So you’re putting in hours of work at the gym, eating what you think to be a nutrition plan that will achieve your body composition and performance goals, yet your return on investment is subpar. You wonder, “Why am I losing muscle mass even though I workout?” or maybe, “Why am I losing muscle mass and weight?”

There are a variety of issues that couple be a problem, BUT, there are 7 very common reasons for poor muscle growth or losing muscle mass that we commonly see in our practice. Fortunately, we’ve helped countless clients overcome these issues so let’s dig in on actionable items you can take starting RIGHT NOW.

Solutions to the Questions: Why am I Losing Muscle Mass Even Though I Workout and “Why am I Losing Muscle Mass AND Weight?”

Here are some potential causes for less than optimal recovery and achievement of your performance goals:

1. 𝗨𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗲𝗶𝗻

Most athletes need between 1.6-2.2 g of protein per kg of body weight per day of protein. For a 150# female this equates to ~110-150 grams of protein per day. If you are not intentional and conscious about this, you will struggle to hit this amount. ⁣

CALLING ALL YOU RUNNERS AND ENDURANCE ATHLETES- if you think only weight lifting needs a lot of protein think again. Intensive cycling or distance running i.e. often running at max pace, doing intervals, long runs >5 miles or simply doing a high volume such as >25 miles per week, requires just as much protein for recovery as heavy weight lifting. This has been validated in the research and is a common fix for endurance athletes struggling with soreness, fatigue, dead legs, less than optimal performance, etc.

Ready to up your protein game? Read about the best whey protein and plant-based protein powders to help increase your daily protein intake and boost your strength.

2. 𝗚𝘂𝘁 D𝘆𝘀𝗯𝗶𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘀

When dealing with loads of stress or eating a fatigue-inducing inflammatory diet, the gut can get out of whack. For example, low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) may prevent you from properly digesting and absorbing your food, meat especially (making optimal protein intake even harder!)⁣

3. 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗻𝘁𝗹𝘆 S𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 T𝗿𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 P𝗿𝗼𝗴𝗿𝗮𝗺𝘀

We all know those people… 1 month they’re doing Orange Theory… the next they’re doing spin classes, the next…. who knows.

If you’re bopping around to different programs all the time because you’re bored, don’t like it, or aren’t seeing immediate results, you’re body won’t have a chance to properly adapt.⁣ It takes most people 8-12 weeks to create new muscle filaments. So, to actually get long-term, sustainable results, consistency is required

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Infographic of potential causes of poor muscle growth

4. 𝗧𝗼𝗼 M𝘂𝗰𝗵 A𝗹𝗰𝗼𝗵𝗼𝗹 I𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝘀 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 M𝘂𝘀𝗰𝗹𝗲 P𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗲𝗶𝗻 S𝘆𝗻𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘀𝗶𝘀 (AKA building muscle!)

It contributes to protein breakdown so when the body breaks down and repairs muscle protein, it breaks down more muscle than it builds. This process is elevated when consumed within an hour or two after working out too.


So, what’s the answer? Three key things:

  • Avoid having alcohol immediately after a workout. If you’re someone who hits the gym after work and likes to have a drink right after their workout then simply try to wait an extra hour or two before you enjoy your beverage.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol on the same day as a heavy workout. Going on a long run or for a heavy lift on a Saturday morning? Well then, that night may not be the best night to get crazy with family or friends. Move your tough workout to the next day or try to get it in Friday night. Going to a wedding and getting ready to let loose? Lets not do max squat that morning. Have no other choice but to get your tough workout in on the same day you plan to get crazy? Then focus on going for a shorter but more intense workout i.e. HIIT instead of a long max lift or running intervals instead of a long run.
  • Drink cleaner alcohol. Your cleanest alcohols are vodka and tequila. Make your cocktail a recovery cocktail by doing some vodka with POM juice or some tequila with organic pineapple juice (pineapples contain bromelain which is anti-inflammatory).

5. 𝗧𝗼𝗼 F𝗲𝘄 R𝗲𝘀𝘁 D𝗮𝘆𝘀

It’s all about quality over quantity. Too little rest prevents full recovery by limiting muscles from fully rebuilding from the work you’ve done. More is NOT always better people!! We encourage 1-3 full rest days depending on your goals, time of year you are in your training, ⁣and overall health/fatigue levels.

6. 𝗢𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗮𝗹𝗹 L𝗮𝗰𝗸 𝗼𝗳 C𝗮𝗹𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗲𝘀

You may be hitting the protein hard, but if you’re eating 1600 calories on a day where you burn 2500, you’re not going to build muscle.⁣ While we’re big fans of intermittent fasting for many people, its not for everyone, especially those who’re already fatigued, overtrained, or experiencing hormonal imbalance issues.

For those who want to do some intermittent fasting while training, be sure to consume the same amount of calories you would be as if you weren’t fasting, just within a smaller window.

7. 𝗟𝗶𝗳𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 T𝗼𝗼 I𝗻𝗳𝗿𝗲𝗾𝘂𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗹𝘆

This should go without question, but it’s still a conversation we have weekly. You have to use high resistance and do this frequently to build sufficient muscle. Consider switching some 30 min elliptical sessions or runs for an extra strength training session. ⁣Sorry but slow and easy on a bike or elliptical, even if you’re sweating profusely, does not build much muscle.

While we love spinning and do some ourselves, we’re yet to see a person who is very toned and muscular who does spinning or slow-easy running as their primary workout.

If your goal is to be toned, be sure to do some challenging resistance training. This doesn’t need to be with weights (go ahead and try a 10-minute circuit of non-stop push-ups, single-leg squats, burpees, and pull-ups- I dare you and I guarantee a great workout), but it does need to be challenging!

Basically, think of it this way- Do you think your body sees a reason to build more muscle if its current muscles are never overworked or at least are not overworked on a consistent basis?

Our bodies build muscle to help us overcome the challenges we face. It has helped the human race service. Simply put, if your body is not challenged on a regular basis, you will not see muscle growth.

If you’ve tried to address the above issues and struggling to get results, are sick and tired of a lack of strength or poor muscle growth, a lack of energy, gut issues, or hormonal imbalance and you want it gone right now instead of slowly figuring it out over the next 2-4 years, or just ready to take your health to the next level, then consider our booking a free 15-minute call to map out a strategy to get your nutrition on track to boost strength and energy.