Many people spend hours at the gym lifting heavy weights, expecting it to be the only way to build muscle mass. But it is only a combination of a healthy diet and exercise that works for effective muscle growth. If you are unable to see any substantial muscle gains, even after spending hours at the gym, then you should consider the following.

1. Eat balanced meals

Protein is really important for your muscle growth but removing carbohydrates from your diet can have a negative effect on the growth of your muscles. Your body utilizes carbohydrates as a source of energy and needs protein for repairing wear and tear of the muscle tissues. Therefore, a balance between carbohydrates and protein is required when you are trying to build muscles. Include protein packed food in your diet to build muscles. Also, drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. The recommended intake is 10-12 glasses of water in a day. Lack of water can inhibit increase in muscle mass.

2. Proper exercise routine

Your exercise routine should include a warm up initially and stretching at the end. Stretching should not be done to cold and stiff muscles as this can lead to injury. It should be done at the end of the workout. Also, instead of spending hours at gym, limit your workout schedule to 45 minutes to 1 hour. This will help you in avoiding negative effects of over working and tiring your muscles out. Always keep increasing the intensity or frequency of your exercises. Don't waste time at the gym.

3. Avoid stress and sleep well

Stress increases the production of the hormone cortisol, a hormone that encourages your body to store fat and burn muscle tissue. Therefore, try to keep yourself away from stress. A bare minimum of 8 hours of quality sleep is important for muscle growth. It is during sleep that your body repairs torn muscle tissues and secretes hormones for muscle growth. Giving rest to your muscles is also important because if you don’t rest it can lead to muscle wasting.

4. Avoid alcohol

Alcohol is very high in calories and when consumed in excess, can even have negative effects on the hormone balance. If affects the release of the growth hormone testosterone which is really important for muscle growth. The growth hormone is predominately secreted during the early sleeping hours of the night and because alcohol tends to disrupt natural sleep rhythms, it will decrease the amount of growth hormone released. Also, when you consume alcohol it leads to production of a substance in the liver that is toxic to the release of testosterone. This substance decreases the concentration of testosterone in the body, resulting in lower muscle mass and definition.

5. Eat whole fruits instead of juice

Whole fruits provide you with fiber, vitamins and minerals, which are lost once they are converted into juices. In fact, packaged fruit juices are a hidden source of sugar, as sugar is added in high amount while packaging, to maintain the taste

and to preserve them for a longer shelf life. Include 2-3 servings of whole fruits in your day. You need these essential nutrients for fast muscle tissue repair and growth. You can add sliced fruits to a cup of low fat yoghurt and can include it as a healthy snack option. This will also give you a punch of protein.

For an average person, effective muscle growth is only possible with a proper diet and exercise plan. You cannot have an erratic exercise and diet plan and expect to see results. Keep the above points in mind while creating your plan.