3 Surprising Things That Are RUINING YOUR GAINS

Siim Land

QUICK! Before even starting to work out, you need to know about these 3 surprising things that are ruining your gains because otherwise, you’ll be wasting your time.

3 Surprising Things That Are Killing Your Gains

Are you the kind of person who works out hard at the gym, eats healthy, tracks their macros but still can’t seem to get the results you desire?

You’re trying a whole lot but it’s not working?

I’m going to share with you 3 surprising things that are killing your gains.

These hidden killers prevent you from putting on muscle and the may turn you into skinny-fat or worse – the dad-bod.

#1 Cold Showers After Workout

Yes, even though having a cold shower in the morning is the best way of jumpstarting your day, it can still hinder your gains at the gym if you have it post-workout.

There are many benefits to the cold:

Cold exposure lowers your body’s temperature and you can use it to relief injuries or damage to a particular region on your body.

You Need Some Inflammation to Adapt

When you’re exercising – particularly resistance training – then you’re causing microtears to the muscles. It creates scarring to the tissue which can then be repaired with nutrition and sleep.

Working out causes inflammation, especially if you’re burning a lot of glycogen. Inflammation is generally seen as bad, as it’s associated with all types of diseases, aging, and elevated stress.

However, in order to recover from your workout and actually get stronger, you need that inflammatory response. Otherwise, your body wouldn’t recognize that there’s necessity for building new muscles and adapting to the stimulus.

Hormesis is the process by which your body adapts to stressors – it causes hardening and improves the ability to cope with future stressors a lot better.

At the same time, hormesis follows a very dose specific reaction. You only need a certain amount to trigger a positive response. Too much stress will actually lead to under adaptation and makes you weaker.

How to Take Cold Showers While Not Ruining Your Gains

You should still keep taking cold showers because of all the health and mindset benefits, but not all the time. And it varies between different types of training as well. Here’s what you should do:

  • Keep taking cold showers in the morninga mandatory Kickstarter for the day
  • Don’t take cold showers before exercise because it’s going to stiffen your muscles and joints, which may lead to injuries
  • Don’t take cold showers after resistance training or lifting weights because it will shut off the positive inflammatory response that’s going to make you stronger. This post-workout „no-cold-zone“ should last for about 3-4 hours or so.
  • You can take cold showers after low-intensity exercise or cardio. This may actually improve your performance because it’s going to shut off inflammation and promote recovery.
  • Take a cold shower or an ice bath in the evening after 5 hours or so have passed and your body has managed to get some nutrients in. This will reduce soreness, speeds up recovery for the next day and improves your sleep.

Using hot to cold contrast showers are another great way to promote lymph flow. It will help to move out the lactic acid from your body, which will ultimately help you to perform better faster again.

#2 Anti-Oxidants Post-Workout

The same principle applies to consuming anti-oxidants post-workout.

There are a ton of health benefits to anti-oxidants.

  • If you’re exercising, eating inflammatory foods or experiencing a lot of stress, then you’re causing oxidation.
  • This further produces free radicals that may damage the cells.
  • Antioxidants like vitamin C can shut off these reactions, leading to lower levels of inflammation and improved health.

However, as we’ve found out, some oxidative stress is actually needed because it makes you adapt to the stressor of training[i].

Foods high in antioxidants include:

  • Berries – Goji berries, blueberries, cranberries, blackberries
  • Ginger, Turmeric, and Cinnamon
  • Herbs like clove, oregano, parsley, and basil

What it means is that you shouldn’t feel the need to be eating a lot of antioxidant-rich foods just because you want to live longer or improve your health.

How to Not Let Antioxidants Ruin Your Gains

You should definitely continue to eat a nutritious antioxidant rich whole foods diet to keep your inflammation low the majority of the time. However, in your post-workout window, you don’t want to shut off this adaptation response either if you want to build muscle or get stronger.

This doesn’t mean that you should promote inflammation or oxidative stress either – you just want to leave a mild trace of it for hormesis to do its work.

It also means that if you’re eating good food, then you shouldn’t take antioxidant supplements either. Studies have found that taking antioxidant supplements can have a reversed effect on life-extension and health effects[ii] if you’re already eating a healthy diet. It’s been also suggested that antioxidant supplementation may actually increase disease prevalence in humans [iii] because of blocking hormesis.

Here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Eat an antioxidant-rich diet most of the time – before your workouts and on rest days
  • Don’t take antioxidant supplements like glutathione or reservatrol on a consistent basis. Supplementing vitamin C, however, can be useful if you’re experiencing a lot of stress whether through exercise or lack of sleep. It’s not going to benefit you when you’re less active
  • Use the anti-inflammatory compounds like ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon daily, but do it pre-workout
  • Limit your antioxidant consumption in your post-workout nutrition. I’m not telling you to avoid vegetables or to not eat berries after exercise – definitely, those foods will promote your recovery. However, you shouldn’t eat a whole lot

How many antioxidants to consume?

There’s really no definite answer here. And your goals may be different as well.

If you want to promote longevity and health, then your antioxidant consumption should be higher than if you want to simply build muscle.

What I do is consume a ton of anti-inflammatory compounds in the earlier parts of the day before my workout. In my post-workout scenario, I’m not going to be adding a lot of healthy seasoning or magic supplements to my food. (Full day of eating)

Instead, I’ll eat a nutritious ketogenic meal comprised of green leafy vegetables, cruciferous, mostly eggs for the amino acids, some wild caught fish and meat with a ton of healthy fats.

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#3 Blue Light Exposure at Night

The biggest secret things that are ruining your gains mostly have to do with recovery. Training hard is the easy part because your body only needs a very small amount of stress to trigger hormesis.

Rest and recovery are actually a lot more important because that’s when your body repairs the damage and facilitates growth.

We talked about nutrition and cold, now it’s time for sleep, which is actually the most crucial aspect for not only building muscle but also improving your general health.

Getting good quality sleep is more important than the quantity. On average, you need about 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but if you’re more physically active, then you may need up to 10 hours.

However, just going to bed and expecting to sleep, doesn’t mean you’re getting the most benefit from that time.

How Blue Light Kills Your Gains

In order to sleep better and trigger the beneficial positive adaptations, you need the assistance of some hormones as well.

Most crucial hormones for muscle building are testosterone and growth hormone.

A poor night’s sleep will lead to less recovery, higher levels of cortisol in the morning, which then decreases testosterone as well. It will also make you gain fat more easily.

The biggest reason why you can’t sleep at night or feel like crap in the morning has to do with a mismatch in circadian rhythms.

Hormones and Blue Light

If you’re exposed to a lot of blue light in the evening, then you’re suppressing melatonin the sleep hormone that helps you to sleep.

Staying up past midnight gives your body a second wind of cortisol, which will make you feel like „hey…I’m not tired at all and I don’t need to sleep“, whereas you’re just under the effect of adrenaline that’s trying to keep you alert.

What’s more, human growth hormone gets released the most during the first few hours of sleep between 11 PM – 3 AM. The first parts of the night are most important for repairing your muscles and nervous system.

Missing out on these natural performance enhancing hormones will ruin your gains, or they will at least drastically slow down your potential.

How to Not Let Sleep Deprivation Ruin Your Gains

What can you do to prevent that from happening?

  • Adjust to the circadian rhythm – start getting up early around 5-7 AM and go to bed around 9-11 PM.
  • Avoid blue light in the evening after sunset. Wear blue light blocking glasses, don’t look at bright screens, and turn down the lights
  • Sleep at least 7-8 hours and don’t become too stressed out due to sleep deprivation

Another crucial aspect that helps me to sleep better is tracking my sleep. It’s going to give me objective data that can be adjusted to my training and other activities.


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[i] http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0306987705004676

[ii] https://doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.cmet.2007.08.011

[iii] https://doi.org/10.1001%2Fjama.297.8.842