This is an article that I really wanted to write for you guys. It's something that I feel is the biggest downfall for most guys in the gym, and if they were aware of it they'd have better chances of getting the physique they desire.
The biggest problem most guys in the gym face is they want to change what they are doing based on given workouts as reference points, NOT WHAT'S IN THE MIRROR! To most guys, if they have a few workouts where they are weaker, then they think they are losing muscle and size. This is not true. If I could successfully add 5 lbs on my bench every time I worked out I would be pressing buildings by now.
It's common for many people to change the exercise when they stop gaining on one. They look for answers, question what they are doing, and look for the next best pill to pop so they can continue getting what they think are “results.” You're probably wondering exactly what the fuck I'm talking about at this point. Allow me to explain.
A few days ago I incline pressed 125 lb dumbbells for a set of 20 reps. I was on fire. However, I've been eating very strict lately, and yesterday's caloric consumption was pretty low. I went out for dinner with some friends last night and had a grilled chicken salad with raspberry walnut vinaigrette and a few vodka/club sodas (something I rarely do).
I woke up this morning looking pretty sharp since the vodka cut some water off me. I go back in the gym tonight and I'm doing flat dumbbell presses, which are normally easier than incline. I managed to get 13 reps, 7 reps short of what I did on incline! Am I getting weaker? Nope! Was it a bad workout? N! Its just part of the system of checks and balances, get a little leaner and get a little weaker. HOWEVER, if I had a pizza yesterday you can bet your ass off I would have hit the reps for many more.
So with this being said, did I really lose any muscle or strength if just 1 day of consuming more calories would have made my rep count higher? Absolutely not!
Calories don't fix the problem
But if every time I felt like a workout was weaker or I didn't hit my mark, and in turn went out and consumed more calories to “fix the problem”, I would look like everybody else walking around the gym. You cannot let this sort of shit phase you. You need to stick to your guns and move forward. Sometimes you need to just grit it and bare the pain, the occasional weaker days, the days where your energy levels may be lower.
If you're eating clean and getting adequate protein intake it really takes a long time to start losing muscle, unless you're one of these carb deprivation guys (which is a whole other article in itself and can rip muscle off you faster than a crack whore offering a BJ).
Now, I'm not saying that on occasion you don't need a refuel day, but for God's sake don't go out there and pound a bunch of bullshit calories every time you don't think you made the mark in the gym strength wise. Think of it as addition through subtraction, you're giving up a little to gain a lot. You have to be able to go through these ups and downs if you want the body of a Greek god. To set yourself apart from the rest you have to do what the rest are not doing. This will come easier with experience, it's going to take awhile.
Get to know your body, for the most part you need to listen to what it's telling you. But every once in awhile you also need to tell it to shut the fuck up and continue marching to war.