The 12 biggest myths about natural bodybuilding

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The truth about building muscle naturally is still hidden behind persistent myths that float around the gym as bro science. And that while real science increasingly pushes us against the sober facts. Time to separate the wheat from the chaff, the knowledge from the nonsense. Twelve claims about muscle growth that are misleading, simply don’t add up or only make sense when you’re taking steroids.

1. YOU SHOULD TRAIN AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

Bodybuilding is not a sport like most others. If it’s a sport at all. In fact, bodybuilding is nothing more than manipulating the body in such a way that it builds lean muscle mass. The goal is not a sporting performance, as in running or swimming, but a change in body composition. Strength training, nutrition and rest are the means to this end.

PERFORMANCE AS A MEANS RATHER THAN AN END

However, for muscle growth you will have to deliver training performance: muscles only grow if they are loaded more heavily than they are used to. As they grow, you get stronger and can use a heavier weight and/or more reps during the next workout. In short:

THE LIMITATIONS OF A NATURAL

Now you might think: the more you train, the more stimuli you can give, the more muscle mass you build. But that only applies to a certain extent. Stimuli only have quasi no limit for steroids users. If you are a natural bodybuilder, don’t let their way of training fool you.

As a natural bodybuilder you have a limited growth capacity in the first place. An average natural can grow a maximum of half a kilo of muscle mass per month. And so per day at most a few tens of grams. Below are the estimates of muscle growth potential in naturals according to the Alan Aragon model.

Due to this limited growth capacity, you can only do a limited number of productive sets per muscle group in one day. More and more studies indicate that the ceiling is between 5 and 10 sets per muscle group. If you train to muscle failure, maybe just 5 sets. Doing more sets no longer contributes to muscle growth and therefore only causes unnecessary muscle damage. We therefore also speak of ‘wasted sets’ or ‘junk volume’. See also myth 2.

Secondly, as a natural you only have a limited recovery capacity. If you exceed that capacity with your volume (in other words, you train above your Maximum Recoverable Volume, MRV), your body can no longer optimally repair muscle damage as a result of strength training, so that it grows less on balance.

Mind you, recovery capacity is different from your physical and mental capacity. Physically and mentally you may be able to do a few hours of strength training every day, but as a natural bodybuilder you won’t profit from that. In that respect, natural bodybuilding works very differently from most other sports, in which you have to push the limits of your physical and mental capacities. Bodybuilding requires you to be very calculating — literally almost.

TRAINING HARD WITH POLICY

Don’t worry, you are ‘allowed’ to train hard. But you don’t do that by doing endless sets, but by setting up a limited number of qualitative sets for each training session.

Qualitative means that you train them to close (and sometimes to complete) muscle failure, with correct and controlled execution. And yes, that can be quite tough, especially with lower body exercises.

It is the steroids users and the macho culture within bodybuilding who have convinced us that we should train like animals: beast mode. Science contradicts this on all counts. Something that is well expressed in this video by coach Sean Nalewanyj. Not coincidentally, a coach who doesn’t scream.

WHEN MORE TRAINING IS NEEDED

But you also have to train more along the way, right? Correct. Where a beginner can already grow with about 10 sets per muscle group per week, an advanced one, as a result of adaptation, often needs double that. If your body no longer receives sufficient growth stimuli with a certain number of sets, you have to increase that number (slightly).

Roughly speaking, the volume requirement evolves during a training career as follows:

  • beginners : ~10 sets per muscle group per week
  • intermediates* : 10-15 sets per muscle group per week
  • advanced : 15-20 sets per muscle group per week
  • more advanced : 20+ sets per muscle group per week**
* ‘Intermediate’ is according to a common definition after one year of continuous and serious training.
** If advanced athletes need more volume for a muscle group than their total recovery capacity allows, they can do specialization blocks, where the other muscle groups are trained on maintenance volume.
In summary:
As a natural bodybuilder you only have a limited growth and recovery capacity within a certain time frame. It makes no sense to train more and/or more often and/or harder than this capacity allows you, even though your physical and mental capacity allows it. In fact, doing more than is strictly necessary is detrimental to muscle growth. In that respect, natural bodybuilding works very differently from most other sports, in which you have to push the limits of the physical and mental much more. And it also works very differently from enhanced bodybuilding.

2. YOU SHOULD TIRE A MUSCLE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE DURING A WORKOUT

This myth is an extension of the previous one. Many gym goers still think that they have to train a muscle completely during a workout in order to grow it. That’s why they often still use the old bro split, where you train each muscle group only once a week, usually on a specific day (which is where “Monday chest day” comes from).

TRAINING VOLUME AND REDUCED YIELD

But thanks to scientific research in the past decade, we now know better: after roughly 5 sets, the growth stimulus for a certain muscle group during a workout starts to decrease quickly, only to stagnate around 10 sets. In short, the volume of training results in reduced returns (‘diminishing retruns’).

During a training session, you can therefore do at most 2 to 3 productive exercises of 3 sets each. All the exercises and sets that you do more are unnecessary and only hurt your gains – the ‘wasted sets’ we talked about.

The reduced return of training volume during a training session, nicely portrayed by IronBuiltFitness. The maximum growth can be reached around 10 sets, but the additional growth of the latter sets is already much smaller than that of the first. ‘Overtraining’ should be read here as ‘overreaching’, because being really overtrained is a medical condition that does not occur very quickly.

DISTRIBUTE TRAINING VOLUME

Strictly speaking, it is best to spread the training volume (the number of hard sets) of a muscle group over as many days as possible. In short, by increasing the training frequency (per muscle group). That way you can increase the productivity of each set while still doing the same number of sets on a weekly basis. The condition is that your muscles can recover sufficiently between training sessions (see myth 7).

Because advanced people recover faster, they can even train a muscle group almost daily, provided the session volumes are low. That is why full body 5x a week is becoming increasingly popular among advanced users – see the figure below and for more information this video.

For beginners, who don’t need that many sets to grow, training frequency is not so important. In principle, they can suffice with training each muscle group once a week (see also myth 8) i ] .

STIMULATE VERSUS FATIGUE

Even now you see that bodybuilding is not a sport like many others, where fatigue is often the goal. A runner won’t stop if he can go miles ahead. As a bodybuilder you do stop prematurely, namely if you have stimulated the muscle enough – even though you are physically able to do many more sets. To put it with coach Mike Israetel:

We’re not trying to fatigue the muscle, we’re trying to stimulate it.

And his colleague Christian Thibaudeau:

The whole purpose of training to build muscle is to trigger protein synthesis. Once it’s been triggered, there is no added benefit in continuing to punish a muscle – it will not grow more. In fact, it might even lose size! xvi ]

In summary:
During a workout you should stimulate a muscle, not (unnecessarily) tire it. After about 5 sets, the growth stimulus for a certain muscle group already starts to decrease, to stagnate around 10 sets. So it makes no sense to do a whole series of exercises for the same muscle group during one workout. After 5-10 sets you do nothing but ‘wasted sets’, or ‘junk volume’, which only comes at the expense of your recovery capacity and possibly also your gains .

3. YOU HAVE TO TRAIN EVERY SET TIL FAILURE

Do you have to train every set until you drop, moaning and all? Nope. In order to build muscle over a longer period of time, you have to train smartly.

EFFECTIVE REPS

Most muscle growth stimuli arise from the so-called stimulating, or effective repetitions. That is roughly five repetiotions in a set before muscle failure, the moment when you can no longer do a (decent) full repetition. These repetitions cause progressively slower muscle contractions, which activate the large motor units in the muscle, the motor units that provide the most mechanical tension (the main muscle growth mechanism) and thus provide the largest growth stimulus.

This is not to say that the repetitions at the beginning of a set are by definition ineffective or unstimulative. With heavy compound exercises, for example, those ‘early’ repetitions already give some growth stimulus. That aside.

Muscles only grow if they are stimulated with enough effective reps. And to create enough effective reps you need to:

  • train your sets to near muscle failure. After all, the most effective reps are those just before muscle failure;
  • do several sets per muscle group (per training and/or on a weekly basis). As mentioned, one set contains about 5 effective repetitions and that is usually not sufficient as a growth stimulus. Sets allow you to multiply the number of effective reps. Hence, average bodybuilders should usually do between 10 and 20 reps per muscle group per week.

In short, your effort (the degree to which you train to muscle failure, also called relative intensity) and the number of sets you do (also called training volume) determine how many effective repetitions you produce and thus how much muscle growth you can achieve (provided overload is applied).

You create a growth stimulus by doing enough sets and by making sufficient effort per set, so by training until (near) muscle failure.

INTENSITY VS. VOLUME

From this theory it seems logical to train as many sets as possible to complete muscle failure. This is how you create the most effective reps per set. Although this is strictly speaking, there is a big caveat: training to complete muscle failure (so until you really can’t do a rep anymore) does provide an extra stimulus, but also a disproportionately large fatigue.

By ‘disproportionate’ we mean that the extra fatigue is much greater than the extra stimulus that muscle failure produces. This extra fatigue limits your recovery capacity, leaving you with less productive sets. In other words, the intensity comes at the expense of the volume. And because you can do less volume (sets), you will on balance do less effective repetitions. As a result, you achieve less muscle growth.

TRAINING WITH REPS IN RESERVE

Now you understand why as a natural bodybuilder you don’t have to train every set to the point of muscle failure. Viewed purely on a set basis, this does indeed provide the most muscle growth, but seen over an entire training or training week, it does not, because it comes at the expense of the productive volume.

Therefore, keep a few repetitions ‘in the tank’ in your sets. Most coaches recommend 1-3 Reps In Reserve (1-3 RIR), ie you strike you stand one to three reps before absolute muscle failure.

SOMETIMES YOU CAN FAIL

Can you never train to muscle failure at all? Not that either. It’s okay to occasionally train isolation exercises, such as biceps curls, to muscle failure, such as always in the last of three sets. Also in the week before a deload it is fine to train a little more until muscle failure, since you can recover longer afterwards. And if you can’t train much and for a long time due to lack of time, you can also train more often to muscle failure. That is still more effective than training a limited number of sets with 1-3 RIR.

Avoid muscle failure by default with major compound exercises like squats and deadlifts. Besides the fact that training until muscle failure has no added value there (the reps before that already provide more than enough stimulus), it also increases the risk of injuries.

Summary of a new review paper on training to muscle failure by Brad Schoenfeld. (Source: Brad Schoenfeld/Twitter)
In summary:
For muscle growth, your sets must be challenging, which means training close to muscle failure. Training to complete muscle failure, however, produces little extra muscle growth, but does result in a lot of extra fatigue. Therefore, usually stay 1-3 reps of muscle failure (1-3 Reps In Reserve, RIR). That allows you to do more volume and thus, on balance, create more stimulating reps.

4. YOU SHOULD DO 8-12 REPS

Even new-generation bodybuilders are still taught it: you have to do 8 to 12 repetitions. Provided: there is nothing wrong with training your sets in this rep range. Especially for practical reasons, it is perfectly adequate to stimulate muscle growth. Yet the old ‘rule’ has objections that have been made clear by contemporary science.

THERE IS NO ‘BEST’ REP RANGE FOR MUSCLE GROWTH, BUT THERE IS A MOST PRACTICAL ONE

The rule suggests that you achieve the most muscle growth in the 8-12 range. That is not true. In theory you can achieve maximum muscle growth with any weight – light or heavy – provided the weight is higher than 30%1RM ii ] . After all, we already saw that muscle growth is all about effective repetitions and you can also create those with light weights. Another condition is that you make sufficient effort, in other words train your sets at least until close to muscle failure. And possibly training to complete muscle failure becomes more important the more you train with lighter weights iii ] .

However, most of your training is best done in average rep ranges, ie between 5 and 20 reps. But this is mainly for practical reasons. For example, doing a ridiculous amount of reps causes too much central and cardiovascular fatigue, while on sets of 1-5 you’re probably “missing out” some effective reps and would have to do extra sets. In that respect, 8-12 is not such crazy advice, even though there is nothing ‘magical’ about this range from a muscle growth point of view.

THE PROBLEM WITH ‘8-12’

Problem is, many people misunderstand the rule. They invariably hit a set at 8-12 reps, despite there may be many more reps in the pipeline. In short, they exert too little effort and thus create too few effective reps. In bodybuilding, you need to choose a weight that is challenging enough for the number of reps you are aiming for.

Another shortcoming of the 8-12 rule is that many people train exclusively in that rep range as a result. While it may be beneficial for muscle growth to also do some sets in very low rep ranges (5-10 reps for large compound exercises) and also some sets in very high rep ranges (10-30 reps for isolation exercises, to reduce metabolic stress). creating another growth mechanism for muscle growth).

How to divide different rep ranges over one training program. (Source: Stronger by Science)
In summary:
In theory you can achieve maximum muscle growth in every rep range and not just with 8-12 repetitions. 8-12 is a very practical way of training that usually suffices, as long as you make enough effort per set. So you should choose a weight with which you can actually do a maximum of 8-12 repetitions. For maximum muscle growth, it is also wise to use different rep ranges – both low (5-10) and high (10-30 reps). Low is mainly used for compound exercises, high for insulating.

5. YOU SHOULD USE WEIGHTS AS HEAVY AS POSSIBLE

Go heavy or go home – another classic gym bro credo. From point 4 you have already learned that for muscle growth – in theory – it makes no difference whether you train with light or heavy weights, as long as you put in enough effort to create effective repetitions. In other words:

effort > load

THE IMPORTANCE OF HEAVY COMPOUNDS

Do heavy weights really have no special value in bodybuilding training? Well, virtually all reputable coaches agree that heavy-duty compound exercises (bench press, squat, row, etc.) are the most effective. And it’s not even clear exactly why. It is probably mainly because heavy compounds disturb the homeostasis (the internal balance of your body) the most. And that way create the most overload, more than doing isolation exercises iv ] .

Even then, you don’t necessarily have to train compound exercises in the lowest rep regions: also think about your tendons and joints, especially if you are a bit older (35+).

WHEN LIGHTER IS BETTER

Of course, isolation exercises also have their place in a bodybuilding program. But in order not to put an unnecessarily heavy burden on your tendons and joints (and thus promote injuries), it is better to train those exercises a little lighter (in terms of absolute weight, not in terms of effort!). For example, it is crazy to perform biceps curls with a weight with which you can squeeze no more than 5 repetitions.

For isolating exercises, choose a weight with which you can do at least 10 perfectly executed repetitions. And don’t shy away from the even higher rep ranges, because they may give you extra (namely sarcoplasmic) muscle growth!

Another advantage of higher rep ranges in isolation exercises is that you can often achieve a better mind-muscle connection.

In summary:
In theory, you can achieve maximum muscle growth with both light and heavy weights, as long as you exert enough effort during your sets (i.e. train with 1-3 RIR and sometimes to complete muscle failure). However, heavily performed compound exercises have an advantage, because they cause the most overload. However, isolation exercises also have their place in a full bodybuilding program and you should not perform them too heavily.

6. YOU HAVE TO ‘SURPRISE’ YOUR MUSCLES

A genuine trainer dogma: you have to surprise your muscles regularly in order to keep growing. ‘Surprise’, or ‘shock’ especially in the sense of constantly doing different exercises and/or repranges. And so you have to completely change your training schedule every so often. But that’s nonsense: building muscle is all about consistency and tenacity.

DON’T SURPRISE, BUT OVERLOAD

We have already seen that muscles grow by providing them with sufficiently stimulating, or effective repetitions on a regular basis. In order to keep growing, you have to gradually create more of those reps, or make them heavier, by increasing the weight or possibly training closer to muscle failure.

This gradually increasing training load is what we call progressive overload. Overload means that you not only put a heavy load on a muscle, but also heavier than it is used to. Only then will your body see a reason to make muscles bigger and therefore stronger.

So you don’t have to surprise or shock your muscles to grow, you ‘just’ have to put more and more strain on them. If you can’t do that while you’re recovering well, your body has become accustomed to your training volume and so you probably need to increase the number of sets v ] .

SURPRISE = FAKE PROGRESSION

If you regularly or even every training ‘surprise’ a muscle group with new exercises and therefore never follow a certain line for a long time, it becomes almost impossible to apply overload. In the initial phase of a new training program , neurological factors contribute more to your strength gain than the increase in muscle mass vi ] . In fact, if your progress comes to an abrupt halt after a few weeks, that means nothing more than that you’ve mastered the exercise ‘nicely’. So there is a sham progression. You make real progress by having a reference exercise in which you increase the number of repetitions and/or the weight for a longer period of time.

Frequently doing new exercises has another disadvantage. New exercises cause more muscle damage and that undermines your overall recovery capacity vii ] .

Coach Menno Henselmans therefore concludes:

Implementing variety in your training just for the sake of it is more likely to be harmful than helpful. vii ]

DO OTHER EXERCISES

Are your training program and recovery in order? And are you hardly making any progress anymore? Then there may be some training steeless, which is a good time to introduce some variation: different exercises, different technique, different rep ranges and the like.

There may also be other valid reasons to change exercise(s): you consider an exercise not effective enough, you increase your training volume (which makes you do more exercises), you change training program (for example, you go from split to full body), or because of an injury or from injury prevention.

If you like variety, make sure your training program includes a wide variety of exercises, but try to stick to those exercises as much as possible. You can also rotate a fixed number of exercises through your meso cycles (training blocks of 4-8 weeks). Advanced users sometimes do this to save their joints and tendons, for example, occasionally exchanging the squat for a lighter leg exercise.

In summary:
Building muscle is about consistency and tenacity. You achieve this by using a fixed selection of exercises and making progress in training weight over a longer period of time. As a rule, it is not necessary to “surprise” muscles by exchanging exercises for others every so often.

7. A MUSCLE SHOULD ALWAYS REST FOR 48 HOURS BEFORE YOU CAN TRAIN IT AGAIN

It is not necessarily true that it is better to wait 48 hours before training a muscle again. The required rest time depends on many factors, including your training status (beginner, intermediate, advanced).

How often you can train a muscle effectively depends primarily on how quickly it is repaired and strengthened after a workout. That repair and strengthening (by making the muscle bigger than before) happens during a process we call muscle protein synthesis. Incidentally, there may still be unrepaired muscle damage even after muscle protein synthesis has been completed viii ] .

BEGINNERS VS ADVANCED

Muscle recovery and growth are complex processes, many aspects of which have not yet been revealed by science. Based on existing research, we suspect that muscle protein synthesis in advanced strength athletes peaks in roughly the first ten hours immediately after strength training. The process is usually largely complete after about 24 hours ix ] .

In beginners, muscle protein synthesis extends over a longer period of time, often up to 48 hours or more after training. The peak is also later for them, namely after about 16 hours. The figure below shows this nicely.

 

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So if you’re an intermediate or advanced bodybuilder, you could, in theory, retrain a muscle after 24 hours. Whether this is also possible in practice depends on the volume (number of sets), the type of exercises and the intensity you use in a particular training. Voluminous and/or intense workouts can increase muscle damage and central fatigue to such an extent that even as a more advanced bodybuilder you need two to three days to fully recover x ] .

Because as an advanced you probably use a high training volume (~20 sets/muscle group/week), it pays to spread that volume over as many days as possible. Because you do little volume per training, you can train a muscle group again after 24 hours. That way you can, for example, do full body five times a week, the popular training protocol that we mentioned earlier.

In summary:
After training, muscles need an average of 24-72 hours of rest before they can be optimally trained again. The exact optimal rest time between two training sessions depends, among other things, on the applied training variables (volume and intensity) and on the training status.

8. TRAINING A MUSCLE GROUP ONCE A WEEK IS NOT EFFECTIVE

While high-frequency training can accelerate or optimize muscle growth, especially if you’re more advanced, you can still get good results if you don’t train as often. In principle, you can even use a long-term training schedule in which you train each muscle group only once a week. It is not the case that a muscle has shrunk again after a week and you can start all over again xi ] .

TRAINING FREQUENCY FOR BEGINNERS

A low training frequency has one important limitation: you can do a maximum of 10 productive sets per muscle group per day. So if you train a muscle group only weekly, you can only do 10 productive sets per week. If you are a beginner that is no problem. In fact, thanks to your high training sensitivity, 10 sets is probably enough for optimal growth. Research teaches us that training frequency is not very important for beginners. In principle, it doesn’t matter whether you train a muscle group once, twice or three times a week, as long as you do around 10 sets on a weekly basis and as long as you use sufficient recovery time between training sessions xii ] .

Beginners can even get away with a classic bro split, where you train only one muscle group every day. But beginners get away with a lot. A full-body or half-body routine is probably better though, so you can focus on learning and improving large compound exercises.

Even as an intermediate bodybuilder, you can still make progress for a long time with a low training frequency, with a maximum of 10 sets per muscle group per week. But because your body is gradually getting used to this volume, its growth potential is getting smaller and smaller. In other words, for intermediates, a low training frequency is not optimal – which is more than not effective .

WHEN ONCE A WEEK IS NO LONGER ENOUGH

If your progression has completely stalled (you have reached a plateau), then there is no other option to increase your training frequency. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can do that if necessary by doing full body twice a week, for example, based on mainly large compound exercises.

If you can literally only train once a week, then you have to increase your training intensity and thus train as much as possible to muscle failure. Which makes us a bit curious about your busy existence, which apparently does not allow even a few hours of gym a week.

In summary:
Training frequency only becomes important when you need larger volumes to grow. Due to their great training sensitivity, beginners can already achieve maximum muscle growth with roughly 10 sets per muscle group per week. It doesn’t matter much to them whether they do those sets in one training session or, for example, spread them out over two weekly training sessions.

9. CARDIO KILLS GAINS

It is a persistent myth that doing cardio comes at the expense of muscle growth. If your recovery management is in order, it is normally no problem at all to do endurance sports or other sports in addition to bodybuilding.

By recovery management we mainly mean that you sleep well, eat enough and well, and that you can recover sufficiently from your training program (so, for example, that you do not do too much volume and/or train until muscle failure). In addition, intermediate and advanced bodybuilders are advised to deload every 4-8 weeks .

WHEN TO BE CONSERVATIVE WITH CARDIO

There are circumstances in which doing (a lot of) cardio can be an obstacle to building muscle. For example, in people who have difficulty gaining weight because they have difficulty eating a lot and/or have a fast metabolism. In addition, you should be conservative with cardio if you are on a calorie-restricted diet, such as in the cut. After all, a long-term and/or aggressive calorie restriction comes at the expense of your training performance and recovery capacity. On top of that, doing excessive cardio is certainly not good.

Even then you can still do some cardio when you are cutting, for example because you can maintain your diet better. But if you are already very lean and very low in calories, it is better to avoid very long or intensive cardio sessions. When you end up on a fat loss plateau due to metabolic adjustments, it is better to take a refeed or diet break instead of doing (even more) cardio.

In summary:
As a bodybuilder you can practice cardio, other endurance sports and/or other sports in addition to strength training without any problems, as long as your rest and nutrition are in order. Only if you struggle to eat enough calories or if you are cutting heavily, doing (a lot of) cardio can negatively affect muscle growth or maintenance.

10. YOU SHOULD EAT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

To grow you need to eat enough, but not “as much as possible”. The average bodybuilder needs to eat slightly above their maintenance level, 10-20% , to optimally develop muscle. So if your maintenance is 2500 kcal, you add about 300 kcal on top of that in the bulk. If you don’t grow enough while your training and recovery are in order, you can increase the calorie surplus a bit. Note: the calorie surplus of 10-20% does not include the calories you burn with strength training (namely ~400 kcal/h).

OVEREATING

Of course you can handle a much larger calorie surplus, so you can be sure that you are getting enough nutrition for maximum muscle growth. But most of the time, those extra calories are simply stored as fat. As a result, you will have to cut much longer to become ‘dry’ again and therefore have less time to bulk.

The idea that for muscle growth you have to eat (or eat) all day long also comes from steroids bodybuilding. If you are on gear and you want to become as muscular as possible, you should indeed eat and train as much as possible (see also myth 1). It doesn’t work like that with natties.

However, especially young bodybuilders who are ectomorph will sometimes have difficulty eating at a maintenance level at all, let alone creating a (small) calorie surplus. They therefore have to eat significantly more than they are used to, which is why they may have to rely on powdered food (for example, protein shakes or weight gainers).

WHEN EVEN A CALORIE DEFICIT IS ENOUGH

Incidentally, a calorie surplus is not always necessary for muscle growth. Absolute beginners can, thanks to their high training sensitivity, build muscle in a calorie deficit and thus lose fat at the same time (body recomposition). Even people with a high fat percentage are sometimes able to do this, because the body can rely on the available fat reserves for muscle building. However, the protein intake must be adequate in all cases (see also the following myth).

In summary:
In order to build muscle, a calorie surplus is usually required. Eating 10-20% above your maintenance level is usually sufficient to achieve almost optimal muscle growth, without a commensurate increase in fat mass. Eating more food only produces more fat mass, not more muscle mass.

11. YOU SHOULD EAT AS MUCH PROTEIN AS POSSIBLE

Yes, as a bodybuilder you need more protein than mere mortals. But this also applies: to a certain extent.

BODYBUILDERS’ PROTEIN NEEDS

Proteins are the building blocks of muscles and for optimal muscle building you need about 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily xiii ] , preferably spread over 3-5 meals a day. Eating more protein does not give you extra muscle growth, research has now convincingly shown.

NOT ONLY PROTEINS ARE IMPORTANT

Under the guise of better safe than sorry, you can of course eat a little more than the 1.6 g/kg/d. But don’t overdo it. Eating too much protein comes at the expense of your carbohydrate intake. And carbohydrates are the most efficient energy source for strength training, much more efficient than fats and proteins. Carbohydrates also stimulate the anabolic hormone insulin, which, among other things, aids in muscle protein synthesis by preventing protein breakdown xiv ] . In addition, carbohydrates do not make you feel as full as fats and proteins, which is beneficial if you are struggling to get into a calorie surplus. For a bodybuilder, carbohydrates are in fact just as important as proteins.

Of course, fats also fulfill important functions, including with regard to your hormones, including testosterone. But strictly speaking, you need at most 1 gram of fat per kilogram of body weight per day for this xv ] .

In summary:
For optimal muscle growth, it is sufficient to consume 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. Eating more protein is allowed, but does not ensure even more muscle growth. Excessive protein comes at the expense of carbohydrate intake, the macronutrient that is just as important for muscle growth.

12. “MUSCLE BUILDING FOODS”

The internet and men’s magazines are full of it, hip YouTube coaches are talking about it: “muscle building foods”, in other words foods and recipes that promote muscle building. Not infrequently, those recipes contain rice, chicken and broccoli. But believe us, don’t believe in that!

Yes, you need nutrition to facilitate muscle protein synthesis and therefore muscle building. Food is therefore by definition muscle building. But there are no foods that are specific or extra muscle building.

HOW THE BODY LOOKS AT FOOD

For muscle growth, the total amount of energy (kcal) and macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) that you consume in a day counts. Picture it as three cylinders side by side: proteins, carbohydrates and fats. At the end of the day, all three should be filled to a certain height. With which substances the tubes are filled, in principle does not matter for muscle growth, as long as the amounts are correct.

To stick with the example of chicken: of course it is an excellent, nutritious source of protein. But the proteins in chicken are no more muscle-building than the proteins in most other animal products. So you have plenty of options to meet your protein needs. In fact, people who have difficulty meeting their calorie needs should not eat too much chicken, because it is a relatively low-calorie source of protein.

And no, whey protein shakes are not a must either. There is even something to be said for eating eggs instead of protein powder after your workout , because of the nutrients in the yolk. But in the end it doesn’t matter, as long as you achieve that 1.6 kg/g/d.

HEALTH

We do, of course, recommend that you choose healthy foods in general, which, in addition to the right ‘macros’, also provide you with many micronutrients. And that don’t contain too many artificial nutrients and trans fats. After all, in addition to a muscular body, your health is also a great asset.

In summary:
Nutrition facilitates muscle growth, but there is no food that is extra muscle building. It is about the total amount of calories, macronutrients and micronutrients you ingest in a day.

REFERENCES

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