscles from getting the energy they need to work their hardest and grow.

2. You Drink

Alcohol’s effect on muscle-building is, unsurprisingly, terrible. Empty liquid calories rack up fast, replacing growth with fat. It gets worse: alcohol decreases testosterone and increases estrogen.

Two hands holding beer

Alcohol can interfere with your muscle growth.

Testosterone is a huge muscle-builder, and estrogen loves to stimulate fat growth. Protein synthesis (AKA lean muscle growth) can decrease by as much as 20 percent when you add alcohol to the mix.

3. You Eat Too Much Sugar

Sugar comes after smoking and alcohol because it’s arguably just as bad. Sugar, especially in processed foods, just gives you a bunch of empty calories ideal for fat and bad for lean muscle. Curious about the evils of sugar? Watch this documentary.

Woman holding donuts in box

Be careful with your daily sugar intake.

Look out for “low-fat” options that just replace fat with sugar, as well as sugar-packed foods disguised as healthy, like dried fruit and juice.

4. You Don’t Sleep

Lion sleeping on a log

Your body needs a break.

Our bodies need sleep, and sleep is one of the best times for your body to repair itself and build lean muscle. Not to mention, working out is much harder when you haven’t slept enough, and you can’t push yourself as much as you would if you were well-rested.

5. You Don’t Eat Enough

Hallelujah, right? If you’re starving yourself in the hopes of gaining muscle rather than fat, take a step back. Are you losing weight or stuck at the same weight?

Red tomato and green salad on a table

You need to get enough calories in order to build muscle.

You may not be getting enough calories in to build sufficient muscle. Calculate how much you need to eat here. Portion control does NOT mean starving.

6. You Work Too Hard

Yep, you read that right. Working out and lifting creates microscopic tears and trauma in your muscles. When your body rebuilds them, you gain muscle. When your body doesn’t have the chance to recover, though, you don’t make gains and you risk energy.

Work harder sign

Rest play an important role in body recovery.

Alternate lifting days with days off and cardio. If you’re doing compound lifts that require a lot of work, take a day off afterwards.

building lean muscle

For lean muscle gain, you’ve got to play a balancing act. You need just enough calories, just enough exercise, and just enough sleep.

If you’re really hooked on smoking, alcohol, or sugar, try toning it down. These are real lean gains killers.

Have you made these mistakes? Got any advice on how to avoid them?

About the author


I’m a personal fitness trainer and nutritionist living in sunny Indianapolis, IN. I’ve spent the last 8 years staying at the forefront of the health and fitness industry. In that time, I’ve helped hundreds of people shed the excess weight and get into shape, maintaining their healthy new lifestyle through proper training and eating habits.