Getting big and lean is not an effortless job. As a beginner, an average person has two options—gaining weight (and losing the fat) or body recomposition, which is a time-consuming task. If you are reading this article then it is assumed that you belong to the first category wherein your gains have plateaued. The two most essential requirements to put muscle mass on are:
Caloric surplus (and also a high protein consumption): Gaining weight without being in a caloric surplus is not feasible though it can be done, it is not recommended. Say your body burns an approximate of 2,000 calories in 24 hours (with the inclusion of active calories burnt), consumption of more than 2,000 calories would be needed to gain weight. Sadly, it does not end there. Muscle hypertrophy happens with the consumption of protein. Approximately 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is needed to attain the maximum amount of muscle.
Resistance training: Resistance can be provided with or without the help of weights. Muscles cannot differentiate the resistance from say a lat-pulldown and a pull-up; it will grow given the adequate resistance.
Training is a stressor (did you know that muscle hypertrophy is a stressor?) and adequate resistance is needed to position your body in stress. Given the resistance, muscles fiber break. The body repairs the damage with the help of protein (the rate of muscle protein synthesis should be greater than the rate of breakdown). In the simplest essence, that is how muscles grow but physiologically speaking, it is a very complex process. Other factors such as testosterone, recovery, etc. influence both muscle protein breakdown and muscle protein synthesis.
Reasons behind plateau:
1. Eating at maintenance calories (or even a caloric deficit), experientially I have seen my clients eat less than recommended. Oftentimes, people overestimate what they consume or they will stick to the program during the weekdays and on the weekends, they will ease up. Tracking calories using a software and a food weighing scale can fix this simple problem.
2. Inadequate resistance is given to the muscle tissues. Hypertrophy will happen with the occurrence of muscle protein breakdown for which resistance is needed. Increasing the intensity during training sessions can help.
3. Recovery is one of the most overlooked aspects when it comes to muscle hypertrophy. Muscle hypertrophy happens when the rate of synthesis is greater than the breakdown, and recovery stimulates muscle protein synthesis. Adequate sleep, and fewer training days will help you recover faster.
4. Hyper-metabolism, a consequence of hyperthyroidism is the least likely reason that is hindering muscle hypertrophy. Hyperthyroidism is uncommon—even in the instances where people are diagnosed to have hyperthyroidism, they would show symptoms of hypothyroidism (which is on the opposite side of the spectrum). I will make a detailed article explaining thyroid but for now, let us stick to the topic at hand. A person with hyper-metabolism can gain muscle mass with the consumption of more calories. Simply tracking calories using a software and a food weighing scale would do the trick. However, if the issue persists, an addition of 200 calories (primarily from carbohydrates) every week until visible difference can work.
Broadly speaking, muscle is a by-product of nutrition, recovery, and resistance. Follow the above-mentioned suggestions and welcome the gains!