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10 Diet Mistakes That Are Ruining Your Muscle Gains

Make sure you know all these things.

Diet is incredibly important when it comes to losing weight and building muscle. Although most people have a grasp on how to eat to lose weight, fewer know how to eat for hypertrophy. Below you will find 10 diet mistakes that are ruining your muscle gains according to Mike Israetel.

Dr Mike Israetel, PhD in Sport Physiology and co-founder of Renaissance Periodization, is a well-respected professor in the bodybuilding community.

Israetel is an expert in the field of muscle gain and nutrition. He decided to talk about common mistakes people make when it comes to their muscle-gain diets. In a candid and relatable manner, Mike addresses these mistakes to help individuals optimize their muscle-building efforts.

See it below the main points from him.

Meal plan to lose fat fasterSource: Leon Ardho from Pexels / S'well on Unsplash

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10 Diet Mistakes That Are Ruining Your Muscle Gains

Speaking from a wealth of experience and knowledge, Mike emphasizes several key points to ensure effective muscle gain:

  1. Not Knowing Maintenance: Mike emphasizes the importance of knowing your maintenance calorie level before attempting to generate a surplus for muscle gain. Without this baseline understanding, it’s challenging to determine how much to eat for muscle growth.
  2. Setting and Sticking to a Surplus: He stresses the significance of establishing a surplus and consistently adhering to it. Gaining muscle requires a caloric surplus, and not meeting this requirement will hinder progress.
  3. Monitoring Weight: Regularly tracking your body weight is essential to ensure you’re genuinely in a surplus. Mike emphasizes the need to distinguish between short-term fluctuations and longer-term trends.
  4. Not changing surplus via weight data: if you’re gaining too fast or slow, eat less or more, simple as that.
  5. Avoiding Extreme Fluctuations: Mike explains the potential pitfalls of extreme daily fluctuations in caloric intake. Use weekly averages instead of single points, as the weekly average will tell you your bodyweight, while single-point data might only tell you the water in your body side of the story.
  6. Too much low/high pulsatility: Know the importance of a steady surplus for optimal muscle gain. Avoid being half a week in a deficit and half the week gaining too much fat.
  7. Too Much Junk Food: It will reduce your performance and is bad for your health. Stay away from it. But…
  8. Never eating junk food: Enjoying fun foods is important for psychological well-being, Mike advises against excessive consumption of junk food. He recommends primarily consuming nutrient-dense foods while incorporating occasional cheat meals.
  9. Avoiding Excessive Mini-Cutting: Mike cautions against overusing mini-cuts, suggesting they’re unnecessary for those who haven’t reached higher body fat levels. Balancing massing and cutting phases effectively maintains momentum and prevents burnout.
  10. Recognizing When to Stop Bulking: Mike advises against continuing a bulk when progress stalls, performance declines, and excessive fat gain occurs. He encourages individuals to recognize when it’s time to switch phases for better results.

If you want a more detailed version of the 10 diet mistakes that are ruining your muscle gains from Mike Israetel himself, watch the video below.

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Why You Cannot Outrun a Bad Diet?

The phrase “you cannot outrun a bad diet” reflects the notion that no amount of exercise can compensate for a poor or unhealthy dietary pattern. In essence, it highlights the critical role that nutrition plays in overall health, weight management, and fitness outcomes. Here’s why this concept holds true:

  1. Calories In vs. Calories Out: Weight management largely revolves around the principle of energy balance, where the calories consumed (calories in) should match the calories expended (calories out). If you consume more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight, regardless of how much you exercise. A bad diet that includes excessive calories, especially from unhealthy sources, can lead to weight gain even if you’re active.
  2. Nutrient Quality: Nutrient-dense foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that support overall health and proper bodily functions. A poor diet lacking in these nutrients can lead to deficiencies, impaired immune function, and a host of health issues, regardless of your exercise routine.
  3. Metabolism: The quality of your diet can influence your metabolism. Highly processed, sugary, and fatty foods can negatively affect metabolic health, insulin sensitivity, and even hormone regulation. This can contribute to weight gain and other health problems over time.
  4. Exercise Alone Can’t Compensate: While exercise is essential for cardiovascular health, muscle development, and overall well-being, it’s not as effective at creating a caloric deficit as dietary changes. For instance, it’s much easier to consume excess calories through unhealthy foods than it is to burn those calories off through exercise.
  5. Long-Term Sustainability: Unsustainable diets, particularly crash diets or extreme calorie restriction, can lead to rebound weight gain once the diet ends. A balanced and healthy diet is more likely to be sustainable over the long term and can contribute to lasting weight management and health benefits.
  6. Body Composition: Nutrition significantly impacts body composition—how much lean muscle mass versus fat you have. Consuming inadequate protein or nutrients needed for muscle growth can hinder your fitness progress and goals.

In summary, the phrase “you cannot outrun a bad diet” underscores the importance of prioritizing a balanced and nutritious diet alongside regular exercise. While exercise provides numerous health benefits, it’s the combination of a healthy diet and physical activity that leads to optimal results in terms of weight management, fitness, and overall well-being.

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How Heavy Should you Lift When Training for Muscle Growth?

When training for muscle growth (hypertrophy), the weight you lift, often referred to as the training load or intensity, is an important factor to consider. Here are some guidelines to help determine how heavy you should lift:

Use a weight that challenges you: To promote muscle growth, it’s important to use a weight that challenges your muscles. This means selecting a weight that allows you to complete the desired number of repetitions within the hypertrophy rep range (generally 8 to 12 reps) with proper form, while also feeling challenging towards the end of each set.

Choose a weight that elicits fatigue: The weight you select should cause fatigue in the target muscles by the end of each set. You should feel a sense of muscular burn or fatigue during the final few reps, indicating that the weight is appropriately challenging.

Progressive overload: To continue building muscle, it’s crucial to gradually increase the demands on your muscles over time. This can be achieved through progressive overload, which involves gradually increasing the weight you lift as your muscles adapt and grow stronger. Aim to progressively increase the weight as you become more comfortable with a certain weight range to continue stimulating muscle growth.

Form and technique: While it’s important to challenge yourself with heavier weights, it’s equally important to prioritize proper form and technique. Lifting weights that are too heavy and compromise your form can increase the risk of injury and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise. Focus on maintaining good form throughout each repetition, even when using challenging weights.

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Individual capabilities: The appropriate weight will vary depending on your individual capabilities, strength level, and experience. What may be heavy for one person might be light for another. It’s important to listen to your body and select weights that are appropriate for your current fitness level.

Variation in training: Incorporating a variety of rep ranges and training modalities can be beneficial for overall muscle development. While the hypertrophy rep range (8-12 reps) is commonly associated with muscle growth, including both higher rep ranges (12-15+) and lower rep ranges (6-8) in your training can provide different stimuli and promote well-rounded muscle development.

Remember, finding the right weight is a process of trial and error. Start with a weight that challenges you within the recommended rep range, and adjust as needed based on your individual capabilities and progression. Consulting with a fitness professional or personal trainer can also provide guidance and help you determine the appropriate weight selection for your specific goals and needs.

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