If you've been hitting the weights for a while but aren't seeing the results you want, follow these five quick tips to get back on track and understand what you really need to do to build muscle.
Cause some damage
Muscle growth happens when damaged muscle fibres repair and grow thicker. That means you need to inflict damage on your muscles through activity they aren't accustomed to - think heavy weightlifting - if you want to build muscle.
You need to keep your muscles challenged as you get stronger. If it's not challenging, it won't be damaging enough to your body to have an effect, so keep upping the reps and weights until you reach muscle failure. It shouldn't be comfortable.
Build in recovery time
Although muscle damage is key, the growth of muscles actually happens when the body is repairing, so it's essential to give your body enough time to rebuild properly.
This is why a typical bodybuilding plan would workout different muscle groups on different days to allow for rest periods in between.
Don't make the rookie mistake of thinking more is more when it comes to weightlifting. Give your muscles time to repair, get plenty of sleep and don't train an aching muscle.
Up your calorie intake
If you're in a calorie-deficit diet (burning more calories than you're taking in), you won't be able to gain muscle.
You actually need to eat more calories than you're burning - about 3,500 calories extra a week for around one pound of added muscle.
But remember your calories need to come from healthy sources and you need a mix of protein, fat and carbs.
Take in more protein
Whey is a natural protein supplement derived from milk during the production of cheese. It contains high levels of the amino acid leucine, which helps stimulate muscle repair and growth.
Supplementing your diet with a whey protein shake is easier than eating eggs and steak all day and will help get high levels of protein into your body quickly.
Cut down the cardio
Too much cardio will put your body into a catabolic state, burning the muscle you've earned. It can also raise your cortisol ('the stress hormone') levels and lower your immune system.
Cardio is beneficial to losing fat and increasing fitness so don't cut it out altogether. But if you're feeling tired or getting colds easily, it's probably a sign to cut back.