So here is what is happening when you are working out/lifting weights, you are literally breaking down. Your muscles are micro-tearing, your body is burning energy, you are in the gym to basically break down your body (a bit exaggerated, but that’s basically what’s happening.
In order for your body to grow muscle/change, you need three things, mechanical stress, muscle damage (the good kind), and metabolic stress. These things are all fueled by different energy sources. The phosphagen system, glycolytic system, and the oxidative system are your energy systems. When we deplete the systems, we need to restore the systems.
Progress is not made in the gym, progress is made in the recovery.
Back to tearing muscles and depleting energy. Muscle growth happens because you make micro-tears in your muscles, and then your body repairs the tears with new tissue. Exactly like if you cut yourself, new skin, or “scar tissue” forms. If you are constantly tearing/breaking down muscle, and not recovering (repairing) well, there is going to be an issue. You can only break down so much until you hit a whole lot of soreness, pain, and joint issues. So you can be hitting it as hard as you can in the gym, but if you are not giving your body the energy (food/vitamins) it needs to repair the muscle tears and restore energy, progress is going to stop, then start going backward due to having no energy (or for weight loss, it might spiral into a binge-eating / yo-yo dieting pattern).
When you are in the gym all you are doing is breaking down your body. The important part, and where the progress is made, is in what you are doing outside of the gym. Sleep, healthy nutrition choices, and remain as stress-free as possible my friends.
Sleep is so freaking important. This is when your body can go to work without interruption and it recharges. If you are not getting enough meaningful sleep, stop everything you are doing, and fix that first. Protein and carbs are also going to be very helpful in the recovery process. Proteins (amino acids) are the building blocks, and carbs are the energy. This does not mean to go eat pasta and a loaf of bread washed down with a glass of milk…. This means grass-fed and finished organic meats, organic whey protein isolates, veggies, rice (amount depends on goals), oatmeal, all are healthy, inflammation-free, sources. If your body is busy fighting off inflammation from hurting foods, it won’t have the energy to repair, you only have so much energy. Your body has to pick and choose what to use the energy for. It will pick what is most important for your survival. You cannot outwork a bad diet. It may work for a while, but you are going to plateau very quickly, only to go backward. If your body and brain are stressed out over your life, recovery is going to be a very slow process. Hormones are in charge of you. If you have high levels of cortisol, this will lead to adrenal fatigue and can decrease your body’s ability to repair the muscle damage (the muscles micro-trauma/tears).
Overall we want our body always working towards recovery. You don’t want to constantly be working against yourself. This why recovery is so important. If you don’t give your body what it needs to recover, you are not going to be doing yourself any favors!